A successful business is one that can anticipate and adapt to change, and being immersed in running your business every day should not distract you from thinking about the latest trends and where your business stands.
As Richard Branson notes in a recent blog, "any entrepreneur can tell you it’s easy to get lost in the here and now." But it’s the company’s leaders’ responsibility to make sure that everyone on staff – from the top down – is able to take a step back every now and again to asses where the business is and what needs to change for it to continue to attract customers.
"Both on the day-to-day level and when you are engaging in planning, there are many variables that you and your team need to monitor, since detrimental factors that are out of your control can escalate quickly and do lots of damage," the Virgin Group founder explains. "Successful businesses are the ones that find ways to adapt to change, no matter which direction it comes from. The travel industry is a perfect case in point.
"New technological innovations from the potential of self-driving cars to the possibilities of commercial space travel are changing consumers’ perceptions of what a travel company should be and what services it should provide. These developments have begun to influence the industry, and we at the Virgin Group know that it’s critical to plan forward and adequately consider how we will be affected."
But it’s not just technology that’s changing the travel industry; travellers’ motivations are changing too. Where they used to prioritise speed and personal comfort over other factors, new considerations are now becoming equally important, including the certain degree of sustainability that many people look for in their travel choices. This has meant that the travel industry is going green when coming up with new ways of getting around, like Elon Musk’s Hyperloop high-speed transport concept and the adventurer Bertrand Piccard and his solar-powered planes. And, Richard says, our team at Virgin is no exception.
But, how can you make sure that you have time to think ahead and future-proof your business?
"One of the easiest, and most enjoyable, ways to do this is simply to start a conversation and invite others to join," he says. "Through our Virgin Disruptors programme, we regularly ask experts from both inside and outside our team to discuss cultural tensions and innovations in a particular industry. Given the rising excitement surrounding Virgin Galactic’s planned flights into space, we asked leading thinkers to debate on the future of travel and their views on what’s in store down the road.
"Obviously, it’s not feasible for every such conversation to be held in such a public forum, but there are many alternatives. Your approach might be as simple as taking your team offsite for an afternoon to brainstorm. If you’re a one-man operation, you might find it useful to invite others from your industry out for a drink, to talk about changes on the horizon that concern you."
When it comes to making time to think about the future of your business, Richard says that you should do whatever you need to – even if that means leaving the office or turning your emails off for an afternoon.