by Bryan Zaslow
Success isn’t difficult to achieve if you have reasonable expectations and you’re determined and motivated, but it can be difficult to sustain. Failure to plan for the future while balancing your plans for today leaves you susceptible to a false feeling of over-confidence and at risk of becoming obsolete.
As 2014 inches closer, it’s hard to believe that another year is passing by. But don’t dwell on missteps, they are inevitable – instead, consider them learning experiences. Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” We should endeavor to devise our plans well in advance, find constant comfort in adapting those plans based on current experiences, and continue to look towards the future as we exist in the present. Charting a strategic path is essential to longevity in any industry. Here’s how to do it:
- Live for today. Work for tomorrow. ”Carpe diem” is one of my favorite phrases; but constantly living in the moment can lead to chaos and frustration for yourself and others. The challenge is to discover creative methods to plan your next moves while simultaneously going through your daily routine. Try not to allow monotony (the success killer) to set in.
- Keep in touch. You may not need it now, but you might need it later. If you haven’t connected with someone in months (or years) and all of a sudden you need something, reaching out to them out of the blue is a bad idea – and rude. Keep a connection fresh by contacting the person a few times during the year just to say “Hi,” to congratulate them on a new job, or wish them happy birthday. It’s easier said than done, but there are great services and tools that can help support your efforts.
- Use your calendar. With so many things happening around me, it can be difficult to keep everything in order. You can easily add upcoming events to your calendar with an alert so you never overlook an important occurrence. I find this to be beneficial for events that I may not actually be attending, but need to be aware of for informational or conversational purposes.
- Predict the future. This is surprisingly easier than it sounds. The insight you need to see the future lies not in a crystal ball, but in the headlines, the ever-changing mastheads, and the Twitter feeds, to name a few places. Small pieces of information are often right in front of us — if we’re able to take a deeper look and interpret the messaging. For example, in the retail sector, an e-commerce company without a brick-and-mortar presence may decide to open a pop-up shop in a strategic location. It is very likely that a permanent storefront may be in the works. If not, at least your brain is working towards being able to naturally move from cause to effect.
- Don’t burn bridges. In most instances, putting someone in their place isn’t worth the immediate satisfaction (even if they deserve it). You may cross paths again. If you must react, learn to kill them with kindness. They will be utterly confused, but the relationship will be salvaged so it can serve you another day.
- Become a digital networking master. If you don’t build your digital footprint, someone else will. Fake accounts can be created under the guise of your business, brand, or name. Once you’ve joined relevant networks, it’s important to maintain a profile that is complete and accurate and to establish a daily presence. Online networking is simple and only takes a few minutes a day. Reach out to individuals in your industry and to those who share similar interests. Start a conversation and build your digital network into a strong base that will represent you around the clock.
- Invest in talent. Having the right people on your team sets your business up for present-day success and secures the future of your business. People are the vital force behind any business. An investment in sourcing, hiring, training, and retaining talent is essential to ensure goals are not only realized, but exceeded. Employ individuals who are smarter than you, skilled at trades you’re not, and passionate. These are the people who will help lay the foundation for years to come.
- Introduce yourself and others. There’s nothing more powerful than to be introduced or to make an introduction. Key networking opportunities start with a simple “Hello,” but it’s up to you to take it from there. Exchange contact information and be sure to reach out within a few days of meeting. You or the other party may not see it now, but who knows when your paths will cross again?
- Think globally. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are the go-to social media platforms for American residents; but there’s a larger, more lucrative digital world out there waiting for you. Global social networking sites like Viadeo, Xing, ApnaCircle and Tianji offer opportunities to reach out to professionals around the world. A larger, more diverse, global network equates to a wider reach, increased exposure, and priceless branding opportunities.
- Acknowledge the next generation. Go back to your alma mater. Let them know about your successes, as small as they may seem to you. Alumni organizations are very open to connecting with students. Leverage this connection into opportunities to network with or educate the next generation. Mastering the ability to get through to students before they are jaded by the harsh realities of the job market sets the course for your future and more importantly, theirs.
- Monitor the competition. What sets you or your business apart? If it’s not much, then it’s time to reevaluate your mission and goals. Always aim to be steps ahead of the rest. One step isn’t enough. Ask yourself the following questions: Where is the industry going? What does new technology mean for us? What does the competition offer that we don’t? What does the competition offer or hold out on that we shouldn’t?
- Be in two (or more) places at once. Leverage technology and your supporting staff. You don’t have to do it all on your own. If you’re supported by the right people who are working with you, you can accomplish a lot more in a lot less time.
- Foster the future. The future lies in technology. As an entrepreneur, simply embracing it will not be sufficient. Seek out ways to be a part of the momentum and to participate in the innovation that is happening around you and your business or industry. Attend conferences, moderate a panel of experts in the industry, and incorporate technology into your business methods then share your experiences with the world.
- Keep an open mind. Holding onto the past is detrimental, but we are all guilty of it. As an entrepreneur, it translates to a reluctance to change. If your current methods are proving fruitful, then you may not want to rock the boat; however, approaching new methods with an open mind will keep your business up to date. When the time is right, it won’t be as difficult to make a change as it will seem less abrupt since you have had time to educate yourself and make an informed decision.