The best small business tip that I could give you might just be this one: There is a big difference between a “Good” small business Entrepreneur, and a “Great” one.
A good small business Entrepreneur reacts to changes in their environment or industry. A GREAT Entrepreneur doesn’t need to react, because they can see the future.
This means that Robert Zemeckis must not be a “great” entrepreneur.
So who is Robert Zemeckis? He’s not, as far as I know, a small business owner, and chances are you’ve never heard his name. But you are most likely aware of his work.
He is the director of several outstanding movies, most notably the Back to the Future trilogy. He is widely regarded as a great director and an inventive thinker in the film industry.
So why, then, is he not a great Entrepreneur? Simple. He doesn’t have a crystal ball.
Not too long ago I decided to watch Back to the Future II with my kids. I loved this movie growing up, and thought my kids might like it too.
In this flick, Marty McFly travels to the future, and gets to ride hover-boards, cruise around in flying cars, and see his future self and family.
I loved the creativity in this movie – the hover boards were awesome, the back-straightening robot was a chiropractor’s dream toy, and who doesn’t want a flying car? It was pretty enjoyable to watch this show again after almost 20 years, and I thought the director did a good job of dreaming up the future…
…and then Marty McFly picked up a payphone.
What? Picked up a pay phone? With all of the crazy amazing inventions this guy dreamed up – flying cars and hoverboards and dehydrated pizzas and robot maids – he couldn’t imagine something as sensible and practical as a cell phone?
Surely he could have imagined that pay phones would be obsolete by 2015…since, well, they pretty much are. (When was the last time YOU went looking for a pay phone?)
Good hell, even the writers for Star Trek dreamed up “communicators”!
Obviously, Robert Zemeckis could make up a future fantasy land – but he didn’t have a crystal ball to show him the future. He dreamed up a bunch of crazy inventions that weren’t practical – but he failed to imagine this one big invention that would revolutionize our lives (and what’s even more head-scratching – it’s something that we actually had the technology for when the film was made!)
Robert Zemeckis doesn’t seem to have it in him to be a “great” entrepreneur. He doesn’t have a crystal ball.
The biggest innovations and industry-changing advancements have come from people who could clearly envision the future. These innovators (who are also usually GREAT Entrepreneurs) can see what’s around them, and imagine something better – and then CREATE what they imagine!
And plenty of crystal-ball-carrying Entrepreneurs and small business owners have made fortunes acting quickly when those innovations just start to take hold. (Here’s another big small business tip – be the front runner on new innovations)
If you can’t innovate, or predict which innovations will change the way your customers think or behave, then you are in danger of becoming like the typewriter repairman – i.e. extinct.
The marketplace is changing and evolving every single day. Here are three major recent innovations that are changing the world RIGHT NOW. These are movements that are going to stick. These are innovations that might just force you to change your operating strategies and marketing plans. These are innovations that as a small business owner you cannot afford to ignore.
1. Tablets are the new laptops.
You may have noticed these new-fangled gadgets called “tablets”. Apple popularized the idea, and realizing how revolutionary this product was, Samsung and others quickly jumped on the bandwagon. People have already started to carry them around like day-planners. They are completely replacing peoples’ entire briefcases. And it’s only a matter of time before they make laptops (and maybe even desktops) as we know and “love” them completely obsolete.
Soon enough, if it doesn’t have a screen that you can touch to navigate your way around, and if there’s a keyboard or a mouse attached to it, then no one is going to want it. (“You have to use your HANDS? That’s like a baby toy!” – Classic line from Back to the Future 2)
If you are in the consumer electronics industry, then you are already stocking as many Tablets as you can get your greedy little fingers on. But you might want to think about limiting your order quantity on laptops – unless you want them sitting on your “perpetual clearance rack” next to your portable CD players and Polaroid film.
But there are plenty of ways you can capitalize on this craze from other industries. For example, what if you armed your sales force with tablets? Your company would be seen as a cutting-edge front runner (there’s a lot to be gained by that distinction). Also, these slick little devices have outstanding presentation abilities and applications – improving your overall level of professionalism.
And it won’t be very long before they have built-in projectors, completing their annihilation of laptops (if you don’t believe that, then you probably also didn’t believe that they could fit a whole video recorder inside a teeny little phone either).
2. Smartphones aren’t the wave of the future – they are the wave of RIGHT NOW.
Soon you won’t be able to buy a cell phone that doesn’t come complete with the ability to play Angry Birds, surf the internet, and creep around on Facebook. In fact, it’s been estimated that already as much as 25% of all internet surfing is done on a Smartphone. And this number is going up every day. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’re reading this message right now on your Smartphone.
But unless you’re a cell phone retailer, then you might wonder why this is important to you. Well, if you do any kind of advertising online, then this movement is absolutely CRUCIAL to your future prosperity. Advertising on mobile units is different from standard Internet advertising – and the audience is growing much faster than the number of advertisers are. If I could give just ONE small business tip in this article, it would be this: LEARN HOW TO PROPERLY MARKET YOUR COMPANY ON MOBILE DEVICES!
3. Plugging in instead of filling up.
The Toyota Prius wasn’t the first hybrid – but it’s the car generally credited with starting the Hybrid craze.
The hybrid movement was originally started based on the idea of saving the environment. Green energy nuts and tree huggers ditched their “Shaggin’ Wagons” and immediately gravitated to these gas-sipping vehicles. And with the Prius, the mainstream quickly started to catch on. It wasn’t long before you saw celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz cruising around in the funny looking cars (Prius gets a C- for style).
But hybrids aren’t the future. In fact, hybrids will eventually become as extinct as their gas-guzzling counterparts.
With the release of the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, the first volley of true mass-market electric cars has been launched. Make no mistake – the alternative energy craze combined with the shrinking supply of our limited fossil fuel resources will absolutely drive more and more companies to come out with their own lines of fully electric vehicles, which will change the industry in the same way that unleaded-fuel-powered vehicles forced out the “regular” crowd.
But that’s not where it will end. Over the course of the next decade or so, there will be a real race to create alternative energy vehicles (instead of the P.R. farce put on by a few auto manufacturers today).
Look for hydrogen powered vehicles to become more popular and economical. Don’t be surprised to see solar powered cars hitting the showroom floor (probably a little more popular in Phoenix than in Seattle). And a few decades down the road, I fully expect to see (*gasp*) soccer moms shuttling their kids around in Nuclear Powered SUVs.
If you are an auto dealer, your course of action here should be obvious. But what if you’re not? What small business tips could we possibly give to the non-auto-dealer crowds related to Green Machines?
Well, on the small business level, the “Going Green” movement is as much about public relations as anything else. It’s outstanding P.R. to be seen as a company that cares about the environment and conserving natural resources – especially for a small business!
Imagine the positive P.R. that you could generate if your computer repair squad cruised around in fully electric cars rather than gas-guzzlers? What would your customer’s reaction be if their pizza showed up at their door inside a Nissan Leaf instead of a 1997 Corolla?
You could even push the Green Revolution envelope a step farther – by installing wind turbines or solar panels on top of your building, or mandating electronic delivery of invoices (which has the added bonus of saving you quite a bit of cold-hard-cash).
Here were three quick MAJOR examples of innovations changing the entire market – and the way every-day business is conducted – on a wide-scale. But every single day individual industries are being revolutionized. Including your own.
So pull out your crystal ball, and start figuring out where these innovations are going to come from so you can prepare for them. Or better yet, why don’t YOU become the innovator yourself? After all, in business, it’s always better to be forcing the reaction, than doing the reacting!
These are just a few of the many ways that you can give your small business a completely UNFAIR competitive advantage. But they aren’t the most powerful way…