Cynthia Kocialski knows a thing or two about starting a business. She has founded three companies, been involved in dozens of startsups, and is currently a consultant for companies just getting off the ground. In her book, “Startup from the Ground Up” (CreateSpace, 2010), she explains how being open to new ideas is a big part of making a business a success. BusinessNewsDaily asked her to tell us how important innovation is to a new company.
BusinessNewsDaily: What is the first sign that a startup will be a failure?
Cynthia Kocialski: When I speak with the founders and there is a sense of arrogance. It’s the attitude that we’re planning this great product and company, and no one is going to tell us what to do because we know what to do. They don’t want to listen to anyone. But I know that whatever they are planning, won’t unfold as they expect and if they hold to their grand plans, the company will fail.
BND: What role does innovation play in a startup business and in businesses in general?
CK: Startups are more efficient than established companies because they start with a clean slate and get to build from nothing. Established companies try and shoehorn changes into their current process, but never completely start anew. As a result, startups can use the latest innovations and state-of-the-art methods, usually making them three to four times more capital efficient than established businesses.
BND: Have you ever given advice that that you regretted ?
CK: Absolutely, one of the hardest parts of working with startups is gauging whether they really want an honest opinion. Many times a startup is seeking advice, but what they really want is validation that what they are doing is correct. They don’t want anyone to point out the weaknesses or flaws.
BND: From a business point of view how do you distinguish innovation from invention?
CK: Invention is something that is truly new, something no one has ever seen before or a new discovery. Innovation is often created by combining things that no one ever thought about bringing together or thought about applying to a problem, but there is nothing new about the methods. Wheels on trash cans and suitcase is one such innovation. There was nothing new about wheels or trash cans, but I remember my father always complaining about lugging the heavy cans to the curb.
BND: Is there one personality trait that you see in successful entrepreneur s?
CK: Persistence. When you don’t have success yet, entrepreneurs encounter far more naysayers than supporters. It seems as though just about everybody either dismisses the concept or offers polite, meaningless praise about its worthiness without any tangible aid. Entrepreneurs have to be able to continue on.
BND: Is the current business environment favorable for innovation?
CK: During poor economic times, what customers want most is to either save money or make more money. So any startup offering an innovation to do either will have customers. During good economic times, customers are more apt to continue doing business as usual rather than change to a new supplier even if there are benefits to switching. The state of the economy is providing the compelling reason to change.
BND: Do you think there is such a thing as too much innovation?
CK: Yes, I did some work for a startup that was trying to innovate too much. Instead of picking the innovations that would have the greatest impact for their customer. They were trying to innovate the entire product development process from unnecessarily inventing a new programming language for their software programmers to enhancing an external vendors manufacturing process for improved efficiency.