Charlie Mullins: Innovation can have just as much impact as disruption

There are two types of entrepreneurs. Firstly, there are the disruptors – those that come up with a completely new concept, product or service that can redefine a market or change the way people do things.

Then there are the innovators. Those that take an existing business concept or product and make it better and do it better. This, of course, is not a new idea, but a trend that goes back centuries. 

For example, when 17th century French Benedictine monk Dom Perignon decided to embrace the bubbles that were appearing in his Champenois wine bottles rather than try and get rid of them, fuelled by an envy of the wine produced by his Burgundian neighbours to the south, he struck upon on a business opportunity that created a legacy that spans hundreds of years.

Mentioning this drink-related example of entrepreneurial talent over the many others history offers up allows me to segway nicely into a modern day enterprise in my own neighbourhood that innovates to succeed.

There’s a boozer in Pimlico, the London borough that was the birthplace of a certain successful plumbing enterprise, which really hit this home to me. The Cask is a craft beer pub which, for me, exemplifies the innovative approach to entrepreneurialism that can boost the economy as much as the disruptors from the tech scene.

The pub has a list of beers and lagers (plus a good choice of wines and spirits) as long as a stock inventory of an Amazon warehouse from all four corners of the world. I think if anyone was to take up the “round the world” challenge to drink beers from different countries it’d take them longer than Phileas Fogg did to get round the globe.

Enterprises like this also electrify the business network by providing an outlet for micro and medium-sized breweries fighting for a slice of the market against the big boys and a place for talented and creative small businesses producing the bar snacks and pork pies on display on the Cask bar to sell their wares.

Founded in 2009, when the economy was going to hell in a handcart, Cask has proved that a recession can be a good time to start a business, but is now proving doing things in a different, and arguably better, way when the country is on more of a financial even keel will also bring success.

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Even though we are out of recession and, as the latest GDP figures told us, growing our economy, the public still have a recessionary-hangover with their spending habits. They are more careful with where they spend and want to make sure they get value and quality from each pound they hand over.

This is also one of the reasons we do well at Pimlico Plumbers. When I started the business in 1979 there were lots of other plumbers out there – and there still are – but by doing things differently, and better, it sets us apart from the competition. 

The same is true of our plumbing merchants business that opened last year. We’re not the only merchants in our area, but by applying the Pimlico principles to the business, the enterprise we set up to take greater control of our supply chain is also becoming very popular with London’s tradespeople.

In every town and city up and down the country there are entrepreneurs who look at other businesses and say, I can do that and I can do it better. It creates competition, which can be a healthy motivator in business, but mainly it adds another string to the country’s economic bow. I’ll raise a glass to that!

Image: Shutterstock

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