The Good Thing About an Antiquated Industry? Lots of Room to Innovate.

Fresh thinking is never more needed than when your business has existed for generations.
The Good Thing About an Antiquated Industry? Lots of Room to Innovate.
Image credit: Hero Images | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Founder, chairman, president, & CEO of ProSight Specialty Insurance
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in a time where a profitless, disappearing message app is worth $20 billion and White House staffers communicate through a secure texting program. Industries are evolving, and it’s uprooting the way we conduct business. It isn’t just Silicon Valley that’s living on the cutting edge. Industries that have been around for generations must adapt or risk going the way of the land line for your home phone.

Whether you’re working to update practices at a well-established company or creating a new business with the potential to disrupt an entire industry, it’s the ability and willingness to think differently that sets the thriving companies apart from those that are merely surviving. Brands such as Uber and Amazon have realized customers are the real decision-makers. The faster other companies adopt that mentality, the faster survival turns into growth.

Related: If You're Open-Minded, Research Says You Might Do This

Since its inception in 2009, our company intentionally has avoided doing things “because that’s how it’s always been done.” We’ve engaged the customer, listened to employees and become partners instead of vendors. As a result, we’re doing our part to shift the landscape of the insurance industry.          

Here are four tactics you can apply to grow your own innovative business in an antiquated market.

Break. Modify. Repeat.

Every business faces challenges. It’s whether you view them as opportunities or obstacles that makes the difference. A challenge’s very existence points to one of two things: (1) This challenge hasn’t been handled well enough in the past or (2) customers are asking for something better. Embracing or adapting new technology provides an opportunity to bring change to a dated industry.

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Poshmark, an app that allows users to sell gently used clothing, is breaking the secondhand-store model by allowing anyone with a closet and a camera phone to be a retailer. Its most entrepreneurial users have modified the technology in a way that turns reselling clothing into a lucrative business. One woman made $500,000 in three years.

If your venture isn’t quite that successful, don’t be scared away from trying another innovation. You must be able to adapt your ideas, too, if one brilliant concept doesn’t pan out.

Related: Businesses Disrupting With Their Brilliant Ideas -- and What You Can Learn From Them

Value your people.

Visionaries who change their industries naturally face a great deal of external negativity. Insulate your employees as best you can from this fallout by creating a safe environment that makes everyone feel appreciated.

Inspire an entrepreneurial spirit by giving employees ownership of their jobs. Demand hard work, but reward the results it brings. Giving them the creative reigns enables the kind of thinking that drives progress. I tell people, “I need to tell you ‘no’ frequently – otherwise, you’re not pushing hard enough to innovate.”

Related: How Small-Business Owners Can Patent a Great Idea

Jeff Bezos turned a website for reselling books into a leading ecommerce platform, a web-services provider, a media-production company and a producer of the leading voice-activated digital assistant. That kind of innovation comes only when your team members feel safe enough to pitch wild ideas. Remember, employees are not an asset to an organization. Employees are an organization.

Understand that your workforce fuels its own growth.

Innovative thinking pushes boundaries to create new experiences and standards. As a leader, you must motivate and empower your crew to think differently. A workforce fueled by one another’s desire to grow can build a strong brand that rises to become a force in its industry. To spur momentum, add a layer of recognition and reward big thinkers who move the company forward.

Related: Getting Out of a Professional Rut

Prepare for the future.

It might sound like advice from “Minority Report,” but commerce’s tech-ification still is only in its infancy. Business has to be ready to evolve along with it. The gig economy is growing at a faster rate than traditional jobs, and that affects more than which ride you hail and which beach house you rent.

Peripheral aspects are changing as well, and industries need to get ready for what’s next. Who will insure the accident between two autonomous vehicles? How do you resolve theft from a person who paid to sleep in your bed while you away? Who is at fault if you miss a crucial business meeting because your on-demand private jet was late?

These problems of the future are happening right now, but the traditional economy has no idea how to handle them. The answers to these questions are somewhere in the innovative mind of today’s workforce. It’s up to leaders to bring solutions to the surface.

Related: This Website Uses Customer Feedback to Create Products People Want

Now it’s your turn.

These four ideas and our desire to provide true value instead of a low-cost alternative form the cornerstone of our innovation process in an aging industry. No matter how long your industry has been around or how much resistance you get from the old guard, you owe it to yourself and your customers to identify opportunities that affect your field. Doing so will put in you prime position to create intriguing and exciting alternatives to the old way of doing things.

Our job as entrepreneurs is to deliver valuable solutions to solve customers’ problems. Innovation and growth don’t start and stop. Remember that these opportunities present themselves every day. At ProSight, we’ve only just begun our industry’s reinvention.

Related: How I Turned Engineers Into Bloggers With 50,000 Views

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