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Small Businesses Innovate but Call it Tweaking, Says Report

Small business innovation report [1]Do you think your business is innovative? Very often, small business owners and employees will answer that question with a big fat “NO.”

Innovation sounds so … important. So … rare. Like you have to be the next Google or some high-tech startup to be innovative.

Yet, innovation goes on all the time in small businesses, regardless of which industry. We are just so matter-of-fact that most of us don’t label what we do as innovation. We call it something like “tweaking.” 🙂

But look underneath, and it’s really innovation.

That was a key finding in the latest installment of the Intuit Future of Small Business Report. The study found that small business owners are natural innovators.

Not only that, compared to large corporations, small businesses have six inherent advantages that make it easier and simpler to be innovative:

Personal passion: Entrepreneurs often start small businesses based on their passion for a hobby or business, or to live out a dream. Often wearing many hats, from receptionist to CEO, their personal stake and enthusiasm for their ideas makes them willing to try new business approaches to make their business more successful.

Customer connection: Because of their close customer relationships and deep market understanding, small businesses can anticipate customer needs, identify new opportunities and fix problems quickly and efficiently. This deep and direct market involvement creates many more innovation opportunities.

Agility and adaptation: Unlike large corporations, small businesses can quickly and easily adapt their business practices, change course or even pursue entirely new direction. Because of this agility, innovation takes fewer resources and is easier to implement than for larger corporations.

Experimentation and improvisation: When pursuing new opportunities, many small business owners and managers aren’t afraid to experiment and improvise, accepting failure as part of the path to success. They see the rewards and the risks associated with potential innovations. Rather than avoiding all risk, small businesses will try new solutions, address setbacks and move forward to attain future rewards.

Resource limitations: Small businesses are adept at doing more with less. And these resource constraints lend to their innovative mindset. With small staffs and often fewer dollars, small businesses are forced to focus on high-impact or low-cost innovation efforts, or both. Successful small businesses use their resources effectively.

Information sharing and collaboration: Small businesses traditionally rely on strong social networks – trade associations, the Rotary Club, chambers of commerce and extended friends and family – to share information and inspire innovative thinking. These networks provide feedback on ideas, input on solutions and assistance when resources are scarce.

The key message that comes out of this report is: don’t sell yourself or your business short. You’re probably more creative than you give yourself and your team credit for. You’re innovating all the time in your daily business, in all likelihood.

You have natural advantages that big corporations do NOT have. Keep doing what you are doing, and it will help drive growth of customers and sales, and also drive more profits.

You can check out the entire Report on Small Business Innovation at the Intuit Future of Small Business Report site [1]. (Note: the Report was written by Steve King, one of the Small Business Trends Experts, and Carolyn Ockels — both of Emergent Research [2]. I participated in the underlying research study.)

Think about it: what have you done that is innovative this year? And did you sell yourself short by calling it “tweaking”?