Unleash Your Creativity to Grow Your Small Business

(O.P.S.) Albert Einstein once said that ?if a person studies a subject for just 15 minutes a day for five years, they will become an expert.? Imagine what would happen if small business owners spent those 15 minutes a day studying ways to make their businesses grow.

Success in small business is often related to the owner?s ability to place as much importance on the work they do ?on? their business as the work they do ?in? their business. These entrepreneurs create prosperous, thriving, growing businesses by balancing the demands of customers and employees, cash flow management and a variety of other pressing concerns, while also maintaining a ?thirty thousand foot view? of the business.

A great opportunity to learn how to put this principle into practice occurred at the recent Visa Small Business, Big Thinking Conference, where entrepreneurs from across the country stepped out of their shops, restaurants and offices for the day and made a commitment to work ?on? their businesses.

This first-ever national symposium gave attendees the chance to tap the experience of thought leaders focused on innovative ways of approaching the kinds of challenges and opportunities that small business owners face today. Experts agree that taking the time to step back from day to day operations to understand and evaluate the ?big picture? can help entrepreneurs to conceive ideas for growth that can mean the difference between your business providing you with simply a job and the success you truly want.

For the conference, Visa brought together industry leading speakers to share their experiences and help foster innovative approaches to boosting sales, getting the most from limited cash, fostering creativity and managing priorities. Keynote speakers included author and innovative thinking consultant Chic Thompson and Lesley Southwick-Trask, a Halifax-based cultural anthropologist.

According to Chic Thompson, ?Put simply, good entrepreneurs look at things and think about things differently.? Chic shared his experiences working with small business owners. ?One of the things I always talk to entrepreneurs about is the principle of ?opposite thinking?. Since Canadian entrepreneurs have to be innovative and creative in so many different areas, they must learn how to unleash their creativity by changing the way they think first.?

In his keynote address, Chic Thompson encouraged attendees to ?be curious first, and critical second.?

Regardless of their specific area of expertise, a resonating theme emerged among speakers at the conference…Innovation can start with doing simple things better but it can also mean much more. Innovation comes from stepping outside of your business to see challenges from a different perspective, recognize opportunities that were previously hidden, understand the benefits of taking appropriate risks and learning to function outside of the security of the familiar.

Visa Canada is committed to supporting small business through innovative initiatives such as the Visa Small Business, Big Thinking Conference, and the programs and resources featured on the Visa Small Business website at www.visa.ca/smallbusiness. The Visa Small Business website showcases Canadian small business success stories and provides entrepreneurs with valuable tools, templates and exercises, all geared towards their unique challenges. Canadian entrepreneurs can also stay on top of topics that matter to them by signing up for the Visa Small Business e-Newsletter at http://www.visa.ca/smallbusiness/signup.cfm.

Chic Thompson?s Recommendations for Creative Thinking:

1. When something goes wrong, ask what did you do right?

2. Be curious first, critical second

3. Always look for a second right answer

4. Challenge yourself and your employees to take five minutes every day to think about the future – the future of your organization and the future of your industry

5. Jump start your brain with stimuli

6. Think different: consciously break your patterns

7. Begin with the end in mind

8. Ideas don?t travel in straight lines

9. Renovate while you innovate

10. Make your thoughts visible

11. Sell your ideas with passion Lesley Southwick-Trask?s Tips For Creating Your Own Personal Success Formula Lesley provided conference attendees with a list of questions to ask themselves, known as ?Success Triggers.? The answers you provide to the Success Triggers below will help you, as an entrepreneur, build your path to sustainable market and financial success.

· What will success look like this year for us?

· What failure are we prepared to risk to realize this success this year?

· What must our business ?let die??

· What must our business allow to grow?

· What change in our business intrigues/excites us the most?