Thinking Long-Term

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was at a conference and waiting to meet Steve Blank when he abruptly left and I ended up meeting Tim Gieseler instead. I wrote about this in a post called Accidental Meetings. Tim ran his business, Orion Telescopes, for over 30 years. In January I will start year 17 for Infinity Softworks.

One of the things we talked about was the challenges of running a company long-term. As he pointed out, thinking in terms of a decade or two instead of a year or two changes one’s perspective on the business, particularly when dealing with business fluctuations.

When thinking short-term, there isn’t a year or two to let the business grow naturally, to take its winding and weaving course, to let the business be the living, breathing thing that it is. When thinking short-term the business managers are forcing it in a certain direction, needing it to grow in the manager’s timeframe.

We’ve been experiencing a dip in the business the last few years. In fact for the first time professionally we have been doing contract work to pay the bills. If I was to zoom in on this two-year period, the graph may look a little something like this:

dip zoomed in

Pretty flat overall with a lot of ups-and-downs month-to-month.

If I was working on a short-term business, one I hoped to sell in three, four, five years, then this period would be fatal. It would be a lot of treading water, which I couldn’t afford to do.

But I don’t see business this way. I see it as something that needs to grow and change in its own time. Hopefully, when I zoom out on the life of Infinity Softworks, this period will seem like an inconsequential dip somewhere in the middle:

dip zoomed out

As Tim said, there is a natural cycle to these things. Just keep pushing through it if you believe in what you are doing.