Scale Up South West – innovation is an essential component of leaders embracing scale-up principles

"Innovation is an essential component of leaders embracing scale-up principles." This was one of the main conclusions arrived at when hgkc brought a dozen businesses together on the 23rd May to share their challenges with scaling.

Three particular challenges were common across all attendees:

  • Lack of time: attendees are doing too many things themselves and have too little time to spend on business development. This leads to having to make time to create a plan.
  • Finding the right people: relying on recruitment agencies is not necessarily the best way. An HR strategy and linked ‘process’ is required.
  • Money: scaling up a business is always going to cost money, so proper help from banks/ financial institutions will be necessary.

James went on to outline the key leadership qualities:

  • Innovation
  • Courage
  • Willpower
  • Knowledge
  • Integrity
  • Self-confidence
  • Enthusiasm
  • Ability to communicate

Of these, communication, is perhaps the most important – the ability to get people to do what you want because they want to do it.

Breaking into two ‘world café’ groups, attendees were able to explore in more detail; two key areas, leadership and innovation. The leadership discussion - faciltated by Peter Quintana and Hilary Barnett - ranged across three broad areas:

  • The leader themselves, their style and objectives as a leader, and the way in which they communicate
  • The role of the leader in developing a culture and environment that fosters engagement
  • Operational challenges faced by leaders around the table, from environmental issues to recruitment.

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All agreed that integrity and authenticity are at the heart of successful leadership, demonstrated through consistency between what the leader stands for, says and does. Contributors to this are self-awareness, recognising that leaders are human and can/do make mistakes, asking for feedback, acknowledging blind spots and relinquishing control of certain aspects of the work to allow employees to learn and develop.

Our conclusion was that creating a culture and environment in which every employee can do their best, for both themselves and the organisation, is surely what good leaders should be doing.

On the innovation side, the conversation - led by Kim Jones and James Short - shared the experiences of those leading product/manufacturing firms alongside those of service-led businesses. At the core was a sense of purpose and the need to be innovative not just in the product or service, but in ways of working generally, and people are at the centre of this approach. This led to discussion of the shared challenge of finding good people - from hiring through on-boarding to becoming productive and innovative team members. 

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A wide range of innovative practices were common across the group from prioritisation, prototyping, test and learn, IP and co-creation. Making space for research and being prepared to fail was necessary too.
What was clear to all, was that innovation is not an option but an essential component of leaders embracing scale-up principles in the business.

Attendees were enthusiastic in their feedback:

"Interesting participants, good conversations. real people with real problems, all willing to share," said Graham Tamblyn-Jones, Head of Sales and Marketing at TasteTech, whilst Karin Andersson, Director at The Real Olive Company said: "It has been really interesting and useful to meet people from completely different industries with similar problems."

Joining Peter Quintana and Kim Jones from hgkc, were associates Hilary Barnett and James Short, co-organisers John Sharpe from Thin Cats and Matt Skinner from Bern and Gray, plus:

hgkc continue to provide opportunities for leaders from across the South West to share their challenges and explore ways to grow their businesses. We are planning events in Autumn 2019 on Growth through Acquisition, Exit Planning and Employee Engagement, as well as another Scale Up South West event (provisionally planned for September 19th). If you are interested in attending, please contact us here.

    hgkc was born from the realisation that together our combined practical experience and knowledge can offer our clients a broader, deeper and richer experience that will deliver better results faster.