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Streamlining efficiencies: Pushing without losing innovation

My last post, about Steve Jobs’ passing, seems to have put me in mind of how innovation happens. One of Jobs’ secrets was that he always kept pushing innovation, even though Apple was growing larger and larger. If you’ve started to see significant growth in your small business, you’re likely realizing that success is a mixed blessing. More growth means larger revenue streams, but it can also bring logistical hassles in equal proportion. There’s nothing that can take the fun out of financial success faster than unmanageable logistics. And if you’re running a one-man operation, filling orders and dealing with shipping can begin to monopolize all your time. If you’re spending time packaging orders, that’s time taken away from your innovative focus. Logistics and other distractions that come with success can quickly turn into opportunity costs, preventing you from focusing on creating more of the innovations that got you here in the first place.

Stay Focused On Your Core Competencies

Chances are your business didn’t achieve success because you’re a logistics wizard. It’s much better to focus on what you do best and leave order fulfillment to people who do it professionally. Think of it this way. Steve Jobs didn’t get bogged down with logistics. If your innovative vision is what brought you this far, switching gears is not a good idea for you. Letting someone else take care of logistics can do two things for you. It can ensure that your clients are taken care of promptly, which ensures their satisfaction. But more importantly, taking logistics hassles off the table removes serious obstacles that can impede expansion. That means you’ve got fewer impediments standing in the way of serious growth. And if you want to stay nimble and avoid adding employees, outsourcing items that lie outside your core competencies is likely a good idea.

Avoid Revenue Drains

It’s nice to learn from other people’s mistakes. Startups and small businesses seem to repeat the same costly mistakes. And it’s understandable. It’s not like you have a personal coach advising you at every step. And it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that accompanies early success. But this is also when small businesses make their biggest financial missteps. You want to stay frugal, operating in the leanest possible fashion. The most common mistakes that small businesses make—and from which they sometimes don’t recover—are adding employees too quickly and spending money on flashy office space that they neither need nor can afford. These fixed costs don’t go away when revenue streams dry up or economic downturns happen. It’s far better to focus on frugality than on the accoutrement associated with success. Stay away from anything that even resembles conspicuous consumption. If you’re outsourcing logistics and focusing on your core competencies, you’re already on the right track.

Find Common Sense Solutions

Finding creative ways to stay nimble and frugal in a tough economy means looking seriously at common sense alternatives. A growing trend that makes a lot of sense for entrepreneurs and small business professionals can take care of the second most common cause of unnecessary revenue drain. Finding cheap office space that fits your needs can be difficult. But a growing number of professionals have found that sharing office space dramatically reduces office costs. If you’re working out of your home office and quickly outgrowing it, sharing office space can accomplish two things. It allows you to expand, but it also gets you out of a solitary frame of mind. Sharing office space with other innovative entrepreneurs can help spur your thinking and the crosspollination of innovative ideas can help your creativity. There’s nothing quite like the magic of collaboration to nurture good ideas.

Pushing hard without losing your innovative focus will go a long way to long-term success. So how do you balance the pressures of delivering on past innovations while still finding the time for your next breakthrough? Let me know in the comments.

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