This month I continue the theme of innovation in business. Below is part two of an article by Andrew Waldeck and Renee Hopkins. The article appeared on the Forbes website (http://www.forbes.com).
Innovation Lessons From Small Business, continued
At a local trade show some time later, John was taken by new technology that would provide remote monitoring services at a much lower cost than the systems deployed in the large pool installations. Recognizing this enabling technology, John developed an entirely new business model for his customers. He purchased a limited number of the devices and then offered monitoring to a group of small to mid-sized pool owners as a service. Overnight, this entrepreneur evolved his business model from a fee-for-service model to a leasing business.
However, John did not consider this change to his business model to be highly innovative for his field. When asked about the innovation, John explained he felt the decision to expand into leasing equipment was an easy one. He didn’t need a business plan to evaluate this innovation. He pointed out that, in fact, he hasn’t had a plan for a number of years. He started out with a business plan but stopped updating it years ago. He said, “I know in my mind by how much I want to grow and what I need to accomplish each month at achieve my target.”
What John didn’t realize is that he does in fact have all the elements of a business plan. Instead of the annual, stagnant planning process that characterizes many large businesses, John and other small-business owners have clear metrics, a clear direction and the ability to change course immediately if they need to.
There are lessons here for small-business owners. Small companies should realize that their close customer connection provides a great springboard for innovation. The small businesses we talked to were incredibly market-connected. To them, a customer problem is an opportunity to sell that customer another solution. They are responsive, iterative and flexible.
To be continued next month…
President & CEO