With the onslaught of Covid business has had to adapt. Not only adapt but survive. Sometimes change is impossible to predict. But when it happens it suddenly becomes the norm. We then have a… why didn’t I see that coming-Think Airbnb or Uber What seems to be normal behaviour today was not even a distant dream just 4 years ago. Things have changed dramatically, and not only affected our behaviour as a customer, but it has also caused a significant impact on the businesses as well. Businesses had to either change the way they work or shut down due to these fast-changing environments. This brings us to an important question – Can we future proof our business? Can we increase the chances of business survival? Your business will not be the same in 5 years. With AI robotics and advanced quantum computing your business must be ready to embrace these changes and thrive We can’t predict the future, but we can definitely prepare our business to face unforeseen challenges. Here is a list of 8 strategies that can help you to future proof your business. 1) Don’t depend on one part of your business for complete success Most companies achieve success with just one great product. It could be for a niche market or a mass-market audience. Even if it’s very popular and responsible for generating almost an entire chunk of the total revenue, you must think about other ways to diversify your product portfolio. So, to future proof your business, you must create a diversified product portfolio. New products could be extensions of your existing business. What else could your business produce profitably with little change? 2) Rethink your past strategies that may fail to engage new customers We have all heard “What got you here, won’t take you there”. This simply means that the strategies that you used to acquire an existing base of customers may not be useful to acquire new customers in future. For example, a lot of businesses depend on print advertisements to acquire customers. With the rise of social media and new avenues like ‘Search Engine Marketing’ and ‘Inbound Marketing. Your old strategies will no longer work, and you might struggle to acquire new customers if you don’t adapt to new ways. 3) Predict the future demands today When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars people said, ‘Nah, what’s wrong with a horse?’ That was a huge bet he made, and it worked. If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster Horses- Henry Ford So, your customers can’t always tell you what they want, you have to anticipate it. This needs some imagination and experience with the trends of the industry you work in. 4) Identify & start managing risks You won’t be able to predict the problems that might occur in future, but you can certainly take some steps to better prepare yourself. First, we need to find the risks or possible points of failure for our business. These risks could be in areas like people, system or business processes, legal compliance, data security, etc. If you are depending too much on a single person, vendor or a small group of people for the success of your business, then you might face big problems in future when these people are not around. Similarly, you need to find out the gaps in your business process and address them before those turn into problems. Depending on the business, these can be about purchasing new material, customer support, quality of deliverables, etc. You are the best person to identify the risks in your business and take measures to mitigate them. Another important point that is often ignored by businesses is data security. For some businesses, data is everything and if they lose it because of some reason, they have a risk of going out of business. Find out if you have adequate security measures. 5) Listen to customers & observer their behaviour Business owners are normally so busy with product development and sales that they completely forget their main stakeholder – The Customer. In order to future proof your business, you should start focusing on the changes in customer behaviour that might happen in near future. Bricks and mortar retail didn’t anticipate the onslaught of eCommerce players that started a couple of years back and most of them went out of their business. Customer behaviour changed and they started to prefer buying online due to various reasons (convenience, wide range, discount, etc). Similarly, you need to set up a system to track customer behaviour, you need to listen to their needs and considering the developments in your industry, you should try to predict the change in buying pattern. 6) Follow the trends in developed countries I think this one is the easiest of all the other strategies. To stay ahead in the game, you must regularly track what’s happening in other developed countries related to your industry. There are numerous blogs are sites that can provide you with this info. So, if you are in the business of selling Solar Panels, see what’s happening in the Solar Energy field in China or Germany. Uber was launched in the US a few years back, when it came to India, it shook the whole cab hiring business. Similarly, when video and audio streaming became popular in the US, it was predictable that things will change in developing countries like India. 7) Watch for influencing factors surrounding your business If you really want to future proof your business, you need to keep an eye on your surroundings. You must make yourself aware of the developments happening around you even if those are not related to your industry. We all know how smartphones killed the camera industry. Camera and filmmaker – Kodak was once a billion-dollar company. It failed to see the future and this 130yr old company had to file for bankruptcy in 2012. Apart from cameras, smartphones are guilty of killing other successful products like music players, handy cams, portable gaming consoles like PSP, GPS devices, Paper Maps and telephone directories like yellow pages. With the faster internet, consumer habits changed dramatically, and it affected lots of different businesses. You need to watch out for such influencing factors that can indirectly impact your business. 8) Create a favourable environment for innovation Predicting the future is not possible but we can get close to it. You cannot always win by following the leaders, you have to innovate at one point to stay ahead in the game. Innovation is not easy, and you might fail several times but once you hit the bull’s eye, you’ll leap ahead of your competition. To foster the culture of innovation, you need to create a favourable environment for it. Have some fun with it. Create a future protection team. One way to do it is, give your employees the freedom to experiment come up with complementary products ideas, send them to tech events and conferences in your industry and finally reward them for their work. Maybe a team has to come up with one or two small improvements or ideas each month.