How to be innovative in SMBs

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Innovation. It’s a word we’ve been hearing a lot about, especially in the last year. How Australia needs more innovation, how if businesses don’t innovate they will be left behind. Even the Government has gotten onboard with innovation grants being announced. But how as a small business owner do you generate innovation?

Adding time to work on innovation in and the hours needed to look into and apply for an innovation grant can sometimes seem unachievable. Especially amongst everything else small business owners do; working in the business, accounts and payroll, staff hiring and training, marketing and sales and everything else that fills our busy calendar. The thought of adding more hours to the work week to keep up with all the innovation talk and movements of our industries is certainly difficult. So how do we create a culture of innovation in our small businesses?

innovation is about improving a new method, idea or product

What I’m talking about here is some real practicalities that can be done to generate constant improvement in our businesses. Ultimately improving the customer experience which is why many of us set out to run our own business. Innovating in small business is very different to innovating in big business. Namely because most small businesses don’t have the funds, people, resources and ability to have constant meetings and strategy planning like large businesses.

By definition, innovation is about the action or process of improving a new method, idea, product etc. It is essentially doing action to improve a service or product for the customer. If there is one thing small business owners are great at, it’s action. The other advantage is that most small business owners still have is their finger on the pulse. That is, they are connected with their customers whether that be servicing them, talking to them or sending products to them. These already existent traits in the small business world put us in the prime seat to innovate.

How to inject innovation into a small business

One of the best ways to help continually improve and innovate our small business is from our team. Once a month, everyone in our team has to submit an innovation idea of the month. We’ve found this works best when we keep it simple. It’s not about innovating our whole business or creating something from these ideas that will become the world’s next best thing. It’s about getting everyone to be constantly thinking about improvement. By getting our team to come up with an innovation idea, they are on the look out for ways to improve our business whilst also giving them a feel of ownership on their ideas.

We run a Physiotherapy business and whilst I still treat patients, much of my week is taken up with the activities of running a small business. The reality is I need to rely on my team to communicate to me about what is happening with our customers, as small business owners simply cannot serve them all. What our once a month innovation idea does is help know what our team is seeing that can help improve our business.

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Ryan Ebert
Ryan is a Melbourne based small business owner, Physiotherapist and entrepreneur. Named twice in Australia’s top 30 Entrepreneurs under 30. Ryan is Director and co-founder of Healthlogic and Director & Co-founder of PHW Group.

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