Future-proofing your business in six easy steps

Joel Svensson
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All too often, good ideas are brought crashing down by new trends, disruptive technologies or a plain old lack of strategic vision. So how do you stop your business from becoming one of those statistics people like to kick off seminars with?

Here are six tactics for shoring up your business against the tides of fate.

Get ready to train millennials

By the year 2020, millennials will constitute the largest cohort in the national workforce – so you’d better get used to them. The good news is, contrary to popular opinion, they’re not all iPhone-addicted and Kardashian-obsessed.

The internet generation might be maligned as entitled and lacking in personal resilience, but research shows that they’re also inclined to be highly ethical, naturally innovative and fond of feedback. For best results, treat millennial workers to frequent lateral training and enough autonomy to meaningfully contribute to the success of the company.

Update your tech

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a tempting maxim to live by, but it’s not always best practise. Sure, legacy systems are sometimes worth staying with, but they can also be inefficient and even dangerous.

Staying with an old operating system, for instance, might lock you out of the next iteration of a critical software program, or the vendor may drop support, exposing your systems to greater security risk.

Whatever the situation, maintaining the balance of old and new must be thought through strategically.

Being future-proof often relies on a business’s ability to innovate. But innovation is all too often strangled by ill-planned company culture.

Stay in the know

Predicting future market trends is notoriously hit-and-miss, but you don’t have to be Warren Buffett to make use of business news. Keeping abreast of industry trends will allow you see potential business opportunities, as well as play defence if those trends happen to be negative.

And with technology advancing at the rate that it is, being in the loop has never been more valuable. Learn to analyse your industry for its susceptibility to disruption; you might not be the next Uber, but you definitely don’t want to be a taxi.

Follow industry news hubs on social media, subscribe to email newsletters, attend trade fairs – whatever it takes to get a diverse and regular digest.

Tighten your cybersecurity

It should come as no surprise that cybercrime is a thriving industry. Ransomware attacks in particular are on the rise, threatening local enterprises and international conglomerates alike.

And unless someone invents a way to fix the entire internet, this is a trend that is set to continue for the foreseeable future. Learning to defend against cyberattacks is an increasingly necessary step for the future-proof business.

Leave room to grow

Being future-proof often relies on a business’s ability to innovate. But innovation is all too often strangled by ill-planned company culture.

Micromanagement, bored employees, and overly strict policies – all these serve to reduce communication and discourage risk-taking, the cornerstones of innovation. Make sure your business is a place that encourages forward thinking.

Taking some time off from daily operations and working on your strategy is absolutely essential to keeping your business green and growing.

Zoom out

As the saying goes, you need to work on your business, not just in it.

Running your own company is a massively demanding task, and it’s all too easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Taking some time off from daily operations and working on your strategy is absolutely essential to keeping your business green and growing.

Making strategic choices can be as “simple” as finding new vendors, or as extreme as a total rebranding. But however painful it might be, the future lies on the horizon, not in the engine room. Make sure there’s someone at the helm.

Future-proofing your business isn’t something that can be achieved in a night, nor even in a year. It’s a never-ending process of continuous improvement, based on long-term thinking and fuelled by an appetite for learning. If that sounds exhausting, that’s because it is. But the reward is a nimbler, more resilient operation that will stand the test of time.

Joel Svensson

Joel Svensson is a Melbourne-based freelance writer specialising in politics and business.

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