However naturally positive we are, we will probably all agree that 2018 is going to be at least as challenging as 2017, possibly more so. Difficult economic times, volatile world events, a lack of talent and fast-changing technology make it a high priority to future proof our business.
I know this only too well from experience. The financial crash of 2007-8 may seem like eons ago now. But I still remember how difficult it was getting financial investment for the company I was CEO of. The straitened financial circumstances that resulted by the crash meant I had to rapidly re-appraise our 5-year strategic plan and re-think our plans for expansion.
We continued to expand the business, but only after we’d thoroughly reviewed our earlier scenario planning and updated our risk register. Knowing that we’d considered, as far as was reasonably possible, how our business might be affected by an unstable economy gave us confidence to proceed with our original plans.
The way I handled our company response to the financial crisis of 2007-8 is the way I approach future proofing my own business, as well as that of my clients. Here’s my blueprint which will help you to prepare for 2018.
7 Ways To Future Proof Your Business
1. Carry Out A PESTLE Analysis: In my last article, Behind The Scenes Of My Annual Business Review, I explained how the first activity I undertook was a PESTLE analysis. PESTLE a mnemonic for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental, offers a bird’s eye view of the environment your business is operating in and a structured way of thinking about the changing landscape.
2. Complete A SWOT Analysis: A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis will help you understand how your business is positioned in relation to the market and your competitors. Armed with this information, you can work out a strategy to maximise your business strengths, minimise its weaknesses, capitalise on opportunities and mitigate any potential threats.
3. Spend Some Time Scenario Planning: Scenario planning (also referred to as contingency planning) is when you consider a number of different scenarios, and consider the different ways in which they could unfold. Scenario planning is about asking the questions “what could be the consequences if X happened,” “how likely is this to happen,” “how serious would the impact on my business be” and “what are the different ways my business could respond?”
Scenario planning essentially involves taking the decisions you make today, and considering the different ways in which they may play out. Then developing a plan with sufficient flexibility to respond to any of these different scenarios, should they arise.
4. Review your Business Plan: Now is the perfect time to take a good, hard look at your business plan, and decide whether it’s fit for purpose. I’m aware that there are ‘business gurus’ out there who argue that you don’t need a business plan – a one page business strategy will suffice. If you have subscribed to that view, I’d encourage you to think carefully about this for a minute. Do you really think you can grow and scale a business successfully off the back of a one-page plan, or worse no plan at all?
5. Focus On Your People: Employees are your most important resource, and there’s no doubt good staff are hard to come by, and to retain. To recruit and retain the best staff, hands down the best strategy is to become an employer of choice. This means offering the best terms and conditions you can, investing in training and development, thinking about health and well-being and making work-life balance a priority. Not only will this strategy make it more likely to retain staff (keeping recruitment costs low) but your staff will talk about your company in a favourable way making it easier to attract the best talent.
6. Plan For The Skills Your Business Will Need: One of the top complaints I hear from business owners is how hard they find it to recruit good staff. There is no doubt that this statement is true. But it’s equally true that there are good employees out there. Part of the solution to this problem is ‘growing your own staff.’ For example creating your own traineeship programme, perhaps on the back of an apprenticeship programme.
7. Offer Experience As Well As Product: One of the best ways to future proof your business is to build a base of (very) happy customers. This means creating an experience which delights your customers – that not only has them returning time after time. But has them acting as brand advocates for your company because they talk about your business in glowing terms to their network. Think how many times I mention The White Company in my examples?
And finally be sure to keep a weekly cash flow forecast. This is the single best way to future proof your business, and I’ll be explaining why in Friday’s article.
Finally, as always, thank you for reading and commenting on my articles.
Question: What’s your top tip for future proofing your business? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to share in the comments box below.
Explore These Additional Resources
Did you miss?
- Behind The Scenes Of My Annual Business Review
- How To Create An Elevated Brand Like Mint Velvet
- How To Run An Autumn Campaign Like The White Company
If it’s your first time here, you may also want to check out the resources I’ve curated to help you grow your business. These include some of my most popular content.
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