Top 5 Traits of Successful Innovators

When done right, innovation breathes new life into tired methods, propelling small businesses to the head of the crowd. How does your company rate against these 5 tips from top innovators?
Writer/Author/Publisher/Speaker, Garden Guides Press
January 04, 2013

Though he owns a small business in a staid industry bound by government regulations, Robert Gorelick knows that to stay ahead of the crowd, running an innovative company is crucial. 

“Being successful as a small business is about more than getting the job done,” says Gorelick, president of Benefit Equity, Inc., a national company founded in 1989 that consults with small-business owners on their company retirement plans. “To gain market share as a company, you must innovate.”

Innovation ignites discoveries and breathes new life into tired methods, propelling small businesses to the head of the crowd. See how your company rates by considering these top five shared traits of successful innovative companies.

1. They employ creative marketing. As the owner of a business in the financial industry, which tends toward a conservative approach to marketing, Gorelick finds that he gets his most inspired ideas by looking at other industries.

"Being innovative takes an open, inquisitive mindset that encourages you to look outside of your comfort zone to analyze what has successfully been done in other industries so you can adapt those tactics to your business,” he says. 

This approach has resulted in a number of successful marketing campaigns unique to Gorelick’s industry that have gained his company attention, such as a recent campaign that involved sending potential clients mini dartboards. 

“The dartboards are small and fit on their desks, and then we've followed up with 'dart' letters explaining how we can help them meet their business goals,” he says. “The fact that few in my industry would use this sort of marketing campaign has made us stand out.”

2. They're adaptive. Necessity truly is the mother of invention, and this mindset drives innovative companies. Successful small-business owners know that the only constant is change and only companies that adapt to change survive and thrive. When you run a business that encourages acknowledgement of change as a constant and promotes adapting to change, you create an office culture that values creativity and innovation. 

3. They're customer-focused. Innovative companies know that customer reactions to services or products reveal a great deal about what sort of changes can be made to better serve them. By keeping in touch with clients and making them feel comfortable shopping and purchasing your services, you create an environment where innovative ideas flourish, says Sue Jackson, owner of the specialty retail shop Country Roads Antiques & Gardens, which has been in business in the same location since 1993.

"By staying in constant contact with your customers, you create a fertile environment that breeds innovative ideas,” she says. “It’s amazing how far you can get with simple words such as ‘thanks for coming in,’ or ‘nice to see you.’ And it’s incredible how much information your customers’ reaction to those words will get you.”

4. They channel drive and ambition. Innovation takes targeted thought, and targeted thought requires that you remain focused and driven. When you’re determined to succeed, you automatically find yourself looking at every possible angle for achieving success, and many of those angles turn out to be truly innovative. 

5. They don't fear experimentation. Innovative companies experiment constantly. Those small-business owners who succeed know that it takes much more than sticking with the status quo to thrive. While it’s definitely advisable to hold close those tried-and-true methods of selling your products or services, at the same time it’s also important to constantly branch out and ask yourself, “What if?” 

Of course, it’s risky to experiment and carry a product that you've never sold before or offer a new service, but doing so is the only way to know what works and what doesn't. It’s only a matter of time before one of your innovative experiments turns out to be a goldmine.

Try adding these traits of innovative companies to your business success arsenal, and you’re sure to come out a winner.

Read more posts about small business innovation.  

Photo: Thinkstock 

A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle. Julie blogs via
Writer/Author/Publisher/Speaker, Garden Guides Press