Part of what’s involved in owning a company is trying to gauge what the future holds and what you might need to do to stay in business. And that’s not always easy. Integrating complex and swiftly changing trends into your business strategy can be hugely challenging.

It is, however, a necessary process. Some of the questions you will want to answer include the impact of demographic change on your customer base, as well as the impact of new technologies and future economic trends, both at home and globally. All of this can affect the relevance of your business, and may impact on how you operate. Being attuned to change, and adaptable, are key tools for success.

Understanding the benefits and challenges of new technologies is a good place to start. Technology keeps changing and it is hard to keep up with every new development. There is however one certainty. It is and will continue to be an essential part of any business model.

Technology will continue to present opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, it allows small businesses the opportunity to keep their costs down, by advertising and selling online, for example. With the internet, and social media, your business can now reach potential customers further afield than ever before. Technology also allows you to keep up with trends in your sector. We have never had so much knowledge at our fingertips. With business intelligence tools becoming more sophisticated, we can find out more about our client base and how our business is tracking than ever before.

Technology also means we’ll have to stay on our toes. The old adage ‘the customer is king’ has never been truer. It is becoming increasingly easy for people to post and share complaints when they feel they are getting poor service. This means businesses will need to be more transparent, more accessible, more responsive.

It also means that, however sophisticated technology becomes, it won’t replace people. If anything, we may well be entering an age in which good-old fashioned service is back in style. The emphasis should be on innovation with a human touch, on people over assets. It is the unique way we engage with our customers, our business manners so to speak, that may well distinguish us from others.

What else do businesses need to consider in their future planning? In this era of growing environmental awareness, sustainability is the new buzzword. More and more, companies are realising that it’s good for business to invest in areas such as improved energy and reduced waste. Sustainable businesses are a draw for quality staff and a driver for innovation. Soon it may be that not being sustainable will be considered uncool, and somewhat backward. The good news is that Kiwi businesses seem to be catching on to this trend. A 2016 survey by the University of Auckland’s Business School found that, while Kiwi businesses are playing it relatively safe when it comes to sustainability, many are also preparing to be more ambitious in the future by trying to cut carbon emissions and reducing their environmental impact.

Some things that we need to be mindful of as businesses don’t change. For example, companies will always need to pay attention to the changing ways consumers act and think, so they can adapt their product and delivery. As businesses, we need to keep our ears to the ground and pay attention to the environment we operate in and what people want. It’s not always easy to predict what the next thing will be, but the more we know about the present, the better perhaps we can anticipate what comes next, and be prepared for it – or even better, pre-empt the next thing and become trend-setters ourselves.