Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

Innovation Isn’t Just for Recessions

A bounce in the housing market is great news, but don’t put innovation plans on hold just because it’s getting busy again!

Ask yourself: What’s the purpose of a recession? Recessions are market feedback. They have a meaning – usually to tell us that something we assumed before has changed. Profits, expansion, job growth – any changes in trends – are indicators of the correctness of our assumptions and applicability of our strategy to create a market. Even after you account for artificial distortions (bad monetary policy, tax credits or stimulus) every market will tell us what it needs.

It’s up to us to respond regularly, by innovating. Not just when things are bad.

Many lessons of the current recession are clear. Legacy systems frustrate customers. Technology has empowered them to call out bad service and praise great products. Per-person-productivity matters more than sheer size. Management can make or break a company. Vision is as important as price.

And perhaps most of all: Don’t stop innovating.

Many companies were innovating regularly before the recession; but some were so busy being busy that they told themselves they could innovate later. Bad choice. Worse, while the recession gave everybody plenty of time, it left them with less resources to innovate. Hanging on is not a strategy. But overall, many individuals and companies did the right thing: they re-though, re-tooled and re-skilled their companies to create a better market in the future. And some of that future is occurring now. Banks are in a better position to clear underwater inventory more efficiently. Brokers are in a better position to use technology to engage (if not delight) consumers. Consumers, at the center of the market, have done their part (with credit, expectations and information) to be prepared to engage in a new market.

So, here comes the bounce.

Will it last? Maybe. But what really matters is that the market makers – that’s you – don’t stop innovating just because you’re becoming busy again. If you spent the recession preparing for a better market, you did the recession homework. But your continuing education requires you to keep pushing forward. Don’t stop innovating, because the bouncing market is the result of your innovations, as much as anything. To take a break – some call it taking advantage of the now – is to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Continue to set aside time, money and effort to keep innovating. Don’t let busy-ness¬†interfere with your long term business. Ensure that improving your lead generation, customer qualification, pricing and presentation techniques don’t take a back seat to a flurry of calls or appointments. You can do them both. Resist choosing satisfaction today for success tomorrow. That’s what 350,000 agents did during the boom. Look how that turned out for them, and their clients.

Try this: Schedule an appointment with your business every week. An hour in which you focus on improving the process, your knowledge, a tool or do some customer research. If you need help keeping the appointment with yourself, schedule it with a colleague, to keep each on track. Make it a morning session – when you’re fresh, clear, and energized. If you’re serious about your career, an hour a week is an under-commitment, but at least start somewhere.

Whatever you do, don’t stop innovating just because it looks like things are getting better. If you stop, the market will stop, too.