Thanks largely to rapidly expanding technologies, planning for the future is more important than ever in business. With thorough preparation and some strategic initiative, your business can position itself to take advantage of some of the inevitable changes that are on the horizon for companies across all industries. Here are five ways to get started.

Invest in internet security

To the extent that you can, now is the time to set up your business with the best possible online security. Many people in investing circles have already tabbed cyber security as one of the industries likely to become a significant player in the stock market. For business owners, this is further evidence of the fact that in the coming years, people are going to care more and more about protecting information online.

A recent report posted at Symantec’s official blog highlighted some troubling findings regarding the tendencies and high activity level of hackers in 2015. The report notes that “with high-profile breachers constantly making headlines, people are more aware of their cyber ‘risk factor’ than ever before—but many still aren’t taking action.” Another way of phrasing this is that the public is largely aware of the frequency and risk of cyber attacks, but companies have yet to adapt to the risk of those same attacks.

In the meantime, the same report noted a complicated array of ways in which hackers are continually taking advantage of companies with inadequate protection. The spread of malware, the theft of information and email accounts, and even “hijacking of company infrastructure” are all mentioned, though the total picture is simple: in many cases, the sophistication of hackers exceeds that of companies’ Internet security. And with people increasingly aware of this issue, companies across all industries face a growing need to adapt by way of improving their cyber security.

Demonstrating a strong, comprehensive cyber security setup is going to become a great way to set your company apart in the coming years.

Prepare for digital currency

Right now, bitcoin is still the leading name in digital currency, and opinion, even among experts, is sharply divided as to just how valuable or useful it’s going to be. FXCM makes an interesting note that the main hindrance to the growth of bitcoin as a viable alternative to ordinary currency is the fact that governments around the world still don’t accept it as official payment. However, they also acknowledge that “bitcoins continue to thrive” in the U.K. and U.S., which despite lacking official government approval still have the highest number of bitcoin merchants operating.

This last bit of information is particularly interesting for people looking to prepare small businesses for the future, in that it points out that bitcoin has had some success with merchants, even without becoming a recognized currency alternative. That is to say, those companies and industries that have allowed for the use of bitcoin in transactions have helped the currency to retain some strength and utility, even if it’s not the explosively popular resource some expected it to be a few years back.

On top of this, consider that many believe the true significance of bitcoin is in establishing the concept and practice of digital currency, and paving the way for competitors and alternatives. Whether under the name of bitcoin or something else, digital currency will be more prevalent in the near future, and companies that accept it as a form of payment will be strategically positioned to take immediate advantage of the shift. By enabling your business to accept digital currency transactions, you’re effectively opening shop where many others have yet to do so.

Develop & streamline an app

Just as digital currency is a clear part of the near future of transactions, it has also become increasingly apparent that the ability to facilitate business over mobile devices is of vital importance for any business. Consumers are depending more and more on phones and tablets for Internet activity (including the purchase of services and products). Also, we’re only just getting into a wearable technology era that’s going to intensify the average consumer’s reliance on mobile connectivity. These are trends that every business should seek to take advantage of.

Late last year, Forbes wrote a brilliantly thorough article about the need for apps, not only in major companies but for smaller businesses as well. “More and more small and midsize businesses are following the mobile trend, understanding that an effective mobile strategy involves more than just a mobile-friendly website,” the article stated. It went on to cite corner coffee shops and local spas as examples of the type of small, independent business that can benefit just as clearly from well-designed mobile apps as larger companies.

Furthermore, the same article illustrated that the benefits of a strong mobile app go well beyond simply offering another platform on which consumers can access and purchase whatever it is your business provides. In fact, most of the benefits actually relate to marketing and brand visibility; with a great app in place, you have a direct channel to your customer base. You’re always visible, you can send out promotions and updates, and you’re simplifying interaction for your customers. These practices are becoming more important by the year as people rely more heavily on mobile devices and app accessibility.

Hire for social networking

Social networking carries a broad definition in that it can be an entirely social practice that has nothing to do with business. When applied in a business context, however, the term “social networking” is increasingly synonymous with marketing and has become a vital element of growth strategy for modern companies.

The ability to reach a broad audience via social platforms can set a business apart in a way that few other practices can. The more extensive your social reach is—through Facebook, Twitter, and various other services—the more people you can reach with announcements, promotions, etc. about your company. Additionally, when you are able to socially market your business, there can be a snowball effect whereby your own brand visibility expands upon itself.

For this reason, it is increasingly necessary for modern businesses to consider the hiring of social networking experts or, in larger companies, entire marketing divisions focused on social marketing. As mentioned previously, we’re only beginning to touch on the next chapter of mobile connectivity in society, and increased use of social networking channels will walk hand-in-hand with further use of modern mobile devices.

Plan for urban exposure

By staying out of city markets, future companies will likely be forfeiting influence.

Moving away from purely technological concerns, it is also wise for businesses planning for the future to take into account coming shifts in the workforce and population as a whole. This is a point raised in an article about future planning for businesses in the Exeter Express & Echo, which specifically discusses the increasing urban-rural divide that figures to be on the way in the coming years.

Specifically, the Express & Echo points out that while 54 percent of people currently live in urban urban areas, that number is expected to rise to 66 percent by 2050. Along with this shift, it is mentioned that “mega cities,” of which there are currently 10, are “having a disproportionate effect on economies, sucking in skills and become massive generators of demand.” Basically, this means that as should be expected, as more and more of the population is concentrated in major urban areas, those same areas will control even higher percentages of the skilled workforce.

This doesn’t mean that it’s necessary to locate any successful business in an urban area, but it does indicate that a strategic future plan should involve company visibility in such areas. By staying out of city markets, future companies will likely be forfeiting influence with a disproportionately strong segment of the young workforce. Setting up visibility and recruitment tactics in areas producing more, and better, workers will enable your business to ensure that its most valuable resources—the employees!—remain strong.

By Jenna Batten

About the author

Jenna Batten is a New York-based freelance writer who enjoys taking on topics related to business, finance, and planning for the future.

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