Century Horizon

Contact Brian Gongol with questions

The book will be available in Spring 2017

What's a 100-year business plan?

It's like a conventional business plan, but for a much longer term.

Why would any company need a 100-year business plan?

If you're going to be alive for another 50 years, you probably want your business to last at least that long. A 100-year business plan helps ensure that the company will last across multiple generations of a family.

How can you tell what a company will need for 100 years?

You can't. At least, not exactly. But consider this parallel: If you were going to take a road trip between two cities like Des Moines and Omaha, you would spend most of your time going in one general direction. Along the way, you'll change lanes a few times, follow curves in the highway, and maybe stop for gas or a bathroom break. There may be road construction along the way, and you could always end up having a flat tire or changing plans midway. But despite the minor deviations along the way, the cumulative effect is to head in one major direction. Knowing that direction, and having a road map for the different things you might encounter along the way, are far more important than the many little deviations -- even if the deviations seem really important at the moments they occur.

Can't we just write a mission statement?

There's nothing wrong with writing a mission statement, but nobody should pretend like the rank and file in an organization live and breathe the thing. A plan is a deliberate course of action intended to make specific things happen. I could wake up tomorrow and declare that my mission statement is to rid the world of crime and become the first person to walk on Mars, but that's hardly a plan for execution.

But things change so fast -- isn't a 100-year business plan outdated in the first 12 months?

Not if it's written correctly. A long-term plan that has to be dramatically revised within a year probably wasn't thought out for a long-enough initial time horizon. A good plan will evolve over time -- it shouldn't just sit on a shelf, gathering dust. And new information should be used to update and refine the plan over time. But if it was designed correctly from the start, the plan should allow the organization to keep on tracking towards its destination. A sailboat may get buffeted around by winds, and the people aboard will have to make adjustments to the sails as they go along, but the destination on the opposite shore doesn't really move. The plan should definitely be re-assessed at least every 12 months -- if not every six -- to make sure that progress is being made towards the major goals.

What does a good 100-year plan assess?

Both the micro picture -- the company itself, its industry, and its people -- and the macro picture. The macro focus includes major trends, technological changes, and durable evolutions in the ways in which things are done. A good plan for a travel agency in 1990 might not have exactly foreseen the rise of Expedia and Travelocity, but it definitely should have assessed whether there were risks to the existing business model from disintermediation (not to mention opportunities to take advantage of those same changes).

If I wanted to get started on a plan like this, how would I do it?

That's where we come in. You can read more about the background of this subject at your convenience, then contact us when you think an ultra-long-term plan would be of benefit to you.