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(Hint, it doesn’t always mean reinventing the wheel)

You don’t have to look far to find businesses that are innovating through times of crisis. Sit-down restaurants now offer to-go or delivery meal options. Local bookstores are offering curbside pickup and $1 shipping anywhere in the United States. Art studios will deliver supplies to your doorstep and host virtual Sip n’ Paint classes online.

Those businesses are turning down the volume of the COVID-19 crisis to turn up the volume on innovation. That’s according to Ron Price, founder of Price Associates of Boise, Idaho. Price and his team help businesses fulfill their vision by solving problems and identifying and pursuing opportunities. With decades of experience guiding companies through challenging times, Price says it’s critical that business owners today not buy into a fear mentality, even during these unprecedented times.

“When you’re innovating in the context of a crisis, you first have to decide how to control the volume of the noise around you,” Price says. “You don’t want to turn off the noise completely. That would not be responsible. But you have to turn it down, so you’re not just filled with worry and fear.”

Turn down the volume on the news. The is the first step to innovating in a crisis. Stop incessantly surfing the web for COVID-19 updates every 15 minutes. Once a business leader can dial down the static, they are ready to move forward.

The next step in the innovation cycle is to define where your company is currently.

“Before you’re innovating, you need to know where you’re at today,” Price says. “How much money do I have in the bank? How much money do others owe me and what’s the probability I’m going to get paid? What do I owe others? What other resources or assets do I have to help during this time?”

Defining the current state of your business from several different angles will help you better understand where opportunity and cost savings may lie. If you owe vendors money that you typically must pay in 30 days, reach out to those vendors. Ask if you can pay them back gradually, over 60 or 90 days.

“You don’t know until you ask,” Price says. “It doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Look at each line item of your budget. Do you need to keep every subscription active right now? Or can you save money by making discretionary spending cuts you may not even notice?

After taking stock of your assets and debts, Price recommends taking stock of your customers. How are they doing during this crisis? By checking in with your customers during a crisis, you will be able to better serve them in the ways they need most, Price says. Pick up the phone. Call or text your customers to check in. Reach out via social media or email.

You’ve taken the time to figure out what your customers need. Now it’s time to develop potential solutions, the third leg of the innovation stool. 

Price uses the example of an auto mechanic. With social distancing rules in place, most customers are not taking their vehicles in to get fixed right now. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need help.

“If I’m that mechanic, maybe I’m going to open the opportunity to text or call about my automobile questions,” Price says. “I may be able to give advice over the phone. Or maybe make home calls to work on a vehicle.”

Using technology and a new service delivery option allows the mechanic to maintain social distancing rules while helping customers in a way that is convenient and safe for them. Price says innovation doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. Simple tweaks may be all your business needs to participate in this new world in which we’re living. And for the big innovation ideas, those have potential to change companies for the better long after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

“Here is the place to focus,” Price says. “If you sell a product, ask yourself, ‘How can I innovate this product?’ If you sell a service, think about how you can innovate that service. The idea is not to limit yourself to the way you do business now, but to say, ‘What new ways can I add value?’”

At the core of innovation lies that very question, how can I add value? To answer that question, turn down the volume, define where you’re at & develop solutions for tomorrow.

*For more helpful tips & resources on keeping your business solvent during these trying times, visit trust-bbb.org/COVID-19

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Written by Hannah Stiff

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