How to Add Innovation to Your Business

Earlier this year a client in the executive search industry told me she was beginning to see the need for executives who can bring innovation to their position. Based on her research she chose to add innovation as a practice specialty. Her article summarizing findings are on my blog at http://primestrategies.com/?p=615 .
Innovation

Doing a bit of my own research I learned there’s an amazing body of knowledge on the subject.

Innovation is certainly not a new business concept. Jack Welch, former GE leader, was known for introducing innovation into the corporate culture there. His mission was to create the world’s most competitive enterprise. One of the ways he did that was through innovation.

The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better; to increase value in some fashion. Today’s thinking is not just about managing change; it’s about leading change.

As the leader of your business it’s up to you to set the stage for innovation.

Research the market.
Consciously be alert for new ideas that might be applied to your business. Reading what others have done (in any industry) can often trigger your thinking. Surf the internet for innovative ideas. [Read more…]

4 Ways to Boost Your Accountability and Productivity

Many clients come to me with the story of how they are struggling because they can’t get it all done, even though many of them have staff or subcontracted services in place. Not only isn’t the business moving forward as desired, but they are feeling overwhelmed, out of control and frustrated because their business isn’t performing; and neither are they. They feel stuck; up against a brick wall.

Sound familiar? Then listen up. There are actions you can take that will greatly improve your accountability and productivity, and consequently, that of your business. More importantly, there are simple tools you can use to help you provide structure and focus to your actions, so your efforts produce more of what you want.

Here are four ways you can boost your accountability and productivity.

1 – Have a Plan
If you have a plan in your head, it’s much too abstract to be of help when decisions need to be made. [Read more…]

Business Credit: How to Get It Now

Using credit to defer payment on consumer spending is a way of life for most of us. Yet we may not have taken advantage of the same option for our business. Obviously, use of credit in any circumstance must be done judiciously. For many businesses, however, use of credit can be a lifeline to even out ca$h flow as well as a way to build a credit history for future needs.

Such is the case for a new business that must purchase core product or service-related items for which ca$h is required on delivery, but the sale of those items will not take place immediately. In many cases, once the $ale is made, payment could take as long as another 60 to 90 days, depending on industry practice. Meanwhile operating expenses continue. Ouch!

For any business with a delay between expense and income or one that carries accounts receivable, a credit line can act like a bridge loan to cover expenses pending receipt of payment. It can also be used to cover any unexpected operating expenses. [Read more…]

The 3 R’s of Business Leadership

Are you a leader? If you’re the owner of a business, by default the buck stops with you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re functioning as a leader.

When you don’t step up to the plate, take charge, make a decision on a timely basis and see that it’s carried out, you’re creating a potential problem. Your job as leader is to make decisions and take action. When decisions are put off because you’re not sure what decision to make, or you take action without really making a decision, problems can start to pile up. That’s when your business can get into trouble.

Yes, it’s true, every business decision involves risk. As the leader you bear the responsibility to make the right decision in order to reach your reward. These are what I call the 3 R’s of Leadership: Risk, Responsibility, Reward.

Risk

Let’s face it, with any decision there is the risk of making the wrong choice. What do you need in order to make the right choice? One of the first places to check is the Plan you have for your business. Consider which choice will most likely lead to your goals? Also assess if the marketplace and economy will support the decision and are your internal operations able to support it? [Read more…]

Use Strategic Alliances to Grow Your Business

Many of today’s successful businesses are built on strategic alliances — a collaboration of resources for the purpose of gaining an advantage in the marketplace. This is especially true of virtual businesses, which are usually based on a network of people in different locations, with defined roles, in a temporary or evolving organization. In order to grow you need others.

If hiring an employee or contracting for service is not the right solution, a strategic alliance or partnership may be the answer. Engaging a “partner” in the process means you will share risks. Responsibilities and rewards.

Strategic alliances are a great way to create or test new business ideas without a huge expense, but it does require attention and good management to succeed.

Here are the steps I use and recommend following when seeking strategic partners.

Envision the Goals you want to accomplish.

Be as clear as possible. Then ask yourself what it will take to achieve these goals? If you see you can’t do it alone, find the resources you need elsewhere. [Read more…]

7 Questions to Ask Before Launching a New Product or Service

The economy has been good to many small businesses this past year. Many are ramping up for expansion through introduction of a new product or service. This can be an ideal way to grow your business if you do it strategically.

To help increase your odds of success, I suggest you analyze your business and market history. He.re are seven questions that will assist you in analyzing your information and creating a growth plan.

1 – Is my business already on a solid foundation?
If your systems, processes and personnel are not ready, efforts to expand will overload your capabilities and set you up for failure. Make sure you are ready to handle the orders, deliver the product or service and collect your money in a systematic and timely fashion.

Also, make sure you have one or more strong indications that there is a market for what you plan to offer. Strong past $ales of something similar or a part of what you are expanding are usually a positive sign. Be careful you don’t fall in love with an idea and disregard the warning signs that the market won’t support it. [Read more…]

The 7 Questions to Ask Before Planning for Next Year

Before sitting down to start working on your plan for 2007, I suggest you give yourself the advantage of a retrospective on 2006.

A year is actually a long time in business. And often the best prepared plans don’t get carried out for a variety of reasons. One of the most frequent reasons is unexpected challenges and new opp0rtunities that come up along the way. When they do, we can easily end up off our planned course.

Since we are always using our Long Term Vision to guide our planning, year-end is the time to review that Long Term Vision against what you’ve learned during the year. In looking at the past year I find it’s helpful to ask 7 specific questi0ns and use the answers as a reference in creating next year’s plan. It’s a good idea to write the answers to these questi0ns. In reviewing them once completed, you’ll be able to see what otherwise might have been missed.

Here are the questi0ns I ask. [Read more…]

Get the Results You Want!

One of the greatest enemies of getting the results you want is disorganized thinking and unfocused actions. Look at the image on the left.

What do you see? Disorganized thinking and unfocused actions. When operating in this mode, there’s lots of activity, but little is accomplished.

To get the results you want, those assets and actions have to be aligned and directed, like the image on the right. Look at the strength and power these two elements add.

Entrepreneurs tend to have lots of good ideas, usually function at high energy and are often impulsive. But what has the potential for a solid business often falls apart for lack of organization, structure, focus and direction. Actions are frequently taken haphazardly and sporadic without a goal or a plan.

The objective is to align assets and actions so they all go in the same direction – toward your goals. The sequence of steps is to identify and organize your assets (the value you provide to the marketplace), create a clear message and then strategically plan and take calculated, directed actions designed to lead to your goals. [Read more…]

ORGANIZATION: The Key to Business Freedom

One of the recurring themes among my clients and small business colleagues is the desire to be set fr-ee from the demands of running a business. It’s only when your business operations are in order and running predictably, that you can become fr-ee. In other words, you must be well organized.

What does being organized do for us? It affords us the ability to streamline the process of getting our work done.

By organizing our business and our work we can save time, effort, confusion and frustration. We can increase productivity (both business and personal) and gain a level of freedom that all business owners strive to achieve. Organizing allows us to put our procedures on autopilot as much as possible. This is the key to gaining the freedom from business that seems to elude so many entrepreneurs. [Read more…]

Newsletters: News From the Publishers

It’s hard to believe I started publishing Small Business Leader more than 5 years ago. I asked myself why it has prevailed and realized the main reason is because I like creating it and sharing it with my subscribers. The list has grown over the years, but I have not made it a priority. It has mostly been a vehicle for me to share, learn and grow and to build a community of people who understand and value what I have to say.

The art and science of e-newsletter publication has evolved substantially, especially since the advent of big-time spam.

There is a lot of super-hype “how to” information available on e-newsletter publication. There are experts within our subscriber base so I wanted to tap that wisdom and share it with those of you who are either already publishing some type of periodical or are considering doing so.

I interviewed two senior publishers and two new publishers. [Read more…]