You’re focused on starting your own business. You have your idea, your business plan, and you’re ready to launch. Why do you need to think about the future of your business before you’ve even passed the start line though? If we’ve learnt something from the last 12 months, it’s that we don’t know what’s ahead of us. We can never be sure of the industry or global changes that are around the corner so, planning to protect yourself and your business from the outset should be a priority.
There are some simple ways you can try to future proof your business at every stage of growth. Work through these and get your business future fit.
Get comfortable with the fact that your business will change
Every business owner launches a company with a clear idea of what that company will do. What product it will deliver, what service it will offer. Passion and enthusiasm are essential here, but combine that with a healthy dose of realism. Things change. Whether it’s through economic impact, global conditions, supply chains, customer needs, ownership or a myriad of other possible motivations, your company will evolve throughout its life. Getting comfortable with that at an early stage is good. It means you’ll be open-minded when change is required, and flexible when models shift and strategies move.
Don’t rely completely on one aspect of your business
It’s very common for new businesses to get stuck on one popular product or service. You launch with a great idea that’s a hit with the industry, but then what? What happens if it suddenly goes out of favour or you hit some issue with your supply or delivery? It’s key to think of your ‘hero’ product or service as central but not solo. Build a business that is multi-faceted, that brings in multiple revenue streams, so that it can survive even if the initial launch product stops performing well.
Work to anticipate future market demands
Great businesses have found ways to predict what their customer will need or want, even before the customer knows it themselves. To quote Henry Ford “If I had asked what people wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Use the information you have in combination with market research, data, and creative insights. Invest time in predicting what your customer will want and need next. Listen to feedback, take on board criticism, and compliments, and use everything at your disposal to move forward in your product or service before you need to.
Rely on data and market research
It’s remarkable how much can be learned from data. Not just sales data, but customer behaviour, industry behaviour, online engagement, search data, everything that is part of your customer journey is of interest to you. Gather and review regularly. If you can amass a daily, weekly, monthly history of data, you’ll be able to compare and learn from this going forward. You can shift your strategy based on what you find. You’ll be able to identify problems that you didn’t know existed. And crucially, you’ll have an idea of your performance as against the rest of the industry which is hugely persuasive when future fitting your brand.
Be ready to stretch, in your strategy and in your solutions
Some of the most ambitious companies in the world have failed purely for that reason, they were too ambitious. Thinking big is not a mistake but chasing impossible goals without getting the foundations right will be problematic in particular when the market shifts. Be ready to stretch. Think about the resources you have; what can you do with what you have now? The skills you have, the people you have, the customers you have. You’ll be surprised to find creative, model changing solutions don’t always require more. Being flexible and willing in your solutions can make you more resilient no matter what conditions you’re working under.
Build your brand reputation and your presence online
We all know an online presence is required for any modern business but setting up a website and integrating your branding is simply not enough. Take time to build up your brand reputation online. Make clear your mission, your brand ethos, your purpose and culture. Use social media to improve your visibility. Develop a cohesive communications plan so that your message is clear and consistent on all your platforms. This takes time. Engage with your customers and engage with your industry peers. Gradually growing an authentic brand online is an invaluable component of any business.
Listen to your community
There are many stakeholders involved in any business, but the most important are customers. Listen to them. Get involved with your online community and take into account reviews and feedback. Make sure you’re listening when your clients or customers take the time to get in touch to give you their comments. It can be hard to hear but they are the most powerful indicator of how you are seen by your audience. Learn from what you hear. Integrate your customer’s feedback and needs into your next step. Gather up what you can to help you predict their future demands and win favour with your community by showing a willingness to take what they say on board.
Be realistic about weaknesses and risks
No company is perfect and every organisation has its weak points. Whether they are product or service related, systems, staffing, or leadership. Problems exist and it’s best to recognise them, evaluate the risks attached to them, and to plan around them as early as possible. You’re always better to have to deal with potential risks before they become a serious problem. Any work you do in this area will only serve to make your company stronger in the long run.
Pay attention to your customers revenue as well as your own
Businesses are (rightly) concerned with their own revenue and bottom line. But what about the revenue of your customers and clients? It’s important to be very aware of the financial situation your key audience find themselves in. If they can’t continue to invest in your product or service, you have a serious problem. Being aware of the policies or environmental issues that are affecting your customers is key.
Save for reinvestment and for the unknown
We’re always advised to set aside funds when we can, just in case of emergency. Companies are no different. Firstly, allocating profit to reinvest in the company is smart. Putting funds into strongly performing areas, improving systems, tech, products, marketing and people, can all help build up your bottom line. But no matter how much you choose to reinvest in your company, make sure you’re also setting aside funds for something you can’t predict. Having a cushion is essential should the economy worsen, should you experience trading issues or reputational damage, or should a global pandemic take effect. You won’t regret having space to breath, to take stock, and to make plans to float through any difficult times.
Whether your company is a start-up, a scaling business or a large organisation, future proofing is essential. We’ve seen huge economic and global upheaval in recent years and no matter how strong your business plan, being mentally and practically able to plan for and protect against unexpected changes is key.
Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.