The Adaptive Agency

How To Start Playing The Long-Term Game

by | Jan 6, 2023

As a business owner, you can play the short-term game or the long-term game.

Say you’re going to be in business for 25 years. You can play 25 short-term games or 1 long-term game that builds for 25 years.

They’re polar opposites.

At the end of a short-term game, you start over. Whether it’s a month, a quarter, or a year, and whether you hit or miss your goal, you start over from roughly the same place doing roughly the same things.

The long-term game has phases, but each phase elevates the baseline for doing business. It compounds, and it scales.

At the end of 25 short-term games, you have whatever you’ve saved. At the end of 1 long-term game, you have whatever you’ve built.

Short-term games are fueled by tactical effort. Long-term games are fueled by a strategic vision and continuous improvement.

Short-term games focus on increasing sales, revenue, and headcount. Long-term games focus on increasing profits, reinvestment, capabilities, and quality.

Short-term games are obsessed with one-upping the competition. Long-term games are obsessed with obsessing over customer feedback and one-upping yourself.

Short-term games are super-busy with whatever pops up, always putting out fires and getting things done halfway. Long-term games do fewer things, focus on them relentlessly, do them very well, and do them on purpose.

Short-term games are obsessed with getting something. Long-term games are obsessed with giving something and becoming something.

Short-term games are about money, processes, ego, and hustle. Long-term games are about people and impact.

Short-term games have price as a primary competitive lever. Long-term games prefer to sell on value.

Short-term games obsess over minimizing costs. Long-term games focus on leveraging assets.

Short-term games think all revenue is identical. Long-term games know a good dollar from a bad one.

Short-term games are terrified of economic downturns. Long-term games anticipate change and optimize for all phases of multi-year economic cycles.

Short-term games use people and love things. Long-term games love people and use things.

Short-term games require supervision. Long-term games require leadership.

Short-term games require optimizing the environment. Long-term games require optimizing oneself.

Are you playing a short-term game? Do you want to start playing a long-term game? If so, here are some suggestions:

  1. Stop being proud of being “busy.”
  2. Get your physical and mental health under control.
  3. Think hard about where you’re trying to go.
  4. Develop a short list of 2-3 “must-wins.” Then create a list of things you’ll say “no” to so that you can achieve your must-wins.
  5. Make developing and inspiring your people your number 1 priority.
  6. Talk to your customers continuously.
  7. Prioritize activities that grow your net profit margin.
  8. Reinvest your profits into developing hypotheses and running experiments to drive growth.
  9. Schedule some time with your group and me.

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