Many of us had great expectations for 2020 – a new year, the start of a new decade and even the numbers 20/20 we associate with "clear vision" – we were filled with hope and were looking forward to new, better things to come.
What most of us did not consider was a pandemic. Most us never imagined that within the first few months of this year, the world would almost come to a grinding halt. The fear and anxiety that resulted was understandably immense. Suddenly, being able to continue running our business as we had always done was no longer an option.
After the initial pain of extreme lock-down, we realised it was highly likely that ‘business as usual’ after lock-down might not be that simple, or even possible.
Unpacking your business’ vulnerabilities:
A lot of businesses have a life span and the reason for that is that business owners don't always consider how their business will operate in the future once a fad has worn off, after a major pandemic or even a social economic movement.
All the successful businesses have a distinct pattern, and this can be seen from switching or limiting their risk by operating more on a B2C basis and doing less B2B. If you analyze the risks of being reliant on another business for a product or service, then their weakest link becomes your weakest link in the supply chain.
It is also worth exploring whether your business is where it needs to be from a digital perspective. There are a few key online strategies that are worth doing, if you have not already done so, that will help your business weather the storms of volatility.
Ask yourself the following five questions, as vital first steps to take to future-proof your business:
1. Do I have a digital strategy?
As mentioned earlier, getting your online strategy clarified and acting upon it, is probably one of the most important steps you can take to protect your business. All the other questions on this list are important, but this is the question that will be difference between getting your message out to potential clients effectively, or not.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
We will explore the details of these in our next post. These can be intimidating at first, but rest assured, its not rocket science. It is just about arming yourself with knowledge and understanding what fits best with your particular business.
2. Is there a value proposition?
All successful businesses have been able to exploit one/all of 3 key elements with a trending or essential products and service:
Be the first:
This is often a product of creativity or problem solving that has allowed businesses to be successful like Victorinox who manufactured the first multi-tool, the swiss army knife. This can be short lived as imitation products and services will find there way into market and compete with your business once the initial idea starts trending.
Be the best:
Businesses like Leatherman took the multi-tool idea and enhanced it with research and development and paired with their warranty made the best multi-tool in the market.
Be the most cost effective:
A great example is VHS cassette tapes vs. Betamax. VHS was fair quality, but more cost effective making the cassette format far more accessible and successful globally.
3. Is my business focused on B2C?
All large retailers like Walmart in the US very quickly launch their own house brands of new and trending consumer products. This is mitigating a lot of risk to supply chain and by dealing with farmers and manufacturers directly there is a cost saving strategy as they are not paying an agency a fee to broker a deal. Initially they may use brokers to get products to market first, but in the process are optimizing supply chains buy setting up manufacturing themselves or approaching producers directly.
4. Are my operations properly automated?
A broken machine is easier to replace than a broken person. Where possible innovate and automate, manufacturing and production. Do as much yourself as human resources can be a liability to any business when there is little or no work. Rather build and support a network of specialist entrepreneurs as they are as committed to the work they do as you are as a business owner.
5. Could my business have potential issues?
Considering the ever changing social justice movements, brands need ensure they do not make use of imagery, products, or services that in any way harm or exploit their workers, various racial groups, gender, sexual orientation, or social class. Considering the ever-growing plant-based diet movement and focus on environmentally sustainable practices, anything that would be considered animal-cruelty or bad for the environment, needs to stop. Not only because it would protect your business, but because it is the right thing to do. As a society, nowadays, we know better and we should ensure that our businesses reflect that.
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, do not despair. Truth be told, none of these are insurmountable. Explore each question honestly and take it from there. To help you, we will be unpacking each of these in more detail in a series of articles in the coming weeks, so be sure check in here on our blog.
Lastly, please know that we are also a small business and have too experienced the knocks that come with extreme change and uncertainty, especially those in the time of Covid-19! From our past experiences, we understand where to focus energies effectively, and hence to share this knowledge, we have started this blog. Here, we hope to share our thoughts and learnings with you, in order to help future-proof all small businesses, no matter what may come.