3 Easy Rules for Innovators

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If you are a chef or anyone passionate about food, which would you rather present to your guests: a nicely roasted chicken, with crispy skin, steamy vegetables and fresh salad or, Chicken nuggets with a brown curry-look-like sauce? What message is sent to your guests by each choice, and is that message in line with your objectives for the meal? Now translate this to your business persona when you have your next video call or better yet, when you present your latest invention to a group of investors or pitch your services to a potential customer.
Culture and image includes everything
When presenting yourself in front of customers, investors, bankers... anyone, you want to make sure you are sending the right message, that you show off a persona consistent with the objectives of your presentation. Your culture shows itself through the images that you project during a meeting. It is as important as your content and this is not just about your clothes or your hair-do... it is about everything. It includes your tempo, your speech, your demeanour, your equipment, the quality of your materials and any other aspect that may be noted by your audience. A great idea and true value to the customer is the start point, your culture is your business card, your reputation in the industry. Culture is about your presentations, how your company is perceived, how you work and how efficient you are... yes.... efficient!
Reliability, efficiency?
You might have the best ideas in the world, if you cannot communicate them in a reliable way to your partners, suppliers and customers, then you will have an uphill battle against your competitors. There is nothing more annoying than a business partner who is not able to use today’s business tools to be efficient and reliable. It all starts with prompt response to voice mails, emails and calendar invitations (yes, you are to accept or decline calendar invites – ‘Maybe’ doesn’t count!). It then goes forward with good understanding about collaboration tools (you pick, there are many from Microsoft, Apple, Google...).
If you are an innovator, you are also to embrace innovation from others and be a good innovation citizen. This means to keep up with technology (your 2010 laptop is probably not what would be called “up-to-date”) and embracing that technology to the highest extent as long as it promotes reliability and efficiency.
Does it really matter if I use an old flip phone?
Would you buy an innovative car (say a Tesla) from an old garage where you see greasy gear boxes or old light fixtures? I think that you will probably not associate that brand with technology unless the show room conveys the same image as the product. Traditionally, innovators in the IoT space are more techie and up to date than those in other arenas. The main reason being that their smartphone, laptop or any other connected device is also part of the demonstration of their innovative product. In IoT and all arenas, you want to show a great overall package to your customers. You will be at a disadvantage if you rely solely on the technology to present itself. A great presentation includes a clear, concise message, a conscious projection of your company culture, and hardware that is up to date, clean and in good condition.
Culture = investment
The same way you might buy a nice jacket or dress for going to business meetings, your full attire must include a decent business bag (not an old scuffed backpack from your university days), a smartphone that has a working screen (I know that cracked screens might still be functional, but they send a strong message: repair me!) and a laptop that can run the length of your presentation without you running for a power plug. It is important that you demonstrate preparedness and ease of use: have all dongles or connectors on hand (connect to beamer, plug adaptor...), and handle all maintenance actions well before you get in front of your audience. Make sure that all your software is up to date and that you have current licenses for all of it -there is nothing worse than tainting your presentation with a pop-up error message that screams “I can't update my hardware” or “I had to hack into this program”.
All of this has a cost but it is a reasonable one. Not only can these costs be deducted as a business expense, this investment allows you to be more efficient, promotes an honest and organised culture and, maybe, gives you the satisfaction that comes from using and understanding leading edge tools.
Good culture and good image = better business
It is important to highlight that it is not about showing off. I need to highlight this one. Showing off could be interpreted as being shallow and interested only in appearances rather than your innovation and value. A Show-off culture is dangerous and it wears out quite quickly. You have to be true to yourself and to the image you wish to convey.
Here are 3 easy rules to remember:
  1. Put energy and effort into your culture and image, do not copy or imitate. Be your own while keeping in mind what the mirror shows you and what you show to all, be they suppliers, customers, investors, partners or competitors.
  2. Make your culture known. It is your business card. It is the envelope in the mail that will disseminate your innovation, your ideas and your company to others. You culture is stronger if it is visible and consistent at all levels of the organisation.
  3. Be sure about yourself and know the tools you are using: the right tool for the right task.
Give us examples about how your culture has helped you grow and reinforce your business, we are interested to know more about your findings and life experiences.
Many thanks to Paul Senecal for his inputs and contributions to this article.
Stiffan Consulting strives to help startups and established companies to link with universities and other education institutions to foster innovation and create valuable content via team assembly and partnerships. By assisting you in reviewing your goals, understanding the potential markets and validating your approach, we help create a winning strategy to ensure sustainable growth.
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© STIFFAN Consulting September 2017