8 habits of forward-looking businesses

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What works for you today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. With the pace of change in the world only accelerating, most businesses are running hard just to stand still. For businesses hoping to survive, developing a way to innovate and stay relevant is of utmost strategic importance. But for many that requires a shift in thinking from an obsession over using historical performance to predict future performance, to a creative exploration of what could be. This article highlights 8 habits of forward-looking businesses.

1. They use strategy to explore future possibilities

The word ‘strategy’ is used in almost every business with enthusiasm. However, so often it is with a delivery-focus and has been arrived at only through assumptions based on yesterday’s data. Strategy should be a medium for discovering alternative possibilities and for evolving and reshaping your business for tomorrow. Though historic data is important and can be used for a wide range of things, analysing our way into the future is not the best way to move ahead. Strategy after all is about where you’re going, not where you’ve been.

2. They build flexibility into their plans and nurture it in their culture

Planning is important, but rigid over planning is unhelpful and out of touch with the pace of change today. Develop a simple approach to your planning that focuses only on the most important things. Revisit this frequently with your leadership team and amend it to take into account any changes. Strategy and strategic planning should be an ongoing activity whether at your initial meets around the coffee table or more formal events in the boardroom; it’s not a one off exercise.

3. They know where the value sits in their company and build on it

Value is measured across all aspects of your business not just the numbers on a balance sheet. Areas such as team and culture, innovation through to the management team and scalability all hold equal importance. Its key that businesses look to build and then leverage the value they have built whether that is enhancing your management team through new hires or incentivising the current team through share options, or looking for new channels to market. When an investor or potential buyer looks at your business it is key you understand and actively manage your true value drivers.

4. They’re always focussed on building a strong culture

Maintain that entrepreneurial spirit, foster it in your team, and always be on the lookout for new opportunities. Make sure you actively work on enhancing the culture and team spirit don’t take it for granted. It should be one of your measures of how successful you are as a business, what’s the “feel of the place” and are your team happy? What you build within your company will be reflected in the outside world. Use your purpose and values as your compass and you’ll be sure to stay on track.

5. They stay laser focussed on the gap in the market

When you saw that gap in the market you started your business. Stay focussed on it, don’t waiver when times get tough. There will always be opportunities to “pivot” as you build your business but it is key you choose the right time to do this, if at all. It may be that the “gap” is now not there or that the “gap” has changed, but not that the road got a bit challenging or your competition is changing tack. Be the leader and not the follower, stay straight and true in what ever you option you choose.

6. They scenario plan and proactively monitor the market

Unfortunately, too many businesses take the reactive approach to shifting dynamics in their market, which drastically reduces their strategic choices and inadvertently forces them to surrender any power they had to build their own futures. Effective scenario planning and market analysis helps to keep you aware of what’s going on in your industry. Noticing changes in enough time to take a proactive approach to dealing with them having plotted out a number of eventualities in advance is a key skill.

7. They hire people who can learn quickly and relish the challenge

Hiring skilled workers to fulfil the job spec as it stands today is one challenge. Another is that you’re likely unknowingly hiring workers now that will at some point, sooner or later, have to start developing skills they as of yet have no knowledge of. Such is the rate of technological advancement today. Therefore, the most enduring and resilient skill to hire is a commitment to and aptitude for learning so that your team can develop and grow with the business. Aligned to this is an on-going investment in your people whether through internal and external training courses, or through work tools to aid growth.

8. They keep it simple

Keeping your business as simple as possible takes effort and focus, it’s why a lot of businesses have thrived where others have failed. Whether it’s the packaging on your product or the messages on your website – if you think it doesn’t make sense to you then it you can guarantee it doesn’t for your client or customer. This goes internally as well, keep your business operations as simple as possible, so you can see the wood for the trees. It will ensure you spot the issues quicker and in the long-term build a sustainable efficient business – measure only what you need to, and regularly.

There you go, that’s the 8 habits of a forward-looking business. How many of them are you using? Shaw & Co.’s Grow services can help you to build a more forward-looking organisation, please get in touch to explore how.