Innovation seems to be the hot topic of the year. From the latest Kickstarter project to new technologies, everything is being labeled innovative and world changing. However, innovation is not always about changing the world or creating the next big trend. It often starts as a simple change that might not even be noticed. This is especially common in the small business sector. Though small businesses were once thought of as rigid and less than innovative, this is far from the truth. Most flourishing startups include some level of innovation. These nine behaviors are ways to ensure that innovation drives your startup or small business to succeed.
1. Be Open to New Ways of Conducting Business
The most innovative small business owners are those that are willing to try new ideas. When you continue to do things the same way, it is easy to fall into a routine. When this happens, innovation is unlikely. From finding new ways to attract clients and customers to changing your standard workflow or business model, each method could offer new and innovative ways to push your startup to the next level.
2. Understand Your Customers
Most major innovations in the past decade were not a matter of simply creating something that others had not thought of before. It was the result of knowing the market, knowing customers and acting on their thoughts and opinions. At the end of the day, customers are what will decide the success of your startup. By truly connecting with them and getting to know them, you can improve innovation within your company and always ensure that you are aligned with the interests of your target audience. This has an added benefit of strengthening your brand as well.
3. Analyze Everything
Innovation is not always about overcoming failure. Sometimes, innovation is a product of success. A major aspect of cultivating innovation within a small business is analyzing everything. From the efficiency of payroll to employee or customer ideas on how to improve the business, considering every idea and weighing the benefits can lead to surprising results. If you are not always tracking and honing your business endeavors, you are missing golden opportunities and chances for success.
4. Create Solutions Not Products and Services
Innovation is about changing existing methods, creating new solutions and solving problems in previously unseen ways. While most small businesses focus on providing a product or service, innovative business owners are providing solutions. In many ways, this leads back to understanding your customers and market. If you see a common problem, you might be able to exploit it for short-term success. However, creating a solution will providing long-term results. This is the essence of innovation.
5. Be Proactive
Innovative businesses are not simply following business trends and keeping the business afloat. They are leading the way, charting new paths and creating tomorrow’s trends. Instead of reacting to market trends or other common issues, be proactive. Market research, trends analysis and constantly working to improve your business are great ways to ensure that you are a leader and proactive in your market.
6. Communicate Openly and Often
Innovation is often the result of looking at something differently than the competition. This means that the more angles and opinions you receive on a given issue, process or product, the greater the chance for innovation to occur. A great way to improve the number of inputs available to your business is to encourage open communication. From clients and customers to your accountant or employees, each thought that they have could be the next big step for your business. By encouraging and promoting open communication, these thoughts can be shared, adapted and applied to your business to help push it toward further success.
7. Never Settle
For the innovative entrepreneur, nothing is ever good enough. This does not mean that you should never acknowledge your own successes or should devote every second of your day to your business. It simply means that innovators realize that there is always room for improvement. When your business stops striving to improve, it also stops innovating. Experiment, communicate, analyze and use every tool that you have available to push your business forward and innovation is sure to follow.
8. Be Resourceful
Many small business owners make the mistake of thinking that innovation involves complex laboratories or massive investments. Not only is this untrue, it is actually the direct opposite of most cases. Small businesses are prime candidates for innovative discovery due to the lack of funding, size and stability that many larger businesses enjoy. This forces business owners to think of new ways to accomplish more with less. An innovative business owner does not merely invest money into problems—they invest minds as well.
9. Know Your Market and Your Competition
Sometimes innovation does not come from the inside of the business. Competitor successes and failures can be a valuable source of information for the innovative small business. Technology has made it easier than ever to keep in touch with peers, competitors and other sources of market information. Whether you are following major industry names on social media or networking at the local chamber of commerce, every piece of information you gain about the efforts of other businesses can help to spur change and innovation within your own business.
Innovation is not an event or process; it is a mindset. With the increasingly competitive nature of business in the digital world, small businesses are leading the way for innovation and driving new market trends. These 9 behaviors are ways to integrate innovation into any small business and improve your chances of success.
About the Author: Willie Pena is a freelance writer, video producer, visual artist, and music producer. He prefers the Oxford comma. In addition to writing for firms such as IBM, Colgate, Transunion, Webroot and a multitude of private clients and websites, he also shoots, directs, and edits the hit celebrity web series “Teens Wanna Know”. Catch his rare blog posts on williepena.com, and connect with him on Google+, LinkedIn.