THE future is a scary place, particularly if you are running a business that you've put your heart, soul and life savings into.
Royal commissions, digital disrupters, global trade wars, share market jitters, low consumer confidence… wherever you turn there is a headline that will give any business owner cause to frown.
No one can predict what lies ahead, but with the right attitude, some strategies to cope with change and a contingency plan in case things do go pear-shaped, your business will weather any storm.
Entrepreneur Michael Gottlieb has started businesses from scratch and fended off more than his share of threats. Much of the experience he gained from those early years when he and his partners didn't know if they would succeed, was used to launch BizCover, an online marketplace designed to help small business gain quick access to a range of quotes for business insurance.
He knows first-hand the perils that can befall business owners who don't meet the challenges that a dynamic marketplace throws up constantly, but he says it's best to remain positive.
"The rate of change businesses have to go through is over-estimated," said Mr Gottlieb.
"Obviously you don't put your head in the sand. Strategy is important and you need to understand what's happening in your market.
"But then you need to execute. Making decisions and making things happen is the most important thing.
"As long as you understand the challenges you don't have to change overnight, just make small incremental changes, small growth steps, every day, week or month so that by the time you look back, you've achieved so much."
Naomi White is the founder of Metamorph Co, a Brisbane-based consultancy that helps companies grow, change and maximise profitability by focusing on culture, leadership and strategic alignment.
She agrees with Mr Gottlieb that businesses need to have a clear purpose in their quest for growth in an uncertain future.
"For businesses to prepare for growth, they should get specific on what their growth vision looks like, the growth targets they want to hit, and the roadmap to achieving them," she said.
It is said trust arrives on foot and leaves in a Ferrari. It takes a long time to build trust with your customers but you can lose it in the blink of an eye with one mistake.
NAOMI WHITE, FOUNDER OF METAMORPH CO
Ms White has looked into her crystal ball to see what issues are likely to confront business owners in the months and years ahead.
"Post the banking Royal Commission, the big issue is trust," she said. "Customers want to be able to trust the companies they deal with.
"It is said trust arrives on foot and leaves in a Ferrari. It takes a long time to build trust with your customers but you can lose it in the blink of an eye with one mistake."
Disruption was next. "Companies now need to be constantly innovating to improve their product and service or someone else will come into their market and disrupt them by being cheaper, quicker and more customer-responsive," she said.
"No one could have predicted the impact Uber would have had on the taxi industry. Uber reimagined travel by focusing on what customers disliked about taxis and what service they needed performed. The taxi industry never saw it coming."
Ms White also pinpointed the difficulties of getting a marketing message heard by a customer base that's overwhelmed with information, and the rise of remote and flexible work as major challenges.
"More workers now want work to fit into their life rather than the other way around," she said.
"Businesses with fixed thinking around hours of work in the office will struggle to attract good staff."
On an optimistic note, she said those companies that can map their customers' journey before and after the sale, and make the whole customer journey a seamless and pleasant experience, will do well.
Mr Gottlieb agreed. "You've got to be a customer fanatic," he said.
"It's very simple to give good customer service. Return a phone call, acknowledge an email. Promise to do something, then do it when you said you would, at the expected quality.
"I find it interesting how few businesses are able to do it."
Mr Gottlieb said there were some events that can make a mockery of even the most meticulous plans, such as natural disasters, fire or theft, and having adequate insurance cover, including business interruption insurance, was prudent.
"Most small business owners like to prepare for unexpected events by insuring their physical assets, such as their premises, contents, stock and equipment," he said.
"But what would happen if you had to shut your doors for a few days, weeks or even months?
"How would you continue to pay for things like rent, utilities, wages and other expenses?"
Business interruption insurance covers owners for the loss of income and the increased costs of running a business as a result of damage by unforeseen events.
"It is an important form of cover for small-business owners, as the slightest hiccup can send a business into turmoil and cause chaos to their finances," said Mr Gottlieb.
For more business advice and information, head HERE.