Facebook’s stocks took a dive recently as CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his plans for the company: Not for the next quarter, or for the next year, but for the next ten years.
In the short term – the next year – Facebook will be concentrating on investments, which will cut the company’s profits somewhat. However, this is all part of laying the groundwork for the next ten years, in which Facebook aspires, not just to grow his company, but to determine what society and computing will look like.
“For the next 10 years our focus is on driving the fundamental changes in the world that we need to achieve our mission,” Zuckerberg said, “connecting the whole world, understanding a world with big leaps in AIs and developing the next generation of platforms, especially in computing.”
Some observers, such as Henry Blodget of Business Insider, have condemned Facebook stockholders for losing faith in Zuckerberg’s master plan.
It’s true that cutting short-term profits for lofty and sci-fi-sounding goals like artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality (which Zuckerberg is interested in developing as the next big platform, via his investment in Oculus) and changing the world sounds like a lofty, and perhaps even impractical, goal. We at Dave Partners are unapologetic optimists in favor of tech innovation, and we’re excited to see the next platforms evolve. However, we can also understand investors’ hesitation.
What’s really at issue here is something that most of us face every day: the importance of balancing short-term and long-term goals.
Long-term goals – your plan for the next year, or decade — can and should be wild. They should be the biggest and best version of your future that you can personally imagine: If you want to build a super-star media platform, or invent the next great computing platform, or create a company that’s bigger than Google, you can put that in your long-term goal list. Shoot for the moon.
However, once you have your long-term goals established, short-term goals are the necessary next step in the process. If you want to be a media superstar, you first need to sign up for Twitter. If you want to build a great company, you need funding and employees. Your long-term goals are castles in the clouds; your short-term goals are the ladder you’ll climb to get there. You need to build that ladder step by step.
For short-term goals, realism is key. We recommend examining every short-term goal to see if it’s SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
So: If you want to be the world’s richest and most respected purveyor of t-shirts, you need to be able to sell t-shirts. Therefore, you need to establish actionable tasks that you know you can do (“we want to create a website to sell our t-shirts online”), you need to know what success looks like and how to know you’ve succeeded (“we will have a functioning website, and will receive one dozen orders per month”) and you need to know when you will finish your task (“the website will be up and running by the end of October”).
And yet, without larger, long-term goals motivating your short-term decisions, it’s easy to stagnate, or to waste your efforts. Not only do you need to break long-term goals into more attainable short-term projects, you need to measure every short-term project to see where it fits into your long-term goals.
Right now, investors may be scared because it sounds like Zuckerberg has a lot of vision, and some very grand short-term goals, but not many goals for creating profit in the short term. The key to his success will be balancing both short-term gain and long-term vision, so that every step he takes both sustains his company and gets him closer to the grand future he envisions.
Image credit: CC by Aaron Davis