3 Simple Ways to Keep Your Small Business Fresh

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In this ever-evolving economy, no matter the size of your business, you need to be able to embrace change.

While large businesses may have the resources to implement change when fresh opportunities arise, bureaucratic inertia can hamper some businesses’ ability to innovate. In fact, a 2014 Boston Consulting Group survey of CEOs revealed that only 17% of CEOs felt they had fresh and innovative capabilities.

Intuitively, we know companies that are able to build ingenuity into the heart of their organization are the ones that stay strong and evolve to meet their customers’ needs. And that’s where smaller businesses have a major advantage.

Embracing change isn’t just about investing in R&D, it’s about creative energy—something small businesses have in droves, even if they don’t have the technical and financial resources of their larger counterparts. Here are three accessible ways in which small business can recharge and refresh without breaking the bank.

1. Experiment

When it comes to staying fresh, trying something new does not always mean an investment of thousands, much less hundreds of thousands, of dollars. What I’ve learned in my 30-year career at LoyaltyOne is that some of the best ways to inject life into a business is to try so-called “$ 100 experiments”—also commonly referred to as “design thinking” principles. This involves trying out lots of small, inexpensive experiments to assess how ideas resonate before making a big investment.

Such experimenting is a smart way to test the waters of an idea or concept before going full tilt into uncharted waters. It also allows you to take those blue-sky ideas we often dream up in the lunchroom, and see just how far they can go. When you find a method or idea that works, and that is aligned to your goals and vision, then it’s time to look into investing more into it.

2. Try, try again

Just because you tried something once before without accomplishing your end goal doesn’t mean it was wrong. Sometimes customers and employees aren’t ready for change, and ideas that once struggled to gain traction have a more willing and enthusiastic employee or customer base today. Other times, the ideas just need to be tweaked in order to flourish.

At LoyaltyOne, our annual Fun Day brought employees together to enjoy a day of games and team-building. Over time, we wanted to add an element of community investment to the mix, so Fun Day evolved into CommunityOne Day. We loved giving back to our communities. However, when we really examined the day, compared it to our previous Fun Days and considered associate feedback about it, we realized we had lost some of the excitement and energy of the original concept. So we tried again. We reinstated the original Fun Day. Our employees loved it. And now have two celebration days: Fun Day and CommunityOne Day.

Sometimes staying fresh is as simple as recycling ideas and adjusting the mechanics based on feedback from associates, key learnings from the past and new thoughts from colleagues. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time. Sometimes that wheel just needs a different path.

3. Tap into employee potential

A business refresh is as much about your employees as it is your customers. A recent ADP survey showed that almost 30% of employed Canadians would like to find a new job or go back to school. That number rises to 55% for millennials, suggesting that a large number of employees aren’t satisfied with their job.

A common mistake is leaving people in the same role for too long. From a business perspective there are rewards for keeping people where they are, because to move them could be viewed as disruptive. However, in order to maintain organizational energy and enrich the experience of employees (and your business), you need to increase knowledge transfer and keep employees learning and evolving.

For example, at LoyaltyOne we have a customer care facility outside of our head office. For a time we did not recognize that the team that worked there had potential to move into different, growth-oriented roles. We were not leveraging the different perspectives and practices they had to offer, which turned out to be invaluable to other facets of the business. Over the last year we have moved over a dozen people from the customer care centre into roles in marketing, technology and business operations because we recognized the value of their curiosity, passion to learn and experience. They have been integral in bringing fresh thinking to a number of departments at LoyaltyOne.

• • • • •

The business world is a world of constant change. What worked before may not work tomorrow and what failed before might be perfect for today. In order to be successful you’ll need to be curious as to what could be, leverage the insights of your employees, and not be afraid to tweak when things don’t go as planned. In doing that, you’re preparing your business for success now and into the future.

Bryan Pearson is an internationally-recognized expert and author in the field of customer loyalty. As President and CEO of LoyaltyOne, a pioneer in loyalty strategies and data-driven marketing, Bryan has spent more than two decades developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies. Bryan has spearheaded LoyaltyOne’s expansion into new markets across the globe and has grown the AIR MILES Rewards Program into Canada’s premier coalition loyalty program with more than 10 million participants.


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