While we tiptoe into learning how to peacefully coexist with COVID-19 and the new protocols required, we mustn’t turn our backs on the critical lessons we learned over the past two years. Pivot was the buzzword during the initial months, and pivot we did. Jumping into online training with few resources, little know-how and a scrappy mentality to serve our clients the best we knew how was met with much appreciation. Fast forward a bit, and you can sense the “good enough” mentality is gone, and the health and exercise professionals who are thriving are the ones that did more than pivot—they innovated.
Innovation is not a new concept, but perhaps one you’ve not had to consider. Getting by with the status quo was simpler before the whole world was upended. And let’s face it, our industry wasn’t necessarily leaving us in the dust if we continued to package up and deliver our products and services in the same old way. We were like a comfortable pair of pants our clients were willing to keep slipping on because they fit, knew what to wear with them, and getting dressed via the path of least resistance was the most straightforward approach to getting the job done.
Today, however, our clients have lots of options. And while I have no doubt many of them will continue to be loyal to the tried-and-true relationships we’ve worked so hard to build and maintain, it is in our best interest to revisit what innovation is and why it’s necessary.
Consistent innovation is the secret to success. But if you’re like many people, you suffer from innovation intimidation. Many equate innovation to massive change, which sounds significant, scary and challenging as a solopreneur. While it’s true that innovation may lead to change, it’s better to lean into the natural changes that will (and should) occur and manage them proactively.
Innovation, by definition, is a new idea, method or device—it’s a novelty. But it is a misconception that coming up with this innovation requires genius, a long stint of solitude free of devices in a secluded cabin, or tons of investment money to try something new. There is a simple model to make constant innovation a reality, even as an independent health and exercise professional. If understood and implemented, these steps will help you focus on allocating your energy, time and resources to stay relevant for years to come, regardless of what challenges the pandemic or some new crisis set before us!
Here are three activities you must prioritize to innovate. Each is equally important, and while you don’t need to do them all weekly, or even monthly, you should make plans to frequently consider and engage with each horizon.
Part of innovation is continuing to tweak what you offer. Based on client feedback, trends in the industry or self-identifying gaps in what you currently offer, gradually take what you’re doing and make it better. Iteration should be a constant in your business. Keep track of what’s working, ideas for upgrading, evolving or otherwise improving what you do, and plan to put it into action. Continuing education can help in this area of innovation.
Discontinuing parts of your business is often an overlooked part of innovation. You must constantly look at what you’re doing and evaluate what’s not working, providing a good return on your (emotional) investment or producing the results you want. Then—here’s the hard part—get rid of it. This may not always be a product; it could also be a process, system, marketing plan or weekly to-do that’s been on your list for far too long. Removing things is the hardest part and it’s natural to struggle with it. But leaning out your business makes space for the iteration and the generation.
Finally, you will, at some point, need to create something totally new. Not just a new program or package (this is iteration), but a new way of approaching your business. This is not something that happens in a quarter or even a year. Generation takes multiple years but must be started now to make it a reality. Suppose you constantly engage in iterating and eliminating, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry beyond your geographic area, and pay attention to the world in general. In that case, you will start to think bigger (you probably already do this). Instead of stressing yourself out and putting pressure on yourself to capitalize now, you start experimenting with the new. You formulate a hypothesis, put a small experiment out into the world and see what you get back. If it works, do it again. If it doesn’t work, adjust one variable at a time and see how it goes. Before you know it, you’ll be moving in the direction of a big breakthrough.
None of this is possible if you don’t take the time to work ON your business, not just IN your business. None of the three innovation ingredients will happen magically between clients or classes, and they require dedicated time to deep work; thought, reflection, contemplation and action. Creating a personal productivity plan will help you prioritize consistently engaging in iteration and elimination, making the generation possible.