Recently I received an award for business innovation. As I've contemplated this award, I've asked myself what is business innovation. My motto in business is, Innovation, Solutions, Service, so what is innovation?
It might seem like a simple answer, you can say it means new ideas, or new ways of looking at things. To me innovation means a lot more. It means being on the forefront of your industry. It means researching the industry you are in and then then researching similar or like minded industries and then finding lasting solutions for your business.
A business entity is a living breathing thing. If organized correctly, it will continue to live long after the founder has gone. Therefore just like you can't go through life with the same skill set that you used when a baby, you have to grow and evolve as a business. As you pass through the infancy stage of business you have to start looking at ways to re-energize your base clientele and bring new customers to the door. Look at most successful businesses and you will see this practiced time and time again. For example, there was a time when McDonald's would have been satisfied making cheeseburgers and fries and leaving it at that. But their market analysts saw the writing on the wall and they began offering salads and alternatives to the traditional hamburger. Carl's Jr. started beating them up in their advertising so they introduced the Angus burger line. Now they are marketing the McCafe motif and renovating their stores to be more "upscale" with a modern look. They are no longer the children's restaurant, but the young professional adults.
That is just one example of how a business must incorporate innovation into their business model. Now, I am not saying that you have to be constantly renewing your business and introducing every fad into your business model. Fads come and go, you shouldn't bankrupt yourself trying to always be on the cutting edge. You can research each new trend and determine by your experience and customer demographic whether or not something might work for you. Things that work in New York City, might not work or be practical in Stockton, Utah, and that's ok. Your customers will help you sometimes determine if something will work or not. Also, instead of going all in and making the change and expecting your customers to like it, do a trial run for a limited time and see how it is accepted. That way your investment in minimal if it doesn't work for your business.
Another aspect of innovation in business is preparing a long-term and short-term plan on how you want to grow your business. Since you don't want to bankrupt yourself by trying to implement everything overnight, make a plan on what things you can effectively implement now, and in the near future to increase sales and stabilize your business operations. Then take the things that you want to implement in a year or two years and make a plan on how you are going to do it and what needs to be done prior. Set measurable benchmarks to ensure that you are moving towards those goals. And remember don't get discouraged if your one year plan is taking a little longer, because some things are just hard to plan for. The important thing is that you have a plan in place and that you are constantly reviewing the plan and adjusting as needed, but don't just feel that you can freely adjust and postpone things all the time, you need to challenge yourself to make it and then do it.
In conclusion, I think every business owner should be a master of innovation. You should always try and set your business in the forefront of your industry. Be the benchmark that other similar businesses are measured against. Don't be left behind and become the dinosaur of the industry or worst yet just another business fatality on the highway of success.