THE BLOG
01/28/2016 05:22 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2017

How to Be a Futurist and Boost Your Small Business Success

This may be a dumb question, but have you seen the new "Star Wars" movie?

Considering the amount of money the movie has earned, I don't think there are too many of you out there who have not yet sat through its 135 minutes of action-packed sci-fi drama. The epic plot of the "Star Wars" series is great, but I enjoy the smaller details even more.

For example, we get multiple insights into how the series' creators view the commercial evolution of the galaxy. We see a bar that serves species from various planets - Talk about multiculturalism! - and we see mining operations, inter-planet trading and other elements that weave the economic fabric of this imagined future universe.

If you want to be a very successful small business owner, let me suggest that you need to be something of a science fiction writer, or at least a futurist yourself. You must have a vision of where your business will be tomorrow, and the next year and into the next decade, if you want to create real long-term value.

There are different strategies for dealing with the future in a business setting. For example, when Apple introduced the iPhone, in many ways the company created a new future in digital communications. However, many other businesses then saw the potential of the iPhone and realized what impact it would have on the future of their products and services and they reacted accordingly.

All of this has practical implications for the way you manage your small business. You need to always be assessing where your industry will be in the near future and beyond. Of course, the closer you get to today, the easier it is to make these kinds of predictions. In any case, it requires careful consideration and study on your part.

If you have a local business whose success hinges on your community, how is your area growing or changing? Consider questions like these:

What areas are slated for new development?
How are neighborhoods changing? Are some aging? Where are the young families settling?
Are immigrants making up an increasingly large part of the population? What are their needs?

The answers to all of these questions would benefit many small local businesses. Let me suggest that if you have a business that is sensitive to these kinds of local developments, that you engage area planners and other civic authorities. Find out where they see your community heading over the next five to 10 years.

If you have a business that would benefit from opening additional locations, the answers to these questions will help you plan successfully. However, also look beyond your immediate area. Where is growth happening in your state? Is that area ripe for an outlet, or should you relocate your business entirely?

Of course, trends play a big role in growth as well. Sometimes you can be very successful by riding the wave of a trend. Other times you can be equally as successful developing a business relationship with someone else who is riding the trend. If you supply a product or service to someone else who is heavily invested in a new trend, it helps you limit your risk if the trend comes crashing down.

Of course, there's no perfect way or simple instructions for reading a crystal ball. The idea I want to leave you with is that your role, at least in part, is to be a futurist who is always working hard to anticipate where demand will be tomorrow along with the products and services that will be in demand.