What's your next big idea?
How often does creativity strike? Almost certainly never when you're trying to think of the 'next steps' for your business. Much like when you are asked your favourite film, and the only one you seem to be able to recall is a 1980's action blockbuster that you channel-hopped past at the weekend, when trying to find a way to reach new customers or offer something different to your existing clients, the mind draws a blank. I call it the 'flipchart syndrome'. I saw this book whist running errands and it struck me how terrifyingly dull it was, given that one of the best uses of flipcharts is as wallpaper, for your team, friends and family to write all those 'silly ideas' on; the ones which can't be done for one reason or another, or is too 'whacky' or ambitious. In my experience, throwing all the ideas 'at the wall' can be one of the most powerful ways of seeing where your business is going and getting an idea of the common themes or direction that all the suggestions, as a whole, will take you. Here are our top 5 tips for mapping out where to take your business next:
1. Map it out. Use flipchart paper, the back of old wallpaper samples, old posters, whatever you have, but stick them on the wall and start writing.
2. The ideas don't have to be good! Sitting or standing in front of a blank page or empty wall is soul-destroying... don't let writers' block stop you from getting started. Any idea is a good idea and as soon as you've made a mark on that immaculate piece of paper you are on your way.
3. Ask everyone. Try to get opinions from as many different people as possible. Fellow board members, junior office colleagues, friends, family and competitors will all have a view of the business (even if they don't readily share it!) and the more suggestions you have from as diverse a group as possible the better quality the overall work will be.
4. Look for patterns. If half a dozen of the ideas jotted down focus on specialising, or better internal organisation, or reaching out to new markets, then that's the first road to take. Pursue ideas that are popular, in themes that crop up again and again. Whilst leadership isn't always a democracy, it can take being told the same thing several times before we realise which way we need to drive the business.
5. Ask for help. Small businesses, in particular, struggle to 'do it all'. The expert tecchie, meticulous accountant or well-connected dealmaker don't necessarily make the best contract-writers, website editors or PR pros. Even when setting up the business and on a very small budget, Livock Parker drafted in SEO experts, designers and CV editors to ensure we were doing right by our business. Recognising our weaknesses and what we do and do not have time for has strengthened our offer to clients and helped us see what we do well.