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13 July 2016 | By Simon Anderson Community

Innovation, trust and honour

Why these three values are a formula for business success

Innovation, trust and honour are three things that seem to be sadly lacking in business today.

This is a somewhat controversial statement but let me explain it and show how these three values working together have helped us succeed in growing from a start-up to a medium-sized business. 

Innovation is a challenge for mainstream businesses. By its very nature it challenges the way that they are currently working and is therefore risky. Often research and development departments find it very difficult to introduce their products into the mainstream business with competition for resources and many, many stakeholders to address.

Geoff Moore’s book Escape Velocity describes this dilemma far better than I can. But our argument is that it is better for businesses like ours to carry out the innovation quickly and without baggage and then pitch it to our customers. This is something we have done well, but on its own it is not enough.

Trust – or rather the lack of it – is why many businesses prefer to do things themselves. Will suppliers deliver? When things go wrong – as they always do – will they sort it out or not have the capacity and willingness to do so? Will they take things like security, quality and corporate social responsibility seriously? Will they keep our plans and experiences confidential? These are all very good considerations: considerations that are often handed over to procurement departments and contracts to resolve.

Perversely, sometimes all this does is delay things further and build an atmosphere of distrust and potential conflict. For example, has the product been designed incorrectly? Was the spec wrong?

What you fear is often what you get. Thus, it has been extremely important for us to build that trust by going the extra mile to build a reputation for delivery. As we have done so, so we have been able to elevate our relationship from just a supplier to being a development partner -and also gain the trust of multiple customers. Word of mouth is a powerful business development tool.

Honour is the final element of the trilogy. It has a keen influence on trust but is more intangible. It is more than doing what you say you will do. It is about motivations and values, and working as a partner for the common good – not ripping people off, exploiting weaknesses, telling half truths, chasing money at all costs.

In ten years we can truthfully say that there is not a decision we have made that we are not proud of. We have got things wrong, there are things that given the chance we would do differently but they have all been honorable decisions.

So now we are a medium business growing at around 75 per cent a year. It has taken some ten years to achieve this. Reliable innovation, trust and honour are not things that are built overnight, which may be why they are unusual, but we maintain they are the core of a sustainable business.

geo develops smarter energy products and services for consumers