unlocking innovation for small business growth

The street corner business, you have come to love and patronize is not growing because the owner does not think about innovation.

He is more concerned about handling the day-to-day operations of the business and getting enough to make ends meet.

This is also true for the majority of small businesses across Nigeria today.

They are not thinking about new ways to do things or new tools to increase productivity and profit.

And that is why we have so many small and micro businesses that should have become multinational companies but remain stuck as small businesses struggling to survive.

But the only way to avoid this is to incorporate innovation into your small business and use it to grow.

When I speak of innovation, many small business owners think it’s one exercise that’s too expensive to complex – they think it’s something reserved for the big businesses, but that’s false.

Innovation means adding something new to your business like introducing new products or adding more value to existing products/services to meet changing customer demands, improving operational efficiency etc.

If you find a supplier that gives you the same quality at a cheaper price or uses new software that makes your employees more productive – that’s innovation.

It’s not until you build a spacecraft!

The thing is that innovation is more critical to the success of small businesses than a big business because it allows small business owners to spend less since they have less money in the first place, compete with big businesses, be more productive and grow.

Innovation is the only way a small business can enter a new market filled with heavy competition and succeed.

Otherwise, they would find it difficult to survive.

Five (5) Strategies to Unlock Innovation In A Small Business

1. Build A Culture of Innovation

2. Look For Opportunities To Innovate

3. Test New Ideas Quickly

4. Invest In Innovation

5. Get a Fresh Perspective

1. Build A Culture of Innovation

The innovative ideas to grow the small business cannot come only from the business owner.

There has to be a culture that encourages everyone in the business to constantly be on the lookout for new ways of doing things.

You do this by being open to new ideas, allowing communication to flow from your employees to top management as fast as they would from top management to employees.

Apart from this, you have to ask for suggestions from your team regularly, so they are reminded that their insights matter.

How you treat the ideas or suggestions you get also matters.

If you are quick to shut down bad ideas and criticize ideas just because you think it’s bad, you would get fewer ideas; good or bad from your people.

You can encourage employees to be more forthcoming with innovative ideas by recognizing brilliant aspects of their suggestions, or ideas, rewarding excellent ideas and brainstorming on the best solution from all the ideas collected.

2. Look For Opportunities To Innovate

Innovation cannot occur in a vacuum.

This is why small businesses have to analyse their market and collect feedback from customers regularly to decide new trends, new technologies and improvements they can adopt.

Such research would no doubt present opportunities for small businesses to innovate.

The more insight your business can get, the more opportunities it has to be innovative.

Some of these opportunities may not immediately be clear to management, that is why small businesses have to train their employees to look for areas they can make improvements.

3. Test New Ideas Quickly

Small businesses are in a better position to innovate because they can make decisions quickly.

This is important for innovation; your business must test new ideas and suggestions quickly to reap the benefits.

That speed is your advantage.

The faster you test new ideas, the fewer resources it consumes and the more competitive edge it carves for your small business.

So, move fast, test new ideas.

4. Invest In Innovation

To be honest, it is easier to just focus on your operations like the roadside vendor than to innovate.

Innovation is hard work, it costs money and time too. All of which you would not be willing to do if you don’t have the risk appetite.

But you do want to innovate in your small business, you have to be ready to spend money on new ideas, technology that may not work.

You have to be ready to invest in yourself and your employees so that they can bring innovation into everything they do and help grow your business.

It is easy to make such an investment if you include it in your budget.

As you spend X Naira on marketing, you should spend Y on innovation.

5. Get a Fresh Perspective

When you have worked in a business for a while, it can be difficult to see new ways to do things.

This is why feedback is critical.

Do you ever wonder why big businesses rarely bring out innovation? It is because they lack a perspective that is only clear to outsiders. This is why someone with little or no experience is the best person to disrupt an industry because they have a fresh perspective.

They can look at the industry in a way those incumbents can’t.

To sustain innovation in your business, make sure you don’t lack an inflow of fresh perspective. From coaches, consultants, customers etc. Beyond just listening to new perspectives, you should be open to learning new things and not be on the defensive when you hear an opinion that runs counter to your established beliefs.

Get That Fresh Perspective From The SME Coach today!

Many small businesses can attest to the growth that an expert third party brings.

Contact us today.