Let’s be honest here… I have problems. They are problems that my family, friends, and co-workers are more than happy to point out. The ugly truth is your business has problems too. All companies, of course, have some problems — except Apple. Perhaps their only problem is where to put all the money they are making.

So what problems are you addressing today? I assume it is the most pressing issue of the day. The items that keep you awake at night. And while those obviously deserve your attention, if you focus all your energy on the most immediate issues, you are doing a disservice to the future of you and your business. This resonated in my mind while attending the Joint Futures Conference held by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).

Joint Futures

It is easy to say that the HVAC industry does not work together — regional standards being exhibit A — however that statement could not be further from the truth in most cases. The Joint Futures Task Force is one example of this industry working together. Stakeholders from every corner of the industry were involved in a day of meetings focused on solving some of the problems that affect the industry. Distributors, manufacturers, contractors, and even the trade press were given a seat at the table. From a distributor’s perspective, Brian Cobble of G.W. Berkheimer Co., Royce Henderson of Charles D. Jones Co., and Bud Mingledorff of Mingledorff’s Inc. represented the interests of the distributor segment of the industry. The most interesting part of the group (which meets once a year) is they are not interested in any problem that needs to be addressed in the next 1-3 years. Instead, all conversation centers on problems that have not yet bubbled to the surface and are at least three years down the road. Getting that many bright minds into the same room to do some long-range thinking is a real benefit to the industry.

I would urge distributors to apply that lesson to their businesses. Obviously I am not saying to disregard important immediate issues that daily come into your office. If you did that, you would probably not be around five years down the road. But it does make sense to gather the leaders in your company to look five years down the road. This does not need to be done every day, but perhaps every quarter.

Have your leadership team submit issues they believe will affect the company three or more years down the road. Get everyone in a room and rank the issues. The most important part of this exercise is to make sure the items are truly, in fact long term. Then spend some time developing an action plan that would help your company solve or avoid the problems your team identified. An added bonus to this meeting is your key employees feel even more invested in your company. If they are involved in solving future problems, they might be more likely to be a part of that future.

If you believe this would be a waste of time, just think about the benefit other companies could have received if they looked a little more into the future. Perhaps Kodak would be around selling digital cameras or Blockbuster video would be streaming movies on your iPad. Don’t be one of those companies who people will remember fondly 10 years from now saying what a shame it was that you did not change with the times.