Middle Market Companies
Apply Innovation Internally and Externally
The mid-market is a challenging place — you’re going up against the big boys, while disruptive startups threaten your industry. Some of your concerns might include the following:
- “Ideas don’t go anywhere — we try to innovate, but how do I make change stick?”
- “Where should our next great idea come from?”
- “How can we better understand and sell more to current customers?”
- “Why can’t we attract the right people we need?”
- “How can we scale operations to meet demand?”
The innovation pressures on a middle market company can be excessive. Conducting ongoing research to understand your customers, competition and even your own internal operations often goes by the wayside — not getting the proper attention because you’re focused on day-to-day operations. Attempting to innovate with the same small business team that got you to where you are today can present some tough decisions when balancing dedication and loyalty with the need for improved skill levels and methods.
Moving from middle market status to a large corporation will require getting past continuous improvement and focusing on real innovation. Making small adjustments to pricing, packaging and geographical coverage will no longer be enough. Sound challenging? It is — but you can successfully make the leap by properly defining Innovation Goals as well as Innovation Barriers that can be overcome — and identifying Potential Solutions that ensure an acceptable return on investment.
As the leader of a middle market company, you need to identify goals and expected outcomes that will make a visible difference to your business and allow you to achieve what you define as innovation. Your business is large enough now that differences in opinion will be in play throughout the organization, so aligning them based on a clear, concise definition of innovation will be a great first start. That definition will form a solid foundation upon which to build realistic goals, target dates and responsibilities. Everyone in your business should be aware of the role they need to play in achieving your expected outcomes.
- Do you have a clear, concise definition of innovation for your middle market company?
- Are all team leaders in agreement on that definition?
- Are roles, responsibilities and target dates known by all those who affect innovation results?
Once the innovation goals and expected outcomes are identified for your middle market company, attention can be given to identifying the challenges and barriers that stand in your way. Some will be a higher priority than others, requiring your leadership team to arrive at a unified approach. The good news is you’re not facing anything that large corporations haven’t overcome. Take the time to understand what’s blocking your path, as well as the order in which the challenges and barriers should be addressed to enable you to reach or exceed your innovation goals.
- Do you have agreement on your challenges and innovation barriers?
- Has there been any effort to prioritize them with your leadership team?
- Can you prepare a roadmap to help guide your innovation journey?
Middle market companies will often have many planned and simultaneous projects in play focused on fixing, improving, or innovating parts of the business. Each project can be viewed as a solution that addresses challenges and innovation barriers to help achieve stated goals and expected outcomes. When contemplating the projects that are appropriate for your business, remember each one should form the basis for an innovation roadmap — with defined phases of work, milestones and checkpoints for required approvals. Prioritizing project work according to cash flow, payback period, return on investment, or other financial metrics will help avoid wasting time and creating other problems to solve.
- Are your innovation projects defined and managed in a consistent manner?
- Do your projects form the basis for an innovation roadmap for your business?
- Are financial metrics in place to help prioritize how innovation solutions are implemented?
The table below is presented as an example only — to inspire you. We recommend you create your own, prioritizing Innovation Goals, Innovation Barriers and realistic target dates for Potential Solutions best suited for your business.