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How to innovate your small business for big impact with author and SBA Entrepreneur of the Year Mike Michalowicz

Insights from our Small Business Webinar series

Weathering this social and economic crisis has small businesses reconsidering their operating models and asking themselves important questions like, Can I innovate now? And Can I sell more without creating anything new?

In our latest Small Business Webinar, “Innovate for Big Impact: Rewrite the Rules for Your Small Business Now,” Mike Michalowicz, SBA Entrepreneur of the Year and author of Fix This Next, says that to move forward, you may first want to take one step back.

He calls this the one-step-back method, where you consider the final offering that you provide your customers and keep going one step back to see if you can find ways to reinvent your business.

Right now, Michalowicz says, “There’s a needs shift from consumers, and our job [as small business owners] is to find it. If you take a look at the steps that accumulate to your current final offering, you’ll find that all within there are mini offerings. These could be revenue sources for you.”

The final offering for a restaurant, for example, is putting food on the table for patrons. “One restaurant I know of has paired with a food truck company to deliver hot food at night from the restaurant. They’ve reinvented themselves and their margins have improved.”

In dissecting your offerings, it’s important to look for the revenue-generating opportunities. “Amplify the mini offerings and find new ways to generate revenue,” says Michalowicz. “The idea is to keep going one step back. For restaurants, the preparation of food in the kitchen can be an offering.” 

That might include a cooking class series, where the restaurant broadcasts classes over video conferencing one day a week and features the five most popular dishes in the restaurant.  

“Remember, too, that you have an obligation to sell. Don’t compromise your business by not charging for the service,” adds Michalowicz.

Continuing the one-step-back method using a restaurant as an example, Michalowicz says to look at supplies and inventory. “Become the Blue Apron for your community,” he suggests. 

A community facing a yeast or flour shortage in the grocery stores might benefit greatly if a local bakery packaged and sold the ingredients needed for cinnamon rolls or some other pastry in a DIY kit.

“Ask your customers what they need now, and what you can be doing for them,” says Michalowicz. “If things aren’t working, find an alternate way.”

The one-step-back method works across industries. A retail clothing business, says Michalowicz, could consider hosting an at-home fashion show series to use their inventory in a new way and engage their local community. “Inventory is cash itself,” he adds.

“Hold a contest to let people rename your clothing, or let them own the name of the line for a certain amount of time. The most powerful word in English is a person’s own name, according to Dale Carnegie, and it’s a powerful technique that can be put to work. Name something after your clients and reenergize your business.”

In addition to highlighting how to use the one-step-back method to uncover ways to sell more without creating anything new, Michalowicz discussed the importance of beta testing new ideas to make sure you develop the best new products.

Learn why he says people speak their truth not through their words, but through their wallets, and how you can capitalize on that fact when testing out a new idea. Access the playback of the webinar and additional handouts in the Verizon Small Business Webinar series.

Webinar: Innovate for Big Impact: Rewrite the Rules for Your Small Business Now.

With Mike Michalowicz

  • Webinar guest

Mike Michalowicz

  • SBA Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Author of Profit First, Clockwork, The Pumpkin Plan, and his newest book, Fix This Next.


*This article is a partial summary of a webinar session that was held on May 12, 2020. The opinions and advice belong to our webinar guest and do not represent Verizon’s opinions or advice.