YOU may have heard scary statistics of how many small businesses fail within the first five years and how few survive in the five years thereafter.

Why does that happen?

Obviously, there are many reasons, but I would like to focus on the ability of a business and its owners to be able to deal with change.

"Change is the only constant", "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" - you may have heard the clichs. But what are you doing about it in your small business?

A small business's ability to brainstorm and implement ideas, in my opinion, will be a prime factor in its ability to survive in a constantly changing market over the next five years. The following are some ideas - on ideas:


An innovation does not have to be a huge idea. Tiny incremental improvements are a great way for a company to step forward.

I found in my business that I was an "incremental innovator" - thinking up little ideas daily leading towards a common goal.

My business partner was more of a "huge leap forward innovator" - his ideas weren't generated every day, but were usually of the "big picture" variety or involved a large change to the company dynamic.

If you are encouraging members of your team to innovate, be very careful how you deal with ideas you don't like.

No one likes to feel stupid, and not adopting an idea put forward by your team can lead the members to feel like it is not worth suggesting the next one.

I'm not saying that you should implement everything they suggest - just remember that if you want their contribution in the future, handle the rejection with care.

Of all the ideas I have had over the years, perhaps only 50 per cent were good enough and practical enough to be implemented.

From there, 80 per cent either would not work or would not dramatically change the landscape of our business.

This, of course, means that only about 10 per cent of my ideas and innovations went to market and made a difference.

If those ratios were to hold true in your business, how many new ideas would you want to be coming up with in a week to keep your business moving along at the pace you require? Ten? Fifty? A thousand? Only you can answer that question.

I have found that I am inspired to innovate by:

* Going away for a holiday or a short break;

* A long boring trip somewhere (some of my best ideas come to me on planes with no movies!);

* Taking key people out to lunch to discuss a problem or issue;

* Reading business books and articles;

* Reading customer complaint letters or dealing with phone calls;

* Meetings. Okay, I don't come up with the ideas in the meetings, but they are where I get things moving towards implementation;

* Exploring a really great business;

* Going into and exploring a mediocre (could be doing better) or a really bad business; and

* Asking myself what RichardBranson, Donald Trump or AnitaRoddick would do if they were inmy industry.

If you are not someone who comes up with ideas easily or naturally at first, don't worry. It is a skill that can be learnt.

Generating ideas is something you will find easier the more you do it. And if all else fails, just hire lots of "ideas people" around you.