Imagine if you had stepped into a coffee house in Italy in 1968. You saw how it was busy in the morning with the construction crew and busy all day and into the evening.
You find yourself asking, why are these people paying three Euro (or Lire back then!) for a mocha grande? Is it because they don’t have an espresso machine at home? Or is it something else? Perhaps they want to be seen going to a place to hang out with friends.
One company took the time to think this through, and as a result Starbucks today has over 17,600 locations in 60 countries. Now that was innovative!
Innovation plays an important role in the growth of any small business. While innovative ideas come naturally to some; most small business owners have a tough time coming up with innovative changes that will have a positive impact to their business.
For your business development, you have to be willing to be innovative, embrace change, and bring new products or services and add value to your revenue streams.
With that in mind, here are a few ideas that can help you to be innovative.
Have you ever noticed that before you bought your current car, you didn’t see many of the same make, model and colour car driving around the roads before you bought the car. However after buying your car, in the weeks that followed did you notice how many of the same make, model and colour car were actually on the road. My question for you – were those same cars there before you purchased your own car or did they just all of a sudden appear in the weeks that followed. The thing is, our mind only looks for things we want to see, or in other words, things we are looking for. Therefore you have to start by programming your mind to start looking for new business ideas and opportunities. Start by asking yourself questions – your brain has to answer the question, it’s programmed that way. Ask open questions like “what opportunities can I spot here…”, “how can I use this in my business…”, “what added value can I bring to this…”
2. Get Out
It’s very difficult to get creative ideas from within your own office, where you’ve been day in and day out. So change your environment. Go to new places. Get away from the office to somewhere you’ve never been before. You’ll be forced to see new things as you acclimatise yourself to the new environment.
3. Lateral Thinking
Someone I had the great pleasure to meet, Dr Edward de Bono – the originator of Lateral Thinking and author of over 60 books including 6 Thinking Hats – is the guru when it comes to thinking outside the box. His books will give you numerous techniques as to how to be innovative and approach things from a different perspective. Buy one today!
4. Read Business Books
There is a wealth of inspiration and creative ideas to be got from reading business books, listening to business programmes on the radio or reading the biographies of successful people to see how they made it. Brody Sweeney, founder of O’Briens Irish Sandwich Bars, explains in his book Small to Tall, where he used the basis for changing how he sold sandwiches, which initially were only sold on a made-to-order basis. After he read Fergal Quinn’s book, Crowning the Customer, he put in a pre-packaged sandwich counter with exactly the same results that Fergal Quinn got. It took nothing away from the core business, but opened up an additional, profitable revenue flow.
5. Question Everything
Question why things are done a particular way. It’s only by questioning do you begin to find alternatives to how things can be done better or done differently. Don’t take things as they are now. See how you can do them differently and add value.
6. Ask your customers
A lot of us believe we are providing our products or services the correct way. The way we think or customers want them. However many of us never ask the people we are trying to sell to. You don’t need to do extensive market research. All you have to do is ask your customers ‘what would you do differently?’ Even better, ask previous customers, people that for some reason stopped buying from you. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find out, and what opportunities it will present. And in my experience, it won’t cost you a lot to incorporate the new ideas. One caveat however – if you’re asking people for ideas, don’t try selling to them at the same time!
We all have our own ways of doing things and we all think our ways are the best way – for obvious reasons! However would you agree that you’ll get more ideas and insights from the people around you – your staff, other business owners, friends, colleagues? Develop a focus group to brainstorm and share ideas.
8. Add a Zero
When you’re trying to reach a turnover of say €100,000 – you’ll think of all the different things you can do to achieve that turnover. However add a zero to the end. Yes, so now your target is €1,000,000 – now what are all the ideas you’ll come up with in order to achieve the new turnover level? When I’ve done this exercise with other business owners, the results have been amazing. The thing is, the majority of the ideas you’ll come up with to achieve the higher turnover figure can also be used to achieve your original turnover figure. The only difference is, you’ve allowed yourself to have no limitations and to extend your possibilities.
9. Attend Events
In the environment where most businesses are contracting and waiting to ride the storm, some of us forget that the proper way forward is to get out there and see what’s going on. Mark in your diary all the events that are coming up – conferences, trade shows, training programmes, networking – attend them and get inspiration. But like what I said earlier, make sure you direct your focus. That is to say, go to the events for the purpose of getting new ideas, looking for opportunities, questioning, and not for the sake of just attending them!
10. Core Competencies
Ask yourself – what are you good at? What do you really do well and what do you really enjoy doing? You can’t answer this question in ten seconds. This is an exercise for you to finish on. This is an exercise you need to do, perhaps in a Starbucks coffee house drinking a mocha grande! You’ll be amazed at what will come up once you start questioning and writing the answers to these questions and more importantly what opportunities it will develop into.
What other tactics would you use to be more innovative in your business? Leave a comment below.
If you find it difficult to see how you can add massive value to your customers, contact us today and we can help you. Click here.