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7 ways to future proof your small business

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Your business may be competitive and successful today, but how will it perform in the future? What actions do you need to take today to have an even better business one year, five years, 10 years from now? How can you future proof your business to remain successful over the longer term?

Today, small businesses face many challenges. From new technologies and global competition to changing workforce demographics and government regulations, it’s easy to see why so many businesses are under extreme pressure.

While we can’t accurately predict the future, there are several ways to build a business that stands the test of time. Here are my seven tips to help you future proof your business.

1. Create the future

Peter Drucker once said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” ­

Chances are your small business already has a mission statement. A short paragraph that outlines your principles, business philosophy, and company goals.

But, what about a vision statement that describes the desired future state of your company?

Think about where you want to be in the next five to 10 years. Remember, as a small business you can be the voice of consumer demand and bring innovation into the market faster than a larger company. How do you want to impact the future? Write down your vision and use it to guide your strategy.

2. Know who your customers are

This means investing the time to better understand your customers’ unique wants and needs.

In my consulting work, I’m surprised by the number of early-stage businesses that create their marketing plans based on selling their products and services to anyone. This is a formula for failure, not success.

Future proof businesses stand out from the crowd by starting their own crowd. They differentiate themselves by understanding their customers’ needs and wants better than the customers understand themselves.

You will make mistakes in this process. Just keep trying and your customers will appreciate your efforts.

3. Leverage new technologies

Artificial intelligence. Marketing automation. The cloud. There are no shortage of buzzwords to describe the wealth of technology that we now have at our fingertips.

Help your clients better understand how to leverage these new technologies to grow their businesses and create a better customer experience for their customers. As a successful business owner you need to invest time to understand which technologies serve both your customers’ needs and your own.

There are many great resources available to business owners including local business shows and professional conferences. You can learn very quickly from vendors who work with others in your industry. This can save you both time and money.

4. Work with advisors

An advisor can leverage your efforts to build a more valuable business today, and in the future.

From my experience, the quality of your life and business are shaped by the people who provide you with actionable advice and with whom you invest your time. My most successful clients have been organizations that benefited from strategic relationships with a team of advisors. Your team might include accountants, bookkeepers, and technology professionals who understand your business’s unique needs.

5. Develop a high level of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for successful business owners.

In today’s crazy world, clients are looking for people they can trust no matter what’s going on. Build a reputation of working well under pressure and you’re well on your way to future-proofing your small business. Make sure your people share your enthusiasm to provide an outstanding customer experience. Customers want to feel appreciated. Make sure your people help them feel that way.

Emotional intelligence helps you coach your own team as well. Employee retention is a huge issue. By using emotional intelligence your employees get more out of their roles and this is passed on to the customers. It also increases employee engagement leading to retention. Don’t overlook opportunities to recognize, congratulate, and celebrate your employees achievements.

6. Know what is happening before it happens

You can make things happen, watch things happen, or wonder what happened. History repeats itself over and over within the lifetime of a business. Know what’s happening in your market before others notice.

Look for similar indicators and trends to provide unique perspectives and insights into market conditions. Understanding the past helps you prepare for any changes you may need to make in the future. Clues are around us. Get your team together to share insights and experiences so you all have a broader view of what might be coming. This helps you prepare for the future.

If you have a business blog, you can share your observations and get feedback back from your customers. This allows you to communicate with them more frequently, which is always good for your business.

7. Communicate your brand

Become a great storyteller for your business.

A compelling company story not only helps you stand out in the crowd, it can also help you build trust and develop rapport with your customers.

Speaking of customers, include them in your storytelling. Have them share how your business has impacted them and their lives. This is a great opportunity to use social media to share your story. Customer testimonials and special events can help you increase your visibility in your markets. Don’t be afraid to use emotion in your storytelling. A good story stays in people’s minds for a very long time.

Becoming a future proof business is much like being a lighthouse – you are the constant that is helping others navigate through a sea of change.

Conclusion

There are many ways to future proof your business. I’ve just shared several ideas to help you get started down this path. As the leader of your business it’s critical to get your people to engage in the conversation. Empower your people to find new ways to future proof your business. This isn’t a question that has only one right answer. To future proof your business you need everyone to contribute and participate in these efforts.

Now, lets get started!

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