Driv­ing busi­ness in­no­va­tion one step at a time

As a key driver of busi­ness, fi­nan­cial and eco­nomic growth, im­prov­ing our na­tion’s level of in­no­va­tion is some­thing of an end­less de­bate writes Tim Reed. How are we per­form­ing? What are the ben­e­fits of in­no­va­tion for busi­ness own­ers and man­agers seek­ing g

Business First - - CONTENTS - by Tim Reed

In­no­va­tion comes in many forms. It may in­volve im­ple­ment­ing tech­nol­ogy to au­to­mate pro­cesses and free up more time to spend on sales and mar­ket­ing. Or, it could be as­sist­ing them to tar­get new mar­kets closer to home or fur­ther afield with the sup­port of or­gan­i­sa­tions such as their lo­cal busi­ness cham­ber. It could even be sim­ply part­ner­ing or merg­ing with a sim­i­lar or com­ple­men­tary busi­ness.

When a busi­ness cre­ates a change cul­ture it opens it­self up to re­ceiv­ing new ideas from ev­ery quar­ter: cus­tomers, staff, busi­ness part­ners, com­peti­tors, the lo­cal com­mu­nity and the broader global mar­ket­place.

In­no­va­tion – like in­spi­ra­tion – can come from any­where. How­ever it’s most likely to take hold in businesses where it be­comes part of the cul­ture. This can be done in a range of ways, from for­malised in­ter-com­pany shar­ing of project suc­cesses and tech­niques, to en­cour­ag­ing on­line feed­back from cus­tomer com­mu­ni­ties through mon­i­tored chan­nels. The key is that an in­no­va­tive com­pany ac­cepts that it needs to keep chang­ing, and that the best ideas aren’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to come from where you’d ex­pect, and it em­pow­ers ev­ery mem­ber of the team to spark in­spi­ra­tion.

Lo­cal businesses have the po­ten­tial to drive a vast im­prove­ment in our do­mes­tic econ­omy if they are en­cour­aged to fur­ther adopt in­no­va­tion in their busi­ness. It’s some­thing each of us can con­trib­ute to by mak­ing in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments.

For ex­am­ple, there is con­sid­er­able scope to im­prove mar­ket­ing through the use of on­line tech­nolo­gies. Depend­ing on what re­search you read, any­where be­tween two thirds to four fifths of con­sumers will search on­line first when look­ing for a prod­uct or ser­vice, yet nearly half of SMEs don’t have a web­site. This means a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of lo­cal businesses are miss­ing out on sales and mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties sim­ply by not hav­ing an on­line pres­ence.

Many busi­ness own­ers don’t have a solid busi­ness plan and only use their ac­coun­tant for tax com­pli­ance, not re­al­is­ing the po­ten­tial breadth of their ser­vice of­fer­ing. Re­cent MYOB Busi­ness Mon­i­tor re­search found SMEs us­ing an ac­coun­tant for busi­ness ad­vice and strate­gic plan­ning, rather than just tax com­pli­ance, were 31 per cent more likely to see an earn­ings up­lift last year. That’s a strong case to dig a lit­tle deeper and ex­plore the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the re­la­tion­ship.

We know im­prov­ing in­no­va­tion leads to in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and in turn has the po­ten­tial to free up time for busi­ness own­ers to spend more time do­ing what they want. Whether it’s grow­ing or main­tain­ing their busi­ness health, spend­ing time with fam­ily, play­ing golf, vol­un­teer­ing for a char­ity or some­thing else en­tirely. No mat­ter what as­pi­ra­tions they have, most busi­ness own­ers would un­der­stand the ben­e­fits of hav­ing more time in their day. As busi­ness lead­ers, we have a part to play in help­ing sup­port in­no­va­tion within our lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity, wher­ever we might iden­tify it.

Fur­ther, the larger the busi­ness, the higher the rate of in­no­va­tion. So, if we are to im­prove in­no­va­tion we need to en­cour­age mi­cro and small busi­ness to adopt a mind­set of con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment. The smaller the busi­ness, the more likely it is to be solely de­pen­dent on the owner to lead in­no­va­tion. We need to there­fore find new ways to sup­port smaller businesses so they can draw from a wider range of knowl­edge and in­spi­ra­tion.

Part of that role is to en­sure the en­trepreneurs and busi­ness own­ers we work with un­der­stand the re­al­i­ties of de­vel­op­ing a new idea. At the same time, we have an obli­ga­tion to find ways to sup­port the in­no­va­tion we see. We also have a great op­por­tu­nity to help iden­tify where new ideas could make a rad­i­cal dif­fer­ence to the way a busi­ness runs.

Why? Be­cause as a na­tion, we all stand to gain. In­no­va­tors don’t just ben­e­fit them­selves and their share­hold­ers. They cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment in which new con­cepts and tech­nolo­gies can have an enor­mous knock-on ef­fect, cre­at­ing whole new in­dus­tries off the back of a suc­cess­ful idea, or new cat­e­gories a whole sec­tor can de­velop.

If we don’t nur­ture lo­cal, smaller and grow­ing businesses, they won’t be em­ploy­ing people in the months and years ahead. We need to ap­ply much greater fo­cus to mak­ing it eas­ier to run a busi­ness, and to recog­nis­ing and cel­e­brat­ing the in­no­va­tion of our smaller businesses. The enthusiasm, drive and pas­sion of smaller busi­ness own­ers have a much larger fi­nan­cial and emo­tional, di­rect and rip­ple, ef­fect on our econ­omy than many re­alise.

In­no­va­tion doesn’t hap­pen in a void. Now’s the time to talk about what your busi­ness or the com­pany you work for could be do­ing bet­ter. Let’s col­lab­o­rate to take the next steps.

Tim Reed is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Aus­tralia’s largest busi­ness man­age­ment so­lu­tions provider, MYOB. He de­vel­ops and drives the busi­ness’ strate­gic de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing its ex­pan­sion into on­line busi­ness man­age­ment so­lu­tions.

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