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Five Predictions for the Future of Business

Author: Future Proof Advisors

Blocks that spell out future business


The pace of change continues to increase at a rapid rate. COVID-19 is, of course, a major disruptor, both accelerating the inevitable and inspiring new behaviors that we may not have seen otherwise. There is a lot happening right now – today – that will have lasting and likely permanent impacts on how businesses operate moving forward. Digital pivots, an entrepreneur boom, a changing workforce, access to new technologies, evolving consumer values, shifting societal values, and data commoditization, are just some of the trends shaping the future of business. So what will the companies of tomorrow look like?

Here are five predictions for the future of business:

The Workforce As We Know It Will Change.

There is no escaping the hybrid and remote work debate happening amongst leadership teams and employees. Ultimately, companies will have no choice but to adopt a much more flexible policy in order to retain and attract talent. That much is obvious. However, what I think is even more interesting is what the workforce will ultimately look like as a result. As companies start to realize the benefits that hybrid models can bring – from widening their talent pools to less overhead costs – a change in hiring practices will follow suit. I predict a future where businesses employ a much smaller full-time workforce supplemented by a network of freelancers. This will give companies the ability to tap the wisdom and expertise of specialists for custom needs, allowing them to much more quickly adapt to marketplace and customer demands. I also anticipate, as a direct result of COVID, that employees will continue to embrace their desire for more freedom and a healthier work-life-balance. The outcome being an increase in senior-level workers making the move to permanent freelance consulting, paving the way for businesses to hire top talent across a wide variety of industries at a fraction of the cost of a full-time hire. The savings that businesses will generate from not having permanent physical office locations (or less of them) can also be passed on to the employees – providing them with stipends or other incentives to work remotely.

Be on the lookout for an increase in freelance marketplaces, staffing agencies dedicated to freelance placement, and start-ups dedicated to assisting freelance and contract workers with benefits, tax services, and financial counseling. Also, the need for less permanent offices will pave the way for a resurgence in co-working spaces and subscription real estate models catered to remote workers.

Small Companies Will Dominate the Landscape.

The speed at which large companies must change and adapt will only continue to increase. And as we know, the larger the company, the more difficult it can be to make those much-needed adjustments quickly. This provides a distinct advantage to small and medium businesses that are much more nimble. Constant disruption of big companies by these new players will be inevitable, resulting in a higher rate of churn than we’ve seen in years past. Businesses simply won’t have the time to grow to a massive size before being snuffed out by a smaller company with a better mousetrap. Not to mention the fact that launching a venture is easier than it’s ever been before – the sheer number of resources, tools, and technology available to help entrepreneurs will be hugely impactful on the future of business. The barrier to entry is much lower than in the past with many entrepreneurs only needing a laptop, smartphone, and wifi to get their business off the ground.

It’s also important to recognize that COVID altered the priorities and values of many workers who felt disenfranchised by their employers. A new crop of entrepreneurs was born as a direct result. An explosion of new companies is on the horizon, with founders at the helm armed with far more insight and experience, giving them a greater chance of success than their predecessors.

Purpose and Profit Will Carry Equal-Weight.

We are already seeing this shift today. Consumer expectations for how businesses behave and contribute to society continue to grow. Not only will we see existing companies make the change to a business model that is much less focused on profit as a key performance indicator, but we will also see an influx of new businesses that are dedicated to serving people and the planet. Socially conscious customers not only possess the buying power to influence the future of business, but they are also the next generation of entrepreneurs and employees who will lead the charge on how businesses operate and what services and products they offer. Companies of tomorrow will have robust, actionable, meaningful mission, vision, and purpose statements that are no longer just words in a brand book but are directly tied to success metrics. Profit and purpose will be inextricably linked, giving companies clear direction and upending the traditional value proposition.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” – Simon Sinek
Keep an eye out for an influx of new companies and technology dedicated to helping businesses deliver on their purpose including new analytics tools, more advanced supply chain tracking, sustainable eComm plug-ins, and even more access to lobbying power for the small business set.

Collaborative Consumption Will Overtake Consumerism.

This trend has been slowly building for the past few years and of course, took a hit during the pandemic, but I predict that post-COVID consumer values will actually accelerate the growth of the sharing economy. As more and more people reprioritize what’s important in their lives based on a tumultuous couple of years, owning fewer things will become the more attractive option. This is both because of environmental concerns, a need to declutter our spaces that we spend much more time in, and a conscious effort to spend less money on things we don’t need. As a result, expect businesses to offer more rental or shared services and products alongside their traditional options to accommodate these consumer behavior shifts. This growth won’t just be in the transportation and travel industries as we’ve seen in the past. I anticipate sectors including fashion, fitness, and even B2B to see massive increases in resource circulation.

Not only will businesses that offer forms of collaborative consumption become more of the norm in the months and years to come, but businesses that participate in the sharing economy will also thrive. Companies no longer have to build their own manufacturing plants, restaurants, or retail centers. Shared factories, pop-up locations, and ghost kitchens provide alternatives that will help keep costs low. Blockchain also allows companies to share data and forge new partnerships with one another to provide even more value to customers without the high cost of managing data centers or fear of divulging trade secrets. In short, I envision a future where fewer assets are owned by both consumers AND businesses.

AI Usage Will Be Standard Across All Business Sizes.

It’s no surprise that businesses that invest in AI have a much greater competitive edge. Machine learning helps companies predict trends and changes in the marketplace, update business models, leverage insights, speed up operations, automate processes, and more. But AI usage won’t just be for massive companies or major tech organizations. SMBs will have just as much access and opportunity as their larger counterparts to adopt this technology. Chatbots, CRM tools, HR software, etc., will become much more affordable and customizable for a variety of industries and size classification. Expect businesses overall to get a whole lot smarter in the coming years based on the sheer amount of data and insights that will become available. But, don’t expect AI to replace the entire workforce. AI and machine learning can do things that humans simply cannot do, and have never been able to do with any sort of real efficiency. This tech will be mostly an added value requirement, but HI (human intelligence) will continue to be needed to innovate and truly move a business forward. If we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that with each new technological advancement, more people are needed to support the demand that the technology creates.

Look out for an increase in more cost-effective and easy to adopt AI tools catered towards early or emerging companies, as well as an influx in resources and training programs to help owners and entrepreneurs better understand and implement this technology. I also anticipate a growth in shared AI services, software, and solutions, giving smaller businesses the opportunity to partner up and combine resources to improve processes and overall performance. And, of course, the demand for skilled workers that can translate all of the data and insights garnered from this AI surge into actionable plans will grow.

Inevitable Change = Limitless Opportunities

It’s important to make predictions like these as a way to prepare for inevitable changes that lie ahead. The key to future-proofing any business is to anticipate what comes next, embrace the possibilities, and ultimately adapt. But remember to be agile. An entirely new workforce, a small company boom, a renewed focus on purpose, an increase in collaborative consumption, an explosion of AI – these predictions are but a mere sample of what’s in store for businesses in the future. We are in a constant state of evolution. Keep a close watch on how these trends progress and develop, and identify new ones that may impact the face of your company now and years from now. It’s a helpful exercise that can keep you not only equipped to handle whatever comes your way but hopefully excited about what the future can bring!

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