The world’s most successful businesses have at least one thing in common: they are always evolving.
Small businesses can take a cue from these success stories, especially when it comes to developing new, innovative ideas.
Whether it is adding new products to the lineup, debuting a new service, or just freshening up what you already offer, every small business must change to stay afloat, and that starts with the dreaming/brainstorming process.
Most changes to a small business setup are minor and won’t disrupt the day-to-day process too much.
But what about those potentially core-shattering changes that have the potential to really shake up your small business?
Where do you even start when the time comes to dream outside the current box of your small business?
The answer varies by business, but should involve some time that is just set aside for inspiration, and goal-setting.
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Here are a few steps in that process you really shouldn’t miss:
1. Revisit Your Mission
Why did you start your small business in the first place? Aside from the obvious money-making portion, it’s probably because you saw a need for something you could deliver in a uniquely-you way.
What is your mission, then? What did you set out to do, and how can you continue to do it in new ways? Identify areas that need to be stronger and how you can make it happen.
At the same time, it’s important to focus on the areas where you are already doing well. How can you take that positive energy and extend it to new products or services?
2. Poll Your Audience
While you should own your small business mission and ideas, you should also understand what demand is out there for the types of products or services you could be offering.
Hearing what your already established audience has to say could help you further develop your own ideas, or could point you in an entirely new direction.
What your fans think matters, so send an email survey, or ask them for feedback through social media channels.
These are inexpensive and easy ways to tap your market online and use that feedback for growth.
3. Ask Your Employees
If you really want a direct answer on which way your small business should go, just ask the people who work for you.
This may manifest itself in the form of traditional employees, or extend to contractors or part-time workers.
Recently, gaming company 888Ladies posted a piece that goes through the steps of developing an entirely new circus-themed game concept and how success took bringing the whole team to the table.
This included everything from asking for creative ideas to measuring up the competition. The people who work for you, and are paid by you, have a vested interest in how your small business fares moving forward, so tap that valuable resource.
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4. Learn Something New
If you really want to expand beyond what you are already doing with your small business, you need to expand your knowledge set.
Is there an area of your business that you feel would improve if you had more skills to meet those challenges? This could mean taking a local accounting class or even taking online courses to earn a degree (or another one).
It could also be as simple as enrolling in something new just to stretch your personal limits, and may not be directly related to your small business.
No matter what you choose to learn, it will give your brain a jump start and get it thinking in new, bold directions.
5. Go Big
The tendency for small business owners is to start with baby steps that later multiply into bigger accomplishments. When it comes to identifying the next big thing for your small business, however, you should really dream big.
Pretend you don’t have any limits. If every option was open to you for your small business, what would you do? What direction would you go?
Once you’ve put all those dreams on the line, you can bring them back to reality and strategize how to make them happen through short-term and long-term planning.
6. Take a Vacation
Get away from everything, either as an individual or as a business. It doesn’t have to be a long break. Even a day or two can be enough time to really dig deep in your creative mind.
Stepping away from the day-to-day tasks of your small business will give you the opportunity to look at the bigger picture. Are you where you hoped you’d be by now? What do you wish you were doing, but aren’t?
Getting out of your comfort zone will free you up from task-driven survival mode and allow your inspiration to flow more freely.
Besides, once your new small business offering is up and running, you’ll be too busy to get away for a while. Take that time in advance.
7. Build a Dream Board
Maybe it’s a little cliché but there’s a reason so many experts suggest people make these: visualizations work.
By putting the biggest hopes and dreams on paper, and hanging them up in a spot where you have to look at them day after day, your mind begins to believe those dreams into reality.
If you place those dream boards in an area for public viewing, you also have an added layer of accountability to meet those goals (and some added support in those pursuit, too).
8. Look Online
The Internet is an amazing tool, so use it. Head to sites like Pinterest and look up your idea, or scour message boards in your industry and see what people are asking for the most.
How have others accomplished what you are setting out to do? You don’t want to march to the beat of anyone else’s drum, but there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel either if you can build your own goals on information that is already out there.
In many cases, you may find ways to put your own spin on or localize offerings that already exist and grow your small business in the process.
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9. Be Afraid
At least a little bit. If you always play it safe with your business, you will always ended up feeling disappointed that you may have been able to do even more if you’d just taken a risk.
Don’t sell yourself short. If you aim high then even if you don’t hit your exact goal, you’ll still be further than if you’d not made the attempt at all.
Welcome discomfort as you transition to bigger, better things for your small business. It means you are growing and that your business will benefit as a result.
How have you harnessed your small business dreams into actionable steps to success?