brexit crap

I’ve had enough. This craziness has been going on for too long, and nobody seem to have a clear idea of where we are heading. Nothing decided, so nothing to plan for. Like running a company (or four, in my case) isn’t difficult enough AS IT IS.

So I made a statement, and on twitter my followers increased with 500 people in 24 hours, absolutely crazy. I have made it my business to share real, actual, true and current examples from my daily working life on what brexit already means for us.

I want to provide a balanced voice and hope that I can help people see what we are facing, and that leaving the union has a huge impact on little and big things. It is an enormous threat, and now, we all need to raise our concerns for a future that looks bleaker and bleaker every day.

 

Actually, customers DO know what they want.

…We might just have a lot of reasons to disagree with them and hide behind the words from Steve Jobs: “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

In a large corporation any new product innovation or potential addition to the product portfolio requires a lot of people. People who need to have opinions, people who need to challenge, people who need to know, people who need to execute, people who need to update systems, people who need to be trained. The political game is played, and internal forces fight for resources. The success of a new product is largely dependant on the skills and connections of the internal people representing it.

SMEs live a different life. We obviously don’t have the reach of a large corporation, but we DO have the capability to just listen, act and implement.

We can just give the customers what they say they need.

Sometimes this means making a new product, and sometimes it just means going through our contacts and connections to find what we are looking for.

Making a new product

Yesterday we spent time with one of our suppliers and discussed how we can best make a new set of accessories for GALAXY surgical retractor. We discuss everything from design, materials most suitable, the environmental impact, recycling, packaging, weight, shipping….during the meeting I sent 3 quick WhatsApp messages to surgeons to ask for input, and thanks to the great relationships we have built, I got replies within 20 minutes: information that goes straight into the decision making process there and then. THAT is how product innovation should happen.

Design and prototyping

Next we will produce some drawings and some prototypes, and we will put them in hands of surgeons and nurses to get their view. It is important to remember that we will never treat a single patient, so no matter what WE may think, it needs to be tested and verified by the actual end user. There is so much writing and discussion about this, but I wonder how often it actually happens. It is so easy to go to people who will tell you what you want to hear and then everyone is happy, right?

Not for an SME.

The same people who wanted the product since a customer asked for it, will be the ones who roll it out to the market. If you get it wrong, there is nobody to blame but yourself. And of course, sometimes a great IDEA won’t actually make a good commercial product, for several reasons. But that is a story for another day.

 

GALAXY wasn’t a coincidence

My eldest daughter is 10. For her, the environmental impact of plastic is horrifying, to the point that it makes her cry when she sees the impact as she researches plastic pollution online. Many times I have found her in her room wiping tears off her face as she shows me turtles trapped in plastic bags, mountains of garbage on the sea bed and the comparisons of how much plastic there is versus animals in the ocean.

Her school has implemented plastic free lunches, and her class won by a mile, fuelled no doubt by her and her friends, driving the message home. My normally quiet little girl admitted with an embarrassed smile that she “screamed and hugged Matilda” when they won the lunch challenge.

They have written to the local supermarkets, challenging them to create a plastic free isle, and the other day when I came home, the entire sidewalk outside our house was covered in chalk drawings: they had created a 15 meter long masterpiece with images of fish, oceans and wildlife, with one clear message…..”reduce plastic waste!!!”.

As you can see, the guiding principle for making our new GALAXY II a better designed product for surgical retractor (for ENT, Orthopaedics, Gynae and urology) with 10% less plastic to reduce waste and environmental impact WASN’T A COINCIDENCE.

NHS in England has bought more than half a billion disposable cups over the last five years. This is a great area where simple innovations can make a big difference. The NHS in England spent £87 million on waste in 2014/15 – we are talking a huge part of the funding for our NHS going to waste management. ‘The management of healthcare waste is an essential part of ensuring that healthcare activities do not pose a risk or potential risk of infection and are securely managed.’ This responsibility is borne out in the breadth of regulations that healthcare providers must follow when managing waste including Controlled Waste Regulations, the Hazardous Waste Directive, and Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations. Important work, and we need to get it right.

As an example; waste for HTI (High Temperature Incineration) collected at Guy’s in London is burnt at Augean’s plant in Kent, the only facility in the UK capable of recovering energy from the process. (Waste is burnt at 1,100 degrees centigrade to guarantee the destruction of any hazardous properties.) St Thomas’s HTI waste is taken to Tradebe’s incinerator in Surrey, which doesn’t recover energy.

The future of our planet is something that concerns all of us. Nobody can change the world single- handily, but we can all be making smarter choices in the little things in life, and if we all pitch in, the results will make a difference.

My contribution this time is 10% less plastic in 10 000 surgical retractors in the UK annually.

Pressrelease from Buckinghamshire New University: Angela Spang

Award-winning businesswoman Angela Spang says she is ‘hugely excited’ by the potential for her companies to grow after relocating her offices from Marlow to Buckinghamshire New University’s campus in High Wycombe.

Angela, who oversees four companies, has taken up space on two floors at the University, in Queen Alexandra Road, High Wycombe, and says she is making use of a range of its other facilities too, as well as calling on the assistance, knowhow and expertise of employees.

She said: “The companies have grown from four people in 2015 to 20 today and so we needed somewhere that fitted us better. Bucks New University had space to rent and we thought it was the perfect location for us.

“We have been able to utilise the technicians on-site to make items for us and we would like to link up with students who may be able to…..

Read more here

Banner image: Angela Spang with Mary Simpson, Principal Lecturer in Bucks Business School.

 

 

Why simplicity is important in innovation

It is so easy to fall into the trap of ego. You know you have a great idea, and you want to show the world how clever it is…well, it is easy to also want to show the world how proud you are of having thought of it!

And being proud is a good thing.

…Just not so proud that it derails your innovation. Let me give you a good example, witnessed often in previous roles in large corporations:

Clever person solves a problem. Clever person then tries to share solution with other clever people, but makes the pitch lopsided, and the OTHER clever people end up offering to help with THEIR solutions to the problem. Clever person leaves feeling devalued, demotivated and misunderstood.

So what went wrong?

The mistake was made to make the PROBLEM bigger than the SOLUTION. (We tend to do this when we want to build suspense, to really milk out the praise we think we deserve for our brilliant solution.) It then back fires, because we focus too much on the stage before the solution, and once everyone’s brain is in help and solution mode, it is very challenging to present a solution. Intelligent creative people love problem solving and are so eager to help, they can’t stop!

Try this next time

Instead of building up the problem too big and subsequently losing your moment to shine, try summarizing the discussion you want to have up front. Try starting with saying something along the lines of : “You know that x we have been mulling over? I have a solution I want to share with you today, and I am really proud of it!”

Be honest, know yourself and use your strengths. Innovation is only beautiful when it is simple, and everyone gets it.

(Just like a good joke is only funny if you don’t have to explain it.)

Startup Confidence is a wobbly road

 

Every now and then you wobble. No matter how convinced you are of your idea, nobody remains confident at all times. None of us can say we haven’t had moments when we think “screw this, I just want a normal job”, and we go on to thinking how amazing it would be to have 28 vacation days every year, a monthly guaranteed salary, perhaps an annual bonus and a company car that you didn’t have to pay for yourself.

But then all of a sudden, sometimes out of the blue, comes the breakthrough. That meeting you’ve wanting so badly for months or even years is right in front of you. You know if can change everything…over night.

Now what do you do? Do you prepare like crazy? Design ever word, every gesture? Do you do a slide set just for that one meeting? Or….do you simply breathe?

I am sitting on the train on the way to one of those meetings, and I am doing none of the preparations above. Maybe that’s a mistake. Maybe I will blow my big chance. But I can’t help but thinking that every step ive taken in my startup journey, every decision, every piece of feedback has prepared me for this.

Don’t get me wrong: I know what I want to accomplish, and I am clear on how I want the conversation to go.

I just need to trust my own capabilities, and do what I do best; think on my feet and solve the problem.

Wish me luck.

Angela

 

Leadership struggles

As a leader, one of the hardest things is to figure out when to push your employees, and when to back off. Finding the balance, different for each person you lead, is hugely challenging.

Sometimes leaders get fed up too, because in the end of the day, we all have rough days when we just want to roll over and pull the covers over our head. But as the leader of a team or a company, that simply isn’t an option. Your actions would impact too many, and for a long time. You need to stay professional, at all times. Moping has to be done at home, hidden away from those your emotions will influence, worry or offend.

Supportive leaders are great

But how do you make the decision to just stop helping and stop coaching? When do you say “enough is enough” and draw a line in the sand? For example, how much of our personal life’s should we bring into the office? When should we tell our teams to be professional and just get on with it? Is it right to have team members not pulling their weight because they are going through a tough time at home? Should a boss be a mentor, a coach or a psychologist? Or all of it?

Lead with kindness

I always advocate empathy and understanding and believe leading with kindness is right. But….here is a thought for consideration: Is it right to spend extra time and resources on the ones who aren’t performing? Is it fair to the other ones in the team, those who are doing well, even great? Shouldn’t THEY be the ones who get the time, the coaching, the support and the help?

If you want to lead a team of high performers, is it strategic to spend most of your time worrying about the low performers? Or is it time to just ditch the deadweight and go with the stars?

Pondering continues.

Why I win


YOU HAVE HEARD the old saying that “failing is not an option”. In a way that is true for me too.

I am competitive, and I like winning. No doubt about that (anyone who has seen me in any kind of sports will testify to that), but it isn’t my greatest driver: The two runners in the picture with me above are. Two very different individuals, both with their own future ahead of them, filled with opportunities. One of them is VERY competitive, the other one mostly concerned with making everyone happy.

It is so important to me that I share both the tough days as well as the winning moments with them both, so that they understand that life has an element of both, no matter what it looks like from the outside. I work very hard for the success we have, and it is important to me that the girls know that nothing comes for free.

In my career I have met people with different drivers: fear of failure, ego, money, happiness, competetiveness…the list goes on. As a leader, understanding these drivers is the key to motivation. Unless you can replace it with something new: a common goal, a shared vision, a dream.

If you can COMBINE THE TWO, you are unstoppable.

My biggest business failure (so far…)

It seemed like a slam dunk, and I was convinced it would be an easy win. After all, it was an under-served market, a simple product that required no training to switch to, and I knew we could make it for half the cost as the market leader, who had no competition. Slam dunk by far, right?

Wrong. 2 years later, our Galaxy retractor is not even in 20 hospitals in the UK market. I don’t get it. How can this not be the EASIEST SELL IN THE WORLD?! (You can tell I am frustrated by this!)

Procurement sell?

If my job was to save NHS money and still maintaining similar quality, I would want to freakin’ MARRY Galaxy. No re-training needed, British company and almost -50% cost. If all of the current product was switched out, the NHS would save half a million pounds…..ANNUALLY. Without ANY work.

How messed up is it what this discussion must happen surgeon by surgeon, hospital by hospital? And how frustrating is it, that a British company could create 5 more jobs, save the NHS millions of pounds AND do better for the environment (yeah, 10% less plastic waste too) and STILL not be the number one provider?

My Top Endorsed Skills

So, as a reasonably good (well…) business leader and someone whose Top Endorsed Skill on LinkedIn is Product Launch and Marketing Strategy from my career in medical device, I am considering this to be my greatest failure. We are doing something wrong, and I just can’t seem to figure out how to fix it.

It is taking too long: 2 years and we are nowhere close to where we should be. 2 years, 500k annually. A million pounds in wasted tax money, and in addition, money that is leaving the UK to an American company.

I want to save money for the NHS, keep the funding in the UK and grow our business so we can employ more people in Buckinghamshire instead of Connecticut. But I can’t for the life of me make it work.

That must be my biggest failure: it seems so OBVIOUS and SIMPLE, and yet I can’t crack it.

Any idea what I am doing wrong??

 

 

 

Product development and Launch – the JUNE MEDICAL way

I’ve done The Big

Because I have had the pleasure of working with larger corporations (I spend 10 years with JNJ, 3 with Allergan and 3 with American Medical Systems ENDO) I have quite a lot of experience of new product development and taking new things to market. I have had my finger in design, development, research, early stage testing, pre-launch and launch, as well as training and port market evaluations.

Long process, not always for the right reasons

Usually in one of the large corporates, a new product development idea goes through many rounds of iterations, with a lot of people who don’t have the faintest idea of what the patient symptoms are, what the available solutions are, what the surgeon need is or what the possible outcomes should be.

That’s where JUNE MEDICAL is different. Let me give you the example of this month’s launch: The GOKit.

I was sitting with Maria, nurse at St Marys Hospital, when she got yet another call from the consultant asking her to run upstairs and fetch something from Theatres (she works in Outpatient). When she came back, I asked about what I just observed, and it turns out that she quite frequently must run upstairs to collect a piece of equipment that is missing from the resterilizable trays they use in Outpatient. (Which also means she opens a complete sterile tray just for one or two missing pieces!)

Digging deeper

I asked her more questions, and then suggested a product we could make for her that would solve her problem of missing, broken or incomplete trays. She laughed and said “A new product will take years to be put together and approved!”.

I winked and reminded her that we are JUNE MEDICAL (!), and asked her to give me 3 months. She laughed and said the challenge was on. I was pretty pleased with myself when I casually strolled in just before Christmas and presented her with the first sterile sample kit of the new outpatient Gynae Tray, and she was absolutely over the moon – blown away with the quality and the low cost, saving the trust money.

In summary:

  • Know your stuff
  • Watch your customers and solve their problems
  • Work fast

 

Oh, and GOKit? See for yourself! www.junemedical.com/gokit/