Strategies to future proof your business
7 Ways to future-proof your business
When you’re running your own business, just coping with today can seem quite enough of a task at times.
But the most successful entrepreneurs always have one eye on the future of their business too. Here are some future-proof business ideas to help you ensure things continue to go smoothly as you develop:-
1. Encourage everyone to work together
A company can never be at its most productive when it is made up of isolated teams who don’t understand each other’s work.
Make sure you create a culture in which everyone feels part of one big team and in which different departments communicate, collaborate and appreciate each other.
Your company can only be more productive if everyone is pulling together – and the more knowledge people have about how the company works as a whole, the better.
After all, a great idea about how your website, customer service or marketing can be improved can come from anyone in the company.
2. Accept that your customer is everything
With more and more competition and even solid, age-old industries disrupted by ideas like Airbnb and Uber, no one can afford to be complacent.
Every aspect of your customer service needs to be at the top of its game. No one is too big to fail, as has been amply proved since the 2008 financial crisis.
Talk to your customers; the better you know them, the better you can serve them. Find out what they want and need, what problems they face, and how you can help.
Market research is one way to do this; social media is another.
As well as being free, social media allows you to talk to your customers directly and one-to-one, as long as you keep on top of how your customers are using it.
A little reward, to show a good customer you appreciate them, like a discount or gift, can go a long way. Make sure that every experience a customer has with you is positive – that your team is helpful, your website easy to use, your processes simple.
3. Stay informed
The world and how the people in it behave are constantly changing.
You need to keep up to date with this, even if it isn’t happening in your industry or your country. As an example you only have to look at how the advent of smartphones affected the camera, music player and map industries.
If you can, spend just a few minutes a day keeping up with trends in business strategy and technology, consumer trends and regulations. Watch what your competitors are doing, not so you can copy them but to help you build a complete picture.
4. Step into the future
As marketing company Engine put it:-
“The technologies of the future are closer than you think. Future-proof businesses are the ones working to solve tomorrow’s problems today.”
Henry Ford may or may not have said:-
“If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” but if he didn’t say it, he should have, because it illustrates the importance of new ideas.
And if you want to progress with new ideas, you have to take the risk that they might go wrong. So make sure you have a culture in which your team are encouraged to come up with ideas, experiment and are allowed to fail.
That said there are some things you should not be taking chances on, like cybersecurity, data security, legal compliance, employment practices. As a rule, data and documents are generally more secure in the cloud.
Don’t depend too much on one person; if they leave and they’re the only one who knows how to work a particular IT system or has details for important contacts, you’re stuffed.
5. Know why you are important
Business authors Minter Dial and Caleb Storkey, writing for small business website Bytestart, say you need to be clear on why what you are offering is “materially different and better in the eyes of the buyer”.
They recommend asking yourself two questions:-
- What does my brand stand for
- Why would the world be worse off without us?
After all, if you can’t answer those questions yourself, how are your customers going to?
Companies’ values and ethics are probably more important to consumers than ever. So make sure you know what your business’ ethical values are and uphold them. This goes for the companies you partner with too.
6. Treat your team properly
Dial and Storkey add:
“Brand is, at its core, the mark of trust, a guarantee of sorts. And your team becomes your most important weapon in establishing a trustworthy brand. Customers deal with people, not a company.”
If you want your team to be enthusiastic about your company, they need to feel that they are doing something meaningful, that they’re appreciated and that they have a stake in the company’s success.
There are lots of ways to do this, from profit share schemes, recognition and rewards to providing opportunities to do voluntary work, offering flexible working and enabling people to take ownership of their own projects.
7. Don’t get carried away
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again: be frugal!
Splash out on expensive things you don’t need, pay yourself an over-generous salary or expand before you are ready and when trading takes a downturn you may really wish you hadn’t.
Always, even when you think you are making a nice profit, have some money in the bank to cover the unexpected.
And don’t let early success make you think you have all the answers.
Seek out mentors and advisors who have been through good times and bad in business and whose experiences you can learn from.
A good accountant will help business owners look ahead to tomorrow as well as get through today – and at THP Chartered Accountants, we’ve helped many a small company plan for – and achieve – a bright future. We provide accounting services across London and the South East, with offices in Chelmsford, Cheam, Wanstead, Saffron Walden and London City.
Call us on 020 8989 5147 to chat about how we can help.
About Mark Boulter
Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.
Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”