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New Technology Doesn't Kill Companies, Oblivious Leadership That Won't Adapt Kills Companies

Like fire, technology can be both friend and foe.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's easy to laugh at the companies of days gone by -- makers of buggy whips or VCRs, or even Blockbuster. The leaders in those industries didn't see the demise of their industries coming. But with automation on the horizon, countless more industries could soon find themselves on the chopping block, too, if they are not prepared.

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Researchers working with support from the Engineering Sciences Department at Oxford University determined that about half of today’s jobs could be long-gone in a few years, succumbing to new inventions. The smartphone you use to make deals and the social networks you rely upon to distribute top-quality content have the power to destroy your livelihood.

Related: There's a Lot More to AI Than Just Chatbots

Worried? Don’t be. Like fire, technology can be both friend and foe. Make sure it’s the former, and you’ll be fine; look the other way, and you could fade into obscurity.

Get the upper hand by leaning in.

You don’t want to sidestep technology in favor of the “good old days.” At the same time, you shouldn’t feel like you’re at its mercy.

The trick is to lean into technology rather than become consumed with fear, like forward-minded entrepreneurs in specific industries who love, not loathe, technological advances. Consider real estate. Millennials are snatching up homes, comprising more than a third of buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. But millennials go about home searches differently than past generations.

Most millennials, as well as Gen Xers, use agents, but they supplement the agent experience with internet-based perusing and remote “visiting.” Instead of heading to afternoon open houses, millennials tour homes from the comfort of their devices. Is it any wonder that Oxford University’s finest believe artificial intelligence will replace 97 percent of in-person buyer-broker realtor experiences?

Yet smart property managers and residential construction companies aren’t wringing their hands; they’re partnering with brokerage firms such as Marketplace Homes that offer high-tech solutions. Consequently, we aren’t reading those firms’ obits; we’re hearing about their buyer-friendly offerings that make discovering the perfect house a breeze.

Related: Here's Is a Strategy For Making Yourself Irreplaceable Before Artificial Intelligence Learns to do Your Job

Set yourself up for fabulous reviews, not a sorry epitaph.

Ready to ditch the panic and shift to a tech future? Whether you represent real estate, transportation, retail or manufacturing, you can use four strategies to stay relevant:

1. Get knee-deep in demographics. It's time for you to get down and dirty and really investigate the demographics of your target audiences. Find out what they want, what they need, where they’re getting assistance and how you can help them.

By creating a psychographic chart for each of your prospective consumers, you can get a truer view of their personalities, attitudes, lifestyles, interests and so much more. Then, you can use this outline to make wiser predictions about their buying behaviors.

Companies such as TeleTech are innovators that connect companies with tools focused on technology-enhanced customer engagement. The more streamlined your process is, the less likely it is that a “closed for business” sign will be inevitable.

2. Offset everyday reality with virtual reality. In an era when behemoths such as Amazon, Kelly Services and American Express offer employees telecommuting options, location matters less and less. Although some types of businesses need brick-and-mortar spaces, work can often take place entirely in cyberspace.

Could certain jobs in your company be handled remotely, maybe on a part-time or as-needed basis? Could you use this type of improved mobility to woo top talent and build stronger relationships between your company and customers? Look at what your biggest competitors are already doing in these arenas, and contemplate following suit.

3. Be ready to adapt if a robot takes your place. Let's be honest. Is it inevitable that your role will be replaced by technology at some point? As a business owner, you must accept that more jobs are being taken over by machines. Just check out the kiosks in McDonald’s that accept orders; you can conveniently order a Big Mac without interfacing with humans. And Uber? It’s testing driverless vehicles, disrupting transportation and shipping.

Think you know that tools out there may one day replace you or the people you employ? Improve and enhance your skill set, as well as those of your key workers. Then, you can make the transition to a different role without feeling like you’ve been upended.

4. Push aside the fears and don your Holmesian cap. Don’t allow yourself to focus on the question “Why me?” when “Why not?” is staring you in the face. Rather than see emerging technology as a fierce opponent, look at it as the beginning of a great problem-solving opportunity.

Related: Artificial Intelligence May Reflect the Unfair World We Live in

For example, customers in your field might be madder than heck because they aren’t getting the service they deserve. Could you utilize gadgets, software, data or other tech solutions to turn your business into the superhero everyone wishes would save them? When many airlines were involved in nightmares, Southwest Airlines used the crisis to promote itself as the “friendly skies” oasis. It worked, and it gained share and accolades.

Machinery. Automation. Tech. Call it what you will, but advancements have always edged out antiquated ways of doing things. The more optimistic you are in the face of big changes, the more apt you’ll be to ride into the future securely, no buggy whip necessary.

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