A case for farsightedness

04-28-2009 2:58 PM

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I attended and spoke at a Global Business Summit recently in Dallas, sponsored by the local chapter of the American Marketing Association.  I was the last speaker, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad; this time it was good.  The theme of the conference was focused on doing business in a tough economy, and all day long I listened to folks who were sharing their concerns about the current state of business and sharing stories of challenging times for their companies.  As the day went on, my head became filled with thoughts of how well prepared Mary Kay was, unlike many other companies, for any sort of challenge that came our way.  I wondered, why are we are in such a different place?  What is it that Mary Kay has done differently that has us in such a strong place?  I continued to think about that most of the afternoon, so much so that I was often distracted from the program. 

When it came my turn to speak, I shared the story of Mary Kay's global growth, and our record sales year in 2008, much to the astonishment of the audience.  At the end, a gentleman in the audience asked me why I thought Mary Kay was getting these kinds of results.  (Thank goodness for the seeds that had been planted earlier in the day, as I was well prepared to tell him exactly what I thought.)  I responded that I'm certain there are a number of reasons, but one of the most significant has to be that we continue to be long-term focused.  And our "farsightedness" began at the very beginning with Mary Kay Ash herself in 1963.

Mary Kay Ash's decision to take her then life savings of $5,000 and invest in her vision for women's potential was indeed farsighted.  She knew that the lives of these women were not going to change over night, and that it wouldn't be easy.  I can only imagine the short-term sacrfices that she and Richard made in order to see their long-term dream become a reality.  As that reality began to come to fruition, and Mary Kay realized that this thriving organization was not only going to outgrow her ability to personally mentor each woman but would also outlive her, she raised up a new group of leaders to carry on the legacy. Mary Kay and Richard once again exhibited their farsightedness when they made the decision to take the company public in order to raise the capital needed to provide regional distribution centers to better serve our growing sales force around the country.  Knowing that being a publicly-held corporation would not be in the best interest of Mary Kay long-term, they had the vision to risk everything, taking the company back under private family ownership.  And in 2001, deciding to become debt-free brought us to the place of security and sustainability that we have today.  In any of these situations, if the range of sight was near, rather than far, I wonder how different things might look.  I am grateful for the farsightedness of Mary Kay Ash and Richard Rogers, and am thankful that it appears to be contagious, as our current executive team exhibits these same qualities.

Then I got to thinking more (which can sometimes be dangerous) about how that same farsightedness, that has served us well in business, could be applied in other areas. I thought about all the successful people that I know, and they shared a focus on long-term thinking. I also thought about myself and examples of my own near versus farsightedness. Case in point: In my mid-forties, I was carrying quite a bit of extra weight and had tried numerous times to diet and get it off, with no success.  When my focus shifted to the fact that my dad had his first heart attack at 50, and I was quickly approaching that age myself, I began to look at things from a different perspective.  My nearsightedness (focusing on dieting and losing the weight) changed to farsightedness (my long-term health and quality of life) and I began to see very different results.  Finally I was able to get the scales to move in the direction of that long-term focus.  I can think of numerous other examples that I can cite in my personal life, and in my career, where this is also true.  (I won't share those, though, because then this would be a novel instead of a blog.)

I was chatting at dinner on Monday evening with Inner Circle Independent National Sales Director Jan Harris, and sharing my thoughts on this short-term versus long-term thinking and the affect it can have on us.  Jan shared something that I wanted to pass on, because she in fact is an example of one of the most farsighted people I've encountered.  When I asked about the length of perspective on her business, her answer was "My lifetime".  Now THAT is farsightedness!

I wonder how many of these challenges that individuals, families, corporations and even nations are currently facing could have been mitigated if only they had been more farsighted.  All of this has inspired me now to constantly ask myself, "If I do this, am I sacrificing my long-term goals for today?" and "Is what I'm doing today contributing to my lifelong vision?" Of course I know there will be times when I will have to adjust plans because of short-term circumstances, but if the adjustment is moving me away from rather than toward my long-term goals, I'm going to continue to search for a win-win course of action.

So...when was the last time you had YOUR VISION checked and HOW FAR CAN YOU SEE?