How to Future-Proof Your Business

You can’t always predict the future but how would your business cope if the unexpected happened?

While future-proofing isn’t an exact science, anticipating and planning for the unforeseen can ensure your business is in a great place to weather any change.

Just a few years ago, the idea we’d be living through a global pandemic would have sounded like something from a Hollywood blockbuster. But here we are, navigating our way in a post-Covid world.

While we don’t have a crystal ball, there are ways you can future-proof your business by planning for the unexpected.

What is future-proofing a business?

It’s the art of anticipating future events and developing strategies that minimise the effect of any shocks on your business. Rather than being a one-off quick fix, it’s an ongoing process every business should undertake as it evolves.

Why future-proofing can help businesses survive

No business is immune to change, but the ones that survive are the businesses which anticipate it and put a strategy in place to cope. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of future-proof failure is Blockbuster. The video rental giant failed to make the transition to digital and even turned down an offer from Netflix in 2000, believing it to be a very niche business. Netflix is now a major entertainment player while Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

The simple truth is they didn’t anticipate a digital future and they paid the ultimate price. As we said, we don’t have a crystal ball, but thinking about what might happen down the line can avoid your business from suffering a similar untimely demise.

How to future-proof your business

Future-proofing looks different depending on the business – some operate in more volatile industries than others – but there are common themes which apply across the board.

1. Take an omnichannel approach to selling

In recent years there’s been a huge shift to online communication and selling, but that doesn’t mean other channels are redundant. Client expectations and technology are constantly shifting but by taking an omnichannel approach, you create a seamless customer journey through multiple channels.

For example, a customer might make an online purchase through your website, then follow up with an email question or make a phone call. Tracking and recording those interactions can ensure their experience with you is a happy one.

2. Secure your supply chain

Supply chain disruption is a hot topic these days – global supply chain issues, industrial action and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions have left some goods in short supply.

You can’t always predict when and where the disruption will occur, but it can wreak havoc on businesses without a solid contingency plan.

  • Build up safety stock – consider how much you can safely keep on hand to meet demand and avoid a stockout. Inventory management can help you track stock and reorder when goods run low.

  • Supplier diversification – if you rely on one single supplier, it limits your ability to operate if they can’t deliver. Building relationships with multiple suppliers can ensure if one goes down, the disruption to your business will be minimal.

  • __ Cross-train staff__ – supply chain management involves your staff as much as it does your products. If labour is in short supply, train your employees in multiple areas of the business, so that if one goes sick another can step in and hold the fort.

3. The importance of great customer service

Customers don’t care what’s going on behind the scenes – they simply want their order on time. If you know something is delayed, get in touch and give them as much information as soon as possible. Early communication can head off any backlash and avoid unhappy customers.

Email marketing software is an effective way to communicate any issues but it’s also a useful tool to track trends, receive feedback and uncover customer pain points. The better you understand their needs, the quicker you can react and meet them.

Don’t ignore the wider business trends and industry issues that can impact your business. We’re talking about raw materials, and changes in rules and regulations, for example. The introduction of GDPR, Brexit and recent energy price increases may be national issues, but they’ve all had a demonstrable effect on businesses from small to large.

Social media is also moving at breakneck speed, and sometimes it feels like there’s not a day that goes by without a new feature being introduced. Pre-pandemic, barely anyone had heard of TikTok – now it’s one of the most used platforms in the world with more than 1 billion monthly active users.

Social media has evolved far beyond entertaining cat videos and is now a formidable marketing and selling platform. It’s a cost-effective way for start-ups to reach a wide audience, develop lucrative niches and grow their business organically.

6. Smart business operation moves

Automation has come a long way in recent years, and smart tech is transforming the way people operate their businesses. For instance, could you use automation software to make your human resources function better? What about AI and machine learning to drive a more targeted recruitment process? Or how about using smart tech to improve office efficiency? Voice-enabled smart assistants like Alexa or Siri can improve productivity, while air-quality monitoring can keep your office or shop environment comfortable.

While your focus is on the present, keeping one eye on the future makes sound business sense. Being mindful of what could happen means you’re not taken by surprise if and when it occurs.