When the economy is in a downswing, as it is now, we all try to peer into the future. When will things change? What will be the next developments? How will those developments affect us? Of course there’s no way to actually predict the future. The only thing that we can know for sure is that the world will be a different place tomorrow than it is today. While this has always been true, it is especially true now, when change occurs at lightning speed. One of the secrets of success, however, is to prepare for the future. Even though you can’t see its actual shape, you can still try to be ready for whatever the future might bring.
If you don’t work proactively to prepare yourself for tomorrow’s developments, you can certainly predict that the world will change around you. Chances are good that if you stay right where you are, you will be overtaken by faster-moving competitors. In every industry, you can find plenty of examples of strong old companies that were pushed out of the market by newer, smaller companies. And the only reason this happened is that the older companies failed to adapt fast enough to changes in the market place.
Yet given that you don’t have a crystal ball, how do you prepare for the future? Here are some suggestions.
Outsourcing: With globalization affecting every industry, start looking at your work within a bigger world picture. Are competitors outsourcing parts of your job to countries where labor is cheaper? If you see this taking place in your industry, you have to take a closer look at what you actually do. You may need to shift emphasis from being a producer or manufacturer to being a service provider or broker to your clients, where your expertise will be to get goods and services produced for them overseas. You may also want to consider coming up with a high-end version of your product and then invest in marketing to explain why it’s worth a higher price.
Technology: Every day brings new advances in technology that make it easier for consumers to buy or use different products or services. Could these developments allow your clients to connect with you more easily? New technology can also help you produce more efficiently; have you explored these options? Some companies take a “wait and see” approach to new technology. This often means that others jump ahead and master the application, gaining an advantage over those who are waiting.
Education: Spend time reading or speaking with those who are studying trends within your industry. Regardless of your industry, there are books, magazines, websites, classes and associations dedicated to the field’s current and future issues. Also seek out people who are tracking changes in the overall economy in order to stimulate your ability to think creatively.
Connectivity: Consider the developments that are emerging in other industries. At some point in the future, your industry will adopt some of the trends that you now see taking place elsewhere. Maybe you should be the first to implement a system or approach that has proven its merits in another sector of the market.
EXERCISE OF THE WEEK
Use your imagination to visualize what your industry will look like five years from now. In your mind’s eye, picture how and where people will do your job. Really delve into the details. This exercise will tap into the knowledge and insights you already have. Once you have a clear image, return to the present and see what changes you can make in your business to be prepared for the future. If you apply yourself to this visualization, you may become one of those who actually create the future.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.”
John M. Richardson, Jr.
© 2008 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.