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Innovation is key to recovery says NZSDA

Innovation may be the last thing on the minds of sign business owners as they reopen after COVID-19 restrictions, but with sources of capital under pressure like never before, some sign companies are reinventing themselves, writes Melissa Coutts of the New Zealand Sign & Display Association (NZSDA). 

innovation image nzsda

Melissa Coutts NZSDA
     Melissa Coutts | Secretary NZSDA

For many of us, innovation is the last thing on our minds as we all head back to business, repairing, hustling and playing it safe as we head into our new normal of Alert Level 2.  Not knowing what is around the corner we still must soldier on as many businesses will not see the whole effect of the closure of our economy for at least another 4-6 weeks.  However, as the saying goes, never waste a crisis! 

To move our economy forward and recover financially from the Covid-19, innovation plays a vital part in the recovery of our economy and if possible should not be put on hold for a rainy day or for when funds are flowing again, as sadly that day may not ever come unless you prepare.  Although COVID-19 has brought about the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression with Cash flow and sources of capital under pressure like never before, some businesses are reinventing themselves or the new term in everyone’s vocabulary is ‘pivoting’.  By pivoting business operations not only are businesses surviving — but actually thriving.  So how are they managing to do this?  At the heart of their adaptation and success is innovation. Below are some tips to consider on why Innovation is even more important than ever and how you can still innovate when cash flow is under pressure.

1. Adapting to a New Market Environment

Allowing your business to find other ways to rectify new challenges is very much an important process of smart thinking, hustling and switching into survival mode.  Thinking differently about how you do business in the future will not only enable a business transformation but will also increase recognition within the market.  Opportunities such as collaboration, bringing other forces together that have a combined vision would be a huge advantage to your business and the market, building together to get better.  Businesses that have taken on these new challenges and ‘pivoting’ their business visions to innovate new products for the needs we have now will benefit over and above those that chose not to adapt.  As an industry, we are lucky as currently there is huge demand in innovation within the manufacturing sector especially with 3D Printing, plastics and materials, so if you haven’t already this is your chance to ‘pivot’ your experience, knowledge, your services and products, so your business come out on the other side.

2. Customer Focus

Without customers there is no business, so now is the best time to communicate to your customers to show them how valuable you are to them.  During this uncertain time two foundations of customers loyalty is being put to the test - trust and confidence.  Businesses that are empathetic, listen and put customers concerns first will set a great example of leadership.  Following through on a clear purpose and being true to your core values will not only strengthen your customer relationship, but will install the confidence in them that they can trust you.  Remember every customer connection whether old or new is an opportunity to connect and show them what your business is really about.

3. Biggest Barriers to Innovation

The top two barriers that fall at the top of the list for innovation is both time and money.  So recently we have had lots of time on our hands, but pretty much no money, never have we flipped our quote to ‘time value of money’ until now.   So how do we overcome these obstacles?  Let’s make it clear, doing nothing in a crisis is not a winning strategy, investing in thinking differently and adapting are what relationships are built on.  Innovation generally creates free PR which then generates income and then more customers.  Your audience or customers will want to see your innovation and how you will adapt to change, to fit into the current environment.  Once you have your concept, you must reach out to your industry and gather feedback from experts that share your vision and that hold that knowledge you need to move forward.  Do not stress about getting your ideas stolen from others, this is what will determine the success or failure of a concept.  If you are close to completion, close is good enough, back yourself and move forward with the process.  To get started there is a fantastic Research and Development Tax Incentive out there to take advantage of you just need to apply.  A little bit about the tax incentive is that it provides us kiwi innovators a tax credit at a rate of 15% of eligible R&D spend up to $120 million. To be eligible, you must spend at least $50,000p.a on eligible R&D and if you spend under $50,000p.a you may still be eligible if you use an approved research provider to do R&D on your behalf.  

Overall, understanding the environment and industry you are a part of will go a long way in the recovery of this economy.  You need passion, you need to know your customers, you need to adapt and pivot when needed and ….  Never waste a good crisis!

- Melissa Coutts | Secretary NZSDA