One of the most common questions asked in an interview is, “where do you see yourself in five years.” While this question is an excellent gauge of a potential candidate’s ability to plan for the future and set goals for themselves, it’s also a very ironic question, given that far too many interviewers asking it aren’t too certain of their own five-year plan!
Having a five-year plan for your business, big or small, can be a difficult prospect to undertake because of the volatile nature of business—any number of external variables can create an ebb and flow that might dramatically change the trajectory of the business at any given time. What can and should be done, however, is to create a five-year plan that’s on par with your goals and capabilities, notwithstanding the prospect of a changing five-year outlook.
Simply put: know the answer to the five year question before you ask it, because a good interviewee will likely ask it right back!
Planning for the next five years
Planning five years in advance means planning for the future on every level of business: from personnel to product and service offerings, financials to location, industry position to brand identity, etc. To do this, it’s best to act in pieces, assuming that your projection for one facet of business will almost certainly impact other facets.
- Start by creating an outlook for your leadership team. Who do you want at the helm of your company, what positions do you predict will need to be created versus what positions already exist and do you currently have the talent to fill these positions?
- Next, examine your current market offering and envision it over the next five years. Will you be adding additional products/services? Is there a prospect for evolution based on your current offerings? Will changing industry trends or technologies force you to revisit
your flagship offering?
- On to your financials. What are your financial goals for each quarter of each year for the next five years and do your current revenue models support this projection? How will you fund expansion or growth, if at all? What future expenses are in the future for your business?
- Will your brand be the same in five years as it is today or will you need to adapt and grow to remain relevant? Do you have appropriate marketing systems in place to create brand awareness and advocates? Will your brand’s value proposition change in time or remain the same?
The list goes on and on and you can leapfrog to an infinite number of business facets just by following the trail of planning from one focus to the next.
Putting the pieces together
Having a five-year plan does more than just give you the answer to a potential interview question: it create goals and benchmarks by which you can measure your company’s resolve to flourish sustainably. Being able to measure growth on a quarterly or annual basis and compare it to a manifesto for success over a five year term is your way of knowing if you’re moving forward or standing still.
This post was written by Dr. Stephen C. Schoonover