Ready for small business growth? Innovate!

If you’re a small business owner who is ready for growth, it’s crucial that you create a culture of holistic innovation. So says business consultant Mark Faust in his book Growth or Bust: Proven Turnaround Strategies to Grow Your Business.

And, here are Mark’s seven key steps to build that holistic and innovative culture:

1)   Prioritize from the top down. You, as company leader, must make a firm commitment to innovation, and then consistently communicate with and motivate your staff.

2)   Clarify your innovation values. These include respect, honesty, humility (yes, someone else might know a better way!) and open communication. As the leader, you must make sure that employees can safely communicate about problem issues without fear of retribution.

3)   Get all hands on deck. Self-explanatory! You need the commitment of your entire team.

4)   Initially focus on quantity versus quality. When brainstorming ideas to grow your company, 1,000 mediocre ideas are better than a handful of excellent ones because having a wide spectrum of suggestions, early on, will ultimately create better quality.

5)   Consistently communicate implementations and successes. Don’t make the mistake of believing that, because YOU know something, everyone else in the company already knows it, too. Communicate!

6)   Give specific and universal rewards. If someone provides you with innovative suggestions, make sure to amply reward him or her specifically. Then, in the end, a growth company will provide universal rewards through better paychecks and a more secure workplace.

7)   Make innovation a Mobius strip. Innovation must be ongoing, never-ending, and consistent.

Mark also shares the seven skills that are vital for the innovators in a company to have. Innovators must be able to successfully:

1)   connect the unconnected

2)   challenge the status quo

3)   “flip” on an issue (play devil’s advocate)

4)   embrace constraints

5)   study customers like a scientist

6)   experiment

7)   network

Our conversation with Mark

Mark tells MP Star Financial that he was “born to be a consultant.”

Everyone has strengths and Mark says that his include problem solving, creative thinking, facilitating, team building and reducing conflict. “But,” he adds, “I knew I’d be bored with just doing any one thing. When my pastor asked me about my calling, I knew that I’d need variety and that I’d need to work with lots of businesses. But I then put that idea on a shelf until I met a former VP from a Fortune 500 company – a nationally known boutique firm – and he mentored me.”

Mark has consulted with companies about business growth since 1990, including P & G, IBM, Monsanto, Apple, Syngenta, Bayer and John Deere. He’s been quoted in Entrepreneur, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal and more – and is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and Ohio University. His book Growth or Bust has been a Barnes and Noble bestseller in the Midwest.

Here’s more of what Mark has to say about business growth:

Too much conflict

If your small business is struggling to be profitable, then Mark says it’s likely that there’s too much conflict in your company. The conflict could be among leaders, between leaders and investors, among employees in general – or in another configuration altogether.

And, whenever there is too much conflict in your company, you need to step back to discuss shared values and their implementation in the workplace. “All conflict,” Mark tells us, “goes back to a lack of clarified values over how to treat one another. The underlying source of the conflict could be that others are not being treated with respect and so you need a process to define respect and how to deal with issues when someone isn’t feeling respected.”

Mark also suggests this proactive remedy: each year, everyone in your company should be asked the following three questions:

  1. How do employees and customers want to be treated in the workplace?
  2. What is important to us as an organization?
  3. How will we deal with it when someone doesn’t live up to our values?

“It won’t do any good,” Mark points out, “if you don’t write down the answers and if you don’t enforce your conclusions. I work with a company in Iowa that is ranked number six in the top ten companies to work for in the state – and it’s one of the best places to work because they actively enforce their values.”

He also suggests two follow up questions:

1)   How should we conduct our work, both with each other and customers?

2)   What kind of environment do we need to foster in our company, in our work, and in our relationships in order to maximize joy in the workplace, as well as the growth rate, profitability, and stability of this company?

When Mark consults with a company, he often has each employee write down the top traits, qualities, ways, habits, environment and attitudes that he or she feels are necessary at work. Then, each person privately chooses six of them that he or she feels will best accelerate company growth, and also improve the satisfaction, happiness and profitability of the company. Then, in a small group format, the company settles upon six to ten shared values to live by.

Mark repeats that process for this question: what should we do if someone doesn’t live up to one of our values? He adds that this can be the trickier of the two questions – and yet, it’s the more important of the two because there is no use deciding upon values if they are not respected and adhered to.

Once the two questions are answered, the answers are placed in a document and every employee signs, agreeing to abide by what’s written.

What about your company? What are your shared values? How do you handle situations when someone doesn’t live up to them? How innovative are you? Leave a comment below.

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