In my experience there are certain traits successful businesses seem to have in common. These traits include a focus on innovation, efficiency, value and customer experience. There are others, but in this column I’ll focus on the first two, exploring others in a later column.

It seems the businesses that understand how these traits relate to their operation, and can implement them, are better positioned for success. Understanding and implementing these traits isn’t complex but it is a discipline that requires a consistent focus.

Business Insider had an interesting article on innovation which spoke to the fact that companies like Toyota, 3M, and Apple attribute success in some part to innovation. In fact, these companies went through significant hardship and it was their focus on innovation that played a key role in their recovery. Business Insider also had a quote from Katasuaki Watanabe of Toyota which seems relevant, “There is no genius in our company. We just do whatever we believe is right, trying every day to improve every little bit and piece. But when 70 years of very small improvements accumulate, they become a revolution.”

We know technology is changing our world at an ever-quicker pace, exposing businesses to new processes, competitors and new markets. This in turn is increasing the need to focus on innovation for all businesses in all sectors. So, how does a small, medium, or even large business start to innovate? According to Watanabe it’s trying every day to improve a little bit. Over the past few years, I’ve observed a number of businesses innovating through the use of increased technology. Examples include the adoption of robot milkers in the dairy industry, the automation of payroll, banking, bookkeeping, inventory and customer facing processes. I’ve also observed businesses that are challenged to fully embrace innovation and continue to allocate labour to processes where the competition may have moved to automation, putting them at a disadvantage.

As an example, there are businesses that have yet to implement an e-commerce strategy, do not have a robust website and have not considered a social media component. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all platforms businesses are increasingly using to promote their business and enhance communication. Social media is cost effective and enables a business to connect with both its existing and future customers. A well designed website and an effective social media strategy are two areas where a business can begin to focus on innovation and continue to deliver value over time. At the Chamber we realize when it comes to access to high-speed internet, the playing field is not level in rural Nova Scotia. We realize this is a key issue and as we continue to advocate for infrastructure improvements, this will remain a top priority.

Businesses that increase efficiency reduce time and effort, which saves money. They say a dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned as it’s not subject to tax. It’s important to be able to deliver your product or service at a price point that’s acceptable to both your customer and your business. Successful businesses focus on efficiency to ensure there are no wasteful practices driving up costs which can drive up pricing or erode net income.

Starting the process can be as simple as following Watanabe’s words to do what is right and try every day to improve little pieces. At the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce we share the same challenges. We’re increasingly thinking about how we can innovate and increase efficiency to add value and improve the experience for our members. As I mentioned, efforts are underway to better understand the gaps and impact regarding the lack of high speed internet for certain businesses in our region.

This is one example of the advocacy work the Chamber is constantly engaged in. We’ve also recently launched our updated website at It adds value for our members by making it easier to stay informed and engage with the Chamber. I also encourage you to look at the Membership Directory, I think you will find a number of member business that can help, as we all continue to focus on innovation, efficiency, value and the customer experience.

Alex Stevenson is a Manager of Commercial Banking at CIBC in Truro.