Future-proofing is an approach that helps you anticipate and prepare for the future of your business. Business owners can future-proof their companies by creating systems that can help minimize the shock and stress that often come with changes or disruptions.
Every business is different, so every approach to future-proofing will differ as well. But there are some key things to keep in mind as you work to future-proof and secure a better future for your business.
1. Invest in the right technology to help future-proof your business.
Technology can be an essential building block of any modern business. But some businesses don't always have the resources to constantly update to the latest and greatest models of every different device or software out there.
For that reason, you may want to be careful about what items you invest in and start thinking about what items you may be able to spend less on. To do that, you can determine which items you really need to stay with your business for the long run.
For example, in the case of processor speed, video cards and memory—categories usually associated with computers—technology evolves so rapidly that it may be unrealistic for you to think of ways to future-proof it. Instead, you may just want to buy the best hardware that your business can afford at the time and update when necessary.
However, when it comes to software and data storage, consider using cloud services. When buying these services, you can receive regular updates by paying a monthly fee. This is a way to help future-proof your business: You can get the latest features without having to worry about making the substantial investment of an upgrade.
2. Build flexible offerings into your business plan.
Future-proofing doesn't just apply to your tech tools. It can actually apply just as much, if not more so, to your actual offerings.
For example, if you offer a single mobile app that's really trendy right now, you're probably quite happy with your business's performance in the short term. But what happens when those mobile consumers with notoriously short attention spans move on to the next fad? For that reason, it may be a good idea for businesses to diversify offerings, or at least come up with something that's easy to change as consumer preferences or trends evolve.
So instead of offering a single mobile app, you could future-proof your business by creating multiple apps. You could even create a totally separate revenue stream like an e-commerce site or social-selling platform for your product or service.
3. Re-evaluate every aspect of your business regularly.
You don't have to wait until there's a huge drop-off in sales before considering making a change to your business.
I recommend constantly keeping an eye on things like sales numbers and analytics. This can help you spot any signs that a change might be needed. That way, you can make adjustments gradually instead of forcing your team to be reactive. This approach could even help keep your team from making mistakes, since now they'll have enough time to formulate a decent plan.
For instance, if you see sales of a certain product start to slip, you can potentially dig deeper into your analytics or even run a customer survey to find the exact cause of that decline. Maybe it's something as simple as a poor or confusing user experience on your website. If you catch it early enough, you can help future-proof your offering by updating your site and keeping an eye on whether that makes a difference for your sales going forward.
4. Challenge your employees to be their best.
Your employees can make a huge difference in the success of your business going forward. You want to make sure they're performing at the best possible level.
To ensure that your employees are actually engaged at work and up to the task of helping your business grow, consider challenging them. You could change up their tasks every once in awhile, ask for their input about your strategies and processes and even engage them through fun contests or incentive programs.
You can incentivize great service by hosting a contest where you award a prize to the person who has the highest ratings on their customer reviews. This can help encourage your employees to offer the best possible service—and also shows them that you are willing to reward great work.
5. Evaluate the market for potential negative effects to help future-proof your business.
The factors that can affect the future of your business won't always come from within. You may want to keep an eye on outside factors like your market and competition.
Read trade publications, blogs and market reports so that you can take note of any information that might affect your business. Say you're an e-commerce company that has stuck to the same model for years. But when you learn about the concept of social selling gaining popularity, you might think that would be a great fit for your business as well.
Consider jumping on new trends early or shift your strategy so that you stop relying on outdated offerings. This way, you can future-proof your company and give it a better chance of achieving sustained success.
6. Listen to what your customers have to say.
Customers can be a great source of information for shaping the future of your business. But if you don't ask them their opinions, you'll never obtain those helpful insights.
For that reason, it's a good idea to regularly survey your customers in some way. Their answers could help you future-proof your business. You can send out a few questions via email after people complete purchases. You can do a more in-depth annual survey. You can perform focus groups. Or you can simply interact with customers in person.
When you're conducting these customer surveys, it helps to have some specific areas you'd like to learn about in mind. This can mean that you focus most questions on customer service if that's an area where your team has struggled in the past. But you can also leave a section for more general comments as well so that they can call your attention to issues that you may have not even been aware of.
Whatever method you choose, make sure that you're actually open to making changes based on customer insights and opinions. Then evaluate any potential changes that might make sense.
7. Focus on solving problems for your customers.
No matter what changes you need to make over the course of running your business, one thing is unlikely to ever change. And that is the fact that your products or services need to solve some kind of problem for customers.
When you're worrying about all the other complicated aspects of running your business, it can be easy to lose sight of this very basic principle. It doesn't matter what you've built your business on. Whether it's helping customers find the best deals online, creating the best software for a particular need or helping customers plan the perfect vacation, keep that basic goal in mind—it's what your customers expect from you. Doing this is can help keep your business going long term.
For every change you consider making in your business, ask yourself, “Will this solve a problem for my customers?" If the answer is no, then it may not be worthwhile.
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