There is no greater place to be a startup than in Southeast Asia right now. The region has promising signs of growth with new prospects, innovative ideas, and bullish investors optimistic about the road ahead.
That’s not to say success is guaranteed. If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that circumstances can change at a whim. So how can we, as entrepreneurs, ensure success? Here’s my take on it: future-proofing.
Your golden ticket to success
I know. Another buzzword. If we look at the top overused phrases since the pandemic started, future-proof definitely ranks high on the list. But trust me when I say that it can truly be your golden ticket to success.
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When the pandemic first hit, I saw many personal friends and business owners stunned by the digital transformation needed just to keep running their ventures. Overnight, businesses had to pivot completely to online and become experts in video conferences, and online webinars. They had to learn to be master communicators in a completely different medium.
Not every business managed to adjust, and even those who did weren’t able to do so successfully. To future-proof for success, you have to know what’s out there in the market, and leverage what you know to your fullest advantage. While this may sound simple enough in concept, implementing it effectively is a different ball game altogether.
So what does it mean to future-proof? Essentially, it is to reimagine how you run your business – and here’s how.
1. Be proactive, not reactive
During the last 3 years, I saw more businesses scale up and wind down than I have in my entire career helping fellow entrepreneurs to set up their businesses and incorporate them (we even did a study on it!). Through it all, one distinction was clear. Among businesses that survived and thrived, they saw the crucial need to be proactive and tackle challenges before they arrived.
Now, of course, I’m not talking about the foresight to see into the future. Being proactive in this sense refers to having the mindset to anticipate potential problems and implement efficient solutions ahead of time.
This is because proactivity isn’t a natural fixed skill imbued in any single individual, but one that is cultivated as part of having a growth mindset.
The pandemic forced many businesses to make the switch to a hybrid work model. However, future-proofing extends beyond this. It includes reconsidering outdated practices, and perhaps most important of all, having the tenacity to move towards and integrate new technologies before you are forced to do so — all qualities that I’d noticed in businesses that thrived.
This is the key difference that will enhance you from making business decisions out of proactiveness, rather than reactiveness, and pull you ahead from the pack.
2. Use digitalization to go beyond SEA’s borders
The new normal does not exist, and change is the only constant. The ways of doing business are changing and will continue to do so as more efficient ways of working persist. However, one thing that’ll remain is digitalization and its pertinence for businesses everywhere.
I’ll provide an example.
My own experience of starting a business was very painful. There were multiple legal hoops to go through, endless paperwork to sign, and countless face-to-face meetings that, to be honest, could’ve been an email.
Fast forward to the present, and all the aforementioned can be done completely online. Starting a business has never been so efficient! It is so easy to incorporate a business, set up your business entity, compliance, and even start a business account online.
As we open borders and ease restrictions, it’s imperative that businesses do not fall back into what they previously perceived as “pre-pandemic working”. Covid-19 is your new Chief Digital Officer, and digitalization is the vehicle for change. Entrepreneurs have to jump on and go with it if they want to be successful.
3. Scaling your business to 10X
Simply starting your business is not enough. How can you scale your business for success? This is when you’ll need to identify the gaps in your business which you can close with the help of tools and talent.
I’ll narrow this down to two aspects.
Firstly, hiring. Many entrepreneurs assume that a successful business rests on three pillars: a product in demand, a viable business model, and initial capital for growth. However, all this crumbles without a fourth pillar — your organization.
Your team is your core, and without a strong one, you will never be able to successfully reach and sustain business growth. One key tip that I can share is the importance of having strong processes.
Think of processes as your foundation. Your business will inevitably grow from 10 employees to 100 – 10x growth. When that happens, having clear processes will make a world of a difference in productivity and growth.
Secondly, team building. A great analogy given to me once was to share your legos. Your business goal is the final lego structure you intend to build, and the legos are the building blocks needed to build it.
Personally, one challenge that I faced as Chief Executive Officer once Sleek expanded from one country to two, and now, four countries, was recognizing that I couldn’t be everywhere and anywhere all at once.
Entrepreneurs, you have to learn to let go and delegate. In other words, share your legos to build and achieve a greater vision.
Pioneers in a new era
Though it sounds cliche, we truly are living in unprecedented times now. Yet the flipside of that is that we’re also ushering in a new era. Success is possible, as evidenced by the champion case studies of the pandemic, and can be achieved if we learn from the past and future-proof effectively.
This article was contributed by Julien Labruyere, CEO and Co-founder of Sleek
About the author
Julien Labruyere is the CEO and Co-founder of Sleek, an all-in-one digital platform, enabling entrepreneurs, SMEs and investors to register their company and manage their governance, accounting, and tax compliance online. Julien has over 10 years experience in sales and management for technology companies in Europe and Asia. He first started his career at Silicomp that was acquired by Orange Business Services. Julien then started and led the APAC business for a Swedish Mobile Enterprise Application Platform startup Appear Networks.