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Board Member’s Memo: Innovation Is an Entrepreneur’s Middle Name

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by Victoria Sutherland, Founder & Publisher, Foreword Reviews magazine —

Victoria Sutherland

Below are some suggestions for keeping your team positively flowing with change.

Change is inevitable.

Over the last couple of years, facing a pandemic, ongoing national social justice traumas, and escalating global environmental catastrophes, most of us made some adjustments to our business model—pandemic pivots, some that actually benefited our companies immensely. So, I wonder why we wait for a crisis to make bold decisions.

As our entrepreneurial company moves into its third decade, I’m realizing it is as important as ever to continually and creatively consider our next moves. COVID-19 forced some pivots for us that turned into major opportunities, including hiring a circulation company to help us maintain our subscription numbers when trade shows evaporated; encouraging our reviewers to be more comfortable with digital books; and fast-tracking our electronic delivery of the magazine. But here’s the rub, without this pandemic push, I’m afraid we would have continued with the status quo—and that is not a healthy way to grow a company dealing with constant industry changes.

Incorporating innovation/creativity into your company culture does not happen with the flip of some switch.

Turns out, we naturally have that muscle, but we must develop a habit and get used to using it. Here are some suggestions for keeping your team positively flowing with change:

1. Stretch your brain in new ways to drive creativity.

Encourage your staff to approach the world with a beginner’s mindset, and keep learning from your beginner’s mindset, and keep learning from your customers, employees, and smart people from outside of the industry. True, I’m really missing the in-person trade shows and conferences that allowed me to surround myself with inspiring people and serendipitous meetings. But in lieu of that, I’m trying to stay connected through webinars, digital workshops, and as many podcasts as possible outside of publishing for creative inspiration including Adweek, Rolling Stone, Architectural Digest, Outside, Sam Harris, Seth Godin, Tim Ferris, Russell Brand, and more.

2. Look for opportunities in every challenge.

As I noted earlier, the evaporation of physical trade shows meant one of our primary sources for new magazine subscribers went by the wayside. Like many of you who also watched supply chains erode, we were forced rather quickly into coming up with a new plan. One of our best ideas/investments was hiring a firm to act as our circulation department, bringing all kinds of trade experience with them, and releasing a major point of anxiety.

3. Keep up with the future.

When we first started our business, we may have had a vision, but we really had no idea what the world was going to look like 10, 15, or 25 years later. For instance, if you have been around publishing long enough, you may remember hardcover books were published first. Then about a year later, the paperback version of the title was released, followed by audio, and finally, maybe, e-books. Now, simultaneous publication in all formats is becoming the standard, satisfying all customers’ preferences for digesting content. We are hearing more and more from our librarian readership that they are spending most of their budgets on growing their e-book collections. Is your company prepared for that?

4. Move out of the office, and give your staff permission to do so as well.

I didn’t think it was possible for our creative company to operate remotely. Our philosophy hinged on capitalizing on in-person conversations that happened when our team gathered in a physical space. After nearly two years of working remotely from home offices, we have been able to successfully adopt and utilize technologies like Slack, Google Chats, Zoom, GitHub, and others that improve communication across the miles. It also allows us to cut out long commutes and enjoy more free time with our families, pets, and Mother Nature. If it is not possible full time, then definitely consider continuing with a flexible in-office schedule.

5. Listen to, and get comfortable with, fear.

Fear is an instinct that protects us from danger, yes, but letting it paralyze you, or kidnap vital brain space, will prevent you from getting creative when the situation demands it. I’m sure many of us let fear overtake us in those first few months of COVID-19, delaying the inevitable, innovative solutions necessary to carry on. I don’t have the time or energy to run from fear any longer, and meditation has helped me recognize this tendency, observe it, and use it to power new ideas. It’s important to embrace change as part of your business mindset. When we opened our hearts to the challenges we recently faced, innovative solutions appeared from where we least expected.

Victoria Sutherland is the publisher of Foreword Reviews magazine. You can email her at victoria@forewordreviews.com.

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