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Meet the practitioner!

IN CONVERSATION WITH INNOVATION EXPERT craig mcvoy

 

Businesses must create and communicate a compelling, differentiated position in the market to remain competitive and drive revenue. But how can organisations become a business that customers care about? Fortunately, we have Craig McVoy, Founder and CEO of Turnkey, at hand to help! Craig has over 20 years experience of working with the most recognisable brands in the world, such as John Lewis, BMW, LV=, Mercedes Benz and Direct Line, to design and implement customer and employee strategies. Craig’s venture; Turnkey, is on a mission to turn startups into scaleups. They help founders deliver sustainable growth by embedding a team of experts into their business, giving them ‘the board they can’t afford’ in exchange for equity in the venture. Turnkey’s expert team is comprised of specialists in tech development, equity investment, change initiatives, fundraising, legal, supply chain, production, sales and finance. Craig has lent us some time to talk through what innovation means to him, as well as the biggest myths about innovation and the key qualities that innovators must possess…

 

Hi Craig, it’s great to meet you! To set the scene, would you be able to tell us about your background in the world of innovation and what you’re currently working on?

My focus now is building Turnkey, which I describe as being my 3rd career since it was set up 2 years ago to focus on turning startups into scaleups. Having previously worked 25 years in the corporate world as a c-suite exec followed by 10 years running my own growth consultancy for the mid-market, I’d like to think I have had experience across a range of different sized markets, sectors and leadership priorities.

All my career I have been working on innovating to provide competitive advantage. Whether that was in the corporate space introducing a better brand experience in crowded markets, in the mid-market companies delivering a USP to beat the big businesses, or now in Turnkey by taking amazing ideas and creating a plan for growth that ensures a startup turns into a scaleup with a fantastic value proposition & financial plan.

Having worked with some of the worlds most admired brands, such as John Lewis, RBS Group, BMW, LV=, and Mercedes to name just a few, I’ve seen that innovation needs to be a continuous theme in a business if you want to remain at the forefront of your market sector. You are either moving forward in business or going backwards, because if you stand still then a new entrant or challenger brand will overtake you by offering something that delivers the same outcome in a better way for the target customer.

I’m very fortunate though to now work with so many inspiring and innovative businesses every single day in Turnkey. Turnkey was set up to turn more startups into scaleups, and we do that by surrounding them with the board they can’t afford in exchange for equity in their venture. We give them a dream team who have been there, seen it and have the scars to prove it. Helping them avoid the potholes, accelerate their growth trajectory and utilise the phenomenal networks we have to unlock those people you’d love to meet, but have no way of getting to them.

Originally we set out to build an investment portfolio of 50 companies over the next ten years, but this is looking more likely to be around 150 given how successful the reception has been to our unique offer and how our team has grown to accommodate the demand. We will take only 10-15 companies a year into the portfolio to protect the care and attention we give to each venture, ensuring they are given the maximum chance of succeeding on their growth journey.

To offer support to the wider entrepreneurial pool though Turnkey also offers three amazing programmes to help high growth startups reach their potential.

We have Commercialising Innovation, which is for those founders that have got an amazingly innovative idea that could totally disrupt the industry, but they have no idea how to commercialise it or turn it into a successful business. The programme gets the business up and running with a structure to make those early wins and get off the ground with solid foundations.

We have our Investment Readiness Programme to help those businesses who are ready to inject some additional funding into their business, so that they can get the required elements in place for whatever type of investment they want to apply for. For some that will be angel or VC investment for equity, others will want debt funding via loans or credit, and most will combine it with some grant funding schemes to help with their growth. Raising any form of investment is tough though, so we make sure they are prepared so they are more likely to get a ‘Yes’ verdict when they do apply.

For those businesses that have got to a stable 6 figure turnover but have got stuck and don’t know how to scale, we have our Step Up to Scaleup Programme that works in depth with the founders and pairs them with a scaleup mentor who has sector experience of growing a scaleup in their industry, as well as a wrapper of other bespoke content to help them take that step to 7 and 8 figures.

Some of these businesses ultimately end up in our ventures portfolio as they experience what we can do on the programmes to help them grow and they want a more 1:1 team wrapped around them. So, for both us and the founders it is a good ‘try before you buy’ arrangement, and needless to say that every day I am blown away by the amount of innovative founders and businesses that we get to work with.

 

That’s a lot of innovation experience and a great insight into what you do. Innovation can be a bit of an abstract word sometimes… what does innovation mean to you?

Innovation for me is about creating new and interesting solutions that make life better for the audiences that use or benefit from the outcome. Most markets have got current solutions, so any new introduction has to give us one of two things:

1) More time to do the things we love, or reduce the time taken to do something that is unpleasurable.

2) More pleasure from using the product/services we choose, or less monotonous to do the chores we have no choice but to do

If you move the dial on one of these two directions then you are providing a big enough incentive for people to change. That’s about creating meaningful innovation, not just change for changes sake.

 

We love meaningful innovation! So, what inspired you to get into the innovation field?

Working everyday with people who can change the world we live in for the better…. what’s a better job than that?

 

So that’s why you got into innovation, but why is innovation so important in today’s world? What promise does innovation hold?

Improving the world we live in, so we get more time to enjoy it is critical. Right now, we can’t get back the time we have had, although that might be innovation at its peak when someone does invent that. So, we have to make the most of the time we have, and innovation helps us live better lives and have more time.

 

For people looking to innovate better, what do you think the biggest myths around innovation are?

What people mean generally when they say this is that we have to be more successful with innovation. But you have to get comfortable with failure if you want to foster an innovative culture in your business. You have to make it safe for people to try and fail. In order to do that well it is imperative to have innovation completely separate to BAU. Down to budgets, teams, environments, everything really. These teams must communicate well with each other in order to share ideas and problems from the current way things are done. But only once a solution has proven to be stable and offer a better output should it be migrated across to the live environment for everyone to use. Failing with live customers (unless aware they are in a beta test group) is a sure-fire way to damage your brand, and that isn’t something easily recovered.

 

Could you share a particularly challenging innovation project you’ve worked on and how you overcame obstacles along the way?

Back in my corporate days we were the first business in the UK to introduce a SIP Omni-channel Contact Centre framework that worked across multiple sites in the same way as if you had the whole contact centre in one building. It’s simple to do this now, even with small businesses operating in this way and with technology much cheaper to do so. But 15-20 years ago this had only just been done in a few countries in the world, so we had to visit those in order to understand how it could work. The key learns still hold true today though for any type of new tech implementation – use the system as it is designed to work, even if it means changing your processes to work in its way; use providers who have proven success in delivering it before and can show you examples of customers who will explain how they did it together; and be sure to dual run the solutions with a pilot group before looking to launch it across your whole user group.

I’ve also had experience of a project that failed badly too (luckily not mine) but it was due to cost £35m to implement in 500 sites. At £72m it was in one site and not working correctly, with a projected cost of £250m to complete the project. That got canned… and so did a few senior execs 😬

 

What do you believe are the essential qualities or skills for someone looking to innovate?

They need to be open minded, receptive to feedback and have the ability to change or pivot from their position if someone else suggests a better way to deliver a solution. Rarely will your first attempt be the final solution, so be prepared to fail many times and see that as progress!

 

Thank you so much Craig for your time. One last question… What one key bit of advice would you give to people, teams or organisations looking to innovate?

Speak to your target market and understand their pain points and the things they wished were different that no one has tackled before.

They might not know what the solutions needed are, or even that they wanted what your solution offers them (Henry Ford famously said “If I’d asked them what they wanted they would’ve said faster horses”). But they will be able to tell you what they wish was different… its then your job to find the most innovative way to make that better, so you give them more time, or more pleasure.

 

Thank you so much Craig! That was really insightful and inspiring!

If you found this insightful too, we now delve into the thinking behind Craigs’s Innovation Methods and Mindset Short Course, Become a business that customers care about, and how this affordable, one day masterclass can help organisations to create and communicate a compelling, differentiated position in your market.

 

You can read this second interview here.

 

Alternatively, if you’re feeling readily inspired, you can sign up for the short course here.