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
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.