Becoming an innovator rarely happens overnight - many people dedicate significant amounts of time and resources to become creative leaders.

SmartCompany points out that a few pioneers have paved the way for future entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps. These successful franchisees recently offered tips that business operators can use to improve their operations and become innovators.

1. Don't wait for the "light bulb moment"
Strike while the iron is hot - this is the advice one successful innovator gave to franchisees. When the "light bulb moment" comes, you need to be ready to figure out how your unique idea blends with your company's mission and the goals of your customers.

However, the franchisee notes that responsibility is important for business owners who want to be innovators because changes are effective only when they help clients.

"We wanted to be responsible socially; we were selling [our products] and we wanted to close the loop on that," a franchisee who received international praise for her innovative ideas told the news source. "That was the acorn of the innovation side of it, not just the product we were selling but looking at what we needed to do, which was be responsible and to get people into the store."

Customers are the lifeblood of a business, so keep them in mind before you make any dramatic changes. A franchise handbook is a great tool for first-time business operators because it allows them to see if their innovative ideas correspond to the goals and mission of a business. If they do, begin implementing changes slowly and closely monitor customers' responses to ensure that the modifications are helpful to clients.

2. Embrace the workload
Starting a business might sound simple, but there is a substantial amount of work involved in getting it off the ground. A franchisee who manages a company that made it through the dark days told the news source that business operators should embrace the challenge and keep their eyes on the light at the end of tunnel.

Success takes time, and the franchisee recommends tracking every benchmark along the way. This innovation is simple, and a business operator who builds his or her franchise using a step-by-step process can avoid the pitfalls that damage many companies. Survival is scarce for those who stray from the path, and following the example set by those who have been successful in the past increases the likelihood that your business will make it through the tough times.

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