Guest Blogger: Alan Adler: Cultivating Your Next Great Idea to Build Your Business?

While most of us spend 98% of our time working in our business, only 2% work on our business. This doesn’t leave much time for new ideas. Yet new ideas and outside the box thinking are critical for improving performance, profit and adding value. Following are some suggestions where your next great idea may come from. 

If the company’s culture encourages authenticity and openness, then suggestions from employees can be a terrific source of fresh ideas. A few years ago, a client asked me to facilitate a meeting of company employees.  The goal was to encourage great ideas and suggestions from them.  A college intern, who had only been with the company a few weeks, reported that many of the company’s vendors send damaged merchandise, short ship, late ship or return goods that have to be restocked. She mentioned that these practices had been an unnecessary expense, for which the business was unwittingly absorbing the cost. The intern’s suggestion was to send out a quarterly report card to all vendors. First, explaining the reason for the new policy and secondly to grade the vendor’s performance. Any vendor that received a “C” grade or lower for two consecutive quarters was put on notice that unless their score improved, they would be replaced . The new practice resulted in a savings of more than $250,000 in the first year.

Vendors — Strategic Relationships
Do you think of your vendors (suppliers), as “vendors” or strategic alliances? Mark Richardson, author of the best selling book How Fit is Your Business, suggests “Eliminating the word “vendor” from your team’s vocabulary – and replace it with “strategic alliance.” Doing this, he claims, restacks the deck and causes you to look at them differently. “You both look for win-win solutions and ideas,” Richardson says. “These strategic alliances, are worth ten times more than other alliances. They will provide more ideas, contacts, and insights that really help your business.” He further suggests that “once you find them, you need to invest more time and energy into them.” For more about Mark Richardson,

Your Customers
Customers are more than willing to share their ideas, however, it’s usually when they’re dissatisfied.  A client, who is a manufacturer of liquid dispensing guns (like grease guns), asked customers at a trade show exhibit, for any ideas they might have. One customer talked about how much easier the company’s products would be to use, if they offered a cordless version, much like the cordless power tools marketed and sold today. Within a short time a prototype was created and today that client is the leading manufacturer and marketer of cordless liquid dispensing guns in the country.

Giving and Getting
Developing relationships is seldom a one-way street. When you position yourself differently, reciprocity is often the result. Consider making referrals, or presenting a talk on a topic you’re passionate about. Giving back is not only “the right thing to do,” it helps cement relationships and makes you a better person.

For some, this way of thinking seems obvious, these are the people who “connect the dots.” Others may get the message, but it takes a lot of effort to shift their thinking and behavior. Then there are those who guard themselves to tightly that they will never get it. If you really want to improve your business, encouraging the help of those around you is a great place to start.

For more about my friend and colleague Alan Adler, and his newest book UpStream – Are You Ready to Turn Your Business Around?  Which just coincidentally happens to have a small section featuring my Goldilocks Leadership Style, to learn more go to