To be forward thinking in business is to look toward the future: toward progress, innovation and long-term success. Even if you are not naturally the “innovative type,” you can train yourself to be forward thinking in business.
Share Your Vision
If you are thinking of the big picture, the long-term success of your business, and what might be possible someday, share that vision with your team! If you do not yet have employees, at least share your vision with friends, an online support community, or other business owners in your field. Sharing what you imagine is possible will keep constantly creating a new vision and new level of possibility, as well as align your team toward a common goal in that vision.
Walt Disney may not have imagined the nearly $200 billion Disney Corporation, but he shared his vision and inspired his team in ways that live on today.
Recognize What Loyalty is Worth
Whether or not you directly run HR, a business owner can never neglect the human resources department. Get involved, specifically, in the pieces that recognize loyalty:
- Ensure you are hiring individuals loyal to your business mission, even if you need to train in-house.
- Reward longevity. New hires cost time and thousands of dollars. Instead, invest in the team you have and recognize longevity in whatever ways you can.
- Promote from within, whenever possible, which is another way to reward loyalty.
- Remember that loyalty isn’t always longevity, so reward newer staff for valuable production and not just longer-term staff for sticking around.
Capture What You Know
Training new team members can be a bit like playing the game of telephone: if you are the one with the deeper understanding of your business and operations, you need to capture what you know. Then insist others do as well!
Information, standard operating procedures, and valuable customer-specific relationships that are not captured cost you valuable time. You will be better able to focus on the future if you have adequately captured the past.
Beyond just a written record—trust your employees, stop micromanaging, and turn tasks over to others completely! For your focus to be on innovation and the future, you need to record what you know and allow others to do the day-to-day operations.
Learn from Others
Call it soft skills, networking, or strong communication, but interacting with others effectively and learning from others will help you better anticipate the future.
That doesn’t mean that every other business professional you interact with has sage wisdom to bestow upon you, or that as you network at conferences others will share their expertise with you, but if you aren’t asking and listening you certainly cannot learn from others.
Take Risks and Evaluate Failures
Albert Einstein said that “We cannot solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Indeed, we will encounter problems in business on the road to success, but a measure of success is taking on and tackling bigger problems.
Success and risk are inherently intertwined, but that doesn’t mean you have to make poor decisions. Call it “going with your gut” or call it “calculated risk,” but at least every once in a while you have to go out on a limb; if that limb breaks, get up, brush yourself off, and figure out what part of the tree to reinforce.
Like other kinds of training, developing a forward-thinking mindset may require practice. Pause to evaluate each week. Access and keep going—you’ll build a better and brighter future for your business and the others you help along the way!