Innovation is the most powerful way to achieve your business goals. As we’ve talked about before, innovation is just the introduction of something new. Here’s the secret, for it to be innovative it only has to be new to you. Your company’s innovations won’t look like Microsoft’s innovations, but that doesn’t mean the changes you implement won’t be wildly successful. Here are 5 ways you can begin to innovate in your small business this year. Keep in mind, innovation is a process, not a destination. Each of these is the first step you can take towards becoming an organization that innovates.
- Catch Up
We all have those ideas that remain incomplete. Now is the time - take a leap. Update your systems, go paperless, start accepting credit cards, hire that consultant, pay the upgrade licensing fees. While expensive technology is rarely a requirement for small businesses to innovate, having current tools is always an advantage. The longer you wait, the steeper the learning curve gets. Make a list of the upgrades you’ve had in mind, and then pick something small to get started. One easy upgrade is to purchase Google’s corporate email and collaboration services, GSuite. These improve your professionalism online while empowering you with state-of-the-art tools for communicating with your team and your customers.
- Work On Your Business
Most entrepreneurs and small business owners are excellent at working in their business. You probably are too! Businesses need leaders though, not just technicians. The most important factor that separates a thriving business from one that struggles to survive is how focused its leaders are on the business. Sometimes you can experience a great deal of success without working on your business - but this success dries up as soon as the market around you changes. The business owners who will thrive tomorrow are the ones who work on their business today.
- Capture Statistics
So many business owners manage with their gut. I get it! Your instincts have served you very well so far in your career. Your gut absolutely has a place in your decision making. Imagine for a second, how powerful your instincts could be if they had access to accurate statistics about your business. As the world has become infinitely more complicated over the past 20 years, it has become almost impossible to see the world as it actually is. Sure we can grasp pieces here and there, but to have a complete picture of anything requires expertise, time, and the perspective of data. The power that statistics can bring to your company is that you begin to have a more realistic, more detailed view of how things work. Coupled with your instincts, that could just have a transformative effect.
- Create Content
If we’re living in the Information Age, then why not create some information of your own. First, let's clarify what content means. To be a content creator, you do not have to publish a book, become a YouTube star, or start your own podcast. Those are all fine goals, but content can mean a 1-page guide that solves a common customer problem. It could mean a worksheet that you can fill in with a customer. It could mean a list of quick tips or a blog post like this one. Publishing content establishes you as an expert, and it allows your market to feel more comfortable working with you.
- Engage Customers
Innovation is just a new way of creating value. Guess who decides what is valued? Your customers! The best way to know where they need innovation is to ask them. Conversations aren't about selling to them; it is about asking them open-ended questions about their life, their struggles, the accomplishments, and where they need help. Once you know this, you can get to work with confidence. An important note here - innovation doesn’t mean that you just give your customers what they’re asking for on your call. You need to create value by solving their problems. Many times the most innovative solutions take work to figure out. Keep at it until you know you’ve got something powerful. Knowing what they need is a great start though!
So there you have it. 5 easy ways you can begin innovating this month. Take one hour this week and schedule time to do one of these. Anyone can find an hour to accomplish our goals. Write a quick how-to article as we suggest in #4. Talk to your bookkeeper about running last month’s numbers into a dashboard spreadsheet as we mention in #3. Call just one customer and just ask them how things are going like #5 advises. Your business deserves your best work - and innovating little by little will give you the best that entrepreneurship has to offer.