Start At The Intersection of Customer Needs and Company Capability

If you want to see innovation happening in real time, then you have to look in the private sector and the fast-moving companies that are making it happen in their respective industries. How do you think I know this? You see, before I retired I was a franchisor founder. We created a whole new industry, and we changed the status quo of the way things were done previously. We did this by finding out what the customers needed, what we were capable of, and then determined if we could make a profit solving their problems. When we could, we explained this to the customer and we innovated as needed.

Now then, I would submit to you that business innovation actually starts at the intersection of the customer’s needs and your company’s capability. In this case you are nothing more than a super sales team solving problems in the marketplace using non-conventional wisdom, creativity, and a can-do attitude. In other words, you will find a way to solve their problem, deliver that solution, and do as much innovation as needed to make it all happen.

Let me give you a for instance. Our company was in the cleaning of fleets of vehicles, but one time CSX railway asked us to clean some coal railcars which were made of aluminum, and they were 50 years old, and probably hadn’t been cleaned and 20 years. They wanted them clean for one of their best customers, but they didn’t know how to get that done. Since we knew a little bit about cleaning aluminum from the aviation and aircraft cleaning sector we contacted our vendor of soap products to see if they had something which was inexpensive to use that might work in this process.

It turns out they did have a product, so we got with our chemist and added some other components to it. Then we modified our equipment with dual-lance wands, and extra tanks for the soap solution and the deionized water rinse. We also created a new high-volume reclaim system and connected it to giant slip and slides to collect the water and funnel it to a collection point. We simply made it work using a little creativity and innovation. From there, the word got out and we were lined up with other railcars to clean and opened up an entirely new market for our company.

You can do the same thing in your business regardless of industry sector, if you will merely stop and think in the same way. Ask your customer what they need, use your expertise, borrow information and ideas from other industries, and put it all together with new procedures to make it work. If you’re looking for business innovation, these are the types of places you will find it happening. Please consider all this and think on it.

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