Innovating Past Your First Great Idea
Congratulations! Your small business has evolved past the startup phase by launching its first product or service and generating consistent cash flow. Perhaps you’re beginning to ask yourself some of the following questions:
- “What processes should be upgraded next?”
- “How do we improve our sales revenues and customer relationships?”
- “Which innovation goals are realistic and measurable?”
- “Where do we find time to improve operations?”
- “Where did our best people go?”
Do you have what it takes to keep innovating and growing?
We find many entrepreneurial founders are not be able to fully operationalize their business — something that typically triggers a “serial entrepreneur” condition. Its symptoms? Being driven toward another great idea or deal, leaving the small business to slowly erode — a situation that won’t sit well with investors or those with a financial interest in the business. Its “treatment”? A shift in the entrepreneurial mindset toward one focused on running a small business 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 a small business owner, you need to define certain goals and expected outcomes to guide your ability to innovate. The level of sophistication displayed by a small business will ultimately depend on the realistic goals and target dates identified. Properly setting the higher-level goals first will help determine the secondary, or lower-level goals. For a goal to be “proper,” it should be unambiguous and specifically focused on what’s immediately relevant to the business. Each goal should also be something that has a realistic target date for completion as well as an assigned, motivated owner.
- What are the higher-level goals and expected outcomes your small business requires for innovation?
- Which secondary, or lower-level goals and expected outcomes are necessary?
- Do all your employees understand and support what’s needed to succeed?
Your small business is challenged in many ways, as certain barriers stand in the way of achieving its goals and expected outcomes. Never fear, however! These innovation barriers can be identified and removed, or greatly minimized — once you know what they are. Your small business may benefit from viewing potential roadblocks from both an internal and external standpoint. An internal view can address the strategic, procedural and organizational challenges facing your business. An external view can address the marketing and advertising, branding, and sales challenges it faces.
- Which challenges and innovation barriers are standing in your way?
- Is there benefit from an internal and external approach to addressing potential roadblocks?
- Are processes in place to identify and select potential solutions?
You may be challenged to balance your small business’ operational needs against what’s necessary to actually innovate and grow. The ability to quickly separate problems from symptoms will allow for a solid understanding of challenges and innovation barriers prior to identifying and implementing potential solutions. Prioritizing the potential solutions against ongoing cash flow requirements will also help. Oftentimes, solutions can be implemented in a way that allows for significant increase in revenues or decrease in costs — which can help fund ongoing innovation.
- Can your leadership team separate problems from symptoms?
- Can potential solutions be prioritized against certain goals and expected outcomes?
- How will daily operations be conducted while improvements are being made?
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.