[IMGCAP(1)]I recently read an article about innovation, particularly about how risk-averse American businesses have become, and how Boeing is now essentially being punished for over-innovating the Dreamliner. The article got me thinking about our firms. We are facing significant challenges in our industry with respect to succession, talent, profitability, technology and growth. Yet, when it comes to marketing and growth, we continue to be highly risk-averse, and willing to settle for small changes in tactics, when what we really need is a Dreamliner-type innovation to drive the top line revenue we need to satisfy our succession planning and other critical firm needs.

Let’s talk about the Dreamliner for a second. Will it eventually return to the skies? Absolutely. Boeing will work out the unk-unk’s (industry term) and the Dreamliner will be back in the air delivering a 20 percent lower fuel cost, greater passenger and crew comfort, and longer flight ranges to connect a shrinking globe. Is the current situation a set back? Yes, obviously. But mistakes happen when you take risks and innovate to the level they have done with the Dreamliner. This will keep them in the lead as the world’s largest and most innovative plane manufacturer. However, think about what could have been if they settled for less…

What if, instead of developing the Dreamliner, Boeing decided to focus on a way to squeeze 4 percent greater fuel efficiency out of their current B767 plane? When they begin selling that new plane, they find out that rival Airbus found a way to squeeze 8 percent more fuel efficiency out of its A330. And, a new Chinese competitor sprung up in the meantime and is selling new planes for 40 percent less than either Boeing or Airbus. So, who wins the order for the 25 planes, which, by the way, are being sought by start-up Brazilian Airways?

Considering the alternatives, the worst thing Boeing could have done was settle for an incremental innovation (the 4 percent fuel savings), because in this case, that small risk and investment put them in last place in a dynamic and competitive environment.

So, the question becomes, what’s the Dreamliner at your firm?

•    Have you come to the realization that your current partners cannot drive the growth needed to fuel your succession plans? If so, will you hire a sales person?
•    Are you struggling to find new “future partners” and retain current “future partners”? If so, will you overhaul your recruiting model?
•    Is your online and social media presence non-existent? If so, will you hire an e-marketer?
•    Is your profitability suffering? If so, will you introduce new, more profitable service lines and niche focuses?
•    Are you investing in technology to drive waste out of your firm and increase efficiency? If not, what could a new approach do for you in terms of efficiency?

The best thing about these innovations is that they are far less risky (comparatively) to what happens in other industries. The FDA won’t deny approval of the new drug we’ve spent $100M on developing, the DOT won’t make us recall 10 million cars due to brake problems, and the FAA won’t ground our fleet of 25 planes due to battery problems.

So, I challenge you to rethink your incremental innovations to make way for a Dreamliner style approach to addressing your most significant challenges. Upend your current tactics and replace them with strategies that have the potential to deliver game-changing results. And, when problems surface, don’t bail on your entire strategy – fix the problems and continue your course. Our industry has changed dramatically over the past 10 years (and will continue to evolve rapidly), and at this point, incremental innovation just might guarantee us last place.  

As the director of practice growth and marketing consulting services at Koltin Consulting Group, Art Kuesel helps firms grow and add millions of dollars of revenue to their top lines. Reach Art at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com. Email him to get a sample job description for a business development executive in a CPA firm to open some of these sales opportunities.