So, what are the different ways we can look at implementing innovation in a small business?
I don’t think it needs to take a huge amount of time up, but it’s a lot of using your existing communication channels with your team. You may have a weekly WIP as we call them, like a week in progress session or you may have drinks together on a Friday night. Whatever form you’re currently using within your team, bring up the word innovation and help people understand what it is and why it might benefit them or how you actually are looking to implement it in your business. I think sometimes employees might see that the only reason why a company wants to innovate is to make the processes faster which then might actually risk them not having their job, and that’s not true. It’s actually about inspiring them to use their time better and helping them be the best they can be in terms of their skills and capacity at work. It’s giving people back time to live a full life.
I guess my question then is where do we start? We’ve talked about a lot of different things with innovation, a small business owner that hasn’t done a lot of these, where do I start? How do I get this moving?
In terms of getting it moving, you need to be a leader that’s open to it. I also think there’s a key to find a little champion and a fit innovation within your team. There may be someone a little bit more open minded, a little bit less set in their ways and also has a little bit more interest in going beyond the normal and find that innovation champion within your team and have regular dialogue with them. It doesn’t need to be super structured, it doesn’t need to take a lot of time, but have regular dialogue with them or make it possible for team members in your business to chat to that person about, could we be doing this better? I’ve seen this system or a friend of mine is actually using this great software. It’s quite cost effective to implement, should we try it here?
For me, once you’ve actually found that champion in terms of implanting with your team, it’s so important to get that return on investment. If you’re bringing innovation to your business, make sure that you’re tracking its success. And that gain doesn’t need to take a huge amount of time but it’s around rolling it out with training, using the tools to their full potential and making sure that everyone is using it consistently if you’re rolling out a piece of software for example. Definitely find a champion and use your internal communications to make sure everybody is on board.
We have a bit of a rule at Struber which is, if someone knows about something seven times through various mechanisms, they’re finally on board with it. So, if you’re innovating, keep communicating that over and over for at least seven times to help everybody understand you’re taking it seriously.
There’s a lot of technology around these days, you’ve already mentioned four or five different apps and tools and software platforms that you might use. How do we choose the right one and make sure it’s the right one for our business?
I think as small businesses we need to talk to each other and share information and share IP. We often go to different online sites and sort of review systems. We also do a lot of trialing. If we’re looking at a piece of software or an app, we actually contact that developer and speak to them and get a trial or get a demonstration done to truly understand if it meets our needs. There are also really good things when you’re just wanting to start small, the App Store review process is actually a really good one. So, if it’s a highly rated app and then read the comments and actually start to understand that the App Store is very clever, regularly they put out reviews and also start to sort of show you the top 10 for that time period. So, if you’re chasing a new business system, sometimes you can actually get it through the app on your App Store.
We can use technology as well to motivate staff members, tell us a little bit about what you’re doing there.
We use a platform which we absolutely love called 15Five and that’s about us basically tracking performance and reward and recognising our staff around living our values. And like I said, one of our values is a Digivation, and so we really want people regularly trying new things. So, they’re able to give each other a high five. They’re able to comment on each other’s performance, and we’re also able to see how people are going in achieving that objective for the business. So that’s a really good collaboration.
My favourite one that we’re really loving and using at the moment is just Microsoft Teams, which is an extension that’s available if you’ve got that licence. It’s really, really fun seeing everybody sharing information, providing the right files and assets, things that can get lost in your internal file structures systems are all now accessible and available to people which again, makes everyone smarter, faster, more aware of what’s going on in your business and making sure that newcomers to your business are across all this fabulous history that you might have.
And we actually use Teams in our office as well, so I’ve seen it grow very quickly. There’s lots of new functions, but also, we’ve got younger people working in our office who absolutely love it, they live on it.
I know, it can get a bit addictive I must admit. I think the convenient thing is we talk about stakeholder engagement in our discipline and it’s about communicating with people when and where they want in a way that matters to them, and teams does that. You can jump on whenever it suits you and really get across that particular topic within the business and have all the fabulous social media features of commenting and liking, et cetera. But we’ve got plugged into things like our Dropbox system, the websites of particular projects that we’re working on. And everything is like a beautiful intranet dashboard without the cost, so yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
So, Julie, what’s your biggest tip when it comes to innovation for small business owners?
I think for me is making innovation part of your culture. You really can’t have innovation sitting separately. I think a lot of big organisations, this is where SMEs have got the edge is, we’re able to make innovation part of how we work and how we function, or as a big organisation sometimes has an innovation team sort of tacked on to their core business.
If you can make innovation something that your team is excited about, if you’re recruiting people and reminding them that you’re not going for average, you want to be better than everybody else, you’ll start to find the right players with the right passion and enthusiasm for doing things better and different. And it will just start to become part of your way of life and I think that’s the most exciting thing for SMEs in Australia is we really can be different, and we should foster cultures where we encourage being better every day.