Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 7 months ago

Baking Innovation Into Your Company’s DNA w/ Maria Fagan


When you’ve grown from three people in 2008 to just about 500 today, you need a way to scale the innovation you had as a startup. You have to bake innovation into the very DNA of your company from core values to automation.

In this episode of Innovation Nation, I interview Maria Fagan, President at RQM+, about the evolution of innovation during her company’s explosive growth.

Join us as we discuss:

- The close relationship between growth and innovation

- How innovation informs core values, culture statements, and corporate vision

- Trust, onboarding, and the people component of innovation

- Measuring your critical processes and getting rid of the ones that don’t work

Tune in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowntes to themselves. Many mistakenly assumed the innovation is either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You're listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives and industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rossen hi. Welcome to to zoos innovation nation. This is your host, Jasmine Mark Rouston, and my guests today is Maria Fagin. She is the CEO of Arqum plus. Welcome Aria. Thank you, Jasmine, nice to be here. Well, it's great to have you on our podcast and let's kick it off with this question. Okay, in essence, in every CEO's job description it's implicit that they have to drive innovation because if they don't, their organization will fall behind. If they do, it makes a world of difference. So how do you approach it? Innovation and particular, so jasmine. At r Qum plus we've always done kind of very collaborative strategic planning process with the entire executive committee involved. Now, keep in mind our Qum plus was the grown up version of R Q, which was spout on the by least to cast abandoned myself back in two thousand and eight, though, just to give you a picture of that, we started buying queue and two thousand and eight here in Pittsburgh, just the two of us, business partner or but mark with that point, who was a very good service implementer, good implementing service businesses, and we started way back then. From the very beginning we knew we had to grow and an abate noted to, like you said, keep up with the market. If you're not growing, you're dying. So we're always trying to keep ahead of things. I just really to do things better in general for our team members who work here and also our clients and the patients that use our medical devices. So just a ...

...couch R and queue from way back in the day the why we exist even now at this point. We've aligned on while we existed. Our Qum pluses to improve people's lives, whether it's the team members who work here, the clients and the patients to use our medical devices. So that's been the focus of our queue in the beginning and now all the way through into our quum plus. So with that focus and the vision of really being able to fulfill the y all the way around and everything we do, we have done strategic planning and we've done it in a team environment with all of our executives coming from different angles. You know, the typical swats are done, but we also look out ten years from now. What is the best what do our clients need at that point? How can we best service our clients? How can we best serve our team members? And from there we develop all kinds of ideas and innovative thinking and from there we just start to infinitize it and draw out from a annual perspective of the objectives of the company. So innovation that's coming out of that, for example, would be the need from our autom automation. It's obvious in the world today it's a lot of artificial intelligence. There's a lot of ways we can do things more efficiently, more effectively, though. That's one item for example that we're looking at from an automation perspective and jasmine the other piece to what we do it. We work in a regulatory and quality space for Med devices specifically, so we're always trying to look out what's what regulation changes are coming, where the regulators going, from a safety and efficacy piece perspective and implementing innovative solutions for our clients, understanding the regulation to the depths that we do. So that's how yeah, MMM, so a is a cofounder. You baked it into the DNA of the organization. Is that a fast movement? We did. We did, and from the very beginning we had high growth projections just because we felt like it was a great market. It needed was underserved at that point. The medical device regulatory and quality consulting area was under served. We also knew if we...

...weren't growing, we were dying. So we always had at least a twenty percent year of your revenue growth projection, even from the very beginning. But there were times in our history that we grew a hundred percent because the market was so hot and there was so many needs in the regulatory and quality space for innovative solutions that we were providing that. We did grow pretty rapidly throughout the years. So we were jasmine. In two thousand and eight we found that we were two, three people and now we're close to five hundred, so half round pretty rapidly. But innovation and thought is critical for that. That's really impressive. So to go in thirteen years from two or three people to five hundred. That's a definition of scaling up. Definitely well line. Yeah, so you talked about strategic planning. So clearly in your case, given the exclusive growth, it's working and you're on the right track. Frankly, I've seen a lot of strategic plans that have no actionable items and look more like a stream of consciousness. Yes, right, I understand that. Yes, because we started off kind of emulating the strategic planning process that we were used to from our previous company, which was a medvice company, probably appropriate for them, but we were start up kind of growing into being, like we're growing from a baby to toddler to a teenager. You know, our need was difference. It was pretty simplistic, though. I just went online and look for some simple strategic planning books and I found one that it was easy to follow and it makes made a lot of sense and it really did help us. Just even the basics of defining your market. Like whenever you're growing rapidly, your market can get out of control because you'll take all kinds of work on that's not really in your wheelhouse. HMM, Bick to your will, have stick to put you know, and that's what we learned as part of that process is that we kept hearing can we do business consulting? Can we do this type of consulting? And of course the knee jerk reaction when you're smallest, Oh yes, yes, we'll figure it out, but once you start getting bigger, you can't do that. And so, very simplistically, even just definding the market, saying this is what we're selling,...

...was a big, big change. But it was a nice confirmation that, okay, yes, this is a good idea to do this, books as so so we did it. It takes courage to put a stake in the ground and say this is what we're pursuing right, because it drives a decision. It does, it does in you're letting go business. You're letting business go. That you can't do. But in the long run it's the best thing for the company because even up your revenue might be good on that particular item, the margin might be poor or the Unseen Code Thats Been Margin Issues and the company that aren't even accounted for. The pain an agony of the consulting team. Like there's just so much to it that it's better just to set your market segment focus in on it and try not to let it go out of back. Now we do keep track of, you know, request that are coming in from our clients that slightly outside of our wheelhouse and if we can service that we will, and then we keep track of that to say, okay, there's definitely a trend in program management, rectory quality program management. That's a trend that we definitely see right now. Do you evaluate those with an eye to further expansion? HMM, we do. We do. That's part of so strategic planning happens at least annually. It really is slight it to really go a recorder. We initially we're doing it our order, but now we're pretty set on where we're going, so we don't have the need for it quite as much. But part of the input is what are we hearing in the market? What is that? What does ten years look like out and it's a part of we know right now there's a lot of regulatory shifts in the market at especially with the mbr on the IBD are program managers that understand, if I budy, and can help the clients go from kind of confusion to not confusion in this sphace is really important. So we've been keeping track of Adam. We do a quite a few program managers now, but you still will not see it on our service list. It's kind of if we hear about it, we'll do it. But excellent. Now again, going from to three employees in thirteen years to five hundred is nothing short of really impressive. Yes, thank you. How do you keep that e thoughts of innovation, which you kind of explicitly baked into the...

DNA were organization to translate to all these newcomers that join them to our core values. So early on, Lisa a cassivant again, who's my business partner. She and I, we were about thirty people that we started to realize that the core values of the company needed to be written down. Who we were, how we wanted to run it, that type of thing. So Lisa and I spent eight hours and wrote them up. You know, wasn't a big fancy, you know activity, but we knew pretty probably what the top ten things were, so we wrote those down and one of them is speak specifically to continuous improvement and innovation and looking forward to the next solution, making the best solution for team members, for clients, for whomever it is. So that's part of it. That's part of it. But but the constant push at the executive level to look ahead is always happening. So we have executives are reportant to me that our really thought leaders and the regulatorying quality space for mentivized. They're always looking, you know, ahead as to what's coming at us. What do we have to prepare for? You know what? What are other companies doing right is there? Is Our competitors doing something that we're not doing better serve our clients? In this case, there's a lot of automation activity right now in particular, and that's being built into our corporate objectives and running the company, because part of innovation is doing it effectively right. You can't the ship is pretty big now, so can just turn on a dime like we used to, you know, when we were smaller, let's do this, than we would do it, and now it's like they can't do that, you better turn the ship slowly. So we stare at the very top through our core values, our culture, statements, our corporate objectives, vision the mission. So we try to set the basis and all of that is built into how we communicate, whether it's on boarding. The onboarding to our Qum plus is pretty significant and we do have want thin because we're hiring a lot of people right now, and we also have monthly communication calls with everybody. Close to four hundred people are on that call. We have quarterly operations meeting. The leader of the consulting services team takes her..., which is most of the consultants Ober and she does communication around that. But it's it's all on the same elk of the core values and how we operate and they see a lot of innovation happening around them all the time because we are always always looking ahead and always shifting something. So you called out. You're on boarding. Yeah, what sets it's a part. What's special about it? What do you do? Know? It's really it's interesting because it's grown from everybody comes into the office and meets with everybody and they, you know, all the executives are introduced and you meet with them one on one. Now on boarding. Obviously the pet in the office with us at this point, but they've kept that layer of it, which I really like. So the onboard and team, whoever they are, they get to meet with the executives of the company. So I specifically talk to everybody during onboarding for for me to get to know them a little bit, to have them ask questions. They like to know how our in Q was founded, how they got to our Qum plus, but to build that initial report with people and to give them a sense of the culture in flight. Right. It's one thing to have a culture statement, but we really mean but we mean that our culture is important to us and so it's built into that entire process. So they cut there. But this point on boarding is online and our team members have done a great job of really making that more of an interactive activity there. They're at that point. They're assessed for other learning activities that they may need. So we're using linkedin learning at this point to somebody meets them in that regard. Somebody's meeting with them with just basic benefit welcoming them. There's a whole series of how we run our projects, consulting one on one as another piece of it is how we expect people to operate at the consultants because a lot of our team members come in or not consultants from previous lives. Might be coming from the medical device industry and it is a different role when you're consultant versus in an and just you know, in a specific industry seat. So there's a lot of activity you to try to integrate them and what I really find enjoyables at usually by the time I speak to...

...them they've gone through most of their onboarding. There's a lot more of the onboarding that I probably don't even know about it. There's a lot going on, but they're always so excited there. They are so excited to be here with the company that has such a great culture of welcoming, that's inclusive, it's high performing, but we really do trust our team members. We have a policy of trust and you know how that goes. If you trust somebody, you'll find out sooner if you can't trust them. That's that we find up pretty quickly whether you can trust them. In a are recruiting team does a fantastic job of finding the right people to fit our culture. Again, it's a lot of collaboration here at our Qmplus it's a lot of optimism. So few years ago the are HR team said, you know, we really need to write a culture statement. Down is probably in two thousand and fifteen, I think. So they pulled a team of people together and the team members at the company actually wrote the culture statement, and so that's why I love it so much, because I love the culture statement. Wish I could preside it. I can't really recite it off top my head, but there's one line in the talks about being an optimistic, passionate team of high performing individuals. Like that's my favorite line in there and off the top of your head, I love that. I love that one line because it's so true. They're so everybody's optimistic or high performing. They're passionate about what they do and that's why it's great to work here in general. But that's the onboarding piece and it kind of runs through the company and we try to keep that same cultural peace is moving. The most of our team members are remote Jasmin or not in our offices. That that's been a whole other layer to the covid piece. We were fortunate that when we had to switch, the rest of the roll was switching to remote, we had already been buying at promote servicing and wanting to be the best and the best of remote servicing. So our team members already had laptops. There was no crisis, and getting even the simple laptop peace and then the consulting one at one does have a piece of you know how to operate as a remote employee. So we were very fortunate there, Lisa. Then I always say we're like so blessed, because it seems like things just happened at the right time. Puddy, that's awesome.

So they're it's all built into the onboarding that way as well. Were ahead of the curd already. So you know. Fortunately, yes, yes, that was scary, a scary time for everybody, and it's still is. But time active change, right, and Agility and transformations. Yes, yes, definitely so, in as though every employee that joins our camplus is your ambassador. Went there, out there, they are our trem plus. Right, that's exactly right. That part. That's why they, their core values are so important to us. How do they operate? Do they operate as we would want them to operate? Do they have the Wye in the back of their mind? While we exist to improve people's lives? That really does help people make decisions. Your purpose is to improve people's lives, whether it's the consultant that you're working with from Marque and plus, or whether it's the MED device you're working on that you know is going to be put into a patient, or the, you know, the client that you're working with directly, whether it's, you know, a smaller client, to start up client or a vice president of the Regulatory Quala. We always want to have their best interest in heart because, well, that's fascinating. So your V is are not just clacks on the wall that nobody reads. You actually live them. Oh yeah, yeah, and it really starts on the top down. I mean it's who we are at the very top, and everybody's very lined up on it and that's what they're when meat recruit. That's or recruiting for people that are aligned with that philosophy of how we want to behave. And a lot of a jasmine is like I call it common sense. It's like lived by the golden role. Definitely common sense is not to come and can we yeah, but people are like, O, how did you do it? Like I'm pretty easy. So so, but a picture has emerged from me based on what you've been describing. So in s as, you started with this DNA of innovation, but then you leaned on val is to keep driving the invasion for you. Is that inaccurate assessment? That is yes, that is correct. So the engine of growth here, that has been...

...built into us. So we've always run the company off of the Balance Workrd. So there's spot metric that from the very beginning and we really brought this from at least on. I both came from a company that ran by balance. For Cook Balanced Score Card be implement of the same balance for card here, and it really has proven to be. It really does really help us focus on what's important. So the balance for card, there's your over year revenue growth. Broke. Please cuts them. It's our target is margin. We always want to make sure we have a good margin so we can reinvest money and make sure our team members need training or whatever it is we're reinvesting in the company. Utilization. We track utilization. Obviously it's a consultant that's an instance how we make money employee satisfaction. That's based on surveys and pull surveys and things like that, and we can, if we want, a tour customer satisfaction as well as the very topics, and we use the net promoters for method all, which we views that for years because it's so simple. We've talked about doing more intense surveys and things that we haven't gotten there yet and seems to be working absolute well. So you will know not only see kind of institutionalized innovation by putting the right metrics that you track and you measure and it's data driven and there is weaker and discipline. Yes, excellent. In broce at nine thousand one, certified, two jobs, two thousand twelve, I think we went and put in a nine thousand one quality system, which is what we implement for our client anyway. There to their standard, of course, but you know, we want to want to duplicate the company and to grow it. We wanted to have a base structure of our critical processes documented and followed. So that has really served as well, also because it's one thing to be to want to innovate, but if you can't even run your business effectly. But you raising an important point. Nine thousand and one is it tremendous engine for this teaching usage and most organizations probably do...

...not do it that way. For a lot of to check mark. Okay, we did it, it's done, we follow it, but they do not look what it can teach them, how they can improve the processes that they have in place. What are kind of the target areas that they should address? nextly, teaching tool to innescence, build a learning organization. It really is. And back the when nine thousand one months of the two thousand and fifteen version, that's when I think it really hold on a whole life of its own and if you, if companies, follow that and really use it for the value that's there. To your point, it's not a check off the box, not a bunch of procedures that sits there. It really has great and it makes common sense. I mean pick out your critical processes, measure them, put a process around that critical process, monitor it. It's some of it's just common sense to me, but I'm a very process oriented person, so I think it's depends on who you are, but it does. It helps people focused on what's important. So there's no need to think about how you do X, Y or Z, because we already know how we do x, Y or Z. So they can then think about, you know, ABC, because we can do ABC because now we're all in line with XYZ. So just freeze your mind of unnecessary questions. I can analytical look right, because not all processes may it existing. Some need to be altered. So I need to be refined, so need to be improved, some need to be eliminated. When I end up being is instituted. It's that's exactly right. I mean, I'm not in favor of a process to have a process. Yeah, so I we're always encouraging people, like, if that's not working, let's get rid of it, like don't, don't, because you can get trying to hung out in the process sometimes and thank you. Have to follow up this way, but you have to know why you're doing it. Why am I doing this? Does it make sense? So we encourage that. I'm always thinking that way. And someone wants to put something in. It really need it. So a lot of the time you add something in, it takes up so much space and there... only x amount of time in a day. That's exactly game. That's right. The expens of what so being kind of evaluated. That is extremely important. MMM MMM, I agree. I agree. Excellent. Well, yeah, you want a very impressive organizations. Congratulations. Thank you, test men. Ye Ever, very something stratos fery growth and looking forward to further conversations. This was where a Fagin CEEO and confounder our QM plus. Thanks for joining today on Innovation Nation. Thanks Jazz. Thank you. Thank you. You've been listening to innovation nation. For more, subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with us on Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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