Sunday, October 22, 2000

Small business diary

Ideas beget ideas

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

        In today's fast-paced environment, companies frequently face opposition from both traditional competitors and new startups, increasing the demand for change and innovation.

        By encouraging people to voice new ideas and develop their creative skills, managers can improve the success of the organization and the overall workplace environment, said Susan H. Gebelein, executive vice president at Personnel Decisions International (PDI) and author of the Successful Manager's Handbook: Development Suggestions for Today's Managers.

        “Business as usual is not enough. A leader's role is to passionately champion the change and innovation necessary to stay competitive, retain employees, and create an environment of progress and expansion.

        “The old phrase, "Keep up the good work,' falls far short of the message a manager should be giving. Business as usual is not enough. A leader's role is to passionately champion the change and innovation necessary to stay competitive, retain employees, and create an environment of progress and expansion.”

        The following are tips for encouraging people at all levels to generate and voice innovative ideas:

        • Promote a climate in which people encourage, rather than criticize, new ideas. Ask people to first discuss what they like, rather than what they dislike, about an idea.

        • Foster the attitude that innovative thinking is part of everyone's job, regardless of function and level of responsibility.

        • Reward people for their ideas by thanking them and telling others about them. Support their ideas and help implement them. The likelihood of success and the belief that an idea will be acted upon are powerful motivators.

        • Set aside time at staff meetings to discuss new ideas. Emphasize that all ideas are welcome, even those not yet fully developed.

        • Initiate two or three sessions dedicated to brainstorming on a particular is sue or question. These do not need to be formal sessions; if a problem arises during a staff meeting, suggest a brainstorm to come up with as many solutions as possible.

        If building long-term relationships is not part of your business philosophy, you had better reconsider the way you do business, consultant/author Elaine Biech said.

        “Building a relationship with clients is as important as completing the project and exceeding the results a client expects.

        “It would be foolish of you to ignore a relationship you have spent months to build. While repeat business is primarily due to providing high-quality, results-oriented consulting, a strong firm will also focus on relationship building as an effective marketing strategy. Good, solid relationships make it easier to remember you when new projects evolve.”

        The author of The Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond has these tips:

        • Continue to send notes and cards. During the project you can learn a lot about your client's likes, dislikes, pet peeves, hobbies, and interests. You can find items or reading materials about any of these. Find reasons to communicate with them.

        • Encourage your clients to call any time. You can help them find resources, materials or track down a bit of information. They may call and ask if you know of available jobs or people to fill job openings they have. It is a sign of a solid partnership to have requests coming your way on a regular basis.

        • Keep your travel schedule in mind. If you will be near a previous client's location, call them and plan to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner-or just a visit. Drop in and visit their office when you can.

        • Sell others on your clients regularly. Find customers for them; recommend them to serve on boards; compliment their products and services to others.

        • Call clients if you need help. Call them if you know of available jobs or call them to serve as a resource for someone else or to ask if you can use their name as a reference. Always ask permission before you use a client as a reference for another project. Even this continues to maintain the relationship.


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