I see a growing problem in the business world today. And although the problem affects businesses of all types and sizes this problem particularly rests with small businesses.
We, as small business owners or even employees, are often encouraged to follow our dreams. And I’ve given the same advice to my clients. There is something to be said for following your dreams. We do more in business, work smarter and have more passion when we do so and do what we love.
But what we really should be saying is “follow your dreams that will get you to the future.”
And that’s where things start to scare me. So many people are running businesses today or building businesses today that may not get them to the future.
So pause for a minute. Will your business today get you to where you want to be tomorrow? Will the business model you have today work tomorrow?
Or are you the next blockbuster renting DVDs when everyone else is streaming? Are you the next Kodak selling film when everyone is glued to their camera phone?
Let’s take a look at how to get your business ready for the future of business.
We’ll start with the reality (which is tough) and then move into how to be ready for the future.
The Future Is Uncertain
We start with the premise that the future is unknown and uncertain. You can search the internet and see a lot of predictions on the future of business and a lot of them are the same: wrong.
The fact of the matter is this is one of the hardest things about being a speaker and consultant on the future of business – is that we don’t know what that future is! But we do know the future is coming. And we do know things will change.
There is a real debate on whether change is happening faster than ever. I mean how do we measure the pace of change? Especially when change is tied to new technology. You can find articles all over the internet disagreeing on whether change is faster than ever.
I use this simple test: how many people are in jobs today that didn’t exist 100 years ago? I would say most of us are in jobs that didn’t exist or would look substantially different 100 years ago. And I think a lot of people today have jobs that won’t exist in 100 years.
And this underscores the point. We don’t know exactly what the future is. But we do know it’s coming. And it’s coming fast.
The Future Is Not Guaranteed
Just as we don’t know what changes are coming or what the future will look like we also know the future isn’t guaranteed. Just because our business is doing well today doesn’t mean it’s going to be doing well tomorrow. In fact, many people are doing the best financially right before the bottom falls out.
I watched this happen as a young lawyer. Many of my fellow lawyers were making great money and enjoying the ride. But when the economy slowed they lost their jobs, their high incomes and they had to undergo a massive change.
Some very smart people lead both Blockbuster and Kodak, two leading businesses of their time, into financial ruin. So we aren’t guaranteed a future.
Change Is Rapid
What’s more change is rapid. Industries seem to come and go. The cable industry is a prime example. In the 1970’s this industry was just taking shape as people started to add service to their home. Fast forward less than 50 years later and people are “cutting the cord” and the cable industry is changing and fighting for relevance.
Air travel, something many of us use regularly and don’t think much about, didn’t exist in a widely used for 100 years ago and now it is the backbone of the economy and modern life. All of those jobs, airports and support systems literally came from nowhere.
Similarly the internet rose to prominence quickly. From nothing to a daily part of our lives on which we depend in the space of a few decades.
We are watching things happen very quickly. We can either stand on the sidelines and be amazed and shock or we can do what the smart people do.
We Need To Skate To The Puck
Wayne Gretzsky famously said he was great because he skated to the puck. He anticipated where the puck would be and moved ahead of the play developing.
Similarly we need to be looking to the future with our business and our lives. We need to be thinking about where the business world will be and getting in position. Just because we have been in a good position in the past doesn’t mean we’ll be in a good position in the future.
How can we start moving where we need to be?
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
All of this tells us that what got us where we are – right now – won’t get us where we need to be in the future. We are going to need to skills, abilities and business models to get to the future.
We also need to update our dreams in light of the future too. As we learn about what is happening and what technology evolutions take hold life changes. Our expectations change. Who we are changes and what we want changes.
The dreams you made 10 years ago have probably radically changed due to the reality of life changes. We need to start thinking of the future of our business – but also the future of our wants.
Our dreams need to be updated today. And our dreams will need to be updated again – and again – before they become reality.
How to Make a Plan
So with this background it would be tempting just to give up. What can we do to make a plan that works? How can we make our dreams match the future?
The key is to pay attention to now and to the future. It is my firm belief that we are all now responsible for monitoring the future and the changes coming. We can’t sit idly by and hope the winds of change won’t affect us.
All of us need to understand our business, our customers and give significant thought and energy to our future. Each and every day we, and our organizations, need to be reading about the future. We need to understand what is going to happen and when it might happen.
I don’t believe you’ll need a crystal ball to be relevant in the future. I do think you need to be aware. Aware of what your business is and what your customers need. Blockbuster and Kodak, discussed earlier in the article, got focused on the how of their business (DVDs and Film, respectively) not the what (entertainment and photos).
Does your vision of the life and business you want in the future match the reality of the business you are building?
It’s a question we need to be asking ourselves. Regularly.
What do you think about your business and the future? Join me in the comments below to discuss.
NOTE: This article is a piece develop a small portion of the content of the book Entrepreneur to CEO being co-authored by The Our Shawn McBride and Ann Gatty. If you want updates on the book including the possibility of joining our release team or getting one of the first copies please join our mailing list here.
By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the business nerd that gets businesses ready for the future of business through keynotes, training and personalized solutions to get your business ready for The Future of Business. He’s the host of The Future Done Right(TM) Show and a long-time business attorney. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.
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