If You Want to Build a Company That Lasts 100 Years, Imagine You Are Building a Spaceship. Here's Why.
If you aim to build a company that will last a hundred years and you hope not just to sell it after a few years, you may find inspiration in our experience.
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Limiting your company vision to 5 or 7 years will force you to chase short-term metrics to impress investors, credit organizations and clients. The focus, however, is quite different when you have a century-long mindset and realize your company will still exist in 2122. Businesses with a 100-year vision should focus on building a solid foundation. It's like launching a long-term space exploration ship equipped with all the supplies instead of just sending it out into space with no thought to how it will survive.
Education-oriented organizations especially have a great deal of responsibility on their founders' shoulders. You take nine months off from your students for the learning process and influence their career paths, which might shape their lives for the next 10, 20, 30 years, and beyond. Eventually, we are building something massive that can compete with universities on a similar level or even replace them.
Here are several crucial strategies for building a long-term company.
Related: Be an Innovative Leader or Risk Your Company's Longevity
Keep long-term goals in mind, not short-term revenue metrics
It is crucial for companies that aim at long-term goals to focus on complex, costly processes that will pay off in the long run. Although it might take more time and money than you would otherwise spend, it is worth the effort.
An excellent example of the short-term metrics investors monitor for an edtech company is the completion rate of the course. Although we focused on this metric since day one as an ed tech company, we are currently not meeting the benchmark. This metric would have been the priority of the company targeted to the short-term revenue, but as we aim to help people find a job, we've chosen not to fix it directly.
Most adult students are employed and must pass the course at their own pace. If we were focused on metrics, we would have told our clients to finish the course in 9 months or be expelled. In contrast, we offered clients a solution tailored to their schedule instead of pushing them to complete the course faster. Rather than focusing on short-term investor metrics, we build products to suit the needs of our clients.
Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Achieve Longevity
Stay on top of long-term global trends
Long-term-thinking entrepreneurs should always watch long-term global trends to prepare ahead of time or adjust their company's direction accordingly. Here are several global trends to be aware of:
- Automation and AI will dramatically reduce human labor: According to the new World Robotics report, an all-time high of 517,385 industrial robots were installed in factories worldwide in 2021, up 31% from the previous year, with 74% of all newly deployed industrial robots located in Asia, which has the world's most significant industrial robot market. According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs report 2020, 85 million jobs might be replaced by machines by 2025.
- Anti-globalization: In 2019, approximately 3 million migrant workers came from ASEAN countries, according to the International Labour Migration Statistics (ILMS) of the International Labour Organization. The data on ASEAN nationals going abroad for work indicates Vietnam (152,530) is the leading country among those providing data, followed by Cambodia (68,040) and Lao People's Democratic Republic (54,091). One of the ways to address this issue can be partnering with local employers to provide students with employment opportunities within the businesses.
For a company striving for 100-year history, it's not wise to apply any trend right after it appears. For example, we currently don't teach blockchain or metaverse developer professions at my company, even though the trend is emerging. There is no certainty as to what extent companies will migrate into virtual worlds nor how the adoption of the metaverse and cost reductions for wearable devices will proceed. As this will develop in the future, there's no point in jumping on the bandwagon now if you're not building the metaverse yourself.
Don't skimp on your service
You must go the extra mile for your clients, no matter what type of business you run. It may mean spending more money and taking a greater risk, but the long-term benefits are worth it. If we talk about education, the feedback the students get is key — otherwise, they could've watched open-source videos.
Another perk that costs you extra but makes the product better in the long term is helping students get employed. Refocus students are guaranteed a job or a refund at the end of the course. We do this to ensure that our graduates can find employment. For this, we assist students in their job searches, interview preparation, and application process.
Related: 5 Tips for Improving Client Relationships
Plan ahead for expansion
If you have a global expansion plan, consider the development of countries, their education needs and when to begin targeting those markets. All processes are in place, and you should know the exact timing for expansion.
Another part of long-term planning is integrating several partners and gathering information from modern tech companies on what skillsets are needed from potential employees. We have decided to invest in it from the beginning because it's an essential step towards embracing more significant flows of students in the future.
Related: 3 Tips for Global Business Expansion
According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, an antifragile system becomes more resilient when exposed to stresses, shocks, volatility, noise, errors, faults, attacks or failures. It is vital to envision your company so that unfavorable events would strengthen it rather than weaken it. Antifragility is essential for a business to survive in volatile and uncertain conditions.
One way to adhere to this philosophy is to conduct so-called debugging meetings to identify why we failed at some point and what needs to be changed. The results should be included in a "playbook," outlining what to do and what not to do, whether it is launching a new marketing campaign or entering a new market.
To survive storms, you need to be able to predict the bad moments and strategize accordingly. For example, as part of a strategy session, discuss the possibility of surviving a nuclear or third world war as a company. For us, the conclusion was that we would still exist but with a microservices-based architecture.
It's hard to predict what the future will look like in 100 years. However, regardless of how education is delivered, it will be in demand forever. In any form, whether through the metaverse, VR, augmented reality, or any other cutting-edge technology, build the education spaceship that will explore the unknown depths of the future and improve people's lives for decades.