The secret to business growth is never to become complacent with the status quo. Your goal should never be to maintain your current state of affairs, even if that state is quite good – instead, your focus should constantly be on expansion. Your goal should be to attract more customers, generate more profits and achieve more acclaim in your industry.
Often, this requires innovation. To be at the top of your game, you must be willing to show some creativity and try new things. This might mean upgrading your technology, or it might mean changing the way you interact with customers. Perhaps a little bit of both.
In any event, trying out new ideas is a must. If you get stuck in a rut, your customers will notice, and business will dry out in due time. Being proactive and preventing your enterprise from going stale is a fundamental element of managing your small business.
FastCompany.com recently wrote about the importance of innovation in the business world. Tim Brown, CEO of creative consulting company Ideo, said that savvy corporate leaders must show a willingness to think outside the box.
“Any organization that wants to innovate, wants to be prepared to innovate, I think, has to have a few things in place,” Brown said in a speech at the Yale School of Management. “Perhaps the most important thing is methods for having an open mind.”
“Having an open mind” is easier said than done. Here are a few tips on making sure your business is able to innovate more over time.
Don’t obsess over yourself
The most common way companies fail to innovate is by thinking too much about themselves and not enough about the world around them. It’s not all about you – you have to consider the other businesses in your field, your customers and the greater economic forces that affect you.
“The quickest way for removing curiosity in my opinion is to have organizations that are too inward-facing, that don’t spend enough time out in the world,” Brown said.
Context is everything. Think about the big picture whenever possible.
Have empathy for customers
If you’re searching for ideas on how your business can improve, look at it from the customer’s perspective. What does your clientele want? Is it lower prices? Better customer service? More technology? Consider what the people want, and find ways to give it to them. In order to satisfy customers, you need to think like them, so put yourself in their heads and find ideas that work.
Have a filter for the best ideas
While listening to customers is important, Entrepreneur Magazine notes that you can’t give them everything they’re asking for. If you do too much to be a people-pleaser, you’ll spend all your time catering to customers’ demands, and sometimes their ideas will be bad ones. Learn to separate constructive criticism from just plain criticism. Find the customer suggestions that work the best for your business, and follow through on them. As for the rest, learn to say no.
Unite behind a vision
The key to improving your small business is having a corporate vision that everyone can agree on. What is the ultimate goal of your business? Is it to provide people with better quality, better value or something else in their lives that’s missing? Whatever your aspiration may be, make sure every employee is on board and willing to collaborate. If your employees are willing to work in tandem, everything becomes easier. Innovation is a simpler process when you have a team of people dedicated to improving the customer experience together.
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