Short Term Pain vs. Long Term Gain
By: Clay Wilkerson
So much of life, in one form or another, is affected by this idea of short term versus long term thinking. Are we willing to tolerate some “pain” in the short term to make some “gains” in the long run? For example, are we willing to endure the short term pain of exercise for 30 minutes a day 3-4 days a week to gain a healthier body and possibly a longer more productive life? Are we willing to tolerate the short term pain of following a budget and doing without some of the things we want today to gain a more secure financial position in the future with less anxiety and more freedom? Finally, are we willing to tighten our belt and pay a little bit extra right now to make sure the job is done right the first time so that we are able to enjoy the end product later without problems or complications that inevitably would have come with the cutting of corners? Over and over we are faced with decisions that can be boiled down to this tension between short term versus long term thinking.
Business is much the same, whether in this industry or in others. Every business owner has a philosophy that is driving his business decisions whether he can articulate it or not. Although there are obviously many facets to a person’s business philosophy, one of the defining attributes has to be where he stands regarding this tension between short term versus long term thinking. If there is a willingness to endure some difficulties in the short term to make some reasonable gains in the long term, you will typically see good business decisions being made and a healthy business as the outcome. If, however, the focus is primarily on the short term, the entire approach to business changes and many of the decisions that flow out of that mindset are not healthy ones.
No where is this tension more evident in a greenhouse business than in the area of capital purchases. Since most of the products we handle through Grower Technical Sales fall into this category I observe customers struggling with this tension on a regular basis. Here are a few examples I have seen over the years where greenhouse owners and operators struggled to find a balance.
Decisions Made Based On Up Front Cost Rather than Return on Investment – It is possible for greenhouse owners to get so fixated on the up front cost of a capital purchase that they come to the false conclusion that they can’t afford it. Long term thinking means looking beyond the cost today to see what this investment can mean to you and your business down the road. A good business man knows that if a product pays for itself through savings and efficiencies gained in 2-3 years, that’s a good investment. Again, short term thinking focuses on cost but long term thinking understands the nature of an investment.
Choosing Price Over Quality - This is one of the most common examples I have seen of short term thinking ruling the day. We all know there is a direct relationship between price and quality. It is generally understood that as quality increases, so does price. However, over and over again I have see customers make their capital decisions based solely on price (as opposed to quality). Some sales person convinces them that all products of that particular flavor (greenhouses, equipment, etc.) are all the same and the only difference between one and the other is price. Unfortunately they don’t discover the deception until after they have mailed the check.
Allowing the Urgent to Rule Over the Important – The urgent things in business are typically the things that scream the loudest and demand our attention. The problem is they generally are not the most important things. This may be the most central issues in this whole matter of short term versus long term thinking. I have seen customers over the years make decisions on large capital items based on the urgency of the moment rather than on what was really important to them. They allowed circumstances to back them into a corner and now the tyranny of the urgent was driving them to make an unwise business decision.
In each of these examples the business owner or manager allowed his decision making to be influenced more by short term thinking than long term. In each situation they could have served themselves and their businesses much better by taking a long term approach. Yes, sometimes that means enduring some pain or difficulty in the short term. But in the end it’s worth it.