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Related News

Steven Strauss: Innovation Continued ...

In last week’s column we looked at how innovation can be nurtured in companies. Specifically, I shared the story of 3M and how the company used an innovation culture to foster the creation of Post-It Notes. It’s a fun and interesting story and I like sharing it because it shows that empowering one’s employees to be more innovative can really help a business grow.  

But it also begs the question: Why should a small business invest in innovation in the first place? After all, if you are in business, you already have plenty on your plate. Running and growing an enterprise is tough enough without having to worry about coming up with the Next Big Thing, right?

Right, and wrong. It is a correct assumption in that innovation is indeed too much work for some small businesses. That’s fine, understandable even. Innovation takes time and money, and those things are sometimes in short supply. So yes, if you don’t want to innovate, we can relate.

But it is equally true that being innovative in your business and with your products can be the secret sauce that allows you to stand out in the vast sea that is capitalism. There is no shortage of competitors who want to steal your clients, and if they innovate and you don’t, they just may. Moreover, innovation fires up the team, invigorates the entrepreneur, wows customers, impresses potential clients, and, when done right, grows your business.

Let me give you an example: A few weeks ago I was invited by Symantec (a company I previously did some work with) to a product launch at the world headquarters of Tesla Motors in Palo Alto. Let’s just start there. That’s an innovative way to launch a product, is it not? Rather than sending out a boring press release, showcasing their products against the backdrop of some incredibly cool $100,000 sports cars captured one’s attention.

And it is also a good lesson for the small business: Your innovation, your creativity, can look many different ways and still have an impact. Even something as different as showing your products in a different space can be memorable.

But beyond that, what I found most interesting was the commitment to innovation Symantec showed when it re-engineered its small business product Backup Exec. While creating a better system to help businesses protect and backup their data may not sound sexy, what is sexy is that the company put more than 1 million man hours over two years into rethinking its product and making it better, faster, less expensive, more usable, less complex, and more flexible.

Innovating in your business in this way offers many benefits, not the least of which is that it keeps you ahead of the curve and delights your customers when they see that you are trying to offer them the best that you have.

Now, maybe you are thinking that innovating is a lot easier for a big corporation with their bigger budgets and all. That is somewhat true. But small businesses innovate all of the time, just on a smaller scale. Whether it is a catering truck that lets customers know where it will be each day by being followed on Twitter or the furniture store that rents out furniture for real estate open houses, the idea is not that you have to invent the next iPad. Rather, the point is that innovation and all of the benefits described herein happens  when a company focuses on the end user, thinks about what their customers really need, and comes up with a better way to help those customers solve their problems.

Innovation in its many forms – big and small alike – is what can set you apart and make your business special.

Today’s Tip: “Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways, or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.” – Steve Jobs

Small business owners support recommendations to cut environmental red tape

The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) supports the Michigan Office of Regulatory Reinvention (ORR) recommendations released today that update environmental regulations in order to make Michigan a more competitive place to do business. 

“These recommendations are the result of a productive dialogue that has taken place between the Snyder administration and the state’s job providers,” says Rob Fowler, President and CEO of SBAM. “Historically there have been two major factors contributing to making it expensive to do business in Michigan: the system by which we tax businesses and an overly stringent regulatory structure. In 2011, Gov. Snyder took a huge first step on his promise to restructure business taxation. The administration’s comprehensive review of regulation stands to be the next major milestone in making Michigan once again a good place in which to do business.”

SBAM supports a more efficient, customer service-oriented licensing process that services private sector business needs, with a particular emphasis placed on cost containment and timetable efficiency; and predictability in regulatory applications to allow businesses to plan for future liabilities (particularly important for small businesses as they typically do not have the resources to navigate a complex regime of regulation.) “Many of the recommendations on environmental regulation that ORR has announced today are targeted toward these objectives and SBAM looks forward to the future release of reforms in other areas of state government,” says Fowler. “SBAM applauds the ORR efforts and is eager to partner with the administration and legislative leaders to make the necessary statutory changes recommended in the package.”

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/rumn8tr/

Secrets of world class customer service! Today at 10 a.m. on the Business Next free audio seminar

Customer service expert John DiJulius talks with Michael Rogers about implementing world class customer service and using it as a springboard to small business success. Listen today at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the Michigan Business Network. Listen to archived programs anytime at your convenience on your PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page

Get Business Next audio seminars delivered three times a week automatically to your iPhone or other mobile device. Subscribe  in iTunes using this URL

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremybrooks/

What are your secrets of customer service success? Leave a comment below.

What are the options for repairing Michigan's crumbling roads and bridges? And why should small business owners care? Today on the Business Next free audio seminar

Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, talks about the importance of an excellent transportation infrastructure to small business success. Listen today at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. today on the Michigan Business Network. Listen to archived programs anytime at your convenience on your PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/dougtone/

How do you think we should pay to repair our roads and bridges? Leave a comment below.

NSBA Registers Opposition to New EEOC Policy

From SBAM's national affiliate, NSBA:

As NSBA reported last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has come out with a new policy that any employer requiring high school diplomas would be unlawful under the Americans with Disabilities Act unless the employer can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity. This new policy was informally discussed starting in November 2011, but more recently was adopted in January 2012 under the radar and with little- to no notification to employers.

NSBA has submitted a detailed letter opposing this move as it will lead to needless, expensive and damaging litigation, have an adverse impact on small businesses and employment levels as well as discourage young people from pursing educational attainment. In the letter, NSBA questions the evidence prompting the policy change and states the policy would stymie job growth and employment.

Please click here to view the full letter.