Yaneek Page, the Managing Director of Future Services International Limited, says micro entrepreneurs and small business owners, in particular, have to be more innovative if they are to grow. She was speaking at the recent Breakfast and Tour organised by JN Small Business Loans Limited (JSNBL) at the Hotel Versalles in May Pen, Clarendon.
Pointing to the details of a 2013 World Bank study published in the press, which indicated that small businesses in the Latin America and the Caribbean region lacked innovation in their approach to job creation and growth; she said although local entrepreneurs are creative they are not innovative for many reasons.
“It takes significant investment to create new products, new services and build the environment for innovation,” she told entrepreneurs. “And, you often find that small business owners lack the capacity, because they do not have the infrastructure.”
However, the well-known businesswoman said companies can be more innovative by providing an environment in which their employees can develop ideas and initiatives to grow the entity. She explained the concept of “intrapreneurship,” indicating that businesses should teach employees to think and act like entrepreneurs.
“We say it all the time that our employees are our most important asset; but, what many companies don’t realise is that you need to incentivise your staff to innovate,” she advised. “Intrapreneurship is giving people the knowledge, the tools, the environment and space to innovate.”
She pointed out that to create the environment, operators need to communicate clearly to employees that they will be compensated for their ideas that will increase the business’ revenue. And, added that they must also be clear about who will own the intellectual property for the idea.
“It is a little complex, but this is definitely a low cost way that companies, such as Google, Apple and 3M have been innovating; and have created a culture of innovation that has really moved these companies forward,” she explained.
And, she noted that employees will stay longer at businesses which provide the environment for innovation, because they will be motivated to make an impact on the organisation. But, to encourage innovation among employees, they must be urged to learn new things and follow modern business trends and developments closely.
“And they should stay close to customers because some of the most innovative ideas will come from customers,” Mrs. Page underscored.
One interesting fact, Mrs. Page pointed out was that businesses often turn to the young for new ideas; however, some of the strongest and most workable ideas emerge from people who are older, who have been with the organisation for some time.
“One of the worst things that a company can do is try to indentify the people in the organisation, who they think are the bright people,” she argued. “Often business owners think the young and who they consider to be bright are the ones who will innovate, but the most innovative ideas come from people who have more experiences, more knowledge, who have been out there and can create ideas.”
But, she maintained that ideas from all categories of employees should be facilitated. And, in addition to facilitating ideas, small businesses must invest in and engage in consistent research. This is necessary because client needs change over time, given changes in the economy, society and consequently their lifestyle.
“We must listen to the market; and, as small business owners, even if we do the research, we believe we don’t have the ability to do it consistently, when it is not very difficult or expensive,” she advised.
Preparing short survey forms, which people can easily complete and drop into a suggestion box is one way to survey customers consistently; and business owners can simply observe their customers.
“Look at their body language, look at what and how much they are buying and see what their behaviour pattern is like,” she said. “The customer tends to know what he or she wants; and can help you to create something new,” she concluded.