“Innovation is not about ideas. It is about identifying critical business opportunities, that if solved, will unleash incredible value for your organization. The key it to avoid innovating everywhere. Only innovate where you differentiate.” – Stephen Shapiro, Innovation Expert, Author of Best Practices Are Stupid

The freedom of owning a small business is incredible, and sometimes intimidating — especially when it comes time to explore the most important aspect of scaling for growth: building innovation into your day-to-day operations.

When we say “innovation”, we don’t mean your company should race to create your industry’s equivalent of the iPhone, or take huge personal and financial risks. However, in order for a small business to thrive, it’s critical to continuously think, and rethink, about the systems you have in play, to uncover what can be streamlined, and reinvented for the current state of your industry and market, or released altogether. Or simply for your business to stay ahead of the competition – because as we all know too well, getting better at what you do, and improving how you offer your services will make or break your business.

Many small business owners innovate “as they go”, doing away with old systems when they stop working completely, or adopting new ideas and tech as they gain popularity. However, if you want to stay ahead of the curve in your niche, taking time to map out intentional plans to innovate is essential.

That’s why we’ve created this 3-step strategy to help you innovate with intention, and create processes that constantly review what’s optimized, what’s gathering dust, and what may be holding you back from your next level of success.

Step 1: Re-assess your processes, and build innovation into them.

Perhaps the most famous recent example of this kind of innovation is Slack, the communication platform that revolutionized the way teams work together by solving a common problem: eliminating the constant battle of excessively long email chains. What began as a home grown solution to help a project team communicate better, has gone on to become an invaluable tool for companies all over the world.

While the tech used an existing idea (chat rooms and instant messengers), it transformed and simplified the way remote and in-house teams communicate in real time.

However, there’s no need for you to create an entirely new platform!

In order to innovate your own processes — and find creative solutions to problems like email chains that go on for miles – we recommend starting by looking for nuggets already inside your business.

For example:

  • Find yourself writing the same emails again and again? Make a template that you can reuse.)
  • Spending too much time training new team members? Record a video of the essential points so that trainees can do their homework, reducing the hands on time you need to spend.
  • Are you learning from your existing clientele to improve future service? Based on the common needs and patterns of current clients create checklists to ensure you offer solutions to new clients before they ask.

Once your processes are mapped out , go through them and look for areas you can improve, standardize or make quicker with new technology.

As a simple example, Slack may be a way to streamline your communications, and “Canned Responses” in GMail will allow you to pop ‘ready written’ templates directly into your email, while Boomerang, will remind you to reply, review, or follow up on client emails based on your checklists.

Step 2: Make time for yourself to create a vivid vision for your company.

One fact about leaders? We rarely have enough time off to reflect on where our business has been, what’s ahead, and how we want to grow, but this is essential.
Taking ‘retreat’ time from the day-to-day of your office may seem like a luxury, but in reality, it’s a non-negotiable for your business to thrive.

“The goal of doubling your company’s size in three years is easy to accept. Who wouldn’t want to do that? But accepting this goal and realizing it are two different things. To achieve it, you need to prepare for fast growth. And to do that, you need to develop a detailed vision of the future.” Cameron Herold – author of Double Double and creator of the Vivid Vision™ process

That’s why we recommend:

  • Delegating daily tasks so you can focus on growth: What do you find yourself spending too much time on that you could hand over to someone else on your team? (Hint: the answer is rarely “I can’t possibly delegate anything!”)
  • Revisiting your core values: We did a post on this not long ago, about why reassessing your core values is a huge part of becoming a leader who stands out. Revisiting these values creates a roadmap to building incredible companies, and groundbreaking company cultures.

Step 3: Hire Flexibly.

Don’t let the need to increase your team hold you back. Before you make the commitment to hiring employees, start getting things done right away by bringing in remote professionals.

It’s now easier than ever to run remote teams efficiently and effectively (using tools like Slack, Google Docs, Asana, Trello, and so many more). Beyond opening up your options to talented pros from around the world, hiring remotely also saves cost on office space, and allows you to test the waters and then scale more cost effectively.

There are a number of dedicated remote long term and sustainable solutions offering support to help you find the right person (like us!) who make it easy to connect with reliable, vetted experts and professionals; from VA’s, designers, marketers, copywriters, project managers and more.

In order for businesses to scale, succeed, and change the world? Innovation can no longer be a far-off thought.

So ask yourself, how will you transform your company, niche, and industry?

With the right commitment to innovation, time and support behind you — there’s nothing you can’t accomplish, and really no vision you can’t see come to fruition.

Interested in learning how key new team members can help you keep pace with innovation? We’d love to talk more about it.