Every business owner operates with a combination of optimism and practicality.
They need to have the drive to know that they can succeed and that their business has what it takes. But they also need to understand that there are incredible challenges in their way and a marketplace that is far from predictable. Since March 2020, optimism has sometimes seemed a little hard to come by. The pandemic was a brutal blow for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and anyone whose company has weathered the storm thus far has done incredible work. However, as we push ahead to the end of 2021 and look at the year to come, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there are many more challenges on the way.
The landscape is changing around us, and while some of those changes are encouraging and are more like opportunities, every business owner needs to start getting savvier about the world that we are living in. They need to start pivoting from reacting to challenges as they arise to identifying these issues before they arise. As 2021 draws to a close, it is time to start looking ahead to what could be in store next year. Here are just a few of the challenges that you need to be aware of and some steps that you can take to address them.
The pandemic shockwaves will still be felt
As much as we would all like to believe that the Coronavirus pandemic is over and done with, we have all seen more than enough evidence by this point that we are not there yet. At the time of writing, we have barely hit the winter, which experts have warned will be extremely difficult as hospitals and emergency services will be swamped by all the other issues that arise during the colder weather. There is also the impact that potential new variants will have.
While the health and safety issues of the pandemic are not to be ignored, we cannot afford to forget the myriad of different ways that it can continue to have an impact. Temporary business closures or supply shortages due to employee illness can have a big effect on profit and productivity. Consumer buying patterns may have been forever altered by the pandemic as experts predict that much of the holiday shopping will be done online. And then there is the impact of the pandemic on mental health, which may be one of the biggest lasting factors as we head into the first few months of the next year.
The climate issue is only going to become more important
Climate change and global warming have dominated the news cycle almost as much as the pandemic has over the last two years or so and with good reason. The warnings from experts have become ever starker and they are now being matched by the visible real-world impact that is impossible to ignore. Big businesses are having to reckon with the fact that people are demanding answers and accountability, and they are demanding action. If you want your business to keep marching forward into the future, you are going to have to demonstrate that you have a plan for how you are going to be a part of that future.
Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword that can be thrown around to demonstrate social awareness. It is a necessity. You need to start understanding the issues at stake, how you can use technology, design, and innovation to create more sustainable business practices, and how you can communicate your strategy to customers and shareholders. Look at online courses where you can study business sustainability management to help you develop your skills and prepare your company for the future.
Evolving security threats will continue
Some of the challenges being faced by businesses in the coming year should be familiar to them by now. Cybersecurity is arguably the best example of this. Cybercrime and ransomware attacks were rampant during 2020 and 2021. Much has been done to try and crack down on this trend, and we have seen governments around the world make bold statements about the measures they are taking.
But this is an evolving trend, and experts have warned that we can expect these attacks to continue in the year to come. This is not an issue where you can afford to take your eye off the ball. Reach out to IT and cybersecurity experts to find out where your business may be vulnerable. Spend some time and resources educating your employees about the steps that they should be taking, especially if they are working remotely.
The question of remote working has not been solved
When the world locked down back in March 2020, the vast majority of businesses had to find a way to allow their employees to work remotely. When they did so, how many owners would have thought that the question of whether or not returning to the office was a good idea would still be on the table at the end of 2021? But here we are, and even though many businesses have pushed to get their staff back in and back to the old way of doing things, the question still remains.
We have seen how the thorny issue of vaccine passports has caused a lot of division in the United States, even though it was eventually avoided in the United Kingdom. There have been reports about workers leaving companies in droves, and the end of remote working as an option has been mooted as a contributing factor. Is a brick-and-mortar office important enough to your business to risk employee satisfaction, not to mention further upheaval in the event of a wave of new infections? Is committing to remote working a more environmentally friendly option? Can you justify the expenses of an office when the market is so unpredictable, and we all need to be keeping a careful eye on our budgets? Businesses that do commit to remote working need to invest in the proper technology to support and protect their employees.
The integration Of AI technology
It is truly remarkable to see how integrated AI technology has become in businesses of all shapes and sizes. Just a few years ago, AI software seemed to be the kind of thing that only the biggest and most elite corporations and institutions could afford. Now, we see it being used everywhere from chatbots that keep customers on a small business home page long enough to convince them to make a purchase to the programmes helping digital marketers identify trends in consumer behaviour.
As we head into 2022, there are some questions that need to be answered. Are we reaching the point at which more and more workers are going to be replaced by these programmes? If not, can businesses train their workers to use AI software to keep them ahead of the competition? The fears about out and out replacement may be a little early, but businesses do need to get to grips with the challenges of this rapidly evolving technology if they want to survive in the year ahead.