You heard it. When did you last update your 100 year business plan?

What am I talking about, you ask? I was in a discussion group and heard about overseas investors buying into Australian small to medium businesses. The story goes, before heading over to China for a meeting with some investors and accountants, the advisor asked “are there any specific documents you would like me to provide?”. The Chinese accountant replied with a request for financials, information memorandums and succession plans, but in particular he said “make sure you bring the 100 year business plan”.

In Australia, if you asked someone for a 100 year business plan in most cases you would be laughed at. But in China and other powerful overseas countries, this is now becoming common place. Why? Because most businesses can’t see the forest for the trees. We are so busy in the daily operations and the review of quarterly financials that we have installed a glass ceiling into what we believe to be truly possible for ourselves and for our business.

The concept of a 100 year business plan really slaps you out of the small minded approach we have with navigating our business to its future destination. Think about it. In 100 years time, neither you nor I are going to be around, along with any of our team members. The future shareholders and management team may not even be born yet! Let’s put all of our current limitations aside for a second and let’s jump in the DeLorean and fast forward 100 years to the year 2114. Pretty crazy right? All us business owners are a little crazy and we are all dreamers. We are constantly evolving with technology, product development, consumer behaviour and economics. If you aren’t, then your business regardless of whether it’s apparent yet or not.

My grandfather started his accounting practice in 1962 and it was all pens and pencils back then. Computers weren’t mainstream in business until the 1980’s and the internet came along in the mid 90’s. That was over 50 years ago. Now my accounting firm is cloud based and paperless. Everything is online and the world is a different place. Henry Ford was a master of innovation when he developed the first motor vehicle. If he asked his consumers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse and cart. People called him crazy and said that no one would ever want to buy a car. I’m not sure if you’ve looked out the window lately but his vision played out pretty well.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple is another great innovator. He initially struggled to find investors to fund his project to build a home computer. His dream was for everyone to own a home computer. Back then most businesses and some households had a typewriter. He described it as merging your typewriter with your television. Again, he was laughed at and shut down. At one point he was even fired from his own company by the board of directors, to later be reappointed. Today, I am writing this on my MacBook with my iPhone sitting next to me. Thanks Steve Jobs!

Now, settle down because the 100 year business plan session has not been added to the BJT menu just yet. Our current Business Planning Session, which is the bedrock of business improvement, is something most small-medium businesses have never experienced. It has got me asking some questions and I have been giving our whiteboard a good workout with ideas and plans on how we can help our clients. Even if the technology and product is not in existence just yet, that 100 year timeline is still driving me to think outside what I “think” is actually possible.