Implementing Innovations

Technological and organizational improvements for your company abound: new information and knowledge management systems, new machinery and equipment, or internally generated new administrative processes. These innovations may provide great efficiencies and improved products and services. However, they are only effective if they are actually used by employees correctly and consistently.

Managers may mandate employees to use innovations, but successful implementation is not guaranteed. Employees may be fearful of change; unsure of how to use the new technology or system or be fearful that it might adversely impact their roles or resources.

There are things you can do to make sure that the innovation that you invested in is actually used. First, you must show strong enthusiastic and continued support for the innovation. If not, employees view the innovation as a passing fancy. Another key factor is financial resources. It takes money to offer training, support, and a communications plan to educate about the merits of the innovation. Finally, the organizational culture can make a difference. Cultures that encourage risk taking, learning and experimentation are more conducive to innovation adoption.

To realize the benefits of the innovations you adopt, you need to invest in supporting those who must use them.

Donna De Carolis

Overcoming Obstacles to Change

Any type of organizational change is difficult to implement. Yet all companies need to continually change and improve to remain viable in their respective industries. One major mistake that leaders typically make when trying to achieve change or improved performance is not establishing the proper goals and expectations. Frequently, broad-sweeping goals are announced with little thought as to who is accountable and how the company will get there.

Research shows that this really stems from anxiety. Being clear about the specifics of attaining a goal requires considerable thought, investigation, and discussion. It is much easier to say, “We need to speed up product development,” than to articulate how we might actually do that.

This is why it is worth the extra time up front—if you are serious about achieving change—to work with the appropriate managers and teams in designing a change plan for each goal. This can be as simple as a workshop aimed at identifying five or so steps that must be taken to set the plan in motion, and also making sure that someone or a group of people will be accountable. Finally, recurrent follow up will motivate the change effort.

Engaging the workforce in setting the goal and designing the steps to achieve that goal will relieve the anxiety. The other added benefit is the valuable input and perspective that you can get through such participation.

When you de-mystify the ambiguity in achieving a new goal, you increase your chances of success.

Donna De Carolis

Preparing for Success in the New Year

How do you spell success?  Now is the time to define your top objectives for 2014 in order to achieve success.  Also, while your big goals are focused on profits, revenues, and market share, make sure to keep in mind the smaller tactics that lead to those goals.

As the New Year is upon us, now is the perfect time to re-visit and upgrade the basics that drive overall objectives.

For instance, market to current and former customers.  Satisfied customers are the ones most likely to be future customers or to refer others to you.  Don’t neglect to continue to market to them, so your name stays in their minds.

Do you have an effective way to organize and stay in touch with your contacts, something that you can access from mobile devices?  If your list of contacts is getting unwieldy, consider a service like

Make it a priority to contact at least five prospects per week, or ten, or twenty.  Make the quota realistic and continue to consistently promote your company.

If you haven’t already, activate social media marketing.  Facebook and Twitter might not make you money, but at least you will increase your visibility.

Your business New Years resolutions should be tactical as well as strategic.

Wishing you a very prosperous and healthy 2014!

Donna De Carolis

Revisiting the Elevator Pitch

Dynamically portraying your company is one of the most important things that an entrepreneur does, especially in the formative stages of a new venture.  Being able to quickly encapsulate the unique aspects of your product or service in a compelling manner is fundamental to gaining customers, investors, and building your brand.  This is known as the elevator pitch.

The elevator pitch — so named because it should not last longer than an average elevator ride — is far too important to ignore.  While you may not always deliver the pitch in an elevator, there will be occasions every day when you describe your new venture to others.

If you do not have an elevator pitch, create one, and rehearse it.  Make sure it articulates the added value that your company brings.  Use analogies; keep it simple; avoid lots of technical terms.  You don’t want to put people to sleep.  Emphasize your company’s unique advantages.

If you already have an elevator pitch, revisit it.  Every company grows and changes as customer needs and products evolve. When you update marketing materials, update your pitch.

Finally, don’t feel tied to one elevator pitch.  You should be able to tailor your pitch to a particular audience, highlighting what may be relevant to them about your company.

– Donna De Carolis, Dean

Accelerators vs. Incubators

So you have a start-up and are thinking about moving into either an accelerator or an incubator.  Which is more appropriate for your company?

While both are designed to facilitate the growth of new ventures, there are differences in their methods.

Incubators provide office space and shared facilities, such as telecommunications and Internet connections, in a dedicated building.  They also offer advice and guidance from professionals such as accountants, marketing consultants, and mentors. Entrepreneurs typically stay in an incubation center for three to five years, although there is no maximum period.  Incubators are good arrangements for early stage companies.

Accelerators foster rapid growth; typically housing later-stage companies.  While offering advice and shared facilities, they aim to turn ideas into prototypes in a matter of months.  Sponsors may provide funding or take a small equity position in the company. The incubation period is short and intense. A business accelerator is appropriate for start-ups that want to reduce time-to-market, rather than grow gradually.

While these are general guidelines, you should investigate any incubator or accelerator and determine their policies and how they might facilitate or inhibit the growth of your company.

–Donna De Carolis, Dean