I’ve met many business leaders and entrepreneurs that do not understand how to leverage innovation in small businesses. These individuals often believe that business innovation is for large companies that employ scientists and have a large research and development department. However, many small businesses can enjoy significant benefits from a well-designed innovation strategy.
In some cases, small businesses can do a better job at identifying and implementing innovations than a larger company with multiple layers of approval, especially for “innovative” ideas. Smaller companies can often act quickly to take advantage of creative ideas and get those ideas into the market by incorporating them into the company’s product or service. This quick action gives the smaller company a competitive edge when they are “first to market” with a new product or a new feature. I’ve seen countless examples of a small company acting quickly to implement a product innovation while bigger companies try to “catch up” with the smaller company. Even when the bigger companies do catch up, the smaller company has established a strong position by being identified as an innovator.
Although a company is small, they can have a following of “raving fans”. These fans of the business provide valuable word-of-mouth advertising as well as “free” marketing through discussions on social media web sites. Building a following of loyal customers also provides a source of ideas for new products and new features – directly from the customers that will buy those new products or services. Ask your customers what features they would like to see in your products, and ask about new products or services that would be of interest to them.
When working with leaders of small businesses, I show them examples of other small businesses that have leveraged innovation to increase revenue, reduce expenses and create a competitive edge in their market. These examples may be from other companies in the same market or companies in different markets. Once the business leaders understand the potential benefits of innovation, the next step is to educate everyone in the company about the innovation process. An innovation disclosure program encourages all employees to submit creative ideas. By celebrating and rewarding innovative ideas, these small businesses can generate a flood of creative ideas to grow the business.
If you’re a small business leader or entrepreneur, don’t think that innovation is limited to large companies. You can benefit from leveraging innovation just as much (or more) than a large corporation. I have seen it happen hundreds of times.