Aug 10, 2009

Innovate on a Shoestring

Here's the fifth big-picture strategy from my save your business list:

5. Innovate on a shoestring.

In a recession some small business owners cut back to the core, slashing new development and going back to the tried and true. That's not necessarily going to help you in the long run. Consumer buying habits aren't necessarily going to go back to the way things were before the downturn, so you probably need to make some permanent changes in your product or service offerings. To come up with ideas for new directions, services, or products, try brainstorming with your advisory board, employees, and family members, and solicit suggestions from your customers. You never know where you'll stumble across good ideas. In this month's Costco Connection magazine, there was a collection of reader ideas on how small business owners were adjusting their business strategy to the recession. One of readers had a great example of how adding profitable services to a retail store can bring revenues back up. Suffering from poor sales, a Texas bird shop added a "jungle room" for children's birthday parties, complete with a parrot show. The jungle room has created more revenue for the shop as well as free exposure to a new audience and more customer traffic (plus a bunch of kids who are begging their parents for a pet bird!)
In the same article, a business owner wrote in that he had had a lot of success by asking some business acquaintances in his area to get together and help each other brainstorm some innovative and creative strategies to survive the recession. It provided a great sounding board, new ideas, and even business leads. See if you can pull together a small group to come up with new ideas, and choose the most promising ones to implement.