Create A Culture Of Innovation At Your Small Business

Innovation might not be at the top of the list of priorities when you are setting up a new small business. But considering what is happening in larger companies like Google, you might want to reconsider and move “innovation” on to the list of top priorities. Google is shifting the way that they do business and that shift can give small businesses ideas on how to modify their own business models.
Here are a few ideas on how you can create a culture of innovation at your small business.

Change your environment

This is probably the best place to start in creating a culture of innovation at your small business. Environment plays a huge role in promoting a culture of innovation. There are numerous firms out there that specialize in creating office environments that foster creativity. Take a look at Google’s office complex or the offices of advertising agency Chiat Day. If you haven’t yet received your invitation to tour either of those offices, you can take a look at photos of Google here and of Chiat Day here.

Now, Google and Chiat Day had a budget of millions to work with to invest in creating their space. But there are things that you can do within your own space that won’t break the bank. Consider ditching the beige and gray cubicle layout for something that reflects the values of your own brand. Make the environment more warm, more inviting and more fun. Small changes can have a big impact on moving toward creating your own culture of innovation within your small business.

 Search for the renegades

As we’ve previously covered in other articles, the success of your small business lies with the first ten people you bring on board. We’ve also discussed that the rebels out there can be instrumental in unleashing a whole culture of innovation for your small business. Be selective when it comes to bringing in the ones that are going to be the face of your business. And always be on the lookout for the ones that have the ability to shake things up from time to time and shed a new perspective on doing things.

Become friends with influential people

Another great way to create a culture of innovation in your small business is to become friendly with other like minded organisations. After all, two heads are better than one. But don’t stop there. Become friendly with some of the big players like there. Larger companies are always on the lookout for new innovative ideas and businesses that they can add to their portfolio. And one of those could be your small business. Many larger companies are partnering with small businesses to compensate for any areas where they might not be as strong. Be sure that the fit is mutually beneficial, and that way every party is happy. That should be a good incentive to set up your own culture of innovation within your small business. Happy innovating!

Unleash the rebels in your small business

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Un_Standard is all about individuality. Our motto is to stand out by not blending in. And it takes a certain amount of rebelliousness in order to fully live by this manifesto. It’s good to shake things up from time to time. Those who disagree with the status quo can often see the future more clearly. And innovation is something that we are passionate about. After all, if there weren’t anyone around to challenge the status quo, we’d still be living in caves.

There are rebels among us in the small business world. And they are truly an asset to have. I’m not talking about the rebels without a cause or the ones that are willing to cross the line into being unproductive or doing anything illegal. But ones that can challenge the existing structure and propose a new and improved way to do things are the ones that we are talking about, and the ones to actively seek out for your small business.

Companies that fail to nurture creative opposition can find themselves behind the curve when it comes to innovation and remaining competitive. Rebels can serve as a catalyst for innovation. So when it comes time to make sone hires for your small business, be sure to be on the lookout for those agents of change. Those ones that are able to be creative and visionary enough to be able to shatter outdated policies and practices. Some larger organizations have even hired what they refer to as internal disruption units that can drive innovation. Just be sure to steer clear of management consultants that don’t fit the bill.

So what can you do as a small business to nurture this sort of rebel? There are a few things that you can do to make sure you give those rebels room to work their magic. Unleash the rebels in your small business to unlock their innovation and make your small business more competitive.

Create the right attitude for the organization

We’re not talking about forming committees or anything like that. We’re talking about tolerating those who might push against the status quo and let them feel as if there won’t be any fear of retaliation or discrimination. Factor in room for opposing voices when trying to launch new initiatives. Listen, and then learn.

Keep the opposition consistent

Many small business owners might read a book on inclusiveness and think that the best way to tackle resistance is to encourage participation. But opposition is ongoing, and should be welcomed and not tried to be silenced. Alignment is a moving target.

Creative opposition can raise the accountability of every employee within your organization. And your employees are your greatest asset. Make sure that your rebels have space to operate, feel like they are close and are immensely creative.

traits of a great leader

What Makes A Great Leader

Soar to the heights of a great leader

Not everyone is born to be an entrepreneur, or to lead. If we were all born to lead, then there would be nobody left to follow. But anyway, great leaders tend to have certain characteristics that set them apart from the herd. Personality traits, that can often times be misinterpreted as weaknesses, but when properly channeled can signify the spark of an entrepreneur.

Are you easily bored? Perhaps the reason for that is that you’ve chewed through activities that aren’t up to your abilities and don’t present themselves as a challenge. This is generally one of the indicators early in life that a budding entrepreneur is coming into their own. Great minds need to be challenged, and when a great mind is placed amongst those that don’t measure up, then boredom sets in.

Constantly questioning the status quo? Remember, the status quo is for the common folk. Who wants to be average when you can be exceptional? If you think that it doesn’t make sense to keep doing things the same way over and over just because that’s the way they’ve always been done without explanation, then you have the power to change things. Or at least upset the status quo from time to time. You don’t get ahead by following the pack. Greatness lies outside of the lines of conformity.

Do you realize that you’re a bit different from everyone else? This can be the motivation that you need to acknowledge the entrepreneur in you just dying to get out.  Rebelling against the norm is a normal pattern in your life. It’s good to channel that sense of rebellion into a company and start innovating.

Always trying to make improvements on everything around you? Opinionated and always willing to offer your perspective on things, you constantly see ways to make things better. Here’s a perfect opportunity to channel that spirit in developing a product that improves the lives of those around you. Or better yet, expand into improving the lives of people on the other side of the planet.

Can’t switch off at night? Do you lie in bed trying to get some seriously needed sleep, but can’t quite switch off and drift into blissful slumber? Do those voices keep telling you about the next great idea that you need to start to work on in the morning? There’s just too much energy to burn to switch off and relax.

Depending on how you look at it, any of those traits could be thought of as a weakness. And it’s important to understand where your weaknesses lie as an individual. Understanding weak areas is in fact a strength. You don’t always lead with your strengths, but with your weaknesses. Make those weaknesses benefit your leadership style, and then you’ll come across as authentic.  Get those people in around you to compliment  your strong areas and fill in the gaps of where you are weak, and then you have the start of building a winning team.

Essential Sales Lead Tools For Small Businesses

Sales lead tools can be invaluable to a business. But many small businesses don’t have the money available to spend on these sorts of tools that larger businesses have. But that doesn’t mean that essential sales lead tools aren’t available for small businesses.
We’ll take a look at three tools that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and they aren’t LinkedIn or Facebook (not that there’s anything wrong with LinkedIn and Facebook. They’re both great resources for small and big businesses alike).

Jigsaw

Jigsaw is owned by salesforce.com and combines social media and lead generation. Businesses can earn points for adding contacts into the Jigsaw database. And those points work like frequent flyer miles, where they can be used to get free contacts. Subscriptions to this service start around $250 per year, but it’s free to earn contacts by sharing contacts.

ZoomInfo Community

ZoomInfo gives users access to a database of 60 million business contacts. That’s a whole lot of contacts to mine! The free edition asks for your contacts in exchange. There’s a plethora of plugins that link with Outlook or Google Apps, which makes this a very easy resource to use. You can even export the contacts that you get into a CRM system like Salesforce or Capsule.

Lead411

Lead411 offers users a simple searchable database of contacts at the reasonable rate of around $30 a month. You can gain access to more contact by upgrading your subscription.

The Small Business Mentors Every Business Owner Should Have

Running a small business can be very rewarding. It can also be one of the biggest challenges that you face in life. You don’t always have the same resources available to you when you had your cushy job in corporate America. But now you’re doing things on your own. It can be very lonely sometimes, as it seems as if there is nobody to turn to for advice. And that’s where mentors come in handy.
Every small business owner should have a small business mentor around to call on every now and again. They’re great for bouncing ideas off of and asking for advice, and are essential to the success of a small business.

I’ve been lucky to have a couple of small business mentors over the years. They’ve come from many different backgrounds, which is good because they offer a wide spectrum of viewpoints. Despite all of the challenges of running a business, the advice received from my mentors has been the biggest constant in my career.

Don’t have any small business mentors? Actually, they’re all around you. Here are some ideas of places to look for your mentors.

A friend from way back

A friend who knew you before you even knew what a startup was is a great way to stay grounded. They can speak to your roots and help you when you get lost in the haze of your small business. They’re great for reminding you to slow down and enjoy life. They remind you to live the life that you want while doing what you love. And no entrepreneur should ever lose sight of that.

A colleague

Having regular get togethers with people who are in a similar stage of development is a great thing to have. They can give you the sense that you’re not alone and can be willing to lend an ear when the going gets rough. The relationship is mutual, because you would do the same for them.

A colleague that is difficult to work with

Part of being an entrepreneur is crafting your business idea and selling it to the world, whether its customers or investors. You need to have that ability to sell. And who better to fine tune that selling ability than someone that you don’t naturally get along with.

A colleague with a contrasting skill set to yours

It’s important to attack a situation from every angle. So why on earth would you only want to surround yourself with only one type of person? Get those opposing viewpoints. Get those different perspectives. It will help you refine your business and your bottom line.

A recent friend who knows you as an entrepreneur

Try and schedule regular get togethers with someone who knows your entrepreneurial self, and nothing else. They’re good for getting down to business and pushing you forward. They’ll have a good grasp on your business style and can really be great for inspiring you to go forward.

Beware The Energy Suckers

We’ve all encountered the energy sucker at some point in our lives. They’re the ones that seem to suck the life out of a room the moment they step through the door. They’re the ones that you feel as if you need to prepare yourself when you’re forced to interact with them. And they can be devastating to the life of your small business if you have one on your payroll.

It’s amazing just how many small business owners can be held captive by the energy suckers. These creatures can actually seem to be very productive on the surface. They can be the star salesman (or woman) on the team. But often times they achieve their numbers through mind games, creating an internal “us-versus-them” situation. And that can be detrimental to the life of a small business.

These energy vampires can drive away the talent that you actually need to run a successful small business. They chase away the talent that you need, and ironically you end up relying on them even more as your business progresses.

So why don’t you just get rid of the energy sucker? Often times, small business owners tend to rationalize their existence. Other times, they might be hard to identify. Here’s a few warning signs that a member of your team is actually an energy vampire and should be set free to haunt another small business. Preferably one of your competitors.

There’s always a problem

It doesn’t have to be the same problem each time. It can be different each time, but it seems as if you are spending a disproportionate amount of time on their issues compared to the rest of your team.

There seems to be a black cloud permanently hanging over their desk

There could be that one individual with that “us versus them” mentality that is slowly damaging the delicate fabric that stitches your organization together. They constantly bicker and complain, causing your employees to focus on the bad rather than the good.

They follow you home in your mind

There you are, trying to relax over the weekend. But you can’t because the image of your energy sucker keeps popping up in your mind.  You try to switch off, but it’s no use. When a difficult employee is haunting your personal life, it’s time for them to hit the road.

Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts when it comes to setting your energy sucker free. Your gut instinct will tell you that it’s time for this person to go.  You’ll know the difference between those employees that are just having a bad day to those energy suckers. Your business will thank you for it in the long run.

entrepreneurial advice

Some Good Entrepreneurial Advice

Stepping away from the security of a corporate job to set up a small business is not an easy task. Some things seem to fall into place, but often times things don’t always go as planned. Nobody ever said that it was going to be easy. But it can be one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have. Here’s some good entrepreneurial advice to those who have set up their own small businesses.

It’s going to take longer than you think

Running a small business is certainly not for the faint of heart. Everywhere you turn it seems as if there is another overnight success. Business coaches tout their multi-million dollar businesses that they started in their kitchen and claim to spend about 5 hours of work on. In reality, they neglect to mention the years and years of blood, sweat and tears that it took to achieve a certain level of success. Building a company takes years. It causes grey hairs. And it brings up a whole lot of self doubt.

Perseverance is the name of the game when it comes to starting and running a small business. It’s a rare trait that entrepreneurs possess. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought that I’ve run into a brick wall, exhausted all of my options and run myself into the ground. I’ve shelved my business idea a couple of times only to pick it back up, dust it off, make some adjustments and then start to run with it. If you truly are an entrepreneur, then everything will eventually fall into place. It’s like the old saying goes, every “no” that you hear brings you that much closer to a “yes”.

It’s lonely going at it all by yourself

Bringing people on board is a great thing. Their strengths can fill in the gaps of your weaknesses and helps to keep things going when the going gets tough. But it’s critical to bring the right people on board. Getting the mix wrong can have a devastating effect on your small business. A close friend can be a great place to look. But make sure that you both share a common vision, have common goals, have a good working relationship and are both willing to give it a go. You’re going to be spending more time with this person than you will with your own family, so make sure you select wisely.

Keep it simple

It’s easy to reach for the stars as an entrepreneur. It’s not hard to get swept up in the rapture of how your business idea is going to change the world. Your mind seems to go a mile a minute. The problem is when you encounter a mere mortal (i.e., everybody else) and try to communicate. You don’t speak the same language. Don’t expect the mere mortal to be as excited about the details of your idea as you are. Remember one thing. Keep it simple so that your audience gets it.

And be sure to hold on to that simplicity. Make sure that it is present in every aspect of your company. Keep your marketing simple. Simple enough so that your customers understand exactly what your business is all about. Make sure that your business planing is simple. How does the business make money? Make sure that your products are simple. Keeping things simple will multiply your businesses chances of success.

making mistakes

Failure Isn’t Necessarily A Bad Thing

Failing from time to time isn’t always bad.

What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger.

Running your own business can be a rewarding as well as challenging experience. The rewards can be great, and setbacks can be devastating. But encountering failures from time to time in business isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having a few missteps along the way is one indicator of innovation. If you haven’t gotten your fingers burned a few times, then you aren’t challenging yourself. A mistake can’t be labeled as a mistake if you’ve learned a valuable lesson from them.

As an entrepreneur, you want to take risks, but there are ways to manage the downside to offset the implications if those risks go wrong. You don’t really learn from successes, but failures can teach you some valuable lessons. Along the way, you learn what works and what doesn’t work. And going forward, you can apply those valuable lessons learned to make your business stronger. Experience is an amazing teacher.

Failure can have an adverse effect upon morale. As long as you keep a positive attitude toward failure and not let it consume you, then you have the right attitude toward setbacks and a willingness to learn from them.  Some of the world’s greatest innovators had missteps early on, and learned valuable lessons along the way.

Remember, when you are truly innovative, you will have a lot of naysayers standing in your way. You mustn’t be worries about what people will say about you. It’s up to the entrepreneur to take those risks and move society forward. The future is yours, and don’t forget it. Happy exploring!

How to Write a Business Plan in Thirty Minutes

When planning a business, there’s quite a bit to take in to consideration. And, there are plenty of variables that can drastically alter your business model. One of the key things that Un_Standard recommends in the early stages of business planning is to do a brain dump and get the first business model on paper in about a half an hour. It is highly likely that “plan A” will turn out to not be feasible, so it is important to have a plan b, a plan c and a plan d. Never waste six months in trying to prove that your Plan A isn’t feasible. It is crucial to test out all of your business scenarios until you find the one that works.

In this initial brain dump, be sure to summarize the following important points:

  • Who are your customers? What do you know about them? Gain as much knowledge about your customers and get inside their minds. Figure out what makes them tick.
  • What is your company’s unique value proposition? What sets you apart from your competition and worthy of gaining the attention of your most valuable resource, your customers?
  • Now that you’ve figured out your target audience and what sets you apart from the competition, now comes the tricky part. How will your business deliver your unique value proposition to your target customers?

Once you’ve built this basic planning model, spin it a couple of ways. Try to introduce different scenarios in your solutions to see what comes up. Because, for anyone who has ever planned a business, you would know that it is wise to expect the unexpected. Be sure to cover as much ground as possible, because you never know what curveball that the market will toss to you. The more you plan upfront, the more resilient and robust your business will be down the road.

When planning your business in the early stages, the best business ideas come from personal experience. Your next business idea can come from an issue you’ve wrestled with first hand. Chances are, there are other people wrestling with the same problem. And if you can come up with an innovative solution to that problem, then you’ve got a captive audience for your business launch.