Joy Gendusa: Something new

Joy Gendusa, founder and CEO, PostcardMania

In business, you’re either growing or you’re shrinking. There are a number of proven ways to grow and not least among those is innovation. Even if you’re in a business that’s been around forever and you have tons of competition, you can still innovate.

Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean you invent the latest, greatest new product. For instance, look at Progressive Insurance with the marketing concept of Flo and “Name Your Price.” Although you’ve always been able to name your price at any insurance company just by raising or lowering your deductible, Progressive was innovative in the presentation of this concept and created a successful marketing angle with it.

However you achieve it, innovation is imperative. It keeps your staff and customers excited. It drives creativity and eventually takes you where you want to go.

Here are three ways to get your innovation engines running:

Try to solve your own problems.

If your business runs into a problem, don’t be so quick to look for outside help. You may just have the answer within your company. By handling issues internally, you give your staff the opportunity to step up to the plate and drive the innovation. Not only that, but if you are having this problem, chances are, others are too. If you come up with the solution, you become the benefactor of other people wanting what you’ve got.

For example, when my company decided we needed a way for our customers to track their postcard campaigns online, I could have hired an outside developer to build the site. Instead, I let a 20-year-old hidden genius in my IT department who was eager to do more programming have a crack at it. He ended up building the whole site himself.

Don’t squash ideas.

Offering ideas is a telltale sign of interest. If your employees are asking questions and offering up their own solutions or ideas for improvement, that means they are active and engaged with what’s going on. That’s exactly what innovation calls for.

Do everything you can to encourage your employees to come up with ideas for how to help the business grow. Some of them might not be very good, and others might be a complete failure. But if you want to move forward, you need to take the risk. One day it will pay off big time.

Promote open communication.

A quiet office is one that probably doesn’t produce much innovation. The reason is because great innovative ideas rarely come from one person. It is the back-and-forth of dialogue between employees that opens up the creativity for innovation. Create time for this kind of conversation. Your staff should have monthly meetings with the purpose of discussing ideas and problem solving. You’d be surprised how much good can come from simple everyday conversations between your employees.

Survey your customers. Find out what they like and don’t like about your industry as a whole. Discuss the results with your management team and your staff. This will generate ideas, too!

Innovating a business that’s been around for a while is not an easy task. However, it can be done and it starts by fostering an environment where innovation can grow. By instituting the above policies, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Joy Gendusa founded PostcardMania in 1998 with a phone, computer and no capital investment. Since then, she has grown the company into one of the nation’s most effective direct mail marketing firms, specializing in postcard marketing for small to large-sized businesses. She has been named Tampa Bay CEO of the Year, Business Woman of the Year in Tampa Bay and has been featured on MSNBC’s “Your Business.” PostcardMania is an Inc. 500 and 5000 company and has won awards for creativity, best business practices and leadership.