Future-proofing your business is just as important as finding the right team members and advertising platforms.
In a world still reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, future-proofing a business has developed new meaning. While it’s still vital to stay ahead of consumer habits and changing regulations, it’s equally important to prepare yourself and your business for the very real possibility of a second wave or similar catastrophic event.
From 2020 onwards, businesses have to future-proof in a manner never seen before. Whether you’re worried about the overall stability of your business or simply its place in a new market you’re experimenting within, here are a few tips to help protect your investment.
Anticipate big trends
At its core, future-proofing a business is about creating an environment where you’re ready for sudden changes, whether that’s the preferences of consumers or how businesses in your sector legally have to operate.
You need to be able to anticipate where the world will be months or years down the line. Let’s use the coronavirus pandemic as an example.
Post-COVID, will we see a return to traditional consumer habits? Should ecommerce stores be putting everything into a digital basket or looking at a return to alternative ways of reaching consumers? It could well be the case that people will be yearning for traditional retail after months without experiencing it properly. In this case, investing in a pos system for small business would allow ecommerce-only retailers to run pop-up shops and sell at events by syncing offline sales with their online inventory.
When attempting to anticipate big trends, tools such as Google Trends can give you a greater sense of what is coming over the hill. This allows you to keep your business current by latching onto temporary trends and jumping on huge swings in popular culture.
It’s not just typical business trends that you should be future-proofing for either, but cultural ones too. 2020 has been a year of significant cultural change, prompting a number of corporations to put out messages of solidarity with groups and change up their content output. Instead of playing catch-up with these trends, keep an eye out for them and listen to what your audience is talking about—particularly through social channels.
Make use of freelancers
In the future, a smaller team made up of more versatile staff members may be a more sustainable route for small to medium-sized businesses.
That being said, what happens when you want to expand or experiment with new kinds of projects? That’s where the benefits of freelancers come in.
Rather than going through an expensive hiring and training process multiple times a year, you can future-proof your business by using freelance talents. While they often charge higher hourly rates, freelancers are team members you can use on a temporary basis, perhaps even only for the length of one project. This allows your business to explore new areas of revenue without making significant, costly investments that put the bottom line of the business at risk.
You’re not just saving on annual wages either, but also the amenities, equipment and perks you would have to offer a permanent team member.
In addition, using freelancers also gives you the opportunity to train up your existing team members in new skills and widen your vision as a company. Being open to these new ideas and ways of doing business is a crucial part of having a long-term vision and making sure you aren’t caught out by short-sighted thinking.
Platforms such as Workana have made it easier than ever to find talented freelancers, especially on a short-term basis. There’s no reason for newer businesses to not at least experiment with this method as they find their feet.
Create an environment that promotes innovation
No one can predict the future, but you can create an environment more suited towards it.
Future-proofing a business isn’t about being able to see exactly what’s around the corner and tailoring your business towards it, but rather positioning your business to face these challenges head on or perhaps even pioneer the change.
If you’re always following trends eventually you’re going to trip up and fall behind. Rather than waiting patiently for the next big industry-wide change you should look to innovate. The last few decades have been incredibly kind to disruptive brands that have offered something different. And it’s not even just the Netflix and Amazon of this world that have profited, but also brands such as Waze, which have re-thought basic everyday actions and how consumers interact with them.
Fostering a culture of innovation within your workplace requires balancing productivity with the room to be creative. While you need to get projects out the door and satisfy customers you also need to give your employees the time to develop key adaptability skills. These skills will help them notice on-coming trends and find ways to integrate or combat them. It’s future-proofing by way of staff investment.
You should be sending your team to big events within and outside of your industry. That’s not just important for the previously discussed idea of staying ahead of trends, but noticing ways other companies are looking to disrupt their markets and future-proof for key changes.
Of course, this kind of environment needs to have a digital focus. The most successful businesses throughout the pandemic were ones that either integrated digital systems into their structure (digital tools, trailing remote working) or had long moved onto working exclusively with digital products and clients.
Future-proofing a business sounds like an extensive (and expensive) process, but it really isn’t. It’s just a case of understanding the modern market and building your business in a smart way that suits that market. Smart future-proofing should leave you room to experiment and even make mistakes—not wrap your business up in cotton wool and hope it survives the next disaster.