How To Unleash Innovation in Your Company

Successful businesses develop guiding principles, eliminate destructive habits, and put the CEO out front developing innovation and driving growth.

Unleashing innovation in your company will require a much different management approach than simply focusing on internal processes and productivity. According to renowned business expert Tom Oyler, there are three essential elements to adopting this new approach.

Development of guiding principles. Successful landscape companies operate from a foundation of guiding principles which typically include the following:

  • Treat client's money as if it were our own
  • Keep customer at center of strategic thinking
  • Be a low-cost provider
  • Improve employability
  • Question everything the industry does
  • New opportunity must provide at least 40% return on invested capital
  • New opportunity must provide at least 35% compound annual growth rate potential

Elimination of destructive habits. Every company has destructive habits that need to be eliminated to truly unleash innovation. Destructive habits often include:

  • Myopic leadership that's too focused on own company and industry; i.e. most landscapers don't pay attention to what's going on in the real estate industry
  • Obsession with process improvement and trying to look just like main competitors
  • Overly focused on overhead recovery and not enough on sales growth
  • Profits stressed more than organizational integrity
  • Protect long-term, under-productive employees
  • If it isn't broke, don't break it
  • No better idea for growth than to acquire competitors
  • CEO is invisible

Organizational reflection. Oyler says CEOs can't become invisible, which results from being overly focused on the internal workings of the company. CEOs need to remain "on point"—looking for new opportunities to better position the company for growth.

Think about the meetings you have with managers. It's likely that the majority of the time is spent talking about operations and processes. But it's important that you're also devoting time to discuss strategic positioning.

Similarly, it's important to look for sales- and strategy-minded candidates when hiring new employees, as opposed to those who are only "wired" for operations.

Also, think about the incentive plans you offer employees. Are the incentives based on meeting objectives from an operations standpoint, such as staying within budget or hitting a sales target? Those can be good objectives for an incentive plan. But you may also want to think about incentivizing new ideas for market position improvements. Doing so will help cement strategic positioning and innovative thinking as part of your company's culture.