Innovate… or Else
Innovation: A warm embrace or death grip for survival?
Faced with the rapid adoption of digital signatures, Check 21 and other advances that negated the exchange of paper documents, Dallas-based CitySprint evolved to cultivate a new customer that still needed reliable, professional courier service. In this article, CitySprint CEO shares her insights for other business owners faced with the same challenges.
Innovation. Sure, it’s a great concept in theory, but let’s face it. It can be uncomfortable to start doing things a new way or create new processes for a team that has grown comfortable and effective in the old model. However, there can be tectonic shifts in the marketplace that cause a business owner to embrace innovation. They may see the need to move quickly either to seize a new business opportunity or leap into a new endeavor just to survive. Regardless, here are some best practices on keeping innovation top of mind and grow your business.
Pay Attention to Clues
Our world is filled with ways to provide greater value for others. In CitySprint’s case, it started with a need for professional looking couriers. “Why don’t my couriers look like you?” was a question posed by an initial client of the company. There was a need in the market for professional, well kept, friendly couriers to handle sensitive banking and legal documents. This need led to the founding of CitySprint, and it is a competitive advantage the company still offers today.
Outsource Non Mission-Critical Tasks
Many entrepreneurs try to be the chief cook, bottle washer and janitor, but what are their core strengths? What routine tasks can be outsourced to employees who will be able to execute the non mission-critical tasks much more efficiently? CitySprint worked to consolidate the back office operations of several different courier services, which led to a huge savings overall. In addition, bringing in team members with varied skill sets can add to the collective knowledge base in ways you may not realize. Ideas can flow freely, and your time can stay focused on tasks that grow the business and develop the talent pool to take the company to the next level.
Be Committed to Training
As you learn new ways to operate, ensure the entire team is cross-trained. Even though each individual contributes their core strength to the company, ensuring they are trained on a variety of the business operations will give them visibility into the complexity of their fellow team members’ roles. Cross training also ensure consistency across the different team members, as well as provides back up resources in case a team member has to be away for a brief or extended period of time. A good rule of thumb is to ensure every position is trained three deep with at least three people being able to assume that role’s responsibilities at a given time.
Collaborate With Clients
Customers may or may not have an idea of what they need next. When you are an actual partner with your client, you can sit down with them to discuss their challenges and come up with innovative ways to address them together. Often just hearing the client’s issue from their perspective can open up a whole new world for your long term relationship. Often, most business process issues can be resolved either through technology or implementing redundancy to help mitigate any human error issues. Together, the client and CitySprint came up with a third solution, and often, it is that collaboration that helps strengthen the client relationship for the long haul.
Never Accept Status Quo
For a business to grow over the long haul, leadership constantly needs to challenge the status quo. What can be done better, faster or cheaper? Are there new technologies that could alleviate the burden on your team or provide better service to customers? When an issue arises, view it as a gift to show you a new area where you can grow and improve. Mastering the art of incremental improvement can be a huge competitive advantage over time.
Embrace the Lead Role
When a company enters a new niche or develops an entirely new product, it can feel a bit lonely. Competitive analysis can be a very fast job because there simply are no competitors… yet. If your customers are embracing the new innovations, continue to innovate and own that specific niche. When in doubt, remember Apple. There was no market for touchscreen phones or tablets until they invented one. CitySprint embraced the media courier service niche very early. Competitors have followed, but CitySprint credibly can claim experience and innovation in that space.
Whether a loving, warm embrace or a death grip to survive, building a culture of continuous innovation will benefit you and your team as you grow and thrive.