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Counselor Commentary: Prepare To Innovate

Many business experts will tell you: Innovate or die.

Many business experts will tell you: Innovate or die. But how many CEOs truly live and breathe the ideal, and make sure to implement it into everything they and their companies do?

One that definitely does is Ken Chenault, the CEO of American Express. Think the 90th-largest company in America, which brings in $35 billion in revenue every year, would be able to rest on its laurels a bit? Not so much. Chenault, speaking this week at the Money 2020 conference in Las Vegas, showed off his innovative side.

“I love competition,” said the 62-year-old CEO. “You have to have this spirit of reinvention, and that is what we have in the DNA of the company. If you don't innovate, you die. You have to constantly innovate, you have to constantly challenge the status quo. One of the points I make consistently to our people is that we want to become the company that will put us out of business.”

That is a great statement, and it’s one all business leaders should take to heart. Your competition isn’t just the company you know – it’s often an entity or business that you can’t always anticipate. Chenault knows that new digital payment options – Apple Pay, Square, Dwolla, Merchant Warehouse – are trying to infringe on American Express’ business. And, he’s imploring everyone in his company to focus their efforts on making sure it doesn’t happen. In fact, he said at this week’s conference that he’d be ok if the company’s iconic green card isn’t in people’s wallets anymore, as long as they’re using the American Express brand in their digital payments.

Think about that. The head of one of the most well-known brands in the world is already thinking ahead to the point that its main product will be extinct. He has fully prepared his company to innovate, and they’re moving forward successfully because of it.

What are you doing to innovate and change how you go to market or service clients or separate yourself from the competition? It’s something every good company spends time on, worries about, and strategizes for. Sure, your bread and butter are promotional marketing programs from corporate clients. But you can enhance your company’s value to your clients by expanding into additional services. Maybe it’s live event planning or website design or mobile marketing plans or recruiting fairs for HR departments. Every business, even the biggest and most successful one, needs to innovate. Otherwise, there’s an untraditional competitor just waiting to step in and take advantage.