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The Risks of Standing Still: Overcoming Innovation Hesitancy

A proactive mindset is a crucial component of embracing innovation.

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Adaptability is one of the most critical aspects of business success, yet many entrepreneurs are reluctant to innovate or search for alternate approaches to providing their service offerings. 

Have you ever found yourself in that position regarding your endeavors? Whether you’re a sole proprietorship or a micro business, you’ll undoubtedly encounter scenarios where you can’t simply maintain the status quo. Yet, you’re either unwilling or unsure when it comes time to move into uncharted territory. Many enterprises launch and operate under the impractical belief that they have an iron-clad business model that will serve them long-term, but things rarely play out exactly as planned. Because any thriving business is dynamic by its very nature, careful analysis of what is and isn’t working must be an intentional component of daily operations.

The demands of the small business sphere can be so all-consuming as to cause some entrepreneurs to operate with blinders on. Internal and external factors can play a pivotal role in dictating changes that need to happen, either to explore new business opportunities or to maintain the existing infrastructure. The years of the pandemic illustrated this with great clarity; some businesses attempted to carry on as though nothing had changed, while others had the vision and determination to reshape their processes to continue serving their clients or customers in relevant, albeit different ways. Some businesses maintained an even keel, but most fell into one of the two opposite poles of the paradox, either growing and maturing or closing altogether.

The inevitability of change in the small business world is ever present, but that reality doesn’t have to be daunting. Recognizing that you can’t operate indefinitely on autopilot shouldn’t be interpreted as a detrimental reflection on you as an individual or on the business you own and operate. A significant contributing factor in addressing that change is having the intentionality to recognize that innovation has to become so much more than a mere buzzword. At its core, it needs to inform every decision you make regarding the operation of your business, both today and in the yet unseen future. Those who understand the necessity and lasting benefit of learning to innovate will be well poised to weather whatever storms may come, usually emerging on the other side in a healthier, wiser iteration of what they were before.

Yet, many small businesses stubbornly refuse to embrace adaptability and are often worse off doing so. According to an Annual Business Survey published in 2020 by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, only 25% of U.S. companies with at least one employee were practicing innovation, a 5% decrease from the ABS conducted the previous year. Of those companies that purposed to innovate, only 25% implemented changes to their business processes. Contextually, many small businesses need to take innovation more seriously, treating it as an afterthought at best and ignoring it entirely at worst.

So, where does business owner hesitancy about innovation originate from? Some entrepreneurs shy away from doing things differently because they see no need to do so. Sticking with what has always worked well is a prudent approach until it stops working. However, the reality is that a proactive mindset is a crucial component of embracing innovation, so waiting until you have to implement significant changes is usually a recipe for difficulty. Adopting a sense of urgency about retooling and developing the business long before circumstances dictate that you do so is imperative.

Markets evolve with stunning rapidity, and there’s never an option to sit back and hope you can still somehow stay connected. Some business owners become intimidated by the innovation they see from their competition, particularly from entities with a more extensive staff and operating budget. These feelings can lead to the fatal flaw of believing that there’s no way to compete, an errant mindset that can usher in a lethargy that will rob a business of any lasting relevance to its clients or customers. A far healthier approach is to conduct some basic market research to understand better what’s needed and how you can try to fill that need. Instead of being intimidated by what someone else is doing, you must ask, “In this business landscape, what relevant thing can do?”

Limited operating resources can also play a role in short-circuiting small business innovation. When you’re focused exclusively on the necessities of paying your bills and your employees, this hypervigilance can create a myopia that prevents you from looking at anything beyond the short term. This can be further intensified by the difficulties associated with obtaining funding for developing new products or services, which can prevent entrepreneurs from investigating their options. If finances are tight, determine to engage in creative problem solving and find alternatives to those efforts with a high price tag. This, in and of itself, is a key driver to innovate.

One of the most unfortunate contributing factors to innovation hesitancy is the need for more expertise. This single element can completely derail small businesses through the misconception that there’s too much to learn to modify how things are being done. This self-defeating belief can be best addressed by acknowledging that no one can be an expert on every subject. Everything has the potential to appear to be overwhelmingly complex when you’re exposed to it for the first time, but this needs to be balanced with the resolve to investigate whatever it is that you need to figure out so that you can adequately assess where to make a start. The incredible variety of guidance on YouTube alone can help to point you in the right direction, and embracing a determination that you will find a way to work through the complexities of what you need to master will serve you well.

The greatest looming threat to the hesitant entrepreneur is nothing more nor less than the fear of failure. The irony is that fear of failure, unless dealt with, can usher in an abject complacency that ends up being the catalyst for the business to fail. Reluctance to try new things might fall into the “playing it safe” category, but that strategy doesn’t fit in the business world. Realistically, nothing you do in your enterprise is ever really safe, but this can be counterintuitive for many entrepreneurs. Holding back due to apprehension about your prospects for success is an insidious trap because it can appear based on practical and legitimate reasoning. 

Most people, particularly business owners, don’t relish the idea of change. It’s certainly comfortable to continue with well-established trends and methods for as long as possible. But, realistically, there will come a point (and many points) in your entrepreneurial journey where you will need to step outside of your comfort zone and do hard things without guaranteeing that everything will turn out in your favor.

Risk is a fundamental, inherent component of not just business but life as well. Undertaking the act of launching an enterprise is drenched with risk, and even more can lie on the horizon when you approach making changes to what has already been put into place. But rewards rarely come without facing risk, and it’s always important to recognize that failures aren’t permanent. They only become show-stoppers if we allow ourselves to become demoralized and crushed to the point that we erringly convince ourselves that there’s no point in trying. Entrepreneurs who can recognize failures for what they are – temporary detours – will understand that there’s much to be learned from these setbacks that can help avoid future difficulties.

Connecting and networking with other business owners can play a pivotal role in helping those who resist innovation to realize that they’re not alone in what they’re facing. A conversation about the challenges of learning to do things differently can be tremendously beneficial, whether through something as formal as a chamber of commerce or as informal as a casual lunch with another business owner. And always remember when you find yourself stopped in your tracks: change is inevitable, but apprehension and hesitancy don’t have to be.


Ready to break free from innovation hesitancy and propel your business forward? Let ValorExcel guide you toward success with tailored strategies for overcoming challenges and embracing change. Contact us today to unlock your full potential! Visit our website at, to book your power hour session where you’ll meet with ValorExcel staff to get started. Or, call 240-329-9387 or email us at, ✨ Also, don't forget to check our recent videos on YouTube by clicking HERE. #Innovation #BusinessGrowth #SuccessStrategies #EmbraceChange

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