Future Focused Part 3

    Time Travel 

    Indulge me for a minute, if you will.  I want you to picture yourself five years from now.  Think of an ordinary day.  You get up in the morning and your holographic image of <insert someone who matters to you> pops up at the end of your bed to tell you it’s time to get up.  Your dresser mirror transforms into a screen that shows you your appointments for the day, along with a weather forecast (which is probably wrong, even in the future).

    As soon as you get up, your virtual assistant bot <insert the name you gave it/him/her> greets you.

    “Good morning <your name>! Your first meeting today isn’t until 10am, so you have time for a workout after your breakfast.  I have notified the coffee maker to brew your coffee, and scheduled a workout on your exercise bot for 8:00am.  Your robo-taxi will be picking you up at 9, so you are in your office well ahead of your first meeting.  I have taken the time to answer most of your emails and moved a couple personal ones into a folder for your review.  The fridge says you are low on cream and eggs, so they were added to your Instacart list.”

    As you start to wake up, you think about what your day will look like, and what tasks you will need to address that can’t be automated or addressed by your virtual assistant bot.  All this technology, and your issues with your business feel as if they haven’t changed a bit.

    Plus ca change… 

    What are your top issues?

    Finding some qualified employees with the right online micro-certifications to handle the work?

    Scheduling holographic meetings with current and potential clients?

    Making sure your marketing AI bot is sticking to the right tone and message for your online posts?

    Working with your virtual banker to make sure your line of credit isn’t at risk?

    Employees, customers, sales, marketing, finance.  Same old, same old.

    Perhaps you’re familiar with the old adage: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Or, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  I anticipate that is how we will feel in five years.  Lots will change for our future selves, but our key issues will likely be very familiar to our current version of ourselves.

    As my husband has been known to say, “Owning my own business would be great if it wasn’t for the stress of dealing with employees and with customers”.

    How can you make sure that the headaches you deal with today are at least less of a headache for you in the future?  Or even less of a headache in the present?

    • Peer groups – If you aren’t meeting regularly with other business owners of a similar size, then you are truly missing out on one of the best ways to address stress, solve problems, and focus on growth. Find one.  Join it.  Commit to meeting consistently and benefit from the accountability and camaraderie that results.
    • Delegation/Outsourcing – Not everything should be on your plate. Push what you can to someone else so you can focus on strategy, growth and other high-level issues that can’t be easily delegated or outsourced.

    Prepare for Change 

    Now that I’ve convinced you that many of your key issues today will likely be your key issues tomorrow, how can I also convince you to pay attention to signals of change that will affect your future?

    Here’s the thing – your key issues only remain the same if your business stays in business.  But if there are large scale changes in the way people work together or how something is sold, then your key issue will become staying relevant or staying in business, which is a much bigger issue.

    We are entering an era where the amount of change is becoming monumental.  It’s not just technology like ChatGPT or robots.  It’s a shift in demographics, politics, the environment, blockchain technology, and a whole host of other components that, taken together, are working to change the way people do business.

    As a solopreneur or a small business owner, the burden is on your shoulders to protect your business and make sure it is future-proof.  Big businesses have the benefit of a Board of Trustees or a similar organization advising them on strategy.  And they often also have a futurist or a long-range planning specialist keeping an eye on what’s trending in their industry and for their customers.  We have none of that.

    What do we have that works to our advantage? We have control.  The ability to move quickly. To pivot. To get up close and personal with our customers and employees. And the added advantage and motivation (but also a burden) of feeling the weight of our income and our employees’ incomes on our shoulders.

    Prepare for a Successful Future 

    How can you stay up to speed with what’s going on around you – to be sure your business is ready for the changes taking place?

    • Peer groups – Yes, I am repeating myself. Groups of your peers focused on growth and strategy force you to lift your head up and stop focusing on the day-to-day issues and emergencies to look out further.  Find other business owners and commit to meeting regularly to help each other navigate the changes constantly emerging.
    • Environmental Scanning – Take some time each week to pay attention to the news in your industry and in general. What are you reading that makes you think, “This could impact my business”?  Don’t put your business at risk by not seeing the change until it’s too late.
    • Differentiation – This is key. How do you stand out from your competitors (human or tech-based)? What is it that you do especially well or different or better than everyone else? Focus on what makes you unique and on the value you are able to deliver to your customers.  Any jobs that are somewhat rote or repetitive risk being replaced by automation or easily compared to the low-price leader. 
    • Embrace lifelong learning – This tip I attribute to Tony Zanders, Founder of Skilltype and the keynote speaker at the Association of Independent Information Professionals Conference I just attended. He suggested that we should all be spending 10% of our week learning, not working.  How else can you keep up with the rapid pace of change so that your customers will know that you are looking out for them? Surely you can spare some of your busy weekly schedule to making sure you will be in business in another 52 or 260 weeks?

      Note: Check out Parts 1 and 2 of this Future-Focused series:  Part 1 “Look Back to Look Forward” and Part 2 “Signals of Change”

      It’s no coincidence…

      Over the course of nearly 20 years, I have supported (and been supported by) small business owners and solopreneurs.  Small business owners are the backbone of our country and the lifeblood of our towns.  They are the originators of innovation and the supporters of the community residents.  Anyone who puts on an entrepreneurial hat has my respect and appreciation.  That’s why I love to put my skills to use supporting them through environmental scanning like my free Five for the Future weekly videos, market research, business owner roundtable groups and futures-focused accountability programs.