In the run-up to this year’s Business Awards, as sponsors of the Lifetime Achievement Award, we consider some guiding principles for leading innovation, as demonstrated by previous category winners.
This week we discuss the relationship between innovation and high performance in successful businesses.
Over the last few weeks this series has already touched on some of the key ingredients required to help innovation flourish, including strategy and culture. We’ve considered the different types of innovation that firms may adopt, from totally new products, technologies or services that ‘disrupt’ the market, to the regular, incremental improvements that keep market leaders at the top of their game. It is the sustained, open-minded and ‘restless’ pursuit of new solutions to unfolding challenges, which goes some way to explaining why innovation drives high performance.
Last year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winners, Chairman of Mears Group, Mr Bob Holt and its CEO, Mr David Miles, are exemplars in leading high performance. Thanks to their innovative spirit, and relentless approach to continual improvement, they transformed a small business into one of the county’s largest firms over the last 30 years.
In 1996, they spotted an opportunity to buy a Gloucester contracting business which, at that time, had a turnover of around £6m and employed about 80 staff. One of their first innovative actions was to list the company on the Stock Exchange – unprecedented at that time for a company of that size – they then used the funding to drive a strategy of organic growth and acquisitions, developing their offering to include care alongside housing services.
By 2005 turnover was up to £205m, with the company well on the road to becoming the UK’s leading housing and social care provider to both the public and private sector. Today, Mears Group employees some 12,000 staff and has a turnover of more than £900m.
High performance requires an engaged and committed workforce that understands and works towards a shared vision. David and Bob have had the leadership and vision to drive the phenomenal growth of Mears, without losing sight of the value of their team. With two in-house academies, their company’s own leadership programme and a successful apprenticeship scheme, the company’s commitment to staff development and engagement has never wavered.
And today, just as back in 1996, the company retains its focus on innovation, embracing a process of continuous improvement through all elements of the business, involving employees company-wide.
In the next feature we’ll discuss the importance of leadership style when driving innovation, as demonstrated by another of our celebrated Lifetime Achievement Award past winners.