Business Owners Reveal How They Think Outside the Box in Business

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Thinking outside the box. We've all heard the saying. Growing up when you were stuck on a problem or something just wouldn't work the way you wanted, someone is bound to have told you to think outside the box. Beyond the box is a world of possibilities that only the brave rush after. For some the ‘box' is their safety. They follow the rules, walk the white line and mind their manners. So long as you're in those four connecting lines there's nothing that can harm you. But the minute you step outside of the box the world gets flipped on its head. And that, that's the reason the business world has had the privilege of showing off people like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson. For them the box was never even a possibility. Entrepreneurs were asked about how they handle the box and how far they stepped outside of it in their business.

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Photo Credit: Jo Scard
Photo Credit: Jo Scard

No brick and mortar for us

At Fifty Acres place we're a bit different. It's what makes us unique. We don't have an office among other things. And work is just part of what we are. We're a virtual communications and lobbying agency and our 8 staff work from home. Our HQ is a farm in regional Australia and staff (working across 4 cities) have the flexibility to be who they are, balancing work with life – and remaining energised and excited to do what they do. Since inception we've received national accolades for establishing a unique teleworking culture that has its base is regional Australia – a finalist in the 2013 NAB Women's Agenda Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award and a nomination as 2013 Telstra Business Woman of the Year. And we've carved a niche as Australian's leading Not-For-Profit communications agency, working for 18 NFP's more than any other agency.

Thanks to Jo Scard, Fifty Acres


Photo Credit: Bryan West
Photo Credit: Bryan West

A global staff gives a greater reach

Still Living Art is a boutique digital art studio that operates without an actual studio. The entire operation is without a single fixed physical location. This provides multiple benefits. Our pool of staff is exponentially larger than a traditionally located business because we do not require staff to live in a single location, and they have the ability to move wherever they like without it affecting our staff retention. For example, my family are taking 2013 to live in Australia's remote Carnarvon Station Reserve where we are volunteering for Bush Heritage Australia, without any interruption to the studio operations. Our spread of staff across the globe makes it easier to capture a global market, and enables a rapid response to clients because we operate through multiple time zones, and the cultural diversity of the team creates a vibrancy to our organisation that is essential to ensure quality creative processes. Our distributed workfor ce reduces overall business risk, and creates a level of value innovation that sees our clients receive artwork and service that are of a quality far beyond what they expect.

Thanks to Bryan West, Still Living

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Photo Credit: Tomasz Smykowski
Photo Credit: Tomasz Smykowski

It's hard to think outside the box but you just have to make the leap

Thinking out of the box is sometimes very hard, especially if you do everything one way for a long time. I worked as a software developer for 6 years. You need to know that in this work you need to think out of the box because you work mostly with logic in source code. And people are not logic, and it's a good thing. So you need to think always about people outside the box of logic thinking to give them right solutions. But after 6 years of the work i was in a box of software development. I thought that it will be easy to move on and create Social Media Agency, because i had the technical skills required and i had long experience in social media marketing also. But it took me some time to refocus, to come out from software box. Thinking out of the box is hard, because if you do this, you can find out things, that will change you. Changes are always hard, because they are periods of time, when you jump from one side of the river to another. There are still some things that can make the process a little easier. You can read some out of the box books like those from Seth Godin. He is very good at taking mind out of the box. You can meet totally new people and try hard to fit into their shoes. You can listen more to what others tell and give ideas a chance to move you outside. It's sometimes hard, but it's great experience if you see you are able to look on one thing from many different perspectives.

Thanks to Tomasz Smykowski, Websoul


Photo Credit: Joshua Adams
Photo Credit: Joshua Adams

Creating an experience around a boring service

We are creating an experience around the web design process. We know our prospects are not only most likely confused about what is involved in a new website, but we know many of them have had bad experiences with web developers before. We learned that people are more at ease when they know what is about to happen to them, they are more comfortable when in constant communication with their developer and are more likely to be a fan if the experience is exciting and memorable. So we devised a development process that does all of those things for our clients. When they purchase one of our packages, they receive a welcome email that leads them to a welcome page that get's them pumped up for the process, provides graphics for them to share that announce their new website is underway and includes links to all the resources they need to proceed such as the questionnaire that guides them through the process of providing the information we need and an online form to send in content and images. They are also put on an auto responder system that sends out regular emails to them with web tips, insights and even some humor to keep them connected over the 3-4 week development process. At the end, we send a thank you packet that includes a gift that makes sense for the particular client. So, how we think outside of the box is to take an otherwise “boring” service and create an experience around it!

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Thanks to Joshua Adams, Rock Paper Simple


Photo Credit: Gary Castelle
Photo Credit: Gary Castelle

An entire company dedicated to being outside the box

My whole business is based on outside the box thinking. I design, manufacture & distribute specialty dog products. When I walk into a pet store (the bigger the better) I look for what products they DON”T have. Everyone knows that the pet supply industry is booming, and has been for years but the marketplace seemed is overcrowded with retailers selling the same products. This leads to such competition, that profit margins are greatly reduced and more often than not, being competitive requires importing cheaper products from China. My first product was the SILL SHIELD, a no tools required windowsill protector for dogs that bark out the window. There are several large pet companies selling them but since I am the source, I can control the pricing, which is set to work with the shields being made in the USA. I also have a shield to protect dogs and my latest product (and my favorite) is a unique Velcro leash reflector. I have a number of other products in various stages of development, none of which are currently available anywhere.

Thanks to Gary Castelle, Magnum Plastics Inc


Photo Credit: Pete Turner
Photo Credit: Pete Turner

Unique appreciation of employees

Cause marketing: Instead of spending marketing money on tired old print ads, we sponsor causes we believe in, such as: music – the Starving Artist program feeds out of town bands coming through Denver and Boulder for free, and our record label Greater Than Collective helps local bands gain national attention; charities – each April we raise money for the Joshua School for children affected by autism spectrum disorder, and we also have a “Burritos for Boobs” campaign each breast cancer awareness month; sports teams, like the DU and CU athletics; and more. With this kind of “cause marketing,” we find more loyal customers who share our passions, and we help people along the way. We've also gotten a ton of awards (several ‘Best of' Westword and Boulder Weekly) and press (we were just interviewed by MTV and Forbes with features on our “cause marketing” outreach coming out soon). Employee appreciation: We are unique in our pay/benefits packages for employees, with the belief that a successful business comes from happy employees.. We still have our first employee ever hired at Illegal Pete's 17 years ago because of this. Illegal Pete's is committed to meeting the gold standard for our industry in wage benchmarking. Only 15% of employees at quick service restaurants make a living wage; it is our goal to raise our wages to be above the Colorado standard, so that our employees can call their service industry job a career. Unique to the industry, we offer Paid Time Off, a competitive Medical/Dental Insurance package for hourly workers, free meals, and employee discounts.

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Thanks to Pete Turner, Illegal Pete's


Photo Credit: Alex Silva
Photo Credit: Alex Silva

Not counting on the traditional paths

We have recently adopted a new strategy for increasing brand awareness that expands the scope of our readership. Rather than taking a traditional approach to online marketing, we have teamed up with a variety of small businesses to create an exchange program where we share each others content via social media. This exchange increases our social media footprint by driving new traffic to our site, extending network outreach and introduces viewers to insight on some of the latest developments from both parties.

Thanks to Alex Silva, Parliament Tutors


Photo Credit: Andrew Maccoll
Photo Credit: Andrew Maccoll

The adoption of co-branding

Franchised Food Company is thinking outside the box with adoption of co-branding; one such innovation that can bring with it a number of new opportunities. As a franchisor, we’re always looking for new ideas, researching, keeping on top of international trends and introducing to the Australian market the best of what’s available in the world treat-franchising sector. Co-branding includes the presentation and offering of multiple brands and its products to consumers, but under a more defined single strategy and marketing plan… like a Pretzel World inside a Cold Rock Ice Creamery, or a coffee shop within a department store. When done properly, co-branding offers fantastic pay backs for both the business (financially and brand-wise) and the customer (convenience and trust). The concept is something we’re seeing more and more of, it’s being adopted more readily by franchisees, who are wanting to add value to their existing business, or are determined to hit the market with a strong offering.

Thanks to Stan Gordon, Franchised Food Company


Photo Credit: Gordon Veniard
Photo Credit: Gordon Veniard

Treat others as they want to be treated

The trouble with a box is that it has a lid on it. And many companies simply jump-up-and-down bashing their head on that lid whilst believing they are looking “outside the box”. It's summed up in a belief in this long-time business ethos: “Treat others as you want to be treated”. That's way inside the box – and completely wrong. The reality is: “Treat others as they want to be treated”. Once you genuinely adhere to that, you've started to escape from that box! And you'll probably see how many of your competitors are still stuck inside theirs!

Thanks to Gordon Veniard, Business Author


Photo Credit: Braxton Wood
Photo Credit: Braxton Wood+

Streaming their sessions live on my website

When I get clients for pictures, I offer to stream their sessions live on my website and encourage their friends and family to log in and view the session in real time. They also have the ability to post comments and suggestions live and I can mention them to the client during the shoot. It's a lot of fun and its a great way to funnel prospects.

Thanks to Braxton Wood, Braxton Wood Photography



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