Innovation in Small Businesses

Innovation in Small Businesses

Innovation is a topic that comes up often with our clients. Clients express that they are  worried about their level of innovation and how they could possibly be more successful if they were to ignite a massive change.

Most often, we hear about innovations that involve a disruptive technology or new business model. But, I would like to encourage small business and creative firms to remember that real innovation does not have to be disruptive. As Michelle DeStefano explains, there are two types of innovation: disruptive and TNT.

Disruptive innovation is what you most commonly hear about. Platforms such as Airbnb and Netflix are very popular in their industries for breaking out of the mold the way they did.

The other form of innovation is the one that interests me more. TNT (tiny noticeable thing) innovation is not just blowing something up, rather it is the tiny yet noticeable changes that make all the difference.

What do we mean by that?

Many times businesses need to innovate internally. Perhaps they need to do something that is more efficient in terms of time management or more cost-effective in terms of saving money. TNT innovation can even be the use of existing technology or business models in order to more effectively to deliver a service to your customers.

I truly believe that is where most small business owners can advance their operations. They can make their business a little better by focusing on something small, but making the change that becomes tangible.

Let’s look at an example. Many of the businesses that I work with use a form template for their contracts. These basic templates are changed as necessary in order to send out each proposal or contract. One of the most difficult things to deal with in these forms is to make sure you change all data elements you need to change in the entirety of the document.

One of the inevitable things that happens is that generic terms get used. Instead of stating the name of the company. The document just says “company.” The client will also be referred generically to as “client” instead of their name. It may sound silly, and it may sound small, but if you start referring to a client with a personalized name, it makes them feel a little more welcome. While you can use a simple “find and replace” tool in your word processor, there are better tools. We personally use one called FormTool* that allows us to customize documents and templates seamlessly. There are many document assembly programs out there and it can be a bit of a game changer for your document preparation because it can be faster and more personalized. Something as simple as using one of these tools allows clients to customize something for their customers.

People think of a contract as a tiny thing, when in reality the contract forms the basis of your entire relationship with your customers. It is the one document that you send out to every customer that represents who you are. If you want to be a welcoming and engaged service provider, doing something as simple as naming the company throughout the contract creates a feeling of partnership and collaboration, rather than simply having a generic document.

I realize that clients who are reading this may feel a little “do as I say not as I do” because I have looked at my own contracts and I admit I need to do better. But, it is the small, tiny noticeable things that can improve your business and make it better. That is as much an innovation, particularly if it gets you more paying customers. If it gets you good quality customers, that tiny noticeable thing can be just as innovative in your company as the big disruptive technology.

* While we endorse the FormTool as a product, we don’t get any benefits nor any payment for the endorsement. In fact, FormTool probably won’t know we are saying this.