Beyond the Short-Term: Master Long-Term Thinking to Build a Sustainable Business

This Month’s Topic: Building a Sustainable Business

As a strategic growth consultant, I have had the opportunity to work with many successful business and nonprofit leaders who have achieved great success in their professional endeavors and their personal life. What I have observed is that those who think beyond the present are the ones who achieve sustainable success in both business and life.

The Importance of Thinking Beyond the Present

Thinking beyond the present means considering the future consequences of decisions and actions. It involves planning and preparing for the future. It involves understanding your marketplace, your customers’ needs, trends coming down the pike, and regulations that are approved and implemented. It is proactive rather than reactive. It is anticipatory. It is visionary. It is aligned with your business’s core values and mission. This type of thinking is essential for long-term success in both business and life.

Short-Term vs Long-Term Thinking in Business and Life

Short-term thinking focuses on immediate results and gains. It involves making decisions based on what will benefit your business right now, rather than what will benefit it in the long run. On the other hand, long-term thinking is making decisions based on what will benefit your business in the future, even if it means sacrificing short-term gains. Having a vision of where you want your business to be when you decide to exit it is part of the long-term thinking. (See previous blog post Keep the End in Mind)

In business, short-term thinking can lead to quick profits or solve an immediate customer issue, but it may come at the expense of long-term sustainability. On the other hand, long-term thinking can lead to sustainable growth and profitability. The point is to use both short-term thinking AND long-term thinking. Short-term thinking helps you manage the present – operations, order fulfillment, customer service, marketing, sales, finances, and more. Long-term thinking helps you manage relationships, recognize opportunities, maintain and grow financial health, and build your brand equity. Using both appropriately helps you to make better decisions. Decisions, whether short-term or long-term, have consequences – in business and in life.

The Benefits of Long-Term Thinking

Long-term thinking has many benefits. It allows us to plan and prepare for the future, which can help us avoid potential problems and risks. It also enables us to make better decisions that are aligned with our long-term goals and values. Long-term thinking helps us stay focused on our goals and avoid distractions that may hinder our progress.

In business, long-term thinking can lead to sustainable growth, profitability, brand equity, and a competitive advantage. It can also help businesses build strong relationships with customers, employees, and other stakeholders. It can help you achieve your goals and keep your business aligned with its values.

Common Obstacles to Long-Term Thinking

Despite the benefits of long-term thinking, there are many obstacles that can hinder your ability to think beyond the present. One of the biggest obstacles is the pressure to deliver immediate results. Think quarterly profit reports. Shareholder expectations. Loan payments. This pressure can lead to short-term thinking and decision-making.

Another obstacle is the fear of uncertainty and the unknown. Many of us prefer to stick to what we know and what feels safe, rather than taking risks and exploring new possibilities. Uncertain economic conditions, new regulations, politics, and more can cause fear and uncertainty to impact decisions.

How to Develop a Long-Term Mindset

Developing a long-term mindset requires practice and commitment. It is different that the skills needed for short-term thinking. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Set long-term goals
    Setting long-term goals is essential for developing a long-term mindset. Identify what you want to achieve in the long run and break it down into smaller, actionable steps. You decide what you consider long-term. It could be three years. It could be five years. Long-term could be selling your business.
  2. Focus on the process, not just the outcome
    Focusing on the process of achieving your goals can help you stay motivated and committed in the long run. Embrace the journey and enjoy the process, rather than just focusing on the end result. Clarify the action steps to move towards your goal. Determine how you will measure your process. Then take action. Implement the action steps. Measure your progress.
  3. Embrace uncertainty and take calculated risks
    Embracing uncertainty and taking calculated risks can help you overcome the fear of the unknown and develop a long-term mindset. Learn to see risk or failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than a setback.

Strategies for Long-Term Success in Business

Here are some strategies that can help businesses develop a long-term mindset that leads to sustainability:

  1. Set the strategic direction.
    This helps employees and investors to understand the long-term aspirations of the business. It provides clarity and impacts decisions at all levels of the business.
  2. Hire the right people with the right talent.
    Hire people who are aligned with the core values and mission of the business and who have diverse thinking skills and styles.
  3. Focus on building strong relationships with customers and employees.
    Building strong relationships with customers and employees can help businesses build a loyal customer base and a dedicated workforce. This can lead to sustainable growth and profitability in the long run.
  4. Invest in innovation and research and development.
    Investing in innovation and research and development helps businesses stay ahead of the competition and adapt to changing market trends. This can lead to sustainable growth and profitability in the long run.
  5. Embrace sustainability and corporate responsibility.
    Embracing sustainability and corporate responsibility helps businesses build a positive reputation and attract customers who value ethical and sustainable practices. This can lead to long-term success and profitability.

Real-Life Examples of Long-Term Thinking in Action

There are many real-life examples of individuals and businesses that have achieved long-term success by thinking beyond the present. One example is Amazon, which started as an online bookstore but has now become one of the largest online retailers in the world. Another example is Warren Buffett, who is known for his long-term investment strategy and has
achieved great success as a result.


In conclusion, thinking beyond the present is essential for sustainable success in both business and life. By developing a long-term mindset, businesses can achieve their long-term goals. Long-term thinking requires practice, commitment, a willingness to embrace uncertainty, and taking calculated risks. Remember, sustainable success requires thinking beyond the present.

Start developing your long-term mindset today by setting long-term goals and focusing on the process of achieving them. Embrace uncertainty and take calculated. Download my Guide to Strategic Planning™ to help you learn more about thinking long-term about your strategy and how the strategic planning process can help you clarify your short-term and long-term goals.

Judy Whalen
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