It’s impossible to predict the future, just look at weathermen and women, they adjust their predictions until you’re literally getting soaked in the rain and they still say there’s only a 10% chance of showers. That being said, while the future is unpredictable, you can still prepare for it. We’re not talking about buying a cabin off the grid and setting it up with a series of Home Alone-style traps and waiting for the apocalypse. No, we’re talking more of a setting-up-your-business-for-success kind of preparation (although if you want to go with the former that’s your choice and we won’t judge you for it).
Future-proofing your business nowadays can seem like a daunting task, or even one that’s just going to be too time-consuming, but there’s plenty of value in doing so. There’s even the opportunity to innovate on trends and become an industry leader. Here are four of the best ways to future-proof your business . . .
Pay Attention to Emerging Technology
The rise of smartphones, computers, the internet and more have drastically changed the world and the way it runs. For example, before the rise of the internet, people would actually have to show you physical pictures of their trips to Europe (the ones you don’t care they went on), but now you can get spammed by their photos on social media (yay?).
Preparing your company for the future means recognizing the potential of upcoming technology and how it could impact your business. Advertising online, especially with personalized ads, has become a huge game-changer and one of the main ways businesses are selling products.
This can be one of the most difficult ones on the list to prepare for since technology is often expensive until it becomes mass-produced. It can also be difficult to see the difference between something like a gimmick, like 3D TVs, versus emerging technology, like smart speakers, until it already becomes popular. A couple of ways to tell how quickly something may impact your business is to observe how quickly people are adopting it, and how much they’re talking about it. To keep track of the latter, follow popular brands and their social media that sell the tech, and search out forums around the product to get a sense of their sentiment towards it.
Be Aware of Simple or Cheaper Alternatives to Products or Services
A big part of future-proofing is planning early and not reacting to changes when/as they happen. A great example of this is cheap products or services. If a company can accomplish the same result more cheaply, people will naturally gravitate toward the cheaper solution (unless the quality is significantly worse than the original). The same is also true for needlessly complicated solutions. If there’s a simpler way people can get results through another business, they will also be much more likely to choose that company over yours. It’s exactly why businesses like Skip The Dishes are so popular. Sure, you could learn how to cook this week, but you could also have your favourite food from some of your favourite restaurants delivered right to your door. The choice is pretty clear.
This can be a hard solution to overcome since you don’t want to devalue your product to a point where you’re no longer profitable, or re-design your entire service around one new cheaper process. The best way to stay on top of this is to search out how to optimize your business processes and see if there are cheaper alternatives. You should also continually be looking for ways to optimize your supply chain management (if you’re a product-based company). In addition, be aware of tech or even software or systems like machine learning that can save you time. Time is money after all.
Diversify Your Business As Much As Possible
If your business offers more than one product it’s tempting to double down and just focus on the most successful one, but that might cause future problems. To clarify, it’s not a bad idea to promote your most successful product, but it’s probably not the best idea to devote your entire business on one somewhat or even significantly successful product. Why? If this product becomes irrelevant or useless in the future, you’ll suddenly find yourself without a revenue stream. You also limit yourself from the opportunity to potentially expand if a different product you weren’t focusing on blows up in sales next year.
So what’s the solution for future-proofing? If you’re seeing success with specific products, obviously market them, but don’t get tunnel vision and ignore the rest of your offerings. That would be like a restaurant only offering one dish because it’s the most popular. The best restaurants offer a variety of menu choices for people to choose from depending on their taste. Branch out, look for the best options to add to your offerings, and optimize your current inventory for the best success in the future.
Anticipate Change and Watch for Changes in Consumer Behaviour
It’s easy to get wrapped up in ensuring your company grows with business development and sales, but don’t lose sight of the most important person in your business: the customer. This was the case with many bookstores. Once e-books started becoming popular, many bookstores didn’t adapt to the shift to an online bookstore and had to close up shop. The ridiculous growth of Amazon also changed the way people buy things. People are often searching out products online first before even entering a physical store location when considering a purchase.
Unfortunately, this is one future-proofing technique that’s more of a “stay-on-top-of” than a “plan for”. The best way to prepare for customer change is to track how your customers are behaving. Watch for sudden or gradual shifts in how people are buying. Even if you’re noticing just subtle changes, it’s not a bad idea to get some feedback from your customers as to the reasoning behind it.
Planning for the future is a little like playing darts blindfolded, in a dark room, where you don’t know where the dartboard is, and you’re not even sure someone put up a dartboard. But if you want to stay competitive in your industry it should become an important part of your business. In doing so, you give your company much more of an edge over your competitors and even have the potential to be more profitable and become a leader in your field.