Tax & Accounting Blog

Adventures in Business Innovation

Accounting Firms, Blog, CS Professional Suite, Technology September 4, 2015

The word “innovation” has always been profoundly meaningful to me, since it serves as one of the guiding principles for the work we do here. Lately, however, I’ve noticed it’s in danger of becoming just another buzzword. So let me give you my definition of innovation.

Innovation is boldness. Originality. Adventure. While you’re not literally embarking on a safari or scaling a mountain, you’re still exploring and implementing as you find ways to make your firm more productive and profitable—and resilient enough to grow and evolve for years to come.

Whether that means incorporating new technology into your firm, offering additional services to clients or changing the model of how you serve those clients, it’s never too late to get started.

Let’s take a look at two prominent examples of innovation in major companies that succeeded despite challenging times.

In 2011 Netflix, which had already changed the business model of the video rental business and put the less agile Blockbuster and Hollywood Video out of business practically overnight, announced a new, more expensive pricing model and separated its instant streaming and DVD mailing services. These changes resulted in outraged customers, canceled subscriptions and plummeting stock.

The key to the comeback was a steady approach to regaining customer trust and improving services, while still embracing innovation. The CEO took responsibility in an open apology letter, increasing the company’s transparency with the public. Netflix maintained the separation of DVD and streaming services, but took advantage of recent technologies to offer their content on tablet computers and internet televisions. And when studios refused to license online content to Netflix on feasible terms, the company began creating its own original, exclusive programming, which attracted millions of new subscribers. In less than two years, Netflix became the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 index.

Another great innovation survival story is USG Corporation, a manufacturer of construction materials. After the housing market crash, the CEO cut millions in expenses and reprioritized their focus on one important innovation project: cutting 35% of their leading drywall product’s weight while maintaining the product’s strength. The result was SHEETROCK Brand UltraLight Panels, a huge success that increased the selling price, decreased shipping and installation costs and expanded their reach internationally. Even in the toughest economic times, USG prioritized innovation and improvement, inspiring their employees and delighting their customers.

This November, you’ll once again experience Thomson Reuters innovation firsthand at the SYNERGY Users’ Conference Innovation Lab, a key component of our exhibit area. You’ll get a hands-on sneak peek at our latest development efforts as you interact with our product management and development staff. We’ll reveal the latest technologies used in our product lines, and you’ll have the opportunity to critique our design and provide feedback on the future direction of our software.

Remember, it’s never too late to introduce new forms of innovation into your own firm. Being complacent, even if things seem to be going well, is never a good idea. Innovation isn’t easy, as we’ve found with our own recent website transition (see this page for details). It’s a challenging, ongoing process that calls for an adventurous spirit and pushes the limits of your creativity. But it’s a journey well worth undertaking. Let’s continue down the road together.