No matter where you’re coming from or how you look at it, change can be scary.
And even more so if it’s your small business that needs to change, and your livelihood depends on it.
While more SMEs are starting to embrace technology and innovation, particularly on the back of Malcolm Turnbull’s $1.1b innovation package, there’s still a way to go if small business owners don’t want to be left behind.
“In today’s global economy, innovating and embracing change is no longer an option,” he said.
“In my career, I’ve learned that change either happens to you, or through you. It’s better to participate or lead than to be left behind.
“Innovation must also spring from the ground up, being nurtured by entrepreneurs and small business owners across the nation. In fact, changes in the global marketplace, fuelled in part by the move to the cloud, are creating new opportunities for small businesses around the world.”
Smith said one of the biggest barriers to innovation was the intimidation factor.
“Small business owners often think about innovation as the latest technology coming from Silicon Valley or something only large companies can afford to focus on,” he said.
“But innovation starts with adopting a mindset -- no matter how large or small your business is. It can be as simple as finding an easier way to do work on your computer, setting up your phone to alert you to complete a task, or finding and solving a customer’s problem.”
He said Intuit, a global software company, started as a small business at a kitchen table in 1983.
“Our founder sought a better way to balance the family cheque book,” Smith said.
“Today, we’ve grown to a company with 7700 entrepreneurs around the world (and) during that time, we’ve retained that creative spirit and learned that innovation isn’t catching lightning in a bottle; it’s something that can be taught, learned and sustained to build competitive advantage.”
Inspired by Intuit’s foundation for innovation culture, Design for Delight, here are three ways Smith believes small business can innovate and succeed.
Know your customer
Establish deep empathy for your customers. Learn what they need and the problem they’re trying to solve. Don’t simply talk to them or rely on a survey. Observe them -- put yourself in their shoes.
“At Intuit, we visit customers more than 10,000 times a year to develop relationships and uncover insights that help them exceed their expectations,” Smith said.
Once you’ve focused on an idea or solution, bring it to life quickly and test it with customers. Don’t spend further time or effort without getting their feedback; they’ll quickly let you know whether you’re on the right track.
Be open to their thoughts, and willing to change direction, or pivot as necessary.
Don’t fear failure
Smith said failure comes with the territory.
“You’ll fall down and scrape your knees a few times, but you’ll learn more from your failures than your successes,” he said.
Smith advised to call it an experiment -- that way you can’t fail. And the new innovation statement makes recovery easier for those who stumble.
“Today’s world demands that innovation must become a priority for both nations and small businesses,” he said.
“The successful small business of the future will recognise the need to embrace innovation and the change that comes with it.”