A few months back I wrote a post entitled Micro-Innovating Every Day:
Ideas are a very, very small part of the majority of great innovations. Most great innovations come from a recognition of a recurring problem that a company encounters repeatedly and has the foresight to come up with a creative solution. It’s less about ideas and more about discovering opportunities that other people have failed to see or exploit. Most of the time, you only find those opportunities if you are working passionately at your craft each and every day for years.
I’ve talked a lot about how I feel like our shopping cart software for Detailed Image is one of our competitive advantages. As I was working on subtle features and additions for Tastefully Driven that will result in it blowing DI out of the water, I thought about how all of these daily micro-innovations will result in one big innovation. By 2010 maybe we’ll be featured in some magazine for our unique shopping cart community. Some kid will be reading it and think “man, I wish I could have an idea like that.” Not realizing that DI was in existence for 2+ years running osCommerce before we even attempted to build our own cart. And that DI was running the new cart for 6 months before developing the Tastefully Driven cart/community. And that the majority of features that make it great in 2010 hadn’t even entered our minds in 2008.
Want to be an innovator? Work hard. Pay attention to your customers. Analyze data. Learn like there’s no tomorrow. Open yourself to opportunities. Execute – every single day.
Today was the perfect example of this. Ask any one of us what we accomplished today and we’d probably have to think for a second, look at our to-do list, and rattle off a few things that we did in addition to our day-to-day. All relatively minor, but all subtle things that make us just a little more efficient, just a little more effective, and just a little bit better as a company.
All of these things probably added up to 3 hours of work total, but all will make an impact:
- Previously we each got one day a week off from the warehouse, with all of us going on Monday. We agreed to all still go on Mondays, but now everyone will get a second day off. Tuesday – Friday will only have two people in the warehouse, but those two people will obviously be doing a lot of warehouse work on those days. This gives each of us a little more freedom and will save everyone on gas.
- To trim the time down that we all have to spend at the warehouse, Greg called and had our FedEx pickup time shifted from ~4 PM to now ~2 PM. We get a lot of early deliveries, so the two people at the warehouse will now have to work approx 7:30 AM – 2:30 PM. We can stay later if we want, but we won’t have to. Again, more freedom for everyone involved.
- When using our custom built back-end shipping platform the only required input is box size (you look at the order and enter a box size for each order). We had a drop down of our available boxes, but it was poorly organized and defaulted to 10 x 8 x 8″. This worked OK when we only had a few orders a day, but causes a few issues when you’re shipping 20+ orders a day. Greg uses the system the most and requested that I re-order the boxes by dimension and that we default the drop down to say “Choose a box size” so you can quickly scan the list and see the ones that still need to be inputted as opposed to wondering if they really are a 10 x 8 x 8 or if they just haven’t been entered. Minor stuff that I never really noticed, but if it trims an 8 minute/day job to a 5 minute/day job it’s worth it in the long run.
- Greg also negotiated a 3.5% reduction in shipping rates with our FedEx rep. With gas prices these days, a reduction in shipping costs is huge.
We’ve also recently reduced common Detailed Image inquiries with a new FAQ system, reduced my SportsLizard work down to almost nothing by automating customs submissions, reduced accounting work when George automated our accounting so that PayPal transactions can be imported to our QuickBooks, and probably a lot more that I didn’t mention..
Nothing major here, but the fact that every day we do a few of these things adds up to our company growing A LOT every week, month, and especially every year. It seems obvious, but it’s easier than you’d think to get caught up in the day to day operations of a company and neglect anything that won’t pay immediate benefit.