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Opinion: Intentional innovation prepares for tough times

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Is anyone else tired of waiting for the arrivals of spring and the economic recovery?

For crying out loud, just a few days ago I slipped on the ice on my back porch and fell on my backside.

Many businesses have been running hard during the past 30 months with the feeling they have yet to gain traction.

While we can’t control the weather or the economy, history tells us sunnier days are ahead. The key is to be as prepared as possible to meet those new demands.

Peter Drucker said, “Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service. It is capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practiced. Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation.”

Here are three ways for small-business owners to intentionally seek innovation.

Bolster skills
It is important to continue strengthening skills and knowledge. The Urban Districts Alliance and the city of Springfield will host a series of free small-business education sessions designed to bolster management skills. Topics during the next three months will include social media strategies, business plan development, financing alternatives, workforce resources and a roundtable discussion with experienced entrepreneurs (see www.itsalldowntown.com for a full schedule of sessions).

Empower employees
Managers have to learn to “let go” and encourage all employees to offer suggestions on ways to improve efficiencies or respond to customers’ needs. Emphasizing the value of every employee’s contribution and incentivizing new ideas have yielded impressive results for Staxx, Springfield Business Journal, Professional Massage Therapy Clinic and the hundreds of companies who subscribe to the Great Game of Business philosophy. Engaged employees will have a much greater stake in the outcome and view the company’s financial success as their own.

Network for success
Joining merchant associations and professional organizations should be a priority for any small business or company. These organizations provide managers with a network of colleagues to call on when new challenges emerge. It also provides access to the current trends or issues that can give the business an opportunity to respond quicker than its competition. Finally, sharing information on member businesses often results in strong referrals and new customers.

Innovation is intentional. Skills must be constantly cultivated. Employees need to be empowered to be integral contributors, and networking should create new collaborations. Businesses cannot wait for seasons to change.

Rusty Worley, executive director of Urban Districts Alliance, can be reached at rusty@itsalldowntown.com.[[In-content Ad]]

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