Entrepreneurs are master firefighters. Every day they hustle for new clients, maintain current ones, and handle the million little problems that crop up. When entrepreneurs run a business with employees and a growing consumer base, these problems multiply, draining their time even more.
Business owners have to think about and address several issues on a daily basis. Continual innovation and creativity usually fall by the wayside as a result. It’s hard for many of these owners to think about the next step when the task at-hand is already so overwhelming.
Yet, in this new world, change is rapid. If a business owner merely wants to keep up with change, he has to stay ready to innovate. If he wants to actually lead change, innovation must become more natural than breathing.
Innovate to Stay Alive
Every entrepreneur starts off excited. They have the best idea ever! No one has ever thought of this! No one can do it better than me!
Yet, the hard truth is that other people are probably developing the same concept. If they are not, they will soon catch up and then surpass your original product. Big companies will take any success they see as market testing. You took the risks to prove the concept; now the big companies can rake in the big bucks.
An entrepreneur that does not train his company to constantly learn and reinvent is just asking for defeat. Once your edge is lost or the buzz around your business dissipates, it’s hard to get it back.
Lessons in Innovation
Constantly thinking about innovation is often overwhelming for an entrepreneur — especially if he has already launched his brilliant idea. So, make innovation part of the company culture.
In the race to innovate, entrepreneurs may diversify too much, making it hard to do anything well. Instead, leadership needs to define what the company is selling and why. Make sure everyone in the company knows why you do what you do. Innovation will launch from your initial focus.
Entrepreneurs have to surround themselves with capable people. In a startup, employees often do more than one job, and the leadership needs to trust the employees’ abilities completely. As Cameron Herold, author of Double, Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less, puts it, “If you want to double the size of your company in three years, building a world-class culture is key.”
Once you have focus and talent, it’s important to delegate. An entrepreneur cannot spend his days micro-managing the business. That’s why you hire great employees and establish razor-sharp focus. If you’ve done your job in these two areas, the members of your staff can do their jobs maintaining the business.
Your business will encounter times of highs and lows, but it’s important to innovate, change, and adapt. This requires a strong commitment to ongoing learning. Success over the long-term involves buffering against downfalls, dampening success, and avoiding what former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan calls “irrational exuberance.” Business owners need to examine themselves, the team, the product, and the marketplace to see what’s changed or to predict what is coming. This can only be done through dedication to an ongoing education that includes exposure to new modes of thinking and ideas.
This leads us to the last pillar of a successful startup. An entrepreneur is free to think about how to grow when he has a talented staff focused on the development of the business. Where do you want the company to be in one year, five years, or even 10 years? It’s the entrepreneur’s job to dream up that vision and figure out the necessary steps to achieve it. This is where innovation really happens.
It’s an “innovate-or-die economy” these days. Even entrepreneurs can’t afford to ignore the need for change and growth. However, when equipped with the right tools and focus, they can continually reinvent their business.
Michel Koopman is the CEO of getAbstract Inc. getAbstract’s mission is to find, expertly compress, and provide universal access to critical business knowledge in a format that learners can absorb quickly and easily. This allows customers to stay current and competitive and to become leaders who can make better decisions. Today, our solutions include a library of more than 9,000 business book summaries, in text and audio format, which more than 10 million subscribers use, including 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies.