Businesses have always faced difficulties posed specifically for the times they exist in. In the 19th century, a lack of transportation and long-distance communication options meant that businesses existed primarily on a local level. In the 20th century, many of the transportation and communication barriers were overcome, but wars and economic instability blighted the business landscape. Businesses sought to survive the challenges posed for their time in history, adapting and developing further solutions along the way, fighting to be the company that could survive the modern-today challenges and thrive despite them.
The same is true of 21st century businesses. It could be argued that 21st century business owners face a unique set of challenges that, cumulatively, simultaneously make this period of history both the best and worst to exist in as an entrepreneur. Technology and communications have made everything simpler, more efficient, and globalized, but new challenges have risen in the place of old enemies.
Below, we have put together a guide to the biggest challenges facing 21st century businesses that are a direct result of the times we live in – as well as advice on how you can manage these as effectively as possible.
#1 – Extreme weather
Businesses have always had to battle the climate to survive, but the changing face of global weather makes this a particular concern for the 21st century business owner. The world’s climate is changing, producing extreme and often-unpredictable weather events: heatwaves are becoming more common, hurricanes are lingering for longer, and even established known climate risks – such as Tornado Alley – are changing from what has long been expected of them.
This change means that 21st century business owners have to be on their guard more than ever for the threats posed by a changing climate. What we once knew to be true is no longer the reality; when it comes to protecting your business, and especially your premises, the general consensus is that most businesses have to now be ready for everything.
What can you do about it?
First and foremost, be reassured: while the problems caused by a changing climate seem catastrophic, experts are working constantly to try and mitigate these problems. Industry is learning all the time regarding what it takes to safeguard the populace in the face of more ferocious weather; the use of micropile structures to help rebuild tornado-ravaged Joplin to incredible recycled plastic construction materials that can withstand hurricanes. There are people working these problems in order to find solutions. If you feel overwhelmed by the threats posed by a changing climate, then it’s helpful to remind yourself that humankind has now reached a point where we can figure out the problem and work on solutions. If you are concerned that your business premises are vulnerable to extreme weather, then investigating these options is sure to be a sensible step.
Secondly, it’s worth looking into your preparations in regards to business continuity. If you live in an area that has never experienced extreme weather conditions before, then the sad truth is that this may no longer be something you can rely on. Putting together a plan for business continuity in the event of a natural disaster, combined with shoring up your premises to protect against environmental threats, is the best way to address this very 21st century business problem.
#2 – Data hacks and breaches
Technology has been nothing short of miraculous for businesses. A business owner can now allow staff to work remotely, make use of cloud storage rather than relying on paperwork, and sell their products and services to customers across the globe.
However, one of the downsides of this technological revolution is that it has created a new vulnerability for businesses: data hacks and breaches. Thousands of companies have experienced this kind of security breach, with some of the most recognisable firms in the world falling victim to hackers over recent years. Technology may have solved business problems that our forebears would have thought unsolvable, but it’s also created problems that our forebears never had to deal with.
What can you do about it?
The answer here is incredibly simple: take your data security seriously. Even small businesses need to treat the data they collect and hold as highly sensitive, not at the least because customers expect outstanding data management processes from the companies they buy goods or services from.
Secondly, it is worth acknowledging a simple truth: even the most robust defences can occasionally be breached. As a result, it’s worth putting together a data breach response plan; hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you already have a framework for coping with the situation in place.
#3 – Reputation-damaging negative customer experiences
The ability to leave feedback for businesses online has been transformative for customers, but also for businesses – though not always in a positive sense. Unhappy customers are far more likely to share their experience with your business than happy customers, which can have catastrophic implications for your business’ reputation. While bad feedback has always been damaging to businesses, the issue is particularly concerning in the modern world, where unhappy customers can spread their ire across the entire globe with a single Tweet or Facebook message.
What can you do about it?
There’s no miracle solution here, outside of ensuring you are delivering the best customer experience possible. The happier your customers are, the lower the chances you’ll receive poor feedback online.
If you do find that a customer has been negatively discussing your business online, there are ways and means of managing the situation as effectively as possible. It may also be worth encouraging customers to leave reviews also, as this helps to provide a positive balance that is a fairer representation of your company.
The problems facing 21st century business owners are undeniably concerning but, as the points above prove, you do have an element of control over the situation. If you take these threats seriously, then you should be able to create a business that can survive for decades – potentially even long enough to experience the unique, of-the-moment problems the 22nd century will pose.