(NNPA)—The most valuable asset found in any business lies in the quality of its employees. Whether it’s a corner store, home-based bakery, landscaping service or Fortune 500 company, a business organization’s success is predicated upon the resourceful, continuous innovations as a result of employee productivity. A business cannot survive in today’s competitive market environment without the ability to consistently generate innovative cost efficient products and services. This is the essence of growing a business, by fostering structured policies that thrive off experimentation of new ideas and procedures. The successful entrepreneur must be able to motivate workers that dedicate themselves to innovative goals, always aggressively pursuing new market opportunities.
History shows us that some of the most profitable innovations are often developed by necessity during lean economic times. For example, during the Great Depression Kraft macaroni/cheese and Kraft Miracle Whip were invented. And don’t forget that the Apple iPod was released in 2001, shortly after 9/11. The sale of refrigerators, considered an innovative product at the time, grew by 30 percent from 1929 to 1933. So in the face of rising unemployment, dramatic sales declines in most industries and product categories, innovative products not only held their own but returned significant sales profits.
One of the greatest entrepreneur success stories includes William Hewlett and David Packard. Both graduated in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1935. Founding the company, Hewlett-Packard, now one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world, originated in a small garage in Palo Alto, Calif., during the Great Depression.
Today, we often find our neighbors in financial crisis with 15 million Americans unemployed, more than 46 million with no health care coverage and national debt obligations surpassing $9 trillion for the next 10 years. Many educated workers remain unemployed, setting a potential ideal opportunity for entrepreneurs to find relatively low cost and productive employees. Often these workers are seniors with years of experience and knowledge. Others are younger highly educated skilled tradesmen, eager to work and able to add immediate value. The process of motivating skilled workers can be simply one of financial necessity.
As companies cut jobs during financial crisis, it is also true that many are increasing R&D innovation and productivity budgets by 14 percent or more to build market share as seen in the health care industry. For example, employment openings in U.S. health care and pharmaceutical sectors grew by about 300,000 since April 2009 and are up 169,000 jobs in August over July.
Finding the right employee is the first step, perhaps the most important to developing better enterprise productivity. Generally, the worker’s that seek consistent personal improvement are always upgrading skills and are the most productive. These self-starter types can create innovative project solutions while on the job having the judgment to ask questions in the critical moments necessary. Team work is essential, particularly the ability to listen, comprehending their role in accomplishing the overall goals.
We also see a growing trend of companies utilizing “crowd-sourcing or community-based design” that uses Internet forums and mobile networks to leverage mass collaboration for input of new ideas and innovations by group intelligence. Crowd-sourcing is the process of releasing a defined project or challenge to an undefined number of voluntary members of social media networks that collectively produce a solution. This cost effective process instantly expands the employer’s talent pool, builds brand awareness and dynamically increases productivity. New website resources such as innovationexchange.com offer small businesses unique competitive tools enabling them to reach productivity levels equivalent to that of much larger companies.
For any small business thriving to grow, sales revenues are the primary driving factor to survival. The successful entrepreneur leads the team initially by example, increasingly delegating responsibility as the employees produce results. Sales incentives such as sporting event tickets, dinner coupons or movie passes are great motivational employee perks.
But ultimately, once the entrepreneur finds a valuable employee asset, it is prudent to encourage a sense of ownership using bonuses or greater financial benefits. By gaining a sense of ownership, the employee often becomes a living, breathing evangelist for the business, able to not only sell but demonstrate industry knowledge by word of mouth that attracts new potential customers.
Building a business requires a shared dream. In order to increase productivity, entrepreneurs must provide the positive reinforcement necessary to develop and nurture innovative employees. Remember, people are ultimately the most valuable business assets, whether a secretary, nurse, landscaper or cook—everyone wins by motivating them to take ownership towards achieving the dream.
(Farrah Gray is chairman of the Farrah Gray Foundation. Dr. Gray can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or his website at http://www.drfarrahgray.com.)