The time is now: 3 ways to become a future-ready business

8 minute read

The only constant in life is change. Nothing has rung more true to that than the recent years, largely in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has plunged the world into one of its worst global recessions.

And while it seems that the business landscape is changing faster than ever before, the rise in digitalization has long been hinting at the urgency for businesses to prepare for the future. Navigating constant and unpredictable change has now become the norm (think VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous), and ultimately stems down to the need for businesses to be prepared.

When looking at who stayed afloat (or even, thrived) amidst the pandemic, one clear distinction comes to mind – businesses who were future-ready came up on top, and by a pretty hefty margin as well (about two times as efficient, and three times more profitable)! But what does it mean to be a future-ready business? And, more importantly, are you one of them? Keep on reading to find out more.


What is a future-ready business?

A future-ready business (FRB) is not a novel term. In fact, industry leaders have been emphasizing the need to be future-ready for years. Businesses who fail to do so often suffer in the form of losses to profit, market share or in severe cases, extinction.

Case in point: The rise and fall of Nokia

Nokia is an example of a business that was not future-ready. The brand had captured up to 51% of the global market share at its peak before losing out to due to its inability to keep up with emerging market trends (i.e. smartphones).

Within the last decade, the emphasis on being future-ready has shifted to coincide with the rise in digitalization. From automation, big data to artificial intelligence (AI) technology, businesses that embraced digitalization are better equipped to deal with the potential challenges of the future. 

In other words, a future-ready business is one that not only adopts technology, but embraces it for change as well. In a recent Vodafone assessment, FRBs were able to recover faster from the COVID-19 pandemic by responding quickly to the shifting dynamics. While 49% of global businesses reported losses, 30% of FRBs reported an increase in profits.

3 characteristics of future-ready businesses

It’d be an understatement to simplify FRBs into a textbook definition. Instead, it would serve better to look at what a future-ready business is in terms of its characteristics. Let’s take a brief look at some key ones and see how your business measures up.

They think big and go beyond.

Business owners of FRBs have a clear vision of the end goal in mind and a detailed strategy in embracing business transformation. They are not afraid to make the bold moves needed to close the digital transformation gap. DKG Insurance Brokers saw the pandemic as an opportunity to double down on digitalization and automation efforts. The Australian insurance provider utilized robotic process automation (RPA) to improve its CRM systems, enhancing time efficiency by 80%.

They tackle challenges quickly.

In an ever more fast-paced world, time is of the essence. FRBs are able to respond quickly to challenges and utilize data to enhance decision making. Phoon Huat, a Singaporean B2B baking supplier, was able to quickly pivot to the increase in baking demand (thanks to restriction lockdowns). It worked in providing retail-sized products for consumers, resulting in an impressive revenue of SGD$2 million in 2020.

They foster a specialized, agile workforce.

Being future-ready also means recognizing the shifts in societal changes and integrating them into your business culture. With more than half of the current workforce comprising millennials and Gen Zs, businesses must be ready for this evolving workforce with their own set of ideals and work practices. At the forefront, mental health is one issue thrust into the spotlight. Recognizing this, Google worked with psychologists to help employees cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this initiative, the company was not only able to demonstrate its proactiveness but ultimately improve overall business productivity as well.

3 ways on becoming a future-ready business

With that, here’s how you can future-proof your business.

Reconsider outdated practices.

Outdated and routine systems will only stifle growth and deter your company from achieving its future-ready goals. It’s time to turbocharge your operations by reviewing existing practices that may no longer serve your business. Start integrating new processes to reap the exponential benefits that cloud computing and AI has to offer. PetroSea, an Indonesian mining company, did just that. In 2018, the company employed a suite of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), smart sensors, and machine learning to enable predictive maintenance of its fleets at its Tabang project site.

The ensuing result? Tabang became PetroSea’s most profitable site within six months after the implemented changes. A simpler (and Sleek) way to achieve this is by utilizing the power of Sleek’s platform. At Sleek, we automate processes using advanced Process Automation tools that ensure 100% error-free handling. Our platform also includes SleekSign, an accounting dashboard, a WhatsApp receipts channel, and a digital mailroom that all help to modernize your business processes and improve efficiency.

Be proactive, not reactive.

Regardless of your size or industry, being proactive in your workflow and management is crucial in future-proofing your business. From global pandemics to cyber attacks, think: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. One great way to future-proof your business is by engaging in the services of corporate insurance to protect your business.

From cyber insurance, product liability insurance to even professional indemnity, Sleek has a plan to cover your business during unforeseen circumstances and emergencies. Recall the recent malware attack on Singapore company ST Logistics that resulted in a hefty SGD $8K fine? With cyber insurance, you can take precautionary measures to help mitigate the financial impact on your business if such cyberattacks were to happen to you.

Foster a positive working culture.

A business is only as good as its people, and accommodating to the new wave of employees will only benefit your company in the long run. A positive working culture stems from your company’s purpose, and is an integral contributor to the employee experience. Employees who found their company’s purpose aligned to their own were four times more likely to be productive and committed to the company.

Employee engagement also has a very tangible impact on business success. According to a Gallup meta-analysis, businesses with high levels of employee engagement report 21% higher levels of profitability. Consider integrating employee engagement into your business strategy and re-assess your business purpose. Keep in mind the virtues that society values – from mental health, environmental sustainability to equal rights.

Bonus tip: Outsource

Outsourcing is the common practice of hiring a third party to perform tasks and handle operations for your business. Companies can outsource functions such as payroll, transaction processing, writing to marketing and design services. Seek out help for non-mission-critical aspects of your business such as regulatory compliance, tax, and accounting so that you can focus your attention on what matters most – growing your business.

Wrap up

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shift for businesses to drastically reassess the way in which they operate. It’s clear from the ‘winners’ of the pandemic what the shifts in these changes are. To be future-ready, businesses must not hesitate in addressing their evolving needs and creating a business culture that fosters the growth of employees.

With the effects of the pandemic still fresh in the wake, the time to prepare for the future is now. With only 7% of businesses being found to be future-ready, will your business be left behind?

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