Yes, you need to be thinking about your business’ future and how you are going to keep it going, face down challenges that crop up, and adapt to changes that could have an impact on the future success of your business. It’s called “future proofing” your business.
A recent article on Linkedin defined “Future-proofing” as:
a process of anticipating and preparing for potential future changes and challenges, in order to minimize their impact and ensure long-term success. This involves considering future trends, and potential risks, and developing strategies and solutions to mitigate them.”
So how do you actually go about future proofing your small business? There is no one size fits all approach to doing that, as every business and business owner is different. But here are some basic suggestions that could potentially help any small business owner who is concerned about future proofing their business.
1. Think globally
No matter what your business is, chances are, it can be adapted to a global model. The more customers and clients you are able to bring in for your business, the more successful you are likely to be. So, as far as future proofing your business is concerned, it is smart to at least think about global expansion and how that would look and work for your business. It does not matter if you never actually go global. It really is just about thinking about it, and letting that work through your mind, because it trains you to “think bigger.” Big thinkers are usually more successful than small thinkers. So, if you want to future proof your small business, the first think is to start thinking globally.
2. Think Niche
Even though you should think globally, you also need to consider that the jack of all trades approach to your business model is not always the best approach. Future proofing your business is easier when you are focused. In other words, niche business models are easier to scale than a business whose core products and services are too disperse. A niche approach also allows you to build up your expertise and get really good at one thing, or a couple of things (and be known for that!), than being mediocre at a whole lot of things. Customers respond to expertise much better than they respond to mediocrity. When customers associate your business with one or two core products or services, they are more likely to make you their “go to” place. This lends to future success.
3. Think Technology
If you think for one second that you can future proof your business while being “null” at technology, you are mistaken. Technology is now, and it is going to be even more so in the future, crucial to business success. To future proof your business you need to invest in your own technological skills and that of your employees. Make sure you and your company’s employees are on the cutting edge of new and emerging technologies.
4. Think “intelligent” hiring
The people you hire for your company will make or break your company in the future. Hiring quality employees is definitely one of the key ways that small businesses can future proof their business. Skilled employees who are creative, proactive, reliable, honest, and invested in the success of the business are key to the future of the business, they literally are the engines that run the car. Be sure to empower your employees so that they feel safe to give the best to the company and remain loyal to the business. Be sure to foster a healthy work environment and respond to concerns from your employees because this will encourage them to stay and help to secure the success of the company in the future.
5. Think Networking and Collaborating
Customers are key to the success of a business, but many experts agree that the future of most small businesses will depend in part on the ability of the business owner to collaborate and network with the right people. Some of these people may even be competitors. Business increasingly is an ecosystem and there are many players that are key to the success of the company. As a small business owner, you will need to identity these players and figure out how to interact with them in the ecosystem in a mutually beneficial way.
6. Think customer satisfaction on steroids
As noted above, customers are key to a business’ success and customer satisfaction is essential to future proofing your business. Small business owners need to constantly take the pulse of their customers to sort out what it is that their customers want and how to deliver exactly what their customers want to them. No point in wasting time offering things to your customers that they don’t want or need or can get better elsewhere. Focus on providing excellent niche products and services to your customers and make sure they get it for the best price and at the best standard and quality as compared to your competitors. This is how you future-proof your business. You focus on customer satisfaction.
7. Think keeping up with the industry you’re in
As a small business owner, you have to keep up with your industry. You can’t get left behind on the latest trainings, technologies and resources that are available in your industry. If possible, beyond even keeping up, you have to be an industry leader in your field if you want to future proof your business. Indeed, aim to be an industry leader who solves problems not only for yourself, but for others in your industry who could also face similar risks and challenges in their business in the future. This will make you an invaluable player in the industry whom even competitors may want to see succeed.
8. Think anticipating future challenges, trends and risks
To future proof your business as a small business owner, you have to be a little bit clairvoyant, and you have to anticipate future problems, trends and risks. Admittedly, some of the things you anticipate will happen, never will but that is no excuse for not being ready. A small business owner has to pay attention to what is going on around them, in their business, and in the world, in order to anticipate these trends, challenges and risks. Details matter. Pay attention to the details! Don’t ignore something just because you fear it. Face facts. Be open-minded. And be prepared to take calculated risks that are more likely than less likely to get you the positive outcomes you want in the future.
9. Think developing mitigating solutions to potential future risks
As noted above, a small business owner should be constantly anticipating future challenges, trends and risks and he or she should be constantly thinking about what they will do to solve these if and when they come up. It is not a good future proofing strategy to simply ignore potential future risks, trends and challenges just because it potentially will never happen. Do you remember the adage “don’t get caught with your pants down”? There is a reason for that saying. It is not a very good look – especially when it comes to the future success of your business. So, as a small business owner, always be in the process of anticipation, mitigation and development.
10. Think maintaining and strengthening your brand image
Brand image and brand development is a key concern when you are thinking about future proofing your business. A small business owner should always be thinking about their brand and brainstorming ways to get their brand in front of more people. If a small business owner takes steps little by little regularly to get their brand name and image in front of others, over time this will pay off. The great thing about technology is that it give you many options these days to maintain and strengthen your brand image. This is how you “future proof” your business. Make your brand unforgettable and indelible. Focus on building brand loyalty and trust with customers and stakeholders. Focus on customer satisfaction. Always seek feedback from your customers and adjust your strategies accordingly to make sure that your brand is always highly regarded in your industry.