Markus W. Rauschnabel, CEO, StyleFactory:
Innovation has taken center stage lately, as President Barack Obama argues that it is the key to America’s economic future. Just how innovation plays out in the cubicles and on the laptops of America’s small business owners, however, is anyone’s guess. Balancing the need to be innovative while managing a business on a day-to-day basis can be challenging.
BusinessNewsDaily asked CEOs from a variety of industries how innovation factors into their everyday business plans. Their answers, which we will present in a three-part series, offer insights into what’s happening in real businesses across the country.
StyleFactory connects designers with the growing community of design-oriented consumers that seek individualized choices without the high-end price points of designer stores.
As the founder/CEO of a social commerce startup in a very traditional industry — home furnishings — innovation and speed are key for us to grow quickly. Our goal is to revolutionize this industry using crowdsourcing and by cutting out the middlemen between manufacturing and the consumer.
For me, innovation has a lot to do with being flexible, keeping an open mind and looking at other industries for new ideas. A lot of people told me that I was crazy to focus on the home furnishings industry! But that’s exactly where the potential lies: to shake up a very traditional industry with a disruptive and innovative business concept. In the beginning, we had some doors slammed in our faces, but finally the manufacturers are warming up to our idea of going direct and cutting out all the unnecessary middlemen. Seek out the innovators and visionaries, the others will follow over time -- or will be forced out!
Jerry Kaplan, CEO, Winster, Inc.:
Winster, Inc. operates Winster.com, an online social game community where people collaborate – rather than compete – to win prizes. The site offers cooperative games that promote positive social relations and companionship by simulating face-to-face activities.
In business, as in nature, the pressure to innovate comes from competition. But innovative thinking is a double-edged sword. Chasing the latest, greatest idea can lead to chaos in an organization. Employees need to have confidence in your business direction, and approach Monday morning without fear that they will be redeployed toward some new and unfamiliar priorities. This is why some of the most creative and prolific innovators are the worst managers.
My experience is that 80 percent of the innovation should occur when you start a company, and only twenty percent after that. It’s important to stick to your "business thesis" until it is proven right or wrong, and adapt only as the competitive environment requires. Success is all about patience and execution, not grand thinking and innovation.
Choose your direction carefully, and then stay true. Resist chasing the "next big thing," because the only certainty is that by the time you’ve heard about it, every venture capital firm in town has quietly funded a "me too" competitor!
Guillaume Molter, CEO, eegoes.com
: Eegoes is a new generation social networking site. The goal of eegoes is to provide a user-friendly and relevant platform for engaging social interaction.
In such a competitive market as the social media market, innovative thinking is not an option, but an obligation. Users already have hundreds of options, so the only way for us to stand out from the rest is to offer to people something new and different. Which is why we identify issues on other networks before users are even aware of them, and immediately begin working on solving those issues.
That’s the great thing about the Internet: Its potential is infinite. The drawback of that is that the market is evolving at lightning speed -- as innovation is a critical aspect of our business, we need to constantly monitor the site, trends and social media sphere to see what’s working and what’s not.
We spend an incredible amount of time listening to and analyzing our users’ feedback. We also remain innovative by having a very open and creative management style, where every team member is encouraged to share their new ideas and critiques for the company.
Jeffrey Sweeney, CEO, US Capital Partners, Inc.
: US Capital is a private investment bank, direct lender, co-lender and lead financial arranger that specializes in asset-based debt for small- to middle-market private and public companies.
Innovation ranks right up there next to integrity in terms of importance for driving business. Our entire business model at USCP is structured around innovating and filling the gaps in financing provided by others in the marketplace for small cap and lower middle market companies. When bank borrowing is not an option or sufficient for securing adequate working and growth capital, businesses must look to lenders, who serve clients by getting to know their business beyond a small-box profile, and are therefore able to see opportunities and provide solutions as unique as each business model.
Our business model is based around innovation and creative services and products to our clients and investors. We are continually surveying the finance marketplace for what is available to our borrowers and investors. Contrary to generally held beliefs, the financial lending industry is constantly changing.
We have a creative business culture based on assessing what is ever-changing and readily available in the marketplace, but difficult to assess if you are not interacting on a daily basis in that market. Our intention is to advise and offer both information and access to that which is available, and provide that which is not generally available as an innovative finance product. This serves both our investors and borrower clients.
Whether it is the type of client you serve, how that client is marketed to, or the evolution of products available and offered to that client, innovation must be a part of your corporate culture or one is opening your business up to losing sales from innovative competition.
Michael Rozbruch, CEO, Tax Resolution Services
: Tax Resolution Services is dedicated to providing affordable solutions to businesses and individuals alike who find themselves in trouble with the IRS.
Innovative thinking is very important. It's the difference between just remaining static versus challenging the status quo and implementing unconventional methods to drive growth and best practices. As a leader, I believe that it is my duty to educate my clients and the public on viable tax resolution strategies and solutions.
By delegating more and more daily tasks to our strong management team, this helps me have more time for me to explore and research new unconventional ways of driving the business. For example, we are in the direct response category - and we think that doing an educational, informative 5 minute TV segment with a recognized spokesperson such as Terry Bradshaw would be a way to attract a segment of the market that doesn't want to be "sold.”
The business climate in America is excellent for anyone willing to take risks in what they believe in. When you can provide an invaluable service to the general public by helping them, I believe you increase your chances of success exponentially.