Small business is different from big business!
Of course it's different--- but when it comes to planning and preparing for the future, the differences are really important. The methods for exploring and planning for the future are the same as for big international organizations, but the application of those methods is very different for small businesses.
Following is a draft of the introduction to Small Business Foresight.
Small Business is different.
Because small business is different, from big business, some methods and tools used by large organizations work well for small business, but some don’t.
The methods that professional futurists use to anticipate and plan for the future have been used very effectively by big business for decades, but it is necessary to apply those methods differently in small business, and that’s what this book is about. This book will show you how to recognize the forces of change in your business---even if your business is just you (as my business is, and has been for years---just me!)
What qualifies me to tell you how to develop and apply foresight in your business? ? I have worked in and owned small businesses for over 50 years. My export business grew to exceed $5 million in annual sales before I started reducing the business in order to go back to school to study Foresight and Futures Studies. I received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon College of Business Administration, a Master’s degree from the University of Houston in Studies of the Future, and a Ph.D. from Leeds Metropolitan University for my research and dissertation, Personal Futures: Foresight and Futures Studies for Individuals.
I am a professional futurist. I have spoken to large and small groups, led workshops, and taught university classes in many different parts of the world. My books and workbooks have been published, translated, sold, and downloaded around the world. It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One! was awarded the “Most Important Futures Work” first place award by the Association of Professional Futurists.
I wish this book had been available fifty years ago when I was building a business! The tools and methods of foresight— scenarios, visioning and strategic planning would have been very useful, but were simply not available. Today, although these methods are successfully used by large organizations and governments around the world, they have not previously been made easily adaptable to small business. The intent of this book is to correct that by introducing a system of methods specifically intended for use by small businesses to anticipate and plan for the future, choose a preferred path to the future and achieve that chosen future.
Small business is personal. The United States Census Bureau and the Small Business Administration now have a category, “Nonemployer Businesses”. This category has risen from 15.4 million non-employer firms in 1997 to 24.3 million non-employer firms in in 2015. Non-employer firms can be reasonably defined as single person businesses. The owner does everything! Technology and the Internet have allowed small businesses to conduct business around the world, at low cost. In the 1970s a telephone call from the U.S. to Seoul, South Korea cost over $12.00 per minute! Today, email, voice and video are free nearly everywhere. One study, by the National Small Business Association in the United States, suggested that nearly half of small businesses in the United States include five or fewer full time employees.
If you have read It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One! you will find many parallels, because In both books, the methods are the same. It’s YOUR Future…Make it a Good One! is written for individuals and families, while Small Business Foresight is written for owners and managers of small businesses. Yes, the two books are similar— in part because small business is personal.
The system of methods and tools you will learn about in this book is not complex. You will use a simple, step-by-step approach to understanding and preparing for the future, and it works! Here’s a little history of futures methods, lifted from the first chapter of It’s YOUR Future…Make it a Good One!
For thousands of years of written history, people have wanted to know about the future. They consulted witches, fortune tellers, palm readers and astrologists, but to no avail. Finally, in the twenty-first century, most of them gave up. In this electronic age, people finally realized that no one can really tell them the future. But …
Now it is possible. It is possible to understand and anticipate the future! It is even possible to influence or change the future. Not all of the future, but enough to be valuable.
In the 1950s and 1960s, think tanks and academics developed theories about anticipating the future. What was it that the think tanks found that the wizards and fortune tellers of earlier centuries had not? The answer seems so simple. The fortune tellers had focused on THE future, assuming there was only one fixed, or preordained future.
The twentieth-century thinkers changed that main assumption. They were convinced that the future is not predetermined. That realization altered everything about the way we see the future. Now, it became obvious that if the future is not fixed or predetermined, then more than one future must be available.
Finally, they realized that it is possible to change the future through the actions we take in the present. This was a whole new way to look at the future!
Military and business organizations took those theories seriously and developed practical methods to explore and prepare for the future. The methods proved successful and spread into businesses and governments around the world. Royal Dutch Shell developed scenarios that anticipated the OPEC crisis of the 1970s, to their great benefit. Futurists wrote scenarios for South Africa that changed the expected future of that nation and led to a peaceful exchange of power. Futurists raised the alarm of the millennium bug in computer systems. Business and government responded in time to avoid a disruption.
To business, the military, and governments worldwide, the concept was clear. Methods for anticipating the future work.
As a result, futures or foresight methods are now practiced around the world. As the result of recent research, these same methods have now been successfully scaled down to fit the life of one person, one family, or one small business. Anyone. This book will introduce you to futures methods and how they work; then it will lead you, step-by-step, through the futuring process in just three parts.
1. Look at your business and where it is now
2. Explore potential futures with scenarios
3. Create a strategic plan for the future—the future you want for your business
As you follow this futuring process, you will be practicing the same methods and techniques that futurists have applied successfully for large organizations over half a century.
It really is that simple.
The image below shows the back and front covers of "Small Business Foresight".
Small Business Foresight
Small Business Foresight is now available in hard-cover, paperback, and eBook editions at Amazon and bookstores worldwide. .
(Reviews of Small Business Foresight are at the bottom of this page)
Small Business Foresight is about how to think about and plan for the future of your business using the same tools that futurists and highly successful organizations have used for decades to cope with and adapt to the ever changing world.
Now, these tools and methods are scaled down to fit the needs of small businesses.
More than sixty illustrations and tables to illustrate how the methods of foresight and futures studies can be effectively applied to small business.
NOTE: The "Small Business Foresight Workbook" is available as a FREE download on the "Free Downloads" page of this web site.
"The cover's okay, but what's inside?"
(That email got my attention!)
That’s the first thing I should have thought about! So here’s a start, The Table of Contents. Below that, I've started posting
examples of the more than sixty illustrations inside the book, one at a time.
Illustrations from SMALL BUSINESS FORESIGHT
Possible, Plausible, Probable and Wild cards
Here's a figure (4.5) from SMALL BUSINESS FORESIGHT. This illustrates how futurists consider future events. Nearly all events are possible, but only some events are plausible. Of the plausible events, only some are probable.
Wild card events are neither plausible nor probable, but must still be considered as possible in the future
This is an example of an illustration from “SMALL BUSINESS FORESIGHT, my latest book. This simple image shows six forces of change that exist in every small business, throughout the life of that business.
I plan to post a number of “Figures” from the book in this space at irregular intervals (there over sixty figures in the book) with very brief comments. I welcome questions, comments, or suggestions!
4.1 Forces within each of the six domains that drive your business.
Each domain is made up if several forces that will impact your business. Understanding these forces and how they may affect your business in the future is crucial to preparing and planning for the future.
2.1 Stages of Business Development
If you search Google for “business stages”, there are a lot of lists. The following table of stages is in general agreement with most of them, and fits well with my own experience. This is where you start thinking about the future of your business, no matter where your business is now on this chart.
Forces of change in a small business
Figure 4.1 (above) illustrates the forces of change wilthin a small business. Figure 4.2 shows sub-forces
The author uses the term "Domain" to describe each of the six forces of change that drive small businesses. Within each domain are sub-forces. the sub-forces may vary with industries, practices, and individual businesses.
Creating a Trend Line
Figure 4.4 This diagram was used (with no data)in Small Business Foresight as well as in It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One! to illustrate time series data and a trend line. This illustration was related to a forecast of numbers of centenarians that would be living in the world up to and including 2050. It also illustrates the risks of forecasting, as the actual population of centenarians worldwide of was about 450,000, more than double the forecast. The current projection for centenarians in 2050 has been raised to 3,676,000!
An interview about Small Business Foresight
I had a pleasant early-morning interview with professional futurist Jim Blasingame of the Small Business Advocate. You can hear it here:
News Releases for Small Business Foresight
I have sent out news releases to newspapers, magazines, alumni groups and others. Following is an example.
I'll appreciate any suggestions!
Personal Futures Network
1917 Guava Circle
Harlingen, TX 78552
Contact: Verne Wheelwright
Phone: (956) 423-5758
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2019
Small business is different from big business!
Small business owners who plan for the long term future of their businesses find that traditional strategic planning methods are very difficult to apply to small businesses. Small Business Foresight, by Verne Wheelwright, PhD. leads readers through the steps of long term planning, shows readers how to recognize the forces of change that will impact the future of their small business, how to build scenarios of plausible futures for the business, and how to create a strategic plan for the future of the business.
Small Business Foresight includes more than 60 figures, tables and diagrams to illustrate how foresight methods work for small businesses. Easy to read and understand, this book will enable small businesses to develop a preferred future, and strategies to achieve that future.
In the United States, there are more than 30 million small businesses. However, one in five will fail in the first year, and half will close their doors within five years. Small Business Foresight will give both start-ups and mature businesses the necessary tools to imagine possible scenarios five or ten years ahead and create contingency plans to survive threats while working towards a preferred future vision. Without these tools, any business is susceptible to the ups and downs of business cycles. With these tools, a business is not only prepared to weather business cycles but capitalize on them.
Dr. Verne Wheelwright earned a graduate degree in “Studies of the Future” at the University of Houston (Clear Lake) then went on to conduct research on how to apply the methods he had learned to individuals and small businesses. His first book, It’s YOUR Future…Make it a Good One! successfully applied the methods of foresight and strategic planning to the lives of individuals. It’s YOUR Future… and the related workbook have been translated and published in several languages. Wheelwright’s more than fifty years as an owner of a small business and nearly twenty years as a professional futurist testify to the substantial experience of this author.
Small Business FORESIGHT
The Future of Your Business
Author: Verne Wheelwright. PhD.
Author contact: email@example.com
Title: Small Business Foresight
Publisher: Personal Futures Network
Distributed by: Ingram
Publication date: November 1, 2019
Dimensions: 6x9 (6.25x9.25x.75) 260 pages
Markets: Small business owners, Futurists,
Entrepreneurship students, Foresight students, Libraries,
Book also includes: More than 60 figures, tables, and illustrations
The image above shows Verne Wheelwright leading a Small Business Workshop in Houston, Texas.
Book Reviews of Small Business Foresight
The US Review of Books reviewed Small Business Foresight in May 2020. Here's their review:
Small Business Foresight: The Future of Your Business
by Verne Wheelwright, Ph.D.
Personal Futures Network
book review by Mihir Shah
"The point here is simply that the Futures Wheel is flexible, and you can use it to explore or think through nearly any situation."
Award-winning author of It’s YOUR Future...Make it a Good one!, Wheelwright delivers another gem that is both spectacular and necessary in its unpacking of the small business methods through which one can anticipate impactful global and local factors. At a time when infectious diseases are ravaging the globe, small businesses are one of the hardest-hit entities. This timely piece provides the tools and metrics to not only understand how to navigate through the various stages of business development but also to have enough foresight to anticipate any changing economic or technological trends that will almost certainly affect any small business.
This work includes numerous charts and trend lines to demonstrate the value of external forces. In particular, STEEP (social, technological, economical, ecological, political), SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats), and the Futures Wheel help create awareness for the future of small businesses regardless of where the owner is in the eight designated stages of development. In addition to the tools, the author provides his audience with the relatability factor by connecting his commentary to popular socio-cultural works such as Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.
Coming from the experience and knowledge of a professional futurist, what this book provides beyond anything else is a diverging perspective from the sometimes singular-focused business owner who believes sheer competitive drive will be enough to succeed in all social and economic landscapes. While Wheelwright’s work is nothing short of a manual for small businesses to adjust to the ever-evolving trends, its comprehensive nature combined with its simplicity to understand complex business concepts like vulnerability analysis and contingency planning makes this ideal for everyone ranging from the layman who aspires to initiate a small business to someone who has been operating a solo business for many years.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review.
Book review by professional futurist Alireza Hejazi
Print Length: 260 pages
Publisher: Paper Fibers International
Publication Date: September 16, 2019
Inspired by techniques and methods of strategic foresight, this book helps small business owners identify the forces of change in their business and use them to the benefit of all parties. It reviews foresight methods and provides a three-step approach to corporate foresight. Reading this book, the readers learn to review the current status of their business and explore the alternative futures of their businesses through scenarios planning. They will be able to apply that knowledge as an input to the development of strategic plans aimed at improving and evolving their enterprise.
As a professional futurist, Wheelwright is mainly known for his works on personal futuring. He got his Master’s degree in Studies of the Future from the University of Houston and his PhD degree from Leeds Metropolitan University. His doctoral thesis was devoted to foresight with a focus on building personal futures. His previous book, It’s Your Future… Make it a Good One! is one of the bestsellers. His new book, Small Business Foresight is organized in three sections and 21 chapters and contains plenty of diagrams and tables that accelerate readers’ understanding.
Wheelwright (2019) begins his discussion by reminding a number of futurist beliefs such as the unknowingness and undetermined nature of the future, and the impact of individuals and organizations on the future by their own choices and actions. He moves on with a description of small business foresight and considers it as a system for “understanding, anticipating, and dealing with the future.”
His three-step foresight approach shapes three sections of the book. In the first step, it encourages small business owners to meditate on the past and current situation of their business and detect the forces that drive change in their business. The second step is based on applying those forces to the exploration of plausible and possible futures. In the third step, the founders and owners of small businesses visualize the future they desire for their business and move on to realize their vision by developing strategies and strategic plans.
Reviewing the stages of business development—conception, planning, starting, surviving, growing, evolving, declining, and exiting—Wheelwright attempts to remind the readers that there is a lifecycle to every business. Being informed of this life cycle is necessary as it helps business owners have a better understanding of how their enterprises change and evolve over time.
Refereeing to the forces that affect businesses in the long run, the author recommends big companies to care about external forces, including Social, Technological, Economic, Ecologic and Political (STEEP) forces. In his view, small businesses must be careful with internal forces. They are forces that drive change from the inside.
Wheelwright defines trends as indicators and directions of change. Trends are usually represented as lines generated by the data extracted from time-series. Futurists and researchers use periodical statistics to highlight trends behavior over time. Parallel to the trends, megatrends demonstrate forces of change that take decades to reveal with global and transforming impacts on societies. Wheelwright ends up with a description of Possible, Plausible, and Probable futures in chapter four.
Teaching how to draw a trend line, the writer of the book helps readers limit the range of uncertainty and envision possible futures over a period of time. He enlightens the readers’ minds by offering a description of wild cards (low-probability, high-impact events) and projecting risks and opportunities into the future in light of dominant forces.
Wheelwright considers global, national, and local levels for forces of change and their impacts. In his view, anticipating change is valuable if it can be done with an awareness of STEEP forces. This may be done by environmental or horizon scanning method watching for key change drivers. Wheelwright instructs horizon scanning briefly and mentions a personal experience highlighting the usefulness of this method. He extends his discussion of the factors of change to events, including turning point, growth, legal, intended/unintended, and wild card events.
He introduces two-axis matrix as a useful tool to check the impacts of forces and determine the significance of current and upcoming events. He brings STEEP forces into SWOT analysis and explains how strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be estimated having STEEP forces in the back of our minds. Then, he introduces The Futures Wheel, a tool that is sometimes called Mind Map and can be used to create rings and levels of impacts originating from sources and forces of change.
Referring to the futurist belief of undetermined nature of futures, Wheelwright reminds the rationality of the concept of alternative futures and introduces scenarios and scenarios planning in chapters 10-13. Scenarios are alternative narratives of the future and they rehearse the future by simulating through different stories. Wheelwright brings the scenarios method into the context of business by explaining the base scenario and determining the elements and driving forces that shape alternative commercial scenarios. Developing scenarios helps small business owners comprehend how forces and events interact, and how each scenario evolves over time.
The third section of the book provides an extensive discussion of strategic planning through chapters 14 to 18. Chapter 14 is focused on vision and visioning. Chapter 15 connects vision to business goals. Chapter 16 explains strategy and how we can achieve our vision through strategies. Chapter 17 is a guide to developing action plans, and chapter 18 helps readers check the vulnerability of their plans realistically. Chapter 19 informs the readers of the wild cards and contingency plans. Chapters 20 and 21 complete Wheelwright’s discussion by explaining how to live action plans and how to stick to it. The reason that I do not unfold the content of these chapters in this review is that they must be discovered and practiced by the readers personally.
Wheelwright’s expertise in personal futures has let him generate an outstanding work in corporate foresight, especially for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Small Business Foresight is a guide to small enterprise managers who are keen to detect and comprehend the relationships of their business with the environment. It is written by an author who is a foresight expert, technically a professional futurist. The theoretical discussions provided by Wheelwright are in agreement with entrepreneurial needs for foresight. Naturally, corporate foresight is a wide area of inquiry, but Wheelwright has addressed it successfully at a small scale in his book. His book addresses personal and organizational concerns in dealing with uncertain business futures very well and provides a useful foundation for more concentration.
Book Review By Mamta Madhavan
for Readers’ Favorite
There is a lot of difference between big and small businesses.
Small Business Foresight: The Future of Your Business by Verne Wheelwright speaks about the necessity of applying the methods and techniques used by large organizations effectively and differently in small businesses to make adaptable changes and succeed. The tools and strategies of foresight - scenario, visioning, and strategic planning - are useful and available to apply when compared to the scenario fifty years ago. The author shares a system of methods specifically for small businesses to use so that they can anticipate the future, choose a preferred path to the future, and achieve that future which has been chosen.
The simple step-by-step approach to the topic of how to prepare for the future makes this book an engaging read and encourages strategic thinking. Small Business Foresight gives good insights into the many ways to look into the future, how the future methods work, and the futuring process. Everyone is eager to know the future and this book is a handy guide for readers with small businesses and how the future can be influenced. The topic is covered in detail, making the methods discussed applicable. This book is all about the future of business and is a good tool for readers to understand a small business in terms of where it stands now, what the future is going to be, and how it can be developed to what they want it to be. Verne Wheelwright also emphasizes the importance of small scale forces that are important for small businesses. It is a good book to have on the bookshelf for reference.