Product and Service Innovation


Product and Service Innovation

“Always be thinking about opportunities to broaden your portfolio of value propositions and staying relevant. Your work isn’t done when you on-board a client; ask yourself how you can improve your service, and what other problems or opportunities you can help your clients address.”

Mark Fowle, Chairman at CTS and Datum

All PE backed companies are expected to grow rapidly through each cycle. For the majority of companies this can’t happen without consistent product innovation in line with your market and the ever-increasing needs of your growing customer base. We asked our PEPTalks founding members how they facilitate and implement innovation within their companies.

Culture

If possible, innovation within your company should be continuous and self-sustaining. As CEO it is your job to facilitate this…

“When you join a business or start a new PE cycle there is typically a lag with really meaningful innovation. You aren’t likely to turn on a really big idea in 1 year so if you’re starting a turnaround getting to the innovation pipeline and making sure it’s loaded up early on is really important. This way you’ll start to reap really meaningful rewards by year 3 as opposed to year 5.

Kevin Brennan, CEO, Quorn Foods

Whilst you play a vital role in innovation within the company you shouldn’t be expected to come up with the ideas. Your responsibility is to ensure everyone in your company knows the journey you are on and feel comfortable enough to express their ideas…

“Instil the purpose led ethos from top to bottom in your company. Once your employees understand the vision and what it is they need to deliver it empowers them to make their own decisions and create their own solutions. This leads to self-sustaining companywide innovation.”

Mark Fowle, Chairman at CTS and Datum

Getting your employees to buy into your company’s purpose allows them to work to a common objective and produce practical ideas. It can sometimes be useful to have a rewards scheme to make sure these ideas are expressed. This is a technique Adam Sullivan has used as CEO of Baywater Healthcare

“Try to get the whole company to buy into the innovative culture. Create an ideas and innovations initiative where if an employee comes up with an idea that generates efficiency you reward them for it. We got every employee thinking about where money could be saved and value creation by offering 10% of the profits for any of their ideas that we could monetise.”

As Adam mentions innovation shouldn’t only focus on your top line…

“You should look at innovation from both a top and bottom-line perspective. Identify which innovations can help improve your products and services; but also look at waste and inefficiency and what can be done to minimise it.”

Adam Sullivan, CEO, Baywater Healthcare

Innovation

So you have created a culture that encourages and rewards new ideas and innovations. But how do you ensure the ideas are the right ones to propel your company forwards?

“You may need to ring fence resource on innovation. In an ideal world you don’t need to because everyone is innovating but in reality, that doesn’t happen. This means designating dedicated leadership/ownership of innovation.”

Steve Byrne, CEO, Travel Counsellors

Mark Fowle shared his experiences with us from his time at CTS

“The company really started to grow when we moved from a product centric ethos to a client centric one. If you just produce a product and don’t care who you sell it to its easy to stagnate. When you start focusing on individual clients and the solutions specific to them you will grow as they do and the product develops naturally.


Focus on your customer needs and not your product. Be intimate with them and learn what their goal is and why they want to achieve it. Then you can identify and develop the solution that will work best for them.”

For the client centric model to work you need to instil confidence in employees throughout the business…

“The most important innovators in your business become the people closest to the customer. You need to make sure these people have the confidence to tell you what isn’t being done properly or what can be improved. Learn what’s stopping them from providing the experience that you desire for your customers.”

Steve Byrne, CEO, Travel Counsellors

Building this relationship with you customers that presents you as an industry innovator has its own benefits…

“Your innovation is a product in itself. Always try to demonstrate that your product is driving your category/industry forward.

Kevin Brennan, CEO, Quorn Foods

Managing Growth through innovation

If you take a client led ethos your growth will run in parallel with theirs. Mark Fowle shared 3 things you should be aware of in order to manage this innovation led growth…

  1. “If you make the shift from being a product to client centric business there is a good chance you will need to hire new people that are more adept at managing client relationships and listening to exactly what it is they want.”
  2. “Sometimes it’s best to move away from clients who are too small for your business model. Focus on creating tailored solutions for your bigger clients as opposed to trying to create a basic product that suits everyone.”
  3. “You need to change with your clients so get feedback and express how you plan to improve. Take the feedback you receive across the board and publish it to your clients with 3 clear objectives showcasing how you plan to improve”.

Mark Fowle, Chairman at CTS and Datum