Don’t let anyone tell you it is easy to run your own business, it is far from that. I thought I’d write about what and where it has meaning for me in this “finding our true purpose”. Here are some of my thoughts, some a little raw, others well-baked, even some half-baked!.
Running your own business is full of uncertainty, doubt and risk. Equally, though, you have a level of independence and this does permit you to respond quickly. It can offer higher degrees of flexibility, allows you to pursue what you think clients really want, not what others above you are imposing as template solutions, or their personal views. Finally, you can explore the options to deliver, as in my case, services, in your own unique style that often work far better for clients needs.
You are not accountable to anyone, apart from the wife and the bank manager, always looking a little harder at you, that small business owner needing to deliver. In between these two ends of independence and the uncertainty from the dependence a few clients you might be relient on constantly moving the goal posts, there are quite frankly, lots of raw emotions. The best part, for me, is a growing confidence that I am operating many times in the ‘zone’ of client needs, that they require out of innovation. The downside I have to admit is there is an awful lot of hard work that needs to go into this so as to get you there.
My Business Model gets a constant bashing.
I really believe in working the business model hard but as you initiate your execution, not only is it about “getting out of the office” (the Steve Blank cry) but trying to constantly work the relationships that are growing trying to understand what potential customers want. Equally you do need to look hard at what Steve suggests is the customer development manifesto .
Steve also suggests we can get caught up in the 9 deadliest start-up sins and although this is written specifically for start-ups I think many of theses can apply to all businesses. These ‘sage’ pieces of advice are not just for start-ups as I’m well beyond a start-up but I find them incredibly useful as critical reminders as I evolve and change my business model.
It is also about managing the incredible ‘flow’ of knowledge, insights and latest thinking that comes into you constantly every single day. You struggle to read, absorb, relate too and translate these often breaking thoughts, into your own thinking and propositions. Of course, much as you find out is not so much leading edge but simply a rehashing of existing ideas, yet still even in these, they have specific experiences attached to them and these are useful to learn from or be reminded.
The innovation forge to shape and form
I’ve been working in the innovation forge arena for fourteen or more years, designing, shaping and learning about innovation, trying to translate this into value for clients and their innovation challenges. I seem to know where I want to go for my future innovation work but balancing the ‘inflow’ of knowledge with the necessary customer ‘insights’ is not easy, especially when you want to have as much paying work as you can.
No, running your own business is hard. The ‘fun’ is managing the inputs, working the absorption process, producing your own distinct outputs, let alone achieving the required outcomes you need through attracting clients and achieving engagement.
Over the years my own business model has evolved
My business model has increasingly moved more towards a ‘trusted’ adviser, where I coach, council and mentor on innovation. I constantly look beyond today and work at identifying leading practice, methods and tools.
Of course pure consulting features but I genuinely believe working with a good counselor or confident have a vital roles to play for understanding the value generating and impact points. This works towards addressing certain problems or challenges being individually faced, yet you are consciously seeking out the dynamic linkages within the broader innovation work. This is to partly strengthen what is available and already in place, partly to accelerate resources into applying innovation knowledge, at a different, more organized, coherent level.
So I’m working far more towards a facilitator and adviser by design and choice to those responsible for building innovation capacities, so as to promote, stimulate and exchange thinking in innovation thinking and design. The end result, is to contribute to exploring emerging and leading practice understanding for integration into an organizations thinking and innovation models.
To this end I have ‘contained’ my service offerings deliberately. These I can sum up this way, as:
Agility’s focus of innovation work (unpaid advert)
- I look to provide leading edge advice on the premise you want to improve your present innovation performance.
- The focus is all about bringing new forms of innovation competency or capability into the world of everyday thinking for clear impact and return on the investments made.
- The result is to deliver a more holistic, understanding of what is required in innovation, unique to each client & their challenges, tailored to their needs to accelerate performance
- These are based on finding solutions for the future, deliberately forward looking to overcome today’s challenges & supporting the future innovative growth, not looking to stay caught in a legacy of past, out of date design.
The pivoting we need in any emerging business model is really hard to do.
I often get caught in the customer segment pivot. You believe you have the solutions to solve real problems within innovation but actually identifying often the ‘hidden’ real customer that this is planned for, then getting them engaged is the hardest part.
As Eric Ries nicely puts it in his lean start up methodology, the hypotheses are confirmed but only partly, until you can find more of those often ‘hidden’ customers within the organizations, that are needing these solutions and applying them.
It does get frustrating when you believe you can make a positive contribution to many organizations, still struggling to articulate, frame and determine their needs and understanding for innovation.
Applying a selection of solutions to one, does not mean it will be valid to another, as often the context is significantly different. It is a process of reiteration, of understanding the differences and reworking solutions, blending in and capitalizing on the DNA that reflect the uniqueness.
Searching for learning, growth and impact
Hence, well for me, the constant need is for exploring all the different streams of new understanding, these become essential, these become learning milestones and new building blocks. These can also play mind games on you though, as they can confuse me at times, on what is offering those real engines of growth, as I adjust to these new learning’s, Clients have a growing need for ‘leading edge’ not old past ‘best practices’, that are often never really applicable to their circumstances anyway. I much prefer to focus on ’emerging’ practices’ as these tend to be more forward looking.
The growth comes from the need to reflect where the potential challenge is for the client but it also has to be more future orientated enough to move challenges through to decent lasting solutions. Looking at solutions that are often not working for many others is not the answer.
This changing and building a new business model is no walk in the park, especially when you are in such a crowded competitive market space of consulting and advising on something like innovation as it is constantly evolving.
Actually I’ve found that the catalogue of pivots suggested by Eric Ries I must have somehow worked though most of his suggested pivots. It is no fun this pivoting lark! It often hurts when you want to push thinking and concepts that seem to be highly relevant and needed in the market place, pivoting and adjusting as solutions are nearly all unique.
I know I need more validation, more conversations, more observations to keep the engine humming well. Come on all you hidden innovators searching for a resolution to your current problems and barriers within innovation, show yourselves, I really think I can help!
So in moving forward I’ve been actively revamping my work
Today I have ‘settled’ for two business entities both relating around innovation advisory provision.
www.agilityinnovation.com – “the focus is upon bringing out the new forms of innovation competency or capability into clients work”.
www.hocaconsulting.com – a focus upon the Work to be done that is needed for our future growth and well-being to be derived through innovation activities.
My supporting activities are critically important
I complement these by what I discuss under this blog www.paul4innovating.com or have been able to get published on leading innovation sites. I want to explore and build the DNA of innovation as part of this need to understand innovation (my way) and offer a more (comprehensive) picture of what is needed for innovation to work well.
I have even gone off and created a dedicated website which is exclusive to my evolving ‘fitness dynamics for innovation’ as a theory I believe allows us to capture and relate to the capabilities and capacities needed to achieve innovation within each organizations unique ways to pursue innovation. This is under www.innovationfitnessdynamics.com
To sum up
For me, establishing the ‘new’ often means moving beyond often the already ‘known’, it is to experiment with sometimes the untried, so as to learn, too achieve faster and improving results, too evolve. This needs fresh perspectives and dedicated innovation knowledge. I attempt to provide those insights and guidance in the emerging areas of innovation.
The issue is still the classical one of convincing clients to explore, to experiment and apply some of these, as they really need too get out of specific ‘ruts’. I think far too often innovation as they have designed it or manage it, is failing to deliver on its initial promise. Risk is the partner to innovation so I’d argue (as you would expect) you need to push the existing boundaries a little more.
Yes, I’m aiming for transformational in results, from my own learning to relate into clients challenges and problems, yet I’m often reminded this evolving practice of innovation is equally applying more and more to my own innovation design.
Innovation is an uncomfortable place to be yet it is exciting as it evolves and keeps pushing us towards the future.