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7 Questions with Bradley Pallister

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Bradley Pallister

Name: Bradley Pallister

Current title: Co-founder

Current organisation: Innovolo Ltd

Hello, my name is Bradley Pallister, and I’m the co-founder and Head of Innovation here at Innovolo. We’re an innovation and product development consultancy with an emphasis on helping our B2B clients to create a culture that embraces and exploits innovation.

Innovolo is an award-winning strategy product development and design company. We have moved from offering exclusively fixed sum product development projects to managing the complete product development chain from idea generation, 3D design, and product launch planning.

7 Questions with Bradley Pallister

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1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

I think most successful executives of large or fast-growing organisations will tell you that to achieve the culture of innovation that is so needed to drive the ship forward, you will be wearing more scars than shiny badges and medals; it can feel like a thankless and endless task, and it requires a certain determination, grit, empathy, and passion to keep going. Leadership is sometimes a precarious balancing act between encouraging the type of innovation that delivers new products whilst keeping the zeitgeist alive and well to protect the core that keeps your company growing. The smartest, most sensible leaders don't do it by perpetuating their own power. They do it by getting people to want to follow, through motivation and inspiration.

The challenge of having to wear many different hats is a real one when bootstrapping, and a determined effort is needed to keep your focus on what is going to make the difference. The most important lesson I have learned is to focus on one thing at a time.

As the third biggest challenge, I think communication is absolutely key to the sustainability of any organisation, in particular, when in situations such as COVID, where you need to consistently, constantly over-communicate.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Innovolo is currently a family-run and -owned business, set up by my dad, my three brothers, and myself. As a team, we have a wide spectrum of skills, abilities, and experience in different industries, and so when dad was made redundant from his job, we clubbed together and Innovolo was born, overnight.

Bootstrapping the company with £200 to where we are now has been an interesting journey. For the first 12 months or so, Innovolo was a side hustle for me, until February 2020, when I jumped into it full time, and never looked back. My background is predominantly in construction and life safety industries, mainly in a project management capacity. However, if you check out our team, you can see the variety of backgrounds and industries that we all come from. This may seem to be a disadvantage, but actually, this is our strength. We’re often called ‘naive experts’ because of our habit of asking those questions that no-one else seems to ask.

So to start with, we were basically just trying to keep dad busy, however, when I started in February, we put in a real effort to get everything systematised and process-driven. This was the first stage of our scaling up to where we are today. We’ve had a number of iterations of our core service, from providing general market research through to our latest offering, the Unlimited Innovation-as-a-Service package. We had this aha! moment when analysing the reasons clients weren’t signing up to our standard project service.

Our flagship product is our unique Unlimited Innovation-as-a-Service which allows business owners and leaders to bring in an external innovation team that is exactly tailored to their needs for a fixed low subscription from just £1695 per month. The service allows our clients to submit and queue up as many product development or innovation projects as they want on our platform. Innovolo will then simply work through them in priority order, and deliver with a fast turnaround. When I say fast, I mean, really fast. Like how we recently helped a client who has their own in-house R&D department to expedite their product from eight months down to six weeks!

This low monthly cost gives unparalleled access to vetted talent that is matched to our clients’ specific needs, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee, there is minimal risk to any business owners

With this external team of innovators, our clients always have a sounding board at their disposal, and in the meantime, developing the necessary mindset and skills to adapt to the ‘new normal’. Our Unlimited Innovation-as-a-Service means that business owners can really focus on projects that would otherwise drown in operations and involve the entire staff in innovation.

We started the Innovolo journey in its current form in September 2018, but we’ve been dabbling in this arena for a long time now. Innovolo has a number of sister organisations, and we’re excited to be looking to make some acquisitions and mergers over the next 12-18 months.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Time is the most valuable resource we have to get our work done. Proper planning prevents poor performance. Being on top of things lets me focus on the most important tasks in a given day by having detailed plans.

My days essentially involve analysis, decision-making, problem-solving, strategic thinking, and project management.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is not to get complacent when you are on the top. Leadership is an everyday endeavor. You can never get lazy. I am always working, improving myself.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter

I loved this book because of its simple and effective approach to getting its message across. The powerful framework explained in the book is very effective in helping teams adapt to new circumstances. The book does a great job in explaining different behaviors within a team during the change by identifying all the different aspects and it educates the reader on how to manage them effectively, including how to create a sense and need for urgency.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

So if you look at Mark Wardell's Value Pyramid, you will see that there are four tiers of ownership maturity. At the bottom of the pyramid, you have an organisation that is owner-driven. This has the lowest enterprise value, and very typical in a family-owned or -run business, and means that the organisation cannot scale beyond the direct input of the business owner.

If you want to build enterprise value (and hey, who doesn't?), then you need to start climbing that pyramid. So the next tier is a people-driven organisation, and that is where leaders are needed to get their people involved in strategic decisions of the business. The business can scale slightly now, as the equity is no longer just tied to the business owner, but also to the key employees. The third tier is where leaders organise systems and processes in place across all areas of the organisation, and the ultimate and highest tier, Tier 4, is where leaders have now created not just a great team, or a great system or tool, but the very foundation of the business, the culture, is one in which employees are empowered and in a position to scale-up operations the fastest and most sustainably.

The only way I believe leaders will develop that capacity required to lead large enterprises is through personal moral integrity, humility, and continual learning.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

The late Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk "Do schools kill creativity?" makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. There is a close parallel here, I think, to building an enterprise that has a positive and thriving culture.