At its simplest, starting a business is about creating added value for your customers and clients. So first, you identify a gap in the market, a niche you alone can fill, and then devise a solution, creating added value. Wonderful!
But then you discover that added value diminishes over time. So you have to continue to innovate to stay relevant. And it takes courage. Every step takes you further out on a limb. Sound familiar? It’s not about being fearless – it’s about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Wouldn’t it be great if our first solution was the last and best? But that’s never been the case in the history of doing business. If you don’t invest in innovation, someone else will find a way to do it better, more efficiently, and sustainably.
The short answer is—no. Innovation is essential if you want to stay ahead of the game and continue to create added value for your clients. But it’s also the joy of business. It’s where your imagination meets a need and brings a unique solution.
Different types of risk
There are distinct types of risk, and you’ll face each at different times. Sometimes the risk will be doing things in a new way. You’ll find that what worked in one season doesn’t work anymore. Then there’s the risk of expanding your business. Can you afford to employ someone who thinks differently and brings new ideas to the table? Risk is inherent in your decision – either way.
Or maybe it’s the risk of bringing in people who initially don’t do things as well as you – and who slow the process down. Again, it’s a short-term pain for long-term gain. Because the truth is if your business is successful, you will hit the ceiling of time, money, energy, creativity, and productivity. If you don’t summon your courage and employ more people, you’ll
eventually risk more than standing; still, you risk becoming irrelevant.
Then there’s the risk of deviating from a known course onto an unknown path.
Take ThankYou, for example. They made their name on producing bottled water to fund water-giving projects in third-world countries. The solution and their value add worked brilliantly. The team took a great idea and continued to create value, developing strategic partnerships, and adding more products to their menu, expanding the business while staying true to their core vision and mission.
Then came the day they had to address the elephant in the room, acknowledging that their core product was no longer adding value. The team recognised the shift in consumer consciousness and issues with single-use plastic bottles. After exploring all the options, they courageously ceased production of the thing that made them a household name in Australia.
Innovation never stops
The truth is that you will never stop innovating, and neither should you. It’s the fun and reality of being in business. And these days, innovation is more accessible than ever. Technology has been growing exponentially since the 1960s, doubling every one and a half to two years.
Innovation is the only way to stay in business, whether it’s a new service delivery platform to enhance user experience or a product that does the job better.
The courage to change before you have to
If you don’t dare to change, you’ll be forced to or left behind at some point. Remember Kodak? A company that made its name through innovation ironically died because it ignored the calls to innovate. After dominating the market for nearly a century, Kodak displayed breathtaking arrogance in its mishandling of opportunities presented by its own people.
In 1975, Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the world’s first digital camera. He took it to management, who dismissed it out of hand, saying of the filmless photography, “that’s cute—but don’t tell anyone about it.”
Kodak could have led the way into the digital era. Instead, they buried their heads in the sand and refused to move from what had previously worked. They forgot that added value diminishes over time, and their wilful ignorance over the ensuing decades killed a worldwide household brand.
The courage to be you and embrace the new
And don’t forget what sets your business apart from every other—you! More than ever, authenticity has currency. In a world where isolation has risen to epidemic proportions, people value connection and community.
The courage to invest
The hard truth is that if you don’t invest in yourself, your people, and your business, you can’t expect others to want to invest. The thing about investing is that it’s rarely for short-term gain. You have to be willing to wait for the fruit while continuing to nurture the tree!
And remember, not everything is about you. Consider investing in your market or industry. Your wisdom and insight are invaluable for those starting out in business. You reap what you sow. If you make investing in people beyond your business a core value, you’ll discover the beauty and power of community. Conversely, if you focus all your energy on the expectation of short-term gain, you’ll miss out on the richness of bringing others on the journey.
Finding courage for the journey
How are you doing in the courage stakes? Remember, courage isn’t about overcoming fear; it’s about feeling the fear and doing things anyway. The main thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Many have gone before you, and many more will come after. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out and connect with other humans in business.
Business is a journey, not a destination; you need people to walk with, talk with and do life with—after all— people are why we’re in business in the first place.