Set business goals based on industry outlook

The last thirteen years of my working life have been spent in the financial services industry. A good deal of the last two or three years of that has been spent vainly trying to convince the management of the firm that software is the future. For a few reasons I have been met with resistance.

  1. Complacent
  2. Time frame
  3. Risk

I do not intend to be dismissive at all by using the word complacent. The firm is full of people who are very smart and have been very successful. They do business face-to-face and they way they service clients has not changed in a long time. The adage, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, applies.

The second reason I believe I have struggled convincing them to invest in developing software to service clients is due to time frame. The partners in the firm are all somewhere in the second half of their careers. While they all want a firm that lasts well beyond them, looking out twenty years and they will all be retired.

The last reason is that developing software is a big investment and not just monetarily. It also is an investment in time and focus. A new product is no guarantee of success. It has to be executed at the standard of the firm and of the clients. And it has to be something that clients want and will actually use.

This story has a somewhat happy ending. The firm has decided to move forward with creating a software product. I hope that the vision is strong enough that a great product is the result.

The reason I am telling this story is that I think all businesses really need to stop and ask themselves the following questions:

  1. What is our industry going to look like in one year?
  2. What is our industry going to look like in five years?
  3. What is our industry going to look like in ten to twenty years?

What your industry looks like today is irrelevant. If you work for today you are going to be behind tomorrow.

Over the past ten to twenty years many industries have been changed by technology. Over the next ten to twenty years I expect the rate of change to only increase as technology matures and new ones are developed (AI will be a game changer for a lot of professional services).

A lot of times you are so focused on your business and industry that you effectively have blinders on to what is taking place in the world at large. I have heard it theorized that you cannot revolutionize an industry from within–that it takes something or somebody coming from outside an industry, someone who can bring in different experiences and bridge industries, to revolutionize it.

WIth that in mind it might be a good idea to have lunch or some drinks with a friend or someone you respect and ask them those questions about your industry. Listen to their answers with an open mind and you might end up with a new outlook and a revitalized excitement about your business.

Answering those three questions is critical to setting goals. You need to execute in the short term (one year) while you work on your long term goals. It is the long term goals for your business that, if you execute them, will make you an industry leader rather than an industry follower.

In Wayne Gretzky’s words, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

One you have done that then all that is left is to plan your work and work your plan.