Practical Steps on How to Future-Proof Your Business as an SME
The business environment is one that is experiencing constant change. For most people, it is one environment that is in a constant state of change. It is not strange to see entrepreneurs worry about the state of the businesses in the nearest future.
Funny how we have more tools to help our business today than we did two decades ago. It has become easier to brand, market, and carry out accounting processes. While this is great news for most businesses, it has also made the competition stiffer. In Nigeria today, we are experiencing a “startup boom” and with the help of social media and digital marketing, stealing customers is now a piece of cake. It is now a case of who has a larger online presence not who has a better product or service.
SMEs in Nigeria fail for several reasons most of which revolve around making poor decisions and lack of capital. This is why the government and several other private bodies have invested in training and the release of funds to support SMEs. Examples of these include AGEMESIS, TEF, BIG/GEM, etc.
These challenges lead us to seek the answer to one question, “how can you future-proof your business?” Despite the impending challenges and the ones that will arise in the nearest future, there is hope. Here’s a list of practical steps to future-proof your business.
Take the past in retrospect and prepare for a better future
When we look back a few days, months, or years, we are bound to see several poor choices. If many of us had the opportunity to go back in time, we will change so many of our decisions. Should you have rented that office? Did you have to take that loan? Why didn’t you apply for that grant? The list is endless.
While going back is a far cry, you still have the power to change the future. A sage once said, “it is insanity to keep up with the same formula and expect different results.” Learn from those mistakes and make amends. Your business can be run better and you can have better profits. It all depends on the decisions you make now.
Find out your risks and manage them efficiently
The simple truth is that you don’t have the power to save your business from all the risks that exist. If you completely focus on risk mitigation, you may end up not achieving much in terms of sales and business growth. Despite being stared in the face by this salient truth, you still have some power in your hands.
Instead of being reactive to risks, you can become proactive. One way to be proactive as an SME is to set up a disaster plan. Along with this, put down a list of procedures to help you recover from disasters. This is insurance for your business against the storm of risks that may occur.
Since you cannot avoid the risks, it is high time you set measures in place to manage them. A few measures include cash consciousness, insurance, indemnification clauses, etc.
Develop an identity for your brand
With the race to acquire new customers and put out new products and services, there is the possibility of neglecting your identity. What most entrepreneurs forget is that building an identity is a very important way to future-proof any business. Probably, the problem is many have no idea what brand identity is in the first place.
Brand identity, in simple terms, is what the world thinks of your business. What crosses people’s minds when they hear your brand name or see your product packaging? Your values, language, packaging, mode of advertisements, products and services all make up your brand identity.
Neglecting this is a death trap you need to avoid. Don’t get caught up in trying to beat the competition and neglect building an identity. It is easier to beat the competition if you dedicate some time to building your brand identity. The market may change many times over, but you will always have an advantage because of your identity.
Flow with the tech trend
Tech is the new oil and many businesses are milking the amazing benefits daily. Every time you check, a new app has been developed to make running business easier. While you cannot adopt every app that is in the market, you can check for those that support your business operations.
Ask the question, “what apps will help make running my business easier?” Pick out the ones you are sure will make a positive difference and give you an edge. Don’t just learn about them, take actual steps to adopt them to move your business higher and give you a competitive advantage.
Be sensitive to customer needs
Before you started your business, you must have run a feasibility study. The results of this study must have provided you with details about your target market and their needs. Great job!!! What many SME owners fail to understand is that customer needs are constantly evolving. You have no ability to state what they need but meeting their needs keeps you in business.
The challenge here is that you must be able to smell the opportunity long before the need arises. Anticipation is the key here. Customers may know what they need but you can bend their needs towards new products and services.
A vivid example of this is when Henry Ford designed and produced cheap cars. At that point, the people wanted faster transportation, faster horses probably. He saw the need ahead and invested in producing cars. They didn’t know about cars but since they met the need, they had no choice but to buy.
If you are forward-thinking in meeting customer needs, you are sure your business will not fizzle out any time soon. One way to decipher customer needs is by focusing on customer feedback. They will always provide direction to their changing needs in their feedback. From the feedback, it is easy to restrategize and adopt the necessary changes.
Successful businesses may become bankrupt a few years down the line because they are not future-proof. The problem most times is not with the initial idea but with operations embattled by tunnel vision. While the market dynamics are changing faster than the weather, you can keep your business afloat by planning ahead. This way, you insure your business against future risks.