Teaching the principles of Future-Proof Businesses in the middle of a global pandemic is like describing the most delicious, decadent chocolate cake recipe to drooling hunger strikers.
But the timing isn’t really wrong – I’d bet you are paying attention now. More than ever, actually. Because if your business is in lockdown, almost dead, craving for the tiniest crumb… of revenue, you probably have abundant time for self-reflection and for finding out what you could have done better and how to avoid it for the future.
So if you are stubborn enough to stay in business even in the strangest times, here’s a concise list of the ingredients you will need for the cake… I mean Future-Proof Business:
Know your WHY!
Your WHY is the foundation for everything else. It’s your motivation, your energy and the source for all your core values. It needs to be so high that everyone can see what you stand for and so sturdy that no calamity could touch it. A clear WHY gives you the choice to select and adapt your HOW. And there isn’t really a better way to survive and be future-proof than adapting and evolving.
Look for Simon Sinek if you want to seriously drill this into your head. He wrote the book on the subject and delivered the most famous Ted-talk ever.
Build a Brand!
It should be a no-brainer, but just in case, let me tell you how the cookie crumbles. A brand represents the sum of people’s perception of a company’s behavior, promises, looks and services/products.
It’s about their feelings and your reputation.
You have to make sure it’s coherent and reflects your core values – see how you already need your WHY? The Brand – if properly constructed – is there to remind everyone what you stand for. It’s how you are perceived by the world. Do it right and you will have followers. Stay consistent and you will have support even when the world seems to turn upside-down.
How to build a brand is a huge topic and you shouldn’t leave it to chance, but rather seek help or at least teach yourself. Turning vision into strategy is an art. Stick around and I promise I will drill the subject in your head.
Nevertheless, a remarkable brand is a must for any future-proof business.
Become a leader and develop a personal brand!
I really can’t separate these two because together they form a strong team and a big difference in how tall you stand in the darkest times. It’s also not the “paid influencer that sells you crap” kind of personal brand.
I mean the real deal leadership, trustworthy people, that special breed people like and look up to. The ones that seem to be able to make anything happen. I’m sure you know a few, but here is a short selection of the finest: Tony Robbins, Richard Bronson, Elon Musk. They have proven consistently what they stand for, what they are capable of.
I don’t say you have to build rockets and go to Mars to be a leader. You can be a pillar of your community, a rock in the waves for your team, or stand out like a shining beacon in the sadness of mediocrity.
I argue that carrying for others and consistently showing up, earns trust. The kind of trust that gives leader-owned businesses an edge over their competition, even when the economy shivers. You buy from people you trust, right?
As in ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. Here is where the WHY comes again to save your ass. Now enough about anatomy. Let’s better use a global pandemic lockdown example.
If your WHY is high and clear enough – something like ‘delivering tasty food to the world’ – you get a lot of flexibility to play with. So if you start this outstanding mission by opening a small pizza shop in your neighborhood – and have to close doors because of some new Corona 5.3 type of virus – having this overarching WHY, gives you the flexibility to go online, to cater, to deliver coffee every morning, to make birthday-cakes if you feel like it, or to invent some new trend-setting food, like the Croissant-Muffins called Crussins. And if you are really committed, you could make the Star Trek Replicator become a reality and save humanity from hunger too. Because your promise is ‘delivering tasty food to the world’ not ‘making pizza for my neighborhood’. If you are just the pizza-shop down the corner, you’ll get raised eyebrows if you suddenly deliver chocolate cakes.
Here is a tip on how to diversify: look for the kill-switches of your current business – simulate scenarios, be a pessimist for a while – and come up with ideas that don’t have the same kill-switch. Branch out, but be coherent with your WHY, your message, your brand, your reputation and people will buy goodies from you even if they don’t have mozzarella and pepperoni topping.
Predict the future!
I know crystal globes don’t work, that’s a mutant ability… duh! One that you need to evolve and take control of. But some future tendencies don’t even require mutant powers. I mean, anyone can foresee how electric cars will change the world. Then, you should always observe and quantify trends. Not like you have to be trendy all the time if your business doesn’t require it, but rather make out the direction, triangulating trends if you’re a geek. What do those trends have in common? Where could that lead us? What will they change? Who will be affected?
You don’t want to miss the next disrupting technology like the car, the airplane or the internet, for example. Two reasons I give you for this: first, you could miss huge opportunities, and second, your business could be wiped out by new technologies or trends. So, if future-proof is your thing, keep an open eye on the world.
Be able to sustain!
This is a huge topic for me and it’s all about the long-term. You are not the opportunist kind of “make a quick buck”, “hit-and-run”, “after me, the flood” type, I hope. If by any chance, hit the X in the right-top corner, because my wisdom is not for you.
You can look at any action through the lens of sustainability: if you’re not healthy and able to deliver the energy, you can’t sustain your journey, if you’re not a leader, you can’t sustain a team, if you don’t make profit, you won’t sustain anything in the long-run. See how you need to check all the points above if you want to be able to sustain your business?
But if you spend a deep thought on sustainability, you also have to consider the environment. You can’t call your business future-proof and in no way sustainable if you fuck up the planet and the generations to come! It could be as “small” as improperly discharging waste and thus harming your community, or as big as extracting and selling the limited resources of the planet – both would count as long-term unsustainable in my book and therefore not clearly future-proof.
We’ve covered the main ones but I feel like ranting a bit more on the overall meaning of business. First, do me a favor. If “It’s just business” ever surfaced your lovely mind, please slap your face right now! That is one of the stupidest things to say if you actually care about the future of your business.
Business is made by people for people. Slap yourself again so you don’t forget it.
Because there are three kind of people YOU HAVE TO CARE for, if you ever want to future-proof your business: the people who pay for your services and products, the people on your team, and the people who started the whole endeavor – I mean you. Care about the people you serve/sell to, and they will care back, help your team grow, and they will help you grow.
As for you, I think it’s obvious: it all starts and ends with you! That’s why you really need to take care of yourself. You need to be a raw model, passionate, healthy, energetic and full of joy. It’s the only way to build a future-proof business.
Feel free to hit me with your questions if you think your business isn’t as future-proof as it should and subscribe to my newsletter if you enjoy my fancy way of putting things in perspective. It’s free and the whole package comes with a no-BS-future-proof guarantee.