At the onset, every start-up owner is always excited about the possibilities that lay ahead for their start-up. Sometimes though, these owners have a rude awakening; when they are fast approaching business failure. Many times, the difference between a successful business and a failed one is the branding. Here are branding tips for start-ups:
"Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful." – Sir Richard Branson
Innovators are villains
What do Netflix, apple, and Uber have in common? Besides the fact that they are all tech companies, they are responsible for some of the most disruptive innovations that we’ve seen in our short lifetime. Netflix shook the way we rented and watched movies, Apple revolutionized the already stunning computer and phone industry, and Uber made sure you’d never struggle for a cab again.
But what if I told you that these companies (or rather, the people that run them) are actually villains? You might call me crazy at first until you looked at the facts.
What makes a villain/innovator?
Disruption. This is the singular quality that both these groups of people have. You can think of a villain as someone who threatens peace. Ranging from human villains like the Joker to cosmic titans like Thanos, all villains desire to shake things up. Innovators want to do the same thing. The only difference is that while innovators want to save humanity, villains want to end it (most of the time).
They are also alike in the way they approach the problem. They both disregard what everyone says and thinks, and just go ahead to do what they want to do. Even if their goal threatens to change reality as we know it. Uber didn’t care that taxi cabs were a cornerstone of the transportation system, and Thanos didn’t care that we will miss the humans he snaps away. They both had their eyes on the goal, and they went for it.
"Should you be okay with the status quo and just say this is how it is, or become the villain"This realization begs the question. Do you try to imitate these ‘evildoers’? Or do you try to become them? The answer to the question is not so simple. However, it revolves around a central idea—the greater good.
While you probably shouldn’t draw lipstick halfway around your face or try and collect as many shiny stones as you can, becoming a villain can be a good thing. Consider that without innovators, we would not have any of the things we have today—cellphones, the internet, or even electricity.
Becoming the personification of innovator and villain might not be such a bad idea after all. You just need to make sure that whatever you do pushes humanity forward. And maybe don’t try to take over the world or assist in an alien take over along the way.
Workplace diversity is the creation of an inclusive environment that accepts the differences of every individual. There are two major kinds of diversity: acquired diversity and inherent diversity. Acquired diversity involves traits a person gets from experience, this includes cultural understanding gotten from working or living in another country. Inherent diversity, on the other hand, involves traits a person is born with. Traits like gender, and nationality.
Diversity in the workplace has, however, evolved from just creating a heterogeneous workforce to using this heterogeneity to drive innovation. Company executives are now beginning to understand that their companies cannot be successful, especially not on a global scale, if they lack a diverse and inclusive workforce which not only drives innovation but also encourages creativity, guide business strategy and bring about business success. Competing globally presents companies with a series of challenges. Asides routine concerns that companies face, the global expansion comes with challenges like cultural and language barriers as well as competing with other companies that deliver similar product and/or service offering. This is why many companies have found that the best way to ensure business success is by having a diverse and inclusive workforce; a workforce with different backgrounds, experiences, skill set and talents.
Companies whose leaders exhibit at least 3 inherent and 3 acquired diversity traits are referred to as having 2-dimensional diversity. In a survey conducted, the Harvard Business Review found that 78% of respondents work at companies that lack 2-dimensional leadership. Inadvertently, this cost such companies crucial market opportunities as diverse groups understand the unmet needs present in under-leveraged markets.
Leaders who have a diverse workforce and give this equal airtime are “nearly twice as likely as others to unleash value driven insights” and employees in a “speak-up” workplace are 2.5 times more likely to give maximum innovative potential.
As cosmetics giant, L’Oreal USA, puts it, Diversity + Inclusion = Innovation + Success.
What is Healthtech?
Simply put, healthtech, also digital health, is a fusion of “health” and “technology”. Not-so-simply, healthtech is the use of technology to improve the delivery, personalization and data gathering in the healthcare industry. Technology has been the catalyst of development of new, care tools, medicinal products, and patient experiences. This definition, however, does not aptly define all the innovation and transformation in the healthcare industry, which has limitless possibilities for change. In the last few years, funding from venture capitalists has not only tremendously grown, but it has allowed this sector to have access to technological advancements that would aid its dated processes.
There are numerous reasons why people decide to go into business. Many venture into business because the neighbor down the street has a business while others go into business because it’s the new wave society is riding. Entrepreneurship is the new door many are knocking on. Truth is, business is not for everyone. For those that have a desire or a passion for business, there are certain criteria that should be met or highlighted outside the usual ‘knack for business’ mentality.
Fast foward, your business is up and running and executing on daily deliverables. Things are coming together, customers are flooding in by the units, hundreds, thousands and maybe millions but you feel something is amiss. Your hunger is voracious and your goals are high to say the least but deep down you know you have not reached the epitome of your desired business venture.
Truth is, no matter how good a business idea is, there is only so far the initial idea can take the business to. Ideas are like dreams that have no real world value but strategy and planning are the realistic tools which cause a metamorphosis that transform business ideas into actionable plans. Strategies and plans are conduits through which ideas and dreams are made into a reality. To take your business to levels where words such as ‘leaps’ and ‘bounds’ would be the best way to describe such growth, planning and implementation are necessities. We live in a computational, fast-growing world where the word ‘growth’ is no longer a target or aim of any business but a necessity. The importance of growth strategies cannot be overemphasized. Here are a few of the many important growth strategies which has been tested and found to be universally recognized irrespective of geographical location and culture barriers;
Most likely whatever idea or business proposition you have might not necessarily be different from what is already on the market and if it is, you have to identify what sets it apart from other businesses. What value are you selling or offering to your customer? Figure out what special benefit only you can provide. Do not focus on what others are doing and how to join in the competition, rather set yourself apart and figure out what sets you apart. Today, we are finding that value is created in the intersection points of life which in turn saves effort, decision making, money and most importantly time.
Identify your ideal customer
You cannot cater for everyone. By trying to please everyone, you end up losing everyone. When aiming for growth in your business, decide on a particular target audience and stick to it. Do not for the sake of one cause forsake the Big goal. Crafting Messages and marketing techniques to a scoped audience will return a higher interaction rate. “We are a brand oriented”, meaning we live and breath the brands we interact with and purchase because we buy into their quality, mission and future vision. A niche running shop and a general sporting goods store are both in the same industry, but provide very different experiences for running customers.
What are your indicators for progress? Growth or progress has to be measurable. You cannot have growth in your business and have no way of identifying it. Whatever you decide to make your indicator, it has to be reliable. An increase in customer does not necessarily relate to profits. Their are no participation trophies in this game, so which metrics needs to be monitored - Customer Acquisition Cost, Margin, Revenue - this takes some time, and tools like “Business Model Canvas” can help get the conversation started.
Customers like reliability and very few people are open to change. However, there are instances where change can be good and can serve your purpose and goals. Go beyond the services you offer but don't change the services you offer. Changing the service might bring in new customers but at the same time might cause you to lose loyal customers which is too much of a gamble. Back to the niche running shop, For example: if they sell everything for the elite runner, what are some complementary items to enhance the shopping experience? Trade in/ Refurbishing services, digital/technology monitoring, medical/health workshops. These are items that help the runner not only get the best gear, but get better and stay healthy.
Do not only focus on employing personnel who share in the burden but those that will share in the dream and vision also. People like this help push, promote and grow the business. Do not look at employing people like a cost but more as an investment. They will later prove to be treasures that will be at the core of the progress of the business with their ideas, passion and skills which will become infective and spread all round. Also, do not hire people who are similar to you, find people with different skill set, experiences and backgrounds. This will help diversify the thoughts/ideas to stretch goals and grow your business.
You have probably heard the story before; an entrepreneur came up with an innovative idea, builds it and decided to create a startup. Fueled by motivation, quick thinking and swift actions, the business grows, and begins overtaking customers and services from larger corporations in the industry. The innovation drives the growth of this new corporation and it becomes highly profitable. Then the pace starts to diminish. The bigger the company gets, the more sluggish they are. Until, they are just as large and as slow as the companies they over took.
Why is this? Why do so many corporations lose the speed and energy of innovation the bigger they get?
Long chain of command
One factor that accounts for this is their sheer size. As companies grow, they need more employees to handle their operations. This leads to hierarchical structures and a growing chain of command. All of this is generally good for business, except that innovative ideas now have a long way to go from discovery to execution.
The employees closest to the customers are often farthest from the decision makers and have to go through several levels of management to communicate their findings and suggestions to the executive who can pull the trigger.
The result is that the idea fizzles out or the window for execution passes.
In other situations, the information reaches the decision makers. However, the potential innovation must face a second hurdle. Approval. Large corporations usually mean shareholders and board of directors who have to deliberate on whether or not to move forward with an idea.
With the board's responsibility to the shareholders to turn good profit at the end of the quarter, many ideas are not approved. Mainly because innovative ventures usually have an incubation period during which significant investments need to be made before they can yield profit
Another point that might explain big companies' perceived aversion to innovation is that it can sometimes be disruptive. Both in the strain its execution takes on the systems in place, and effect it has on the current business. Corporations pride themselves on their established processes and procedures to ensure they are functioning like a well-oiled machine, but this is also the biggest barrier for ideation, innovation and employees challenging the status quo.
Consider how Bell Labs buried the answering machine after its discovery in 1934 because they believed it would lead the public to abandon the telephone (which was the core of AT&T at that point). This might be an extreme example, but it illustrates what can happen when big companies come across opportunities that can disrupt their structure or their business, or both.
In order to thrive, innovation needs the protection of structures. Such structures have to be designed to tackle the impediments that innovation faces.
For starters, a shorter chain of command will foster communication between employees and executives, and thus, improve the speed of innovation. A good structure to imitate is Amazon's two large pizza rule. It goes that every team must only be large enough to be fed by two large pizzas. This keeps the team small and the obstacles to innovation smaller.
Another solution is to let separate and independent bodies handle new opportunities. This can be through collaboration with smaller companies or in-house teams headed by an executive with enough authority. Small companies lack the bureaucracy that large companies have and can achieve a lot with their simple linear structure. Independent teams would have the same advantages, and still benefit from the resources of the parent company.
Although the independent bodies might be able to feed innovation on a corporate level, a deeper approach however is to give employees the freedom to contribute actively to the innovative process. This could begin with a system where employees are free to voice their opinions without fear of penalty. The Andon system, used as a part of the Toyota production system, is a perfect example of this kind of empowerment. Any worker, at any point, has the ability to stop the production process if they think they've spotted a defect. They further have the "authority" to call for assistance to evaluate the observation. Perhaps the most empowering feature of this system is that if a defect is not found during evaluation, the employee is not at risk of disciplinary action or any other form of detriment. It is instead more preferable that the production is stopped due to a false alarm, than for a defective car to be produced. A system like this gives employees great freedom to think and even greater freedom to act, thus fostering innovation at every level of the organization.
A more difficult solution would be for big companies to swap their short-term profit expectations for more long-term aspirations. Without innovation, there would be no economic and business growth. And even though large companies have a lot of features that keep them from innovating, they have the most to benefit from innovating.