Research and development for a small business – on a shoe string

Research and development is a key aspect of any business – whether you’re a multinational or a small home run business. what are some of the things that have worked for you?

Research and development for a small business – on a shoe string

If you’re a small-scale entrepreneur or a small business owner, the money to experiment with, will always be in short supply. In a team as small as Bakeart, with one person straddling all roles, the time and human resources to devote to sustained R&D is a luxury which is hard to come by. Yet, in an over- crowded and constantly evolving external environment, R&D is a game changer.

Of the many R&D approaches, here are two that have worked THE MOST for us:

1. The customer – Surprising as this may sound, for a small business the individual customer is essentially the source of almost everything and if you build the trust currency, the customer becomes a participant in the business process. At Bakeart, customer relationships have been a constant source of R&D. Customers have asked for and supported new ideas and new products, compensating us even when the outcome wasn’t the most exciting. Not only did it help us learn and invent new offerings, it did away with the fear of experimenting, of walking the untrodden path and of failure. Surprisingly, it isn’t difficult to get here. Ask yourself these key questions –

– Are you listening to your customer? Really listening?

– How do you respond when the customers ask for something different?

– Have you considered making your customer an invested part of your process?

At the end, our success stories became the customers success stories and our failures became their reasons for cheering us on.

2. Benchmarking: As old and as run down as it sounds, this is THE most powerful R&D tool that we’ve used at Bakeart. But, here’s a word of caution to the wise- benchmarking is not the same as following trends. Trends are the flavor of the day or the flavors of the week. This is especially true of food, because this is a space which EVERYONE owns. Something new is being cooked up in millions of home kitchens across the world, something incredible and something that everyone will copy. But that my friend is not what benchmarking is. Benchmarking is learning from how others are doing it, it could be your competitor or even your favorite car manufacturer ! My favorite story is about the Bakeart vegan ice-cream. I heard from a friend about the foray of Ben & Jerry into the vegan ice-cream space. When I read more about it on the internet, I learnt something that I had never considered. That discovery helped me with reworking my vegan ice-cream recipe and my ice-cream turned into the creamiest, most delicious concoction without using any chemicals what so ever.

The point here finally is that it is possible to R&D even with a little or no budget. Whether it is trade publications, or Facebook groups, your Instagram feeds or the evening news, inspiration is always there. And the best source is if course – your customer. But are you listening? Are you open to new things?

 What are some of the things that have worked for you?