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Overcoming the four key challenges of modern business

What does it mean to be a Future Ready Business?


It can feel like COVID-19 has changed everything about business.

But after some changes in the way you do things, you are back doing business safely and successfully and are probably wondering – what’s next?

How do you prepare yourself for future disruption? And how will you overcome the other challenges that are impacting your business?

In the Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020 [PDF: 18.6MB], we set out to discover which businesses are the most well-prepared for emerging trends, challenges and possibilities, and what those businesses are doing differently to the rest. We call them Future Ready Businesses (FRBs).

Compared to their peers, these businesses are taking a very different approach to the challenges of the current business environment, and as a result, were seen to cope much better during the pandemic.

The four challenges facing all businesses

1.  More powerful consumers

We know keeping customers happy has always been critical for you. But in this digital age, it’s easier than ever for consumers to compare products and reviews.

Because of this, 88% of Future Ready small and medium businesses believe that customers are growing in power, and the way that Future Ready SMEs do business is shifting to respond.

Half of Future Ready SMEs are seeking data-driven insights (48%) to understand and meet rising customer expectations.

This includes growing demands for social responsibility.

Almost two-thirds of FRBs (63%) say that customers want brands to have a purpose beyond merely profit.

In fact, 18% of small businesses say that their customers’ first choice is to buy from or work with socially responsible organisations, and that this is the main driving force for becoming more socially responsible themselves.

Understanding your customer has been a strength of smaller businesses for a long time – and it’s more important now than ever before.

2.  Sustainability as standard

Sustainability is creeping up the agenda. As customers become more aware of their environmental footprint – and the work required to minimise it – businesses are expected to do the same.

Many are taking steps to get on top of this, such as adopting a ‘paperless office’, reducing the amount of employee travel and donating to environmental charities.

The majority of SMEs (89%) are also investing in energy-efficient technology. And the main driving force for more than half is a genuine sense of moral obligation (54%), as well as the fact that customers prefer to buy from socially responsible organisations (54%).

3.  Deciphering the digital economy

The good news is that small- and medium-sized businesses are even more aware of the possibilities of the digital economy, putting you in a strong position compared to your larger counterparts.

87% of Future Ready SMEs believe that data is becoming an increasingly important strategic asset. That’s compared to 75% of SMEs overall.

But there are obstacles as well as opportunities – including the lack of resources to keep up.

Nearly half of Future Ready SMEs (44%) believe that a shortage of technical skills will be one of their biggest talent challenges in the future, and just under a quarter (22%) feel ‘less than reasonably well-equipped’ to securely store and process data.

Future Ready SMEs are more likely to be aware of the power of data, both for business strategy and public health.

4.  Tackling talent challenges

Talented staff are key to business success today – but smaller businesses are having to contend with significant skills shortages.

To solve this, many SMEs are focusing on strengthening their existing talent pool by investing in retraining and upskilling staff.

They are also changing the way that they recruit, targeting neurodiverse candidates (26%) and a wider range of ages (36%)

Providing the right working environment is key as training, technology and flexibility start to outrank career prospects in importance. As such, businesses are now concentrating on offering good training and flexible working hours in order to attract and keep staff.

Future Ready SMEs more commonly view technology as a means of supporting employee satisfaction at work, and 50% report wellness and mental health as important contributors to employees’ happiness at work

By investing in a more connected working environment and offering flexible working hours, these SMEs are looking to secure the talent needed to succeed going forward.

It’s clear that making changes now could help you flourish in the future.

To learn more about how ‘future ready’ businesses are doing things differently, explore the full Vodafone Business Future Ready Report 2020 [PDF: 18.6MB]

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