Business Innovation

Many of my small business clients believe they have to have some earth shattering, life-changing, superbly unique business idea before they can go into business or implement it into their current business operation. But the truth is you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, you simply have to be smart.

I am not talking ‘Einstein’ smart. There are a few ‘genius ideas’ from incredibly intelligent people out there, but more often than not, new businesses and business ideas are just existing business concepts reworked. Getting good business ideas are easy. Simply find an existing business concept or business idea and figure out if you could do it better, easier, cheaper or give a new angle to the concept to make it uniquely yours.

Even this idea is not new. Sam Walton, founder of the hugely successful Wal-Mart discount chain, was continually in search of innovative ideas and adopting them, continually evolving store and supply chain operations. His goal was to better improve the customer experience and to drive out system inefficiencies and padded costs, to deliver low prices everyday.

After attending an IBM demonstration, Sam could see how this innovation could impact his business, and hired the brightest guy in the room. Sam then set him the task of adapting database concepts to assist in the support of his large-scale operation. This extensive database has also evolved over time and is now at the heart of the Wal-Mart operation.

Many businesses have adapted the hugely successful airline frequent flyer loyalty program to their business to encourage customer loyalty and to boost sales. I have seen this idea successfully used by booksellers, bakers, coffee houses, shoe stores and hairdressers.

I also am continually on the look out for innovation, wherever I may find it. Every time I go shopping or use a service and I find some new business concept, I make myself run through the mental exercise of examining how the innovation could be used or reworked to the benefit of my my current business, or even as a concept for my next business venture. Of course many just don’t fit, but I don’t discard the idea. I write it down and keep it in a card file for future reference.

Why? Because the world evolves, technology advances, trends and social mores are forever changing. What might not be right today, may be perfect tomorrow. I have even reviewed my business innovation ideas and read two ideas, one after the other and merged them. Those two business ideas combined allowed me to deliver to my customers a day faster, at a reduced cost with fewer resources involved. The result – happy customers, happy employees, reduced costs and a better bottom line.

This simple practice can be readily adopted by entrepreneurs everywhere. It is simple, easy and free. It is a practice that can take your business from good to great and help you drive explosive results for your small business. I highly recommend it.

Karen L. Paiyo is an Australian Small Business Counsellor, supporting and nurturing the spirit of entrepreneurship in the Asia Pacific Region. Karen empowers small business owners by transferring to them the skills and expertise needed to help them take their business ideas from creative concept to profitable reality, faster and with less risk.

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