business of furniture Jul 08, 2020

Innovation is HERE

How to embrace innovation in your business 

One of the many things our industry is known for is innovation — we’re constantly adapting and evolving the ways people work, how spaces are built, designed, and furnished, all with the goal of increased productivity and employee engagement for our clients. Innovation is a necessity in our industry. 

Think about it for just a minute, what are some of the most recent innovations in our industry?  Which pivot has impacted you and your business the most? Was it a product, program, process, technology, manufacturing switch, or something else? 

I’ve been in the industry for nearly 30 years, and I can confirm that the innovation just keeps getting faster, better, and more customer-focused each year. For me, most of my favorite innovations are in the product category, which is perfect, since I’m a self-proclaimed product junkie — and you’d have to admit, there have been some really cool products introduced in recent years. 

But I think one of the most impactful innovations of our time is happening right now, in our industry, all as a result of this global pandemic — and we have the opportunity to be part of it!  The pandemic has forced us to innovate, to adapt. We’ve all heard way too much about the pandemic and its impact — but this is critical a moment in time that will define you, your life, your family, your career, and your business for years to come. 

Here’s a reality check — if you are sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to “return to normal,” the way they were prior to March 15, 2020, you’re wasting your time. If you’re following and listening to industry leaders and experts, their message is clear — our industry is incurring a dynamic change and shift, a new level of innovation we have never seen before, and we’re not going back. 

I talk to people all around the country implementing change and adapting to the new normal in their businesses — and if you’re not changing and adjusting, you’re about to be left behind and very soon.

As of now, most design firms are not allowing visitors into their offices for the remainder of 2020 — which means, if they’re your target customer, you can’t call on them for the next 6 months. You can’t go to their office and show them your latest and greatest products, no lunch-n-learns, no cocktail hours, nothing. So, what are you going to do? In an industry where relationships are key and in-person meet-ups are the backbone of any project. What new strategy have you developed to engage this community? Zoom? Hopefully that’s not all you’re doing, because if they’re like the rest of us — they’re experiencing “Zoom Fatigue,” too! It’s time to get creative. 

In a recent survey conducted by Korn Ferry and reported on by SHRM, 64% of workers report being more productive working at home, even with all the distractions around them. In contrast, only 32% identified as “highly likely” to return to the office when their company opened. You read that right, and I’d encourage you to read it again. 

This IS our industry. So, what do these statistics mean to you? If you thought there was nothing, or they don’t matter — read them again, because they do matter. 

Just in case the message hasn’t been made clear so far — you NEED to determine a strategy for how you are going to incorporate remote work into your business strategy. Working from home is a niche that’s here to stay, and with it comes endless possibilities for our industry. We just have to get creative. Develop a strategy to support your customers as they incorporate remote work into their businesses — and if you haven't done this or are at least planning it, you’re behind, your competition is way ahead of you. Just Google “work from home” or “remote work,” and see what comes up — it’s all hands on deck to make this new work environment thrive. 

Look, I could go on and on with examples like this — our future, your future, the future of our industry is entirely different now. It will never be the same — and hey, if I’m the one jolting you into action with some hard truths, that’s great. This column served its purpose. It’s time to step outside your comfort zone and do what’s necessary to grow your business and thrive! And yes, thriving IS possible, even in the midst of uncertainty. 

To support you with this, here’s a basic framework you can use to discover what’s possible in your business, come up with new ideas to pivot to the world’s current needs and accommodate your customers well. It all starts with your people, and with these steps, you can put your people first as you pivot to meet the world’s current needs: 

Step 1: Assemble a team within your business (not just leadership, but managers, people officed at home, and others) — include all departments and select those that will actively participate and speak up.

Step 2: Create an environment of open discussion. No idea is too small or too big to be discussed; you need to embrace the ideas of your team, and they need to feel that they can share them without repercussion. 

Step 3:  Brainstorm session — rapid fire ideas, right them all down. Don’t discuss them now, just gather the ideas. If you need to, hire a facilitator for this session — and yes, it can be done via Zoom!

Step 4: Consolidate the ideas into categories.

Step 5: Pick one or two ideas and move them forward — empower your team to develop the plan and see what happens.

Step 6: Evaluate. What worked, what didn’t, and what are your next steps?

Step 7: Do it all again, again, and again. 

Listen, there’s a lot of doom and gloom in the world right now, but there is so much opportunity for you and your business. You need to have the courage to see what’s possible, to create the vision of your future with clarity and purpose, and to choose new, pivoted ideas that fit our current world. And when you do, share it! I’d love to know what innovations you created to help your business thrive!


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