How you can start 'future proofing' your business for 2018... and beyond

‘Tis the season for making long-term plans.

By Colette Quinn Managing Director, Real Insights

IF 2017 HAS taught us anything, it’s that we live in uncertain times – and this is unlikely to change in 2018.

Many buzzwords were bandied about this year to describe the state of affairs globally, including VUCA (short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), which is essentially another way of saying things are ‘crazy and unpredictable’.

How can we, as business owners and business leaders, make sense of the constantly evolving challenges brought on by politics, economics, society and the environment that 2018 will most certainly bring?

We can start by looking to ‘future proof’ what we are doing. This is essentially trying to anticipate the future, by developing methods of minimising the effects of shocks and stresses of future events.

Against a backdrop of volatile world events, fast-changing technology, as well as uncertain economic times brought about by Brexit, this may be easier said than done.

However, there are certainly practical ways of future-proofing your business for 2018:

Competitiveness

This is how we optimise people, equipment, technology and information in the sourcing, production and delivery of our goods and services. It’s about figuring out if you are still competitive versus others in the marketplace.

When was the last time you undertook competitive intelligence gathering, and where is that information held internally? Is it shared? Is it acted upon? You need to ask yourself these questions.

Interrogating your business model

Decide whether your business plan and model is relevant and still fit for purpose by interrogating every facet of how you do business. Shake the trees and see how you can optimise your business model moving forward.

Decipher whether your business plan is based on the correct set of assumptions and if they are still valid.

Understanding your customer and market

Can your business say with confidence that it knows its target customer? Identify your ‘sweet-spot customer’ and where you can find them.

Look into your market, see what’s happening and what is impacting it that could have an effect on your plans and growth.

Expanding reach

Identify and explore new markets where you could sell your product or service. Should you diversify into new international markets or perhaps new market segments within the UK and elsewhere?

Decide what markets offer the most potential while mitigating risks. You can then plan for the optimal route to those markets.

Innovation and R&D

Develop better solutions – new or improved products and services, or processes – to provide a strong competitive edge.

Are your teams within your business sharing their ideas and working together to create an environment to nurture a culture of innovation, or are they working in silos?

Scenario planning

Scenario planning or contingency planning is where you consider a number of different scenarios, and the different ways in which they could unfold.

It essentially involves taking the decisions you make today, and considering the different ways in which they may play out. You can then develop a plan with sufficient flexibility to respond to any of these different scenarios, should they arise.

Teamwork

Ultimately a business is only as good as its people – they are just as important as your business plan and strategy.

Keep your team involved in the business by sharing the business’s vision and goals. This way, they can see how they are contributing to the overall plan and to the success of the business.

Financial management and planning

Always have strong operational finance in parallel with strategic financial planning.

Decide on your KPIs or other metrics so you can keep track on what it is you are doing. In doing so, issues can be flagged and addressed quickly. Be realistic in your goal setting and plans for the business.

Colette Quinn is managing director of Real Insights.

If you want to share your opinion, advice or story, email opinion@fora.ie.

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