How to Beat the Short-Term, Long-Term Tug Of War

The other day, I was chatting with a client and a few things came up that I wanted to share with you.

As a bit of background, this client has a really successful coaching business, and we’d spent quite a bit of time getting her foundation solid.

We killed off products that weren’t working, re-focused her on the clients that she gets the best results for, and started getting her profits in line.

And for what she needed at the time, it was the perfect medicine.

But she was feeling like her business was one big game of tug of war. Too many things pulling at her attention, too many possible priorities, too many things to work to.

So we sat down and talked it through.

One of the things we looked at was why she was getting so yanked around.

She asked me,

“How do you decide what to focus on? How do you balance the long terms with the short term, especially when you want to bring in some extra cash or hiring someone? How does one even go about that?”

Now, I don’t know if that’s something that you’ve ever experienced:

Where you are in a constant tug-of-war between the long-term and the short-term, with too many good options and no real clear idea of which one will actually get you where you want to go.

But just in case you are, here’s the process we take our clients through:

1. Know Why Your Business Must Exist

It all starts with the reason your business HAS to exist.

What is TRUE about the way things are or should be, even though they are not currently showing up that way in reality.

Once you know that, you can boil it down into a long-term (10+) year vision, and a shorter-term, 3-year mission.


2. Define Your Actions

From there it’s all figuring out what needs to change in 3 years time to make that happen.

We do this both in terms of setting measurable targets for profit, revenue, team, direct impact, and client success …

And in terms of the practical: making a big wishlist of all the things that need to change for us to get there.

Then when it comes to quarterly planning, it’s simply a matter of looking at our targets, and then looking at the list and asking, “okay, what things are we going to cross off the list this quarter?”

Every quarter, back to the list, until it’s mission accomplished.


3. As You Get Closer, Update Your Targets

Now, you can get a lot done in a quarter.

In fact, as Brian Moran says in The 12 Week Year, when you do your quarterly planning right you can get more done in a quarter than most people do in a year.

That’s why we update our targets (profit, revenue, team, direct impact, and client success) and our wishlist every year, to make sure we are always connecting the long-term vision to the short-term success.


4. Leave Room For Flexibility

Now, this is all great in principle, but what happens when there’s an unforeseen opportunity?

Or when you get a great idea that threatens to take you away from your quarterly or annual priorities?

The good news is, you don’t have to ignore them.

You just have to put them in their place.

For example, if we want to generate some quick extra cash, there are two scenarios:

  • The extra cash is because we’re not on target to hit our revenue goals. In this case, the cash is in support of the long-term revenue so we can do a short-term sprint to make it happen.
  • The cash is on top of our revenue goals. In this case, the important thing is to make sure the rest of the business will running and hitting targets. Then we can use our 10% or 20% visionary time each week to play with things and make them happen.

The second situation is actually the more dangerous one of the two, by the way.

As a visionary, you’ll always keep coming up with great ideas and need the flexibility to make them happen.

If those ideas derail your business and get it off-track from its big plans, then not only will you miss your goals but your team will be miserable and so will you.

At the end of the day, the best way to win the tug-of-war is just to get out of it entirely.

Because if you can get the business to take care of itself day-to-day, then it will just keep running while you go off to play.