Fortune

THE LONG GAME

Every FORTUNE 500 company CEO knows he or she should be managing for the long term. Why do so many of them get stuck on the next quarter?

IT’S THE 1990s, THE DAWN of the Internet age—and you, like everyone you know, has a genius of a dotcom idea. Somehow, you get in to see one of the hottest venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Your pitch, fired up and ready: You’re going to sell books over the Internet. (The VC yawns.)

You tell him that you’re planning to spend years, or really decades, building up technological infrastructure and warehouse capacity, focusing relentlessly on customer experience—you’ll even call the company “Relentless.com” to capture that ferocious customer-centricity. Sure, you’ll have to discount prices to gain market share, and take a hit on delivery, but in time you’ll have the phenomenal scale to sell “Anything … with a capital ‘A’”—to everyone. You’ll be “earth’s biggest store.”

The VC stirs a bit. When he asks you for

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