What are your dreams for your company? Do you see your business opening new locations in the coming years? Do you hope to double sales in the next eighteen months? Are you looking forward to the day when you can sell your company, retire early, and travel the world?
Then let me offer you one piece of advice:
Do not get too comfortable with the way you run your business right now.
I’ve seen it so many times. New business owners work tirelessly to build their business then sit back when the company stabilizes. They finally have a well-oiled operation, a reliable team, and consistent sales. So, they believe they’ve made it. They’ve arrived at the finish line, and now they can enjoy their success.
But then the world changes. Trends evolve, technology evolves, and while that comfortable business owner has been sitting back, the competition has been racing ahead, progressing with the times and innovating everything from their products to their company culture.
You can guess how this story ends.
If you want your enterprise to be more than a brief experiment, don’t get comfortable. Innovate.
Innovation is non-negotiable.
Never in history has this been truer than it is today. Technology has not only changed customer expectations when it comes to communication and service, but it’s also leveled the playing field. It’s easier than ever for an individual to start a business and promote their brand in the digital world. It’s easier to streamline workflow and build a remote team of highly skilled professionals. Every business owner has the tools to make their product or service more convenient, more comprehensive, and more affordable.
In other words, business is more competitive than ever, no matter what industry you’re in. Every day, you should be looking for new ways to offer your buyers 1) a better product 2) in a faster way and 3) at a lower price.
So… are you keeping up? When you compare your business to the competition and to your customers’ culture, do you see yourself leading the way or dragging behind?
If it’s the second thing, don’t worry. There’s still time to innovate and advance, and I’m going to tell you how to get started. But first, you have to ask yourself the hard question:
Are you what holds your company back?
As a business owner myself, I can admit: this is a difficult question. You have sacrificed time, energy, money, and sleep to turn your vision into a reality. You boldly entered a competitive market, set up shop when others looked at you with skepticism, and you made it work. This company exists because of you . . . so how can you be the one holding your business back?
Here’s what you need to understand: Short term growth may be the product of grit and determination, but long term growth requires innovation. And innovation can only happen when a leader is willing to advance, learn, and adapt.
This is where many business owners fall short. They haven’t cultivated a growth mindset. They haven’t yet learned that there is no finish line in business. Even if you’ve reached your business goals today, the world will change again tomorrow. Your job is to change with it.
You may consider yourself old-fashioned. You may resent technology and feel irritated by emerging trends. As an individual, you are welcome to feel that way. But as a business owner, your company depends on you to be flexible, curious, and humble enough to learn new skills.
Proactively seek out opportunities to innovate.
As you work on cultivating that growth mindset, start looking for areas of your business where you could give yourself a leg up on the competition. Take a hard look at these three areas to innovate:
This is what most people think of first when they hear the word “innovation.” No matter what you sell, ask yourself:
- Is there a way to make this product or service more accessible for the average person? Could technology such as apps, chatbots, or online scheduling help?
- What customer pain point does this product neglect, and how can I solve that problem with a new feature or service?
- How can this product or service be more enjoyable, entertaining, or novel than what my competitors offer?
- How do I want customers to feel when they work with our company, and how can I tweak the product to create that desired experience?
Empathy is a powerful tool when it comes to innovating your product. I realized early on that 911 Restoration customers don’t just need water extraction and fire cleanup. They need guidance and support through one of the greatest challenges they’ll ever face. Armed with this understanding, we made innovations such as a free insurance consultation and a guaranteed 45-minute arrival time—features that help customers feel like they’re not in this alone.
It’s important to offer an innovative product, but don’t underestimate the power of behind-the-scenes progress as well. Consider:
- Is there a way to streamline common procedures such as ordering, shipping, and accounting?
- How does our team interact with customers? Is it time to update or improve the script?
- What new software could increase productivity? Is there a project management or client management tool we should try?
- Is the entire team working together to uphold our shared standards and values?
- What can I be doing to inspire further innovation from my staff?
The more you advance and improve your day-to-day operations, the more effectively you can serve your clients.
Remember when Facebook was just a tool for connecting with friends? Now it’s one of the most effective digital marketing options available. The point being: as technology changes, so do your marketing opportunities… and so should your marketing strategy. Ask yourself:
- Who is my target buyer and what is the most effective way to reach them this year?
- Are our current SEO tactics keeping up with the latest search engine algorithms? Is it time to hire an expert?
- Which advertising campaigns are seeing the most success in my industry right now? How can I build on those great ideas to create an even more effective campaign?
- Where is my competitor finding buyers?
- What new advertising platforms have I been neglecting? How can I learn more about them?
Also take a moment to revisit your brand messaging. My realization about providing guidance and peace of mind for 911 Restoration also inspired our brand identity as “The Fresh Start Company.” That marketing innovation tells customers that we don’t just provide property restoration; we offer a new beginning after a personal disaster.
So, be creative. Be bold. Be humble. And above all:
Enjoy the journey.
I know this advice can make a person feel like they’re stuck on the hamster wheel. Keep moving. Innovate. There is no finish line.
It sounds exhausting. But I’d like to leave you with a different perspective.
The challenge to innovate presents you with an opportunity to grow as an individual. Rather than living in a state of constant struggle, you’re enjoying a state of constant discovery. Take it from me. I’ve tried to innovate since I first started my company several years ago. As a result, I’ve learned that I am stronger, more resilient, and more creative than I thought. I’ve enjoyed the fulfillment of building a team and providing a service that brings peace of mind to property owners across the country. It feels good to look back on what I’ve done, but it feels just as good to keep moving toward the next possibility . . . to keep testing myself and sharing both the joy and the struggle of innovation with my team.
It’s not a hamster wheel. It’s the most fulfilling marathon you’ll ever run.
On your mark. Get set. Go.