Posts Tagged ‘Challenge Factory’

Is Innovation Part of Your Growth Strategy?

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

My friend Lisa Taylor is the founder of Challenge Factory, which offers unique career services for individuals and talent programs for companies.Innovation as a growth strategy for Canadian business owners

She, quite accurately in my opinion, describes her company as Canada’s innovation leader in career and talent management.

So it seemed only appropriate that Lisa would see, and forward, an article about a survey on firm-level innovation in Canada¹.

The results contain some interesting lessons about innovation as a growth strategy for Canadian business owners.

1.  The most successful innovation strategy is to provide products and services to new international markets. According to the survey, firms that do this earn between 10 and 30 per cent more net income than their counterparts using other approaches.

Yet more than 85% of Canadian firms prefer to operate within provincial or national borders, or in North America, rather than competing in international markets.

Perhaps this is a result of our conservative nature.

2.  More than half of the Canadian firms surveyed pursue a “user needs-driven” innovation strategy. This means they get new ideas for developing products and services from customers.

In comparison, about one-third of the respondents adopted a technology-driven innovation strategy – one that relies on exploiting advances in technology to gain a competitive edge.

The user-needs approach is probably less risky and may produce faster returns than the technology-driven.

3.  The most common challenges which slow down or prevent innovation include – fear of risk, lack of funding, lack of leadership focus and the organization’s culture.

The fear of risk and lack of focus make perfect sense as challenges to innovation and reflect what we see in our own practice. You can argue that, since a company’s leadership directly influences the culture, those 2 are related also.

4.  Internal cash is the number one source of funding for innovation in Canadian firms. Government financing comes second, ahead of private equity and bank financing.

And firms looking to expand the size of their markets/territory make more use of internal financing and less use of government funding or private equity than do firms with user- or technology-driven innovation strategies.

It’s not clear if the use of internal cash is by choice or by constraint. Either way, it’s interesting that neither private equity nor government financing is more readily available for market expansion, given the fact that the companies doing this achieve better average financial performance than other firms do.

5.  There is a strong correlation between the intensity of innovation efforts and company performance – but only if the innovation activities are well managed.

This should not be a surprise to anyone who follows my blog because it’s confirmation of a point I make often. If company A executes its strategy more effectively than company B, then company A will obtain the best results, even if company B has the better strategy.

You can read the article Lisa sent me here.

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¹  2012 Survey Findings: The State of Firm-Level Innovation in Canada, published by The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Business Innovation.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 3 Things That Shape A Good Strategy

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Replacing Myself

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Our guest this week is Lisa Taylor, President and Founder of Challenge Factory, a company that is changing how Canadians view the aging workforce. See below…..

I am the founder of Challenge Factory, a company that is changing how Canadians view the aging workforce. We talk about trends, demographics and experiential programs that spark innovation and competitive advantage. We work with individuals seeking meaning and satisfaction and the companies looking to employ top talent.

Recently, the business hit a milestone.  It had grown to the point that I needed a dedicated operations manager to oversee the quality of services we deliver and find ways for us to innovate as we grow.

It took several attempts to find the right person. I was, after all, replacing myself for many of the role’s responsibilities.

First, I explored using a virtual assistant and delegating tasks but quickly recognized that I wanted an employee who would be committed to the future and health of the business. Next, I hired a recent graduate thinking I would provide training and they would bring energy, new ideas and curiosity.  Six weeks in, the graduate hire asked for 8 weeks off to travel on a pre-arranged, non-refundable, non-negotiable trip.

Then I found Cayla.

Cayla had experience and came highly recommended. In our initial discussion I was explaining the administrative tasks that would be a part of this job. She responded by saying that she’d do the tasks for the first two months on the job and in the third we would automate whatever we could so that no one had to spend time on tasks that didn’t drive our goals. I swooned.

Next we discussed the more strategic elements of the job. I proudly shared the company history and plans for the next year. She started talking about plans for 2-5 years out and noticed areas where I had been very conservative. “Why don’t we charge for that service? We are the only company in the country that has that expertise. Why give it away?” I started to explain how the company had started and why we initially provided the service as a way for people to see just how different we are. And then I stopped.

I was overcome by a feeling that usually only surfaces when I am talking about my kids.

I am a mother to two boys. When I meet someone new and they ask how old the kids are, I proudly say “7 and 10.”  Most of the time, the response I get is “oh, little guys.” I am always surprised by this reaction. Little guys are the babies we held. Little guys are the toddlers we chased after. Little guys are the boys as they started school and learned to read.  My kids take the TTC, they have a cell phone, they know who Obama is. They are not little to me. Yet, in the scheme of things they are little with many more stages of growth ahead of them. That is what the stranger sees.

And the same is true of how new employees view start-up businesses.

It occurred to me that Cayla and I had radically different views of the company. To me, Challenge Factory is currently the largest and most successful it has ever been. It will continue to grow from here but I am proud of what it has already accomplished.

To Cayla, Challenge Factory is the smallest it will ever be. It is exciting enough to entice her to come and dedicate herself to the company – but not for what it is now. For what, together, we can build it into.

Replacing yourself is not easy. But as parents and business owners we know that our kids and our businesses will only rise to the level of expectation that we set for them.

More about Lisa:
Lisa worked as a strategy and technical consultant at Deloitte and Hewlett Packard. In her last role at Hewlett Packard, Lisa managed a workforce of over 12 consultants and uncovered a nascent trend linking working life expectation, longevity and employee engagement. Stepping away from corporate life, she created Challenge Factory.
Challenge Factory combines the latest demographic-based research with innovative career management practice. It provides highly experiential and practical programs for individuals and organizations. Challenge Factory and its clients have been profiled in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Brandon Sun, HR Reporter, Ottawa Sun, Herald Chronicle, 24Hrs and Canadian Press.
Lisa holds an MB in Strategic Management from the Schulich School of Business, York University. She currently sits on several not-for-profit boards and is an active community volunteer and public speaker.
Lisa has addressed over 400 organizations in Canada, the U.S. and abroad and has a regular careers column in the Toronto Star.

If you would like to contact Lisa, email her at lisa@challengefactory.ca or at 416-721-8494.

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