Perhaps you’re struggling to find new customers, or you’re feeling stagnant in your startup. Maybe you’re having difficulty competing with others in your industry. Whatever the case, you feel the need to breathe new life into your business. Shake things up a little! Here’s how to bring new life and innovation back into the business you so painstakingly built from the ground up.
Take a step back and assess
Maybe you can’t quite put a finger on what’s wrong with your business because you’re mired in its day-to-day operations. You need to step back to really analyze your business in order to figure out where you might be stuck. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How is business overall? Are you having trouble attracting new customers or retaining them over time? If so, you may need to consider focusing your efforts on customer retention strategies, rather than attracting new ones. Or vice versa.
- Are your offerings outdated? Maybe you haven’t kept up with innovations in your industry and now struggle to keep up with competitors who offer more cutting-edge products or services.
- Is your marketing relevant to your audience? What worked five years ago isn’t going to cut it today. Customers want to build relationships with brands, not have marketing messages shoved down their throats.
- Are you drained of ideas? Entrepreneurs suffer burnout easily, and that can impact your innovation.
There may be more than one area in which you’re struggling. The first step is to prioritize your list of areas that need your focus the most, then decide which tasks you need to tackle and in what order.
Take a break
Here’s a suggestion you won’t often hear as an entrepreneur: I want you to get away from your business, especially if you don’t regularly. Take some vacation time! Most entrepreneurs don’t.
Even if you don’t feel like you can take off for three weeks at a time, try to get away for a long weekend, or even just half a day. Whatever time you can spare, it will not just rejuvenate you, but it will also help you gain perspective on how to innovate your business. Turn off your phone and computer, and immerse yourself in your surroundings and get inspired.
Stepping away from a problem, even if it’s just to take a walk around the block, has been proven to spark creativity. So while you may not be thinking about a specific problem related to your business, you might find yourself coming up with a creative solution while swimming, getting a massage, or going for a jog. Even just getting away from your desk for a proper lunch break can increase your productivity and provide a creativity boost.
Getting your brain off of what it’s been so focused on can give it space to actually process the issue and come up with a solution.
Talk to others
If you’re like me, you are your business. You may not have other employees, so all ideas come from you. And you, unfortunately, are probably not a never-ending fountain of amazing ideas. The well will run dry from time to time.
So, talk to people. If you do have employees, ask for their help coming up with new, innovative concepts for your startup. You might be surprised at what great ideas they have in mind. Talk to friends and family. Sometimes having an outside perspective (from those in completely different industries) can ignite a fire that you couldn’t on your own.
If you don’t have employees, consider hiring the help of outside experts, particularly those who have worked in your industry. They may have more experience than you and might have some creative ideas that they’ve seen work and can help you implement them.
Above all, be humble and open to other insights. You may be Type A and think yours is the only way, but there is great value in collaborating and sharing ideas.
Look at the competition
In no way am I telling you to copy others in your industry, but seeing what they’re up to does a few things for you. First, it lets you know what they’re doing. How else can you know that your biggest competitor just invested $50,000 in technology that lets him make his widgets 5x faster? It’s good information to have.
Also, it lets you identify gaps in the market that your product or service can fill. You might notice that no one is serving a particular audience. But you can! Or maybe everyone charges a lot for a product you offer, but you have a way to streamline costs and offer at a better price, while still making a decent profit.
I get it. It’s easier to keep things status quo than to mix it up, but that’s what’s gotten you where you are: frustrated because your business is stale. Yes, innovation requires effort to constantly question whether you could be doing better, but it’s absolutely worth it to continue to foster and nurture ideas in your company about how you can do better.
Find inspiration all around you. Read books by founders who have instilled a company culture riddled with creativity. Binge read articles online and devour documentaries about innovation. But also look for inspiration elsewhere, because it can come in some pretty surprising places: your kids’ preschool artwork, the grocery store, nature.
Just be open to finding it, and it will find you.