Most people spend so much time looking at the short term, they end up ignoring the long term. I usually have the opposite problem.

That is often a good thing, though, if only because focussing on the future usually helps guide your shorter term decisions. Let’s look at some examples of this issue.

I am relatively new to the field of family business consulting, and anxious to learn as much as I can from those who have been at it for years. I recently came across the Purposeful Planning Institute, which is a group of like-minded people who help others with their planning (in a purposeful way!).

For the past couple of months I have been listening in on their weekly calls and I have realized that the majority of the speakers seem to be far ahead of where I am, which is not that surprising. But not only that, they also seem to be looking so much further into the future on behalf of their clients.

Maybe I notice this because my typical preferred client is just starting to look more at their family, rather than simply their business. I identify most easily with my own family and that of my in-laws, both of which were lead by founders who focussed a great deal on their businesses, possibly at the expense of their families, despite the best of intentions.

Looking at the long term has many advantages, but can you look too far ahead? Maybe yes, but I find that it is better to look ahead too often, and too far, than the reverse. So many people are so busy putting out day-to-day fires in their business, making the long-term view suffer.

A great example of the long versus short question came from an unexpected source recently. I was considering having laser eye surgery to correct a problem with my vision. I wear glasses for driving and going to sports events, as they help me see clearly at longer distances. I don’t need glasses for reading, although my arms seem to be getting a bit too short when dealing with very fine print.

The woman who tested my eyes suggested I delay any surgery for a few years. I was not too surprised, because my eyesight is generally better than most people’s my age, and I have been told in the past that I was not an ideal candidate for laser surgery.

But then she really explained it to me in a way that I could understand, which I really appreciated, because I pride myself in being able to clarify confusing things for others.

She told me that everyone has a certain range of vision over which they have the ability to focus clearly without glasses or contacts. For some it is on the far end, for others, it is up close. Here is where it got really interesting. If you have surgery to alter the range, in my case to improve my distance viewing, then you will also affect the other end, adversely.

The surgery just moves the range in one direction or the other, it doesn’t make the range any longer. You cannot extend the range, you can just move it closer or farther.

Getting back to my family business analogy, let me attempt to put it in the proverbial nutshell.

If you want to start looking at the long term, you actually MUST stop spending time on the short term. You CANNOT do it all.

You have to make a conscious shift in you thinking. And that is the long and the short of it.


Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.