Changing with the times is key to surviving in the business world.
The past few years have been testing the mettle of business owners, from the COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain crisis to the looming threat of recession. All of this has been a lesson for startups to constantly evolve and keep themselves afloat.
To keep up with all the challenges thrown at them, businesses must be future-proofed. Future-proofing is the process of anticipating and planning out your business so that it can withstand stressful situations in the future. Here are some tips you can follow to help your business withstand the test of time:
Get a clear picture of the current situation
To prepare for the future, you first need to understand how your business currently operates, the challenges it faces and the ways to deal with them. To do so, you can conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to review or develop new strategies to promote your company’s growth. This can be accomplished by asking people in your team the following questions—
- For the strengths section: What do we do well? What are our company’s main resources (both tangible resources, like capital and a solid customer base, as well as intangible assets, like a strong knowledge base and network)?
- For the weaknesses section: What is hampering our ability to remain competitive? Are there any gaps in our team?
- For the opportunities section: How is our market segment currently performing? Are there any ongoing or upcoming events (e.g., changes in government regulations) that can positively impact our business?
- For the threats section: Who are our key competitors? Are the prices for raw materials favorable? Are there any technological developments that can make our service obsolete?
Once you have conducted the SWOT analysis, you will know your business’s issues and how to leverage your strengths to address them. Remember that you must conduct the SWOT analysis with a clear objective in mind (e.g., whether you need to change your marketing strategy) to find the information you were looking for. Make sure to also research your competitors and the industry overall to get an idea of how your business fits into it.
Digitize your business
It would come as no surprise to anyone that startups have shifted their operations online in the past couple of years. Thus, one of the first steps any business can take to remain relevant in the long run is to have an online presence. Not only does it make you more accessible to your customers, but it also helps in optimizing business performance.
To create a successful online presence, you need to put your customer’s needs into consideration. Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and that you have a customer relationship management system (CRM) to track customer preferences.
Upskill your employees
As technology progresses, the skills people need to be good at their jobs constantly change. So, if you don’t want to constantly hire new workers to handle new challenges, you need to train your current employees to keep them on par with the changing demands of their jobs. More than 60% of all roles that a company may need in the future can be filled by current employees, provided they receive proper and sufficient training.
Having a reliable team is integral to your business’s success. One of the biggest reasons employees quit is that they feel like they have no growth opportunities with their employer. Moreover, employee turnovers, which have been rampant during the recent “great resignation”, cost U.S. businesses US$1 trillion annually. So, training your team will help you stay better prepared for future challenges by saving your company a lot of time and money in the long run.
Establish a hybrid work model
The post-COVID world has a newfound understanding that most jobs can be remote. Remote working helps people maintain a better work-life balance and eliminates the time and energy required to commute daily to and from work. If allowing remote work leads to better outcomes, it makes sense to give your employees the flexibility to pick between working from home or the office.
Of course, at the end of the day, you need to consider what your employees want and use that as the basis of your decisions. Doing so will help you retain employees long-term, which, as we have already established, is crucial for growth and reduces the financial stress of hiring new staff.
Use human resource (HR) management technology
Managing employees effectively is one of the tasks that have become particularly challenging in the post-COVID world. To reduce the burden on the HR team, startups should opt for technological solutions to automate hiring, onboarding and payments. Deploying tech in hiring and managing employees can be a cost-effective solution and help companies make the most of the employee data at their disposal.
Several companies are providing these services:
- Ascendify—the U.S.-based company uses AI to compare employees based on non-quantifiable aspects, like communication skills and relationship-building capabilities;
- Payfit—the Paris-based company helps companies in payroll automation and leave management; and
- Headversity—the Canada-based company provides mental resilience training and gives company executives a complete overview of the mental health of all employees.
Of course, if you invest in such digitization programs for your company, check that your company is actually using the tech it invests in. Also, ensure that you regularly evaluate how these tech investments positively contribute to the company’s growth.
Finally, remember that future-proofing is a process but not a one-and-done solution you can implement. While these are some helpful ways to future-proof your company on a personal level, you need to keep trying new ideas to see if they work. Future-proofing creates a more agile and flexible company that aligns with how startups need to work in general to stay relevant.
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Header image courtesy of Freepik