We all can be entrepreneurs

Jun 01, 2007

Should leaders move their business forward in small-scale, incremental steps? Should they improve operations little by little, tinkering with one element before moving on? Or should leaders take their business into uncharted territory, into some completely new area that will open up new markets, sales and profitability?

The answer to these dilemmas lies in the way that businesses view the prospect of change. Are they open to new, innovative ideas or is creativity in the workplace stifled as soon as the seed of an idea starts to take hold?

Entrepreneurs like Duncan Bannatyne and Richard Branson are revered for starting with nothing but an idea and bringing it to the market and – usually – making a good return on the investment.

But, even without daring and grand ideas, the truth is that we can all be entrepreneurs in our own businesses.

To do this, we should encourage new ideas from within our organisations. The best way to do this is to approach the exercise in two tranches, with an initiation phase and then implementation.

In the initiation phase, ideas are encouraged. They should be sought out from a wide variety of sources, particularly from customers.

Throughout the whole process, it is crucial to be proactive in looking for innovation. Mechanisms need to be provided to enable and encourage staff to think of ideas and put them forward.

Aim to generate sparks of inspiration, reject nothing, consider all possibilities, look at alternatives, incubate any idea, chew on it, live it, focus on it.

Once an innovative idea has been put forward, the next phase is to refine, test and implement it. Test the idea in a small way at first, building a prototype to see how it works. By definition, the initial idea will be imperfect but, with input and modification from others, it can be honed into a workable model.

Above all, think big. But start small. Have an ambition that the idea will be a major contributor to the business but, initially, minimise the risk of failure. Once it is proven on a small scale, go for it.

A key factor in generating innovative ideas is a consideration of risk factors. Not just the risk of devoting resources of time and money to the new idea but also opportunity cost and a possible lack of focus on the businesses core activity.

Unfortunately, inertia is one of the most powerful forces in the universe and there will always be those businesses that resist change.

So for those managers not open to new ideas, I’ll send you a copy of Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. It’s a short, modern-day business fable of mice and men; of change and inertia. Or I’ll gladly put you in touch with my good colleagues in our insolvency department!

But for those business leaders who want to fully consider their future direction and take a proactive and structured approach to innovation and change, a facilitated session under the Baker Tilly Growth Programme will enable you to properly consider your options.

For more information, visit www.bakertilly.co.uk

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