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Why small business needs to embrace innovation and how they can do it

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Once upon a time getting ‘takeaway’ meant taking a pot down to your local food shop where they would fill it for you to eat later at home.

Now, you don’t even have to get up from your couch to have hot, restaurant-quality meals delivered right to your door. Convenient? Certainly. Innovative? Absolutely.

And what about those real game changers for small business? Bluetooth-enabled devices and apps, conferencing software such as Skype and FaceTime, drones … the list goes on.

Innovation, while in itself nothing new, is moving at a rapid pace. So what innovations exist that make life easier for small business owners, and what’s coming down the line in future?

Here we get some answers from innovation specialist, founder of business consultancy Inventium and co-creator of the Australian Financial Review’s Most Innovative Companies list Dr Amantha Imber.

Innovation 101

Dr Imber, who is also the author of The Innovation Formula, says that to be a part of the innovation revolution, small business must first understand what it is.

“Innovation is simply change that adds value,” Dr Imber says.

“How it’s making our lives better is really about organisations understanding their customers, and creating changes that are going to add value to customers’ lives. “

Innovation in small business can mean many things – it can be as simple as switching to solar energy to significantly reduce business operating costs and, in turn, boosting your bottom line.

AGL is dedicated to supporting Australian small businesses. Find out how AGL can tailor a package for your business.

Innovation could also mean looking into robotics which enable staff to telecommute, cutting down on physical time in the office or to streamline assembly and manufacturing businesses.

Dr Imber says 3D printing is a perfect innovation for small businesses that need to make prototypes or customise products without increasing labour costs.

“In the past, getting a prototype of a tangible product was expensive and very time consuming,” she says.

“3D printing is opening up new possibilities for small business. I think it’s a real game-changer.”

Simple changes can be powerful

But Dr Imber says innovation doesn’t have to be a massive investment in technology or equipment. It could be as simple as using an app to save time and money and ultimately change the way you do business.

Businesses are increasingly utilising mobile phones whether it is to access a cloud-based invoicing and accounting system, payment devices such as Square Reader to collect money on the go, online document and data storage options such as Dropbox and Google Drive or communication apps such as Slack to minimise confusion between staff and time lost searching through emails for information.

There are also innovative tools to help small business owners restore their precious work-life balance.

“An innovation that I’ve been playing around with is a mobile app called Moment, which tracks your mobile phone and iPad usage and reports back with insights into what you’re spending the most time on,” she says.

“A lot of people recognise that they’re tied to their phone, it’s addictive. But an app like Moment is really great because it actually gives you tangible data on what you are doing and from there, you can better manage your time and change some fundamental habits.”

Embrace a different future

She says the agile workplace is definitely the workplace of the future, and those who aren’t open to change will become redundant.

“That mentality is really dangerous,” Dr Imber says. “It increases your chance of being disrupted at some stage.

“One thing I recommend small business owners do is to think about the work they’re doing now, pinpoint what isn’t challenging or rewarding and outsource those tasks to a cheaper economy or automated them with software that already exists.

“Time is the one thing we cannot get more of. The more time we can save doing things that can be outsourced in some way sets you up at a huge advantage to focus on what you’re good at.

“It will also allow you to explore new and different opportunities that could be the next big thing that drives growth for your business.”

AGL

AGL is dedicated to supporting Australian small businesses. We have a number of packages that can be tailored to your business’ specific needs. Visit us at agl.com.au/business to find out more.