Small businesses are known for being on the cutting edge when it comes to innovation. Some are innovative by nature, while others devise unique processes and practices so they can operate efficiently and compete with limited resources. No matter the reason, the most innovative small businesses employ some pretty smart strategies that other businesses would be wise to take a look at — no matter their size.
Your business may be bigger, but you can still adopt the small-business habits of creative thinking and constant improvement. Below, 13 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some of the smartest and most innovative small-business practices any business can benefit from.
1. Offer multi-tiered service options.
Small businesses often have multi-tiered options to appeal to a wide range of potential clients. This tactic increases income potential by appealing to a larger audience than business models that solely offer products and services at a premium price point. – Indya Wright, Artiste House
2. Tap into the latest tech trends.
I have two recommendations. Businesses of all sizes should be educating themselves on branding with nonfungible tokens and smart contracts. The metaverse is very important when building a brand and staying relevant, especially in 2022. And leaders should stay active on social media. Post an article on LinkedIn twice a week, and post a video on TikTok once a month so that current and potential customers can connect to the leader of the company. – Troy Andrews, Brand Inception
3. Empower your people.
Allow team members at lower levels of the organization more authority so that you can move quickly and make decisions with more accurate information. By not having to have committee meetings, your people will have better job satisfaction and will be able to provide better service to your clients because they feel valued and empowered. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting
4. Strive to predict trends and make quick decisions.
Fast-paced decision-making is something that small businesses practice in order to improve competitiveness. Getting ahead of the game, predicting trends and making the decision to implement them is crucial to staying relevant. This requires quick thinking and reactivity to change as opposed to waiting around and falling behind. – Shikha Jain, Simon-Kucher & Partners
5. Pay attention to your employees.
Don’t ignore your employees. They are not machines that will work forever without recognition. Employees need regular attention to perform at their peak — some may need attention to keep them from starting trouble. One very good business manager advises keeping Hershey’s Kisses handy. Every once in a while, leave one on each employee’s desk or workstation. It sounds silly, but it works! – Phil Glasscock, Guidant Law, PLC
6. Relieve work burdens through outsourcing.
Outsource your non-core competencies. All too often — and small businesses are guilty of this, too — each employee wears one too many hats out of necessity. But necessity doesn’t mean excellence (let alone competency, in some cases). Areas that can be outsourced include HR, payroll/finance, marketing and legal, depending on your business. This will lead to significant savings and better results. – Rodger Roeser, The Eisen Agency
7. Celebrate excellence.
Celebrate excellence continually. Each quarter, circulate a list of your new clients to employees; get them jazzed up about your momentum. When an employee has gone above and beyond the call of duty, recognize that individual with an email to all staff, and then give that individual something extra, such as a small bonus, gift card or lunch with the manager/CEO. – Jay Atkinson, AIS Network
8. Regularly review your systems for efficiency.
Examine your technology, applications and communications on a quarterly basis. As a growing firm, we are constantly reviewing platforms that create cohesive user experiences so we can work smarter, not harder. Being willing to take a critical look at the technology systems we have in place, the emerging tools that come to light, and what the cost (especially in time and money) of implementation would be serves us well. – Liz Wooten-Reschke, Connect For More
9. Offer real human support.
Responding to customer needs quickly is a no-fail best practice. At PennComp, real live, local humans answer every phone call. There is no automated phone tree recording, where clients elect choices to be routed to voicemails and inevitably get frustrated. The personal touch of human contact is a best practice for any size business. – Scott Young, PennComp Outsourced IT
10. Learn to pivot quickly.
Smaller companies can make changes and redirect their focuses pretty rapidly if they need to, while it may take more time and “red tape” for larger organizations to shift directions. Covid taught us that this inertia can be detrimental to a business. Creating example scenarios and talking through ways to address and pivot can prepare even larger teams for unexpected scenarios. – Messina Truttman, Beck Flavors
11. Engage with customers to discover their real needs.
Small businesses can engage in local community activities and provide services that are specific to their community since they know the specific needs of their customers. This can give a competitive advantage to the small businesses that know the direct needs of local customers and can fulfill them. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
12. Always stay connected to your ‘why.’
Stay true to your main reason for being in business. As they grow and become larger, companies tend to lose sight of where they came from and what was originally important in developing the business. Losing the “why” of your business triggers many negative actions that muddy the waters of your success. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
13. Keep up with environmental scanning.
Environmental scanning is the ongoing tracking of trends, occurrences and changes in the business environment. This practice of continually monitoring, gathering and analyzing information helps a business keep a finger on the pulse of the marketplace and proactively identify opportunities or prepare for challenges. Environmental scanning should be conducted by businesses of all sizes. – Andrew Branoff, AIC