Innovation is a key part in every aspect of business growth. But how is it done? This week, our host Ciaran Connolly chats with Mike Shelly, who used innovation to boost his equine science business Plusvital.

The pair also discuss some essential insights into international markets, exporting and much more.

To find out more, watch our full ProfileTree TV interview or read on to catch the highlights.

Plusvital: an insight into business innovation and international markets

Turning Science into Supplements – Plusvital’s Success Story

With his science background, Mike always knew he wanted to work in the industry – little did he know that he would end up revolutionising it.

“I did chemical engineering in college and spent the first couple of years of my life post-college working in Biotech in Dublin, Switzerland, the States and places like that.

Business Innovation with Mike Shelly

“I gave that up to go back to college to do an MBA and see what else was out there. I worked for an Irish renewables company for a couple of years then came back to Dublin in 2014.

“The last five years I’ve been based here trying to grow Plusvital.”

Mike first entered Plusvital as Head of Business Development, and he became CEO in early 2015.

Plusvital is an Ireland-based horse supplement and genetics specialist company, selling into markets worldwide. The high-profile equine science business has been continuously developing innovative, scientifically-based supplements for competitors in racing, breeding and equine sports.

“The company is export-focused, covering the main racing regions of the world, which is quite a well-known idea now but was innovative in the 1970s when Plusvital began.

“About three or four years ago the company was looking for ways to grow beyond supplements and started talking to a company called Equinome set up by Professor Emmeline Hill, who had discovered the genetic link behind the best distance to run a racehorse.

“In the end Plusvital and Equinome came together, so we now offer both the supplements and the genetics.”

After acquiring Equinome, a world leader in the research and development of genetic tools for the thoroughbred industry, Plusvital positioned itself as the innovative leader in equine science.

Powered by Equinome’s genomic tools, Plusvital now provides tests which analyse the DNA of horses to predict optimum race distance and performance potential.

But Mike’s innovative plans do not stop there.

“We are also looking at the links between genetics and nutrition, and whether there is a particular nutrition plan that’s suited based on genetics.

“All this stuff is trying to bring something different to customers and, as a company, carve out our own competitive niche.”

Plusvital logo - Innovation in Business
Plusvital bring innovative thinking to the highly traditional horse racing industry. Image credit: Plusvital

Plusvital and International Markets

Plusvital carries out a large amount of work in areas around the world including the Middle East and Australia.

He outlined the importance of the Middle East region to Plusvital – and not just when it comes to horses, but other animals too.

“There’s a very strong horse tradition in the Middle East, we’d always be out there looking for clients.

“While the Dubai World Cup is a well-known race, some of our products are used for camel racing too. It’s an unusual business for an Irish company to be out there selling products to camel racers but that’s part of what we do.”

Mike explains how being an Irish company has benefitted Plusvital when exporting to foreign markets.

“We describe ourselves as an Irish equine science company, so we’re proudly Irish, but over 90% of our sales have been exports.

“Being Irish and wanting to reach into the foreign industry is a really positive thing. If you go to Dubai, Australia or the US and explain you’re an Irish company, the door is open for you. We are very credible.”

Plusvital’s Innovation Techniques

While every company claims to be innovative, Plusvital proves their innovation through groundbreaking science. However, while their product is innovative, Plusvital has to use innovation in many other ways to sell across the globe.

“We define ourselves as a company that will stand or fall in innovation. We work in a supplements market, where there was a limited amount of innovation to begin with, so we knew we had to do something different. So, we decided that innovation off the back of good science is how we would carve our niche.

“But innovation comes in many forms – some of it comes from research, science or creativity. It is a challenge for us all the time.”

Where Plusvital may not have direct competitors, the company must use innovation to persuade prospective customers to believe in the new advancements. As horse racing is a traditional sport, this is where Mike’s main challenge lies.

“Our biggest competitor isn’t usually other companies, it is the customer who we need to get up to speed with it and believe in it.

“The charm of the industry is the old-school tradition of horse racing, people put a lot of value on that. So we are trying to say that they don’t need to leave that behind, but there’s other aspects that you can layer over it to improve it.”

Summarising the products offered by Plusvital, Mike said the science of supplements for horses could be seen as very similar to supplementation for humans.

“The vitamins, minerals and trace elements are the kinds of things you’d see in a typical tablet of Berocca. Horses could need supplementation if they aren’t getting everything in their feed, particularly if they are high-performance athletes.”

Communicating this message through sales and marketing is key for Plusvital. To spark innovation, they include everyone from all divisions in their meetings to ensure no ideas are left unheard.

“From a company perspective, we try to get everyone to bring their own ideas to spark something off and create some sort of magic.

“The other thing we say is there has to be tension in the room, if everyone is agreeing with each other then you are probably not pushing it far enough. Sometimes when you’re in that uncomfortable situation that’s when the best ideas come about.

“Innovation is very much the centre of what we do.”

Plusvital product image - Innovation in Business
Innovative nutrition is crucial for effective training. Image credit: Plusvital

To discover more about Mike’s expertise in business innovation, doing business internationally, exporting and much more, see our full ProfileTree video interview.

You can also find out more about Plusvital’s offerings and latest innovations through their website.

Innovation in Business: A Deep Dive into Different Types

Innovation isn’t a one-size-fits-all magic trick. It’s a toolbox overflowing with diverse tools, each capable of transforming your business in unique ways. Let’s delve into five key types of innovation and equip you with the knowledge to unlock your full potential:

1. Product and Service Innovation: This is the classic “new and improved” approach. It focuses on creating entirely new offerings or significantly enhancing existing ones to meet ever-evolving customer needs and stay ahead of the competition.

  • Examples: Tesla revolutionized electric vehicles, Starbucks elevated the coffee experience, and Netflix transformed entertainment with streaming.

2. Business Model Innovation: This goes beyond the product or service, rethinking the core structure of how your business operates and delivers value. It’s about creating new ways to generate revenue, reach customers, and optimize efficiency.

  • Examples: Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry with a peer-to-peer model, Dollar Shave Club reinvented razor subscriptions, and Uber introduced a new paradigm for transportation with ride-sharing.

3. Process Innovation: This focuses on streamlining and optimizing internal operations to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance quality. It’s about looking for smarter ways to do what you already do, but do it better.

  • Examples: Amazon revolutionized logistics with automated warehouses and robotic fulfillment, Toyota pioneered lean manufacturing practices, and Zappos transformed customer service through a focus on employee happiness.

4. Marketing Innovation: This handlarmsing your message and reaching your target audience in impactful, new ways. It’s about leveraging emerging technologies, creative storytelling, and data-driven strategies to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

  • Examples: Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign redefined beauty standards, Old Spice reinvented its image with humorous viral marketing, and Dollar Shave Club disrupted the subscription model with bold, direct-to-consumer advertising.

5. Organizational Innovation: This goes beyond the core business, fostering a culture of creativity, collaboration, and adaptability within your organization. It’s about empowering employees, embracing diverse perspectives, and encouraging experimentation to drive constant improvement.

  • Examples: Google’s “20% time” policy allows employees to pursue personal projects, Netflix encourages open communication and data-driven decision-making, and Zappos prioritizes a fun and engaging company culture to foster innovation.

Remember, innovation is a journey, not a destination. By understanding and utilizing these different types of innovation, you can approach challenges with a broader perspective, identify opportunities for growth, and build a future-proof business that thrives in the ever-evolving marketplace.

Innovation in Business: The Secret Sauce for Success – Diving Deeper into its Benefits

Innovation isn’t just a trendy buzzword; it’s the potent fuel that propels businesses towards success. While the “types” of innovation provide the tools, the “benefits” reveal the incredible rewards your business can reap by embracing this transformative mindset. Let’s explore these benefits in detail, painting a vivid picture of what innovation can unleash:

1. Revenue Growth Unleashed:

  • New Markets and Customers: Innovative offerings can open doors to previously untapped markets, attracting new customer segments and expanding your reach. Think Tesla entering the luxury car market with electric vehicles or Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry.
  • Premium Pricing Power: Cutting-edge products or services often command premium prices due to their unique value proposition. This translates to increased revenue margins and bolstered profitability. Think Apple consistently leading the charge with smartphone innovation or Glossier revolutionizing the beauty industry with its direct-to-consumer approach.
  • Enhanced Customer Loyalty: Innovation fosters deeper customer engagement and loyalty by addressing their evolving needs and exceeding expectations. This translates to repeat business, positive word-of-mouth, and a stronger brand reputation. Think Netflix constantly innovating its content offerings or Starbucks continuously elevating the coffee experience.

2. Efficiency and Productivity Amplified:

  • Streamlined Processes: Innovation isn’t just about flashy new products; it can involve rethinking internal processes to eliminate waste, optimize workflows, and boost efficiency. Think automation, data-driven decision-making, and cloud-based solutions like robotic fulfillment in warehouses.
  • Reduced Costs: Streamlined processes lead to lower operational costs, freeing up resources to invest in further innovation or strengthen your bottom line. Imagine the cost savings achieved through automating repetitive tasks or leveraging AI for predictive maintenance.
  • Employee Empowerment: A culture of innovation empowers employees to think creatively, propose solutions, and drive improvements. This translates to increased productivity, higher engagement, and a more dynamic workforce. Think Google’s “20% time” policy allowing employees to pursue personal projects or Zappos’ focus on creating a fun and engaging company culture.

3. Competitive Edge Secured:

  • Market Differentiation: In a crowded marketplace, innovation sets your business apart from the competition. It allows you to offer unique value propositions, capture market share, and establish yourself as a leader in your industry. Think Uber disrupting the taxi industry with ride-sharing or Dollar Shave Club revolutionizing the razor subscription model.
  • Proactive Response to Disruption: Innovation isn’t just about playing catch-up; it’s about staying ahead of the curve. By embracing new technologies and trends, you can anticipate disruptive forces and proactively adapt, safeguarding your business from future challenges. Think Netflix transforming from DVD rentals to streaming giant or Tesla’s commitment to electric vehicles amidst changing environmental regulations.
  • Talent Attraction and Retention: A culture of innovation attracts and retains top talent who thrive in dynamic environments. This talent pool becomes a vital resource for sustained innovation and future success. Think companies like Facebook or Google known for their innovative cultures and ability to attract the best minds.

4. Company Culture Transformed:

  • Embracing Creativity and Change: Innovation fosters a culture of creativity, open-mindedness, and a willingness to embrace change. This leads to a more dynamic and adaptable workforce, ready to tackle new challenges with fresh perspectives.
  • Enhanced Employee Engagement: When employees feel empowered to contribute their ideas and see their efforts drive meaningful change, they become more engaged and invested in the company’s success. This boosts morale, fosters collaboration, and creates a positive work environment.
  • Building a Future-Proof Organization: A culture of innovation ensures your organization is constantly evolving and adapting to the ever-changing world. This agility and future-proof mindset become the cornerstone of long-term sustainability and success.

Nurturing the Spark: Best Practices for Supporting Innovation in Your Organization

Innovation isn’t a magic trick; it’s a carefully cultivated garden where creativity flourishes and thrives. As the gardener, leaders play a crucial role in nourishing this fertile ground, providing the tools, space, and encouragement for their teams to blossom with innovative ideas. Let’s explore some best practices that unlock the innovative potential within your organization:

1. Time for Exploration:

  • Innovation Sprints: Encourage employees to dedicate focused time to innovation, whether it’s weekly “hackathons” or quarterly idea-generation workshops. This allows them to step outside their routine tasks and delve deep into creative problem-solving.
  • 20% Time Policy: Inspired by Google, consider allocating a portion of employee time for personal projects or exploration of innovative ideas. This empowers individuals to pursue their passions, which can lead to unexpected breakthroughs.
  • Idea Cafes and Unconferences: Create informal spaces where employees can gather, share ideas, and brainstorm solutions in a relaxed, open-minded environment. These casual interactions can spark unexpected connections and lead to innovative concepts.

2. Platforms for Idea Sharing:

  • Online Innovation Portals: Establish a dedicated platform where employees can submit ideas, collaborate on projects, and track progress. This encourages transparency, builds community, and ensures no valuable thought gets lost in the shuffle.
  • Internal Ideation Competitions: Periodically host fun and engaging competitions around specific challenges or themes. This gamifies the innovation process, fosters healthy competition, and surfaces the most promising ideas.
  • Reverse Mentoring Programs: Encourage junior employees to mentor senior leaders on emerging trends and technologies. This creates a two-way knowledge flow, breaks down hierarchical barriers, and ensures fresh perspectives are heard.

3. Building the Infrastructure:

  • Dedicated Innovation Budget: Allocate resources specifically for innovation initiatives, from prototyping and pilot projects to training programs and technology investments. This demonstrates commitment and provides the essential fuel for innovative endeavors.
  • Internal Innovation Labs: Develop physical or virtual spaces equipped with tools, technologies, and resources dedicated to experimentation and rapid prototyping. This fosters collaboration, facilitates rapid iteration, and provides a tangible home for innovation within the organization.
  • Innovation Champions: Identify and empower passionate individuals as “innovation champions” within your teams. These individuals can promote a culture of creativity, act as internal evangelists, and guide others through the innovation process.

4. Recognition and Reward:

  • Celebrating Innovation Efforts: Publicly acknowledge and celebrate not just successful implementations but also the effort and creativity behind every innovative idea. This reinforces the value of innovation, provides positive reinforcement, and motivates continued engagement.
  • Innovation Awards and Incentives: Implement awards programs or financial incentives specifically for outstanding innovative contributions. This incentivizes risk-taking, creates healthy competition, and shows tangible appreciation for innovative efforts.
  • Sharing Success Stories: Showcase successful innovation stories across your organization, highlighting the impact and benefits of creative problem-solving. This inspires others, builds confidence, and demonstrates the tangible value of fostering a culture of innovation.

FAQ: Cultivating Innovation in Your Organization

Q: My team seems afraid to take risks. How can I encourage them to embrace innovation?

A: Foster a culture of open communication and experimentation where failures are learning opportunities. Celebrate innovative efforts regardless of the outcome, and reward risk-taking behavior. Lead by example by taking calculated risks yourself and demonstrating a willingness to adapt to new ideas.

Q: We don’t have a dedicated budget for innovation. How can we still encourage it?

A: Start small and leverage existing resources. Encourage employees to dedicate a portion of their time to innovative projects. Utilize crowdsourcing platforms to tap into collective ideas without additional costs. Focus on low-cost or even cost-saving innovations that benefit the bottom line.

Q: We have a lot of ideas, but we struggle to implement them. How can we bridge the gap?

A: Prioritize your ideas based on feasibility, impact, and alignment with your strategic goals. Establish a clear innovation process with defined stages, checkpoints, and decision-making gates. Build cross-functional teams with diverse expertise to ensure ideas are implemented smoothly and consider external partnerships for additional resources and expertise.

Q: How can we measure the success of our innovation efforts?

A: Go beyond traditional financial metrics. Track employee engagement, customer satisfaction, brand perception, and new market opportunities created by your innovations. Implement key performance indicators (KPIs) specific to your innovation initiatives and monitor them regularly to assess progress and make adjustments as needed.

Q: Where can I find more resources and inspiration for supporting innovation?

A: Look for case studies of successful innovation leaders, attend industry conferences and workshops, and connect with other organizations passionate about fostering creativity. Utilize online resources like innovation blogs, podcasts, and webinars to stay informed about the latest trends and best practices.

Conclusion: Embracing the Innovation Imperative

In today’s dynamic landscape, standing still is the same as moving backward. Innovation isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessary ingredient for survival and success. By implementing the best practices outlined in this article and adopting a culture of open-mindedness, experimentation, and celebration of creative thinking, you can empower your team to unlock their full innovative potential.

Remember, innovation is a journey, not a destination. It requires continual learning, adaptation, and a willingness to embrace change. By fostering an environment where ideas flourish and risks are rewarded, you can transform your organization into a beacon of innovation, inspiring others and ensuring a bright future built on creativity and progress.

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