Is Long Term Viability Really That Important?

On the television show Dragons’ Den (the American version is called Shark Tank), entrepreneurs approach a group of investors, hoping that they can get some cash for a portion of their business. These investors (referred to as dragons/sharks) watch the presentation given by the entrepreneur and then they pepper them with questions about why they should invest in their business.

Do you own the patent? Do you have distribution? What’s stopping someone else from copying you? What were your sales figures last year? What has stopped you from getting into major retailers? Why haven’t you approached a larger manufacturer and simply licensed your product?

Curiously enough, I find that guys like Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary rarely ask questions related to long-term viability. And that got me thinking: Is long-term viability really that big of a concern anymore? The world is in a constant state of flux. What might be wildly lucrative today could prove to be remarkably pitiful tomorrow. A good example of this is Motorola.

Worry About Tomorrow, Tomorrow

The mobile phone (and infrastructure) company never really bothered to balance its short and long term goals; instead, it only looked in the short term and did very well in the short term. Remember the RAZR? Everyone had one and Motorola milked that cash cow for all it was worth. The trouble was that other cell phone companies continued to innovate and the RAZR soon fell behind the times. Motorola started hurting.

It wasn’t until the last couple of years when Motorola really pushed its DROID line of smartphones (and eventually broke off Motorola Mobility isn’t a separate company) that it started to see some real success again. They don’t nearly have the same kind of market share they enjoyed with the RAZR, but they’re doing quite well for themselves.

It’s About Adapting to the Times

So, do we really need to concern ourselves with long-term viability when considering the success of a business? Yes and no. The world is constantly changing and there are very few products that sell as well today as they did 20 years ago. However, it is important to consider the long-term viability of a business model and the viability of the people involved. You may have a cash cow today (which is great), but can these same people come up with another cash cow tomorrow?

Good ideas can pay off in the short term, but you have to be prepared to adapt and adjust to suit the current marketplace. You need to be flexible and, in doing so, you might even find success by accident. Just know that it really is no accident when you have the right people doing the right things. And that’s how you ensure the long-term viability of your business.