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Innovator of the Year 2012: The shortlist in detail

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In the early years of a company, innovation and new ideas are often the engine of success. But as a business grows keeping its innovative spirit alive becomes more challenging. The Innovator of the Year shortlist shows that it can be done. Here are five incredible companies that are transforming the UK market.

Mind Gym

What McKinsey did for strategy and Accenture did for IT, Mind Gym is doing for talent. This £10m turnover business has transformed the way people perform at work, in a market where the vast majority of businesses turn over less than £1m.

How did they do it? Like all the companies in this category, Mind Gym took a radically different approach. Their 90-minute workout programme challenged the prevailing assumption that learning anything useful in the employee training market would take at least a day. The training is carried out by a global network of qualified coaches, made possible by Mind Gym’s international profile. The company has built itself a reputation as leading “challenge solver” in performing culture, customer service and manager development.

These thought-leaders claim they can change the way people think, feel and behave – and transform business performance along the way.

MarketInvoice Ltd

Invoice finance doesn’t have a particularly sexy image, but MarketInvoice is doing its best to change that. The online marketplace was much like a fresh breeze in the funding landscape, and a challenge to traditional institutions in the market.

MarketInvoice brought a new approach to the problems of SME finance. A platform to auction business invoices to a network of institutional investors, who then bid for them in real-time, they managed to work around long payment terms and the recurrent problem of late payment.

The business model is built around a two-sided market: it needs investors to feel confident that their investment will be safe, and reassure sellers that there is enough investor interest on the platform to ensure that every invoice is sold. Balancing these two, MarketInvoice built a trusted new financial institution. To date, the platform has made over £26m in advances on invoices to over 100 businesses.

Innovate Services

Since being formed in 2007, Innovate has risen to a 553 employee strong, £14m turnover company, with a reputation as the most creative school caterer in the country. Along the way, it has transformed school catering and given a boost to the culture of healthy eating. The business now operates in 75 secondary schools, academies and colleges across the UK.

School catering isn’t a particularly transformative area, but Innovate committed itself to change every aspect of it. Working closely with the school and its students to design and build new facilities and deliver freshly made meals has paid off: levels of student take up are typically double the national average.

Innovate’s partnership with Mary’s Meals charity, its strictly ethical supply chain and strong commitment to social enterprise underlines that this is a rather unusually engaged catering business with a relentless drive to improve and transform its market.

First Mile

This £4m turnover strong company has revolutionised the waste and recycling industry by developing a sophisticated web-system and applying it to transform the way thousands of city-centre businesses manage their waste.

First Mile discovered a need others had long ignored: city-centre companies with high service needs and a lack of storage space were poorly served by the waste and recycling industry. With the help of a full service integration web system, which includes a daily sequencing on 10,000 collection points across drivers’ rounds and vast collections of data, First Mile offered easy recycling services to businesses in London and Birmingham.

It speaks for the potential of First Mile that the business hasn’t ceased to innovate. A renewed version of bespoke web system is about to be released, which will include the automation of recycling and CO2 saving reports.

Ink

Leading global media business Ink is a £35m turnover organisation with a culture of innovation at its core. Headquartered in London with offices in Atlanta, New York and Singapore, this media champion produces inflight magazines for over three dozen airlines, produced in 13 languages.

Having grown at an impressive rate, Ink’s client list now presents names such as KLM, easyJet, Germanwings, Ryanair, Gulf Air and Unites Airlines.

A great deal of Ink’s innovative spirit is rooted in its company culture. The business implemented a cultural change, entitled “The Revolution” in its sales processes. This involved moving away from the traditional commission structure, monthly deadlines and a renewed focus on quality over quantity every step of the way. Albeit unusual for a media business, the change became engrained within the Ink team and has driven great success. Above all, it certainly has set them apart from the rest of the industry.

Growing Business Awards 2012: The winners of the 2012 Growing Business Awards, hosted by Real Business and the CBI, will be announced at the fabulous awards ceremony, hosted by Steve Cram, on November 27, 2012, at the London Marriott Grosvenor Square.

To find out more about the Growing Business Awards, in association with Lloyds Bank, and in partnership with Lloyds Private Banking, Land Rover, Cavendish, Cass Business School, Visa, Spring Law, McLaren, Bdaily, visit our awards website.

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