If there’s anything that the past two years have taught us, it’s the fact that nothing in life is certain, and human beings are nothing if not resilient. No one can predict the future (except Paul the octopus), but you can build a strategy that’ll up your chances of coming out the other side of whatever life throws at us next. (Universe be kind.)
Here are five things you can do to future-proof your business, starting today:
1. Invest in adequate small business insurance
I’ll admit that discussing the ins and outs of small business insurance is not a vibe. But neither is seeing your dreams go up in flames (or under six inches of water). It’s neither exciting nor glamorous, but the fact remains: investing in a robust insurance plan is a non-negotiable for any small business. Whether you run a food truck or a name-brand franchise, an organic flower farm or an online fashion brand, there are myriad potential pitfalls that, when not covered, can spell the end of your business. In a bid to keep anxiety levels to a minimum, I won’t list the thousand and one scenarios that can spell the end for even the most successful of businesses, but I will say this: do your research on the various risks unique to your business, and then get the highest premium you can afford. (Even if it means scrapping your midday energy drink or switching to one-ply toilet paper. Yes, really!)
2. Evolve your offering in line with market trends and demand
Our day-to-day lives are radically different to a mere decade ago: grocery shopping required physically travelling to a store, a select few used mobile phones (#longlivetheNokia3310), and watching a movie involved renting a DVD. While we don’t know what our lives will look like in ten or fifteen years’, we do know that they’ll look significantly different than they do today, and the businesses that fail to evolve with the times will go the way of Kodak and Blockbuster. While some products or services will always be in demand (coffee), others may become obsolete (face masks). So too will the ways in which you connect with your customers, obtain stock, or sell your goods or services. The only certainty? To go the distance, some aspects of your business will need to change. Instead of waiting until the very last moment to do so (and inadvertently putting your livelihood on the line), start thinking about your options today.
3. Become an expert networker
To riff on an infamous saying, no business owner should be an island. In other words, running a small business is far easier when you’ve got the support of those who’re also knee-deep in the hustle with you. Networking with fellow entrepreneurs may be as appealing as eating a plate of cold slap chips, but where the longevity of your business is concerned, investing time and energy into forging and strengthening connections with other business owners is a crucial survival strategy. It serves you both in the short-term (think: losing precious trading hours to load shedding versus keeping the doors open thanks to the loan of a generator), and in the long run.
Congratulations to you for making through this week. You've risen above all the obstacles and challenges that were thrown at you, and even when it seemed impossible, you are still here.— Yoco (@Yoco_ZA) September 23, 2022
Today we celebrate you.#RiseTheUnderdog pic.twitter.com/WYbXotEUfZ
4. Learn from those who’ve gone before you
Successfully navigating the obstacle course that is running a small business is infinitely easier when you’ve got a clear idea of the pitfalls you might be up against. Instead of waiting to learn from your own mistakes, look at those who’ve gone before. By studying the success and missteps of businesses that operate in the same space as yours, you’ll gain crucial insight that you can use to build an informed strategy that (hopefully) safeguards your business and ups its chances of success. If you’re able to, take the time to meet and talk with the entrepreneurs behind the businesses you admire (and the ones you…don’t) – your future success will thank you.
5. Use your customers as your compass
Without your customers, you wouldn’t have a business, yet far too many small business owners lose sight of the fact. Your customers know what they want – which makes them your number one source for feedback. If you haven’t already, implement some sort of customer feedback system. Ideally, you want to gather as much detailed information as possible. This doesn’t need to be a formal “fill out the little card and tell us if we put a smile on your dial” type of situation. The dream? Sitting down and chatting to your customers. Every interaction is a chance to gauge how you’re doing – the trick is whether or not you’re able to take that data and use it to inform your business strategy.
I sincerely hope that we don’t hear the phrase “unprecedented event” ever again – but, someday, somehow, you will need to navigate road bumps in a way that safeguards you and your business.
Got more tips on preparing your business for the future? Let us know on our socials!