This is a mistake that so many businesses and individuals play, its a gamble and they don’t even see it. They focus on short term revenues, short term wins, without looking at the bigger picture. Focusing solely on the short term almost always negatively impacts the long term, because you have no one with their eyes there.
Think of it in sports terms, Gretzky was great because he went where the play was going, not where the play was.
As an individual you can become seduced by an idea that might look to have a quick win. Maybe there is an opportunity to increase your income, or it may even look like short-term happiness is going to grow exponentially. Usually the quick wins are focused on those things that are going to hit closest to home for you, those things that if only you had them life would be easier. Quite often this is accompanied by a huge win for whoever is offering you this thing you want so badly. Maybe it’s based in fraud, or maybe it means that the offer is too good to be true.
The short game can be even worse from a business perspective.
Maybe you are a publicly traded corporation needing to show a big quarter to your investors. So you push the envelope this quarter, increasing the goals of your employees exponentially. You close your eyes to some of the things that your team is doing, in fact you end up rewarding people who achieve these high goals without truly knowing how they got there. And then next quarter you have to start all over again. Because you didn’t build a pipeline of sales, you got a sale today, in the moment, and it was exhausting, but dammit you posted good numbers….
What if your business isn’t sales but production? What if you are in construction, or oil and gas, or manufacturing? You need to have higher production in order to increase revenue. So you push the envelope on your team. You have a project that you need to run, it’s going to increase revenue by 10% and you need that for the next quarter’s earnings statements. You’ve already told investors that this project is a go – but someone makes you aware that there is a problem. This problem may have safety implications, but you aren’t 100% sure. Instead of dealing with the safety issue you remove the person who brought it up – ultimately shutting them up.
When a company plays the short game and only focuses on the revenue you need today, you put your organization, brand, people, and long term revenue at risk. This can result in injuries, death, inconsistent revenue, unhappy employees, frustrated customers.
Let me explain:
- If I am the customer of the guy who just sold me something that wasn’t the right product for me, I am frustrated, and maybe you have my money today, but you won’t next month when you need to make another sale.
- If I’m the employee with ever increasing, often unrealistic, goals with no excuses allowed in terms of not hitting them, my stress level starts to rise, I become disengaged, or worse I start looking for ways to cheat the system to hit the numbers, selling things that aren’t the right thing for the customer, or selling things the customer doesn’t even realize they are buying.
- As employee and customer frustration levels increase so does the negative talk about your brand, we all know how damaging word of mouth negative advertising can be, couple that with employees who are dissing the brand and you have some things to worry about.
- Finally, as the system starts to crash down because employees are being called out and reprimanded/fired for unethical behaviour, it is apparent that you are not going to be able to keep up the pace of sales that you have come to expect, ultimately resulting in lower revenues, and shareholder dissent.
Let’s move this into the arena of one of those companies pushing through production before equipment and teams are ready and trained. The result here is simple, you either:
- Have a breakdown which costs more to fix in the long term than if you would have just dealt with the issues up front, therefore cutting off revenue from this stream until the issue can be fixed, impacting the bottom line and shareholders
- Or a safety event occurs, resulting in injury or death – does anything else need to be said here?
So what do you do, especially if you need the quick wins to survive long enough to get to the long term?
- Be realistic – set goals, that while aggressive, are achievable
- Ask questions – be like a toddler and ask a ton of questions of your employees, how did you do it? How did you increase sales by X% month over month? This serves two purposes – your employee may have discovered a great way of doing things, or an untapped market, or your employee might be doing something they shouldn’t and this will help uncover those things
- Listen – when your employees tell you something is too much, listen to them, when your employees tell you something is unsafe, listen to them
- Understand the long-term implications of your short game – if you do something today to increase revenue and push your team harder, how is it going to impact your long term vision?
- And if you are playing the short game in your personal life, take a step back and ask the same questions. What is the long-term benefit? How does this impact those around me? Is it too good to be true?
Sometimes we need to take a couple steps back to move forward. Ensure that you are looking at the whole picture, if you can’t see the horizon, you need to step back further until the view is clear. Only then can you truly understand the impacts of the decisions you make in your personal and professional life.