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The business innovation challenge: A case of Perspiration vs. inspiration

An article caused Richard Blanford to reflect on the importance of business innovation and hard work, and why getting your processes right is so vital.
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When you’re running a business it’s important to be open to new ideas, whether they come from your own sector or elsewhere, so I try to read a wide variety of articles and follow different people on social media, from sports stars to technology experts.

What caught my attention was an interview with Linus Torvalds, the founder of the free, open-source Linux operating system which is now used by the majority of mobile and embedded devices. It’s remarkable to think that something developed by a network of contributors underpins the way we all communicate.

The key point he made was that business innovation isn’t actually that important in terms of success – ninety-nine per cent is about getting the work done. It’s a slightly different take on the famous Thomas Edison quote: “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” Torvalds went on to say that the real problems are always about process, not ideas.

This really resonated with me because process is at the heart of using IT to improve your business. It’s no use buying the newest and flashiest kit if it doesn’t help you carry out your job better.  IT should support your business processes – it’s not an end in itself.

One of our customers found this out the hard way when he joined a public sector organisation which had invested significantly in IT but wasn’t seeing the benefits. We analysed what they were doing and quickly found that the IT projects hadn’t been designed to deliver specific business outcomes. Once the software had been installed, the project was considered successful. No wonder it wasn’t helping the organisation provide better services.

Many of our customers ask us to help them ensure they’re using best practice processes. This can be a relatively short project, working alongside their in-house team and using our experience to get them on the right track so they can then complete the work themselves.

Of course we need to ensure that our own internal processes are the best that they can possibly be. Security is one of our top priorities, and so we’ve been working through the guidelines of the government’s Cyber Security scheme, which was set up to help businesses of any size put in place the basic levels of protection against cyber-attack.

Last week we had a visit from the auditors of the higher level Cyber Essentials PLUS standard and we’re just waiting for their report. Having been through the scheme ourselves, we will now be recommending it to our customers as a useful step in checking their own security processes cover all the basics effectively.

I’ve also been working with the sales and marketing team to improve our business development process. We’ve instigated weekly meetings at which everyone (including me) has to share something they’ve learnt during the previous week and commit to at least one thing that they’ll achieve during the following week. This helps us to keep the sales velocity (the time it takes to convert leads to sales) going whilst ensuring that everyone is accountable for what they do.

I’ve also committed to allocating one day every week where the sales team can take me to meetings with customers and prospects. This will help to keep me connected to the business as well as – I hope – giving added value to the people they’re seeing. In a future diary entry I’ll talk about how this has been going.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.

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About Author

Richard Blanford

Richard Blanford set up Fordway in 1991 and grew it through winning and delivering increasingly larger contracts. In 2011 he led a major investment in infrastructure, staff and training to enable Fordway to offer managed cloud services, which now provide approximately half the company’s total revenues.

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