Executing Excellence: A Q&A with Entrepreneur and Business Strategist Josh Valman
Entrepreneur and business strategist, Josh Valman is the founder and CEO of RPD International. Starting designing and manufacturing at age 13, progressing to becoming a consultant at 15, and still in his early 20s he now heads an innovative design and manufacturing business. With a global network of people and producers in over 100 countries, Josh seeks to disrupt established business models and challenges received wisdom on innovation strategy, out-sourcing and supply chain. He also looks at the future of R&D and technology.
Josh took the time to have a chat with us about his career, difficulties faced, encouraging innovation and the key message he strives to leave audiences with.
Starting your career at age 10 is, quite frankly, something I never could have imagined. What was the drive behind using Google to teach yourself engineering?
A lot of my early days of engineering were purely around fascination. I was looking for engineering competitions to enter, challenges to take part in - many of which focussed on graduate and qualified engineering teams. It was a great way to stretch what was possible - when everything was unknown, it made it very easy to break problems down one by one and research how they’re solved. I’ve always liked a challenge, and a chance to compete with the top.
Progressing from this to running global supply chains from your bedroom at 15, what were some of the difficulties you faced?
I moved into more commercial work, almost by accident. I’d started using Chinese manufacturers to produce designs and parts for me - as I just couldn’t afford to do this in the UK at that age. This display of quite extreme engineering at different competitions and events resulted in a lot of requests to help other people design parts. They soon brought me into their workplace to look at how they might solve engineering problems there.
Over time, through a lot of recommendation, I found myself working for international companies, exploring how they might cut costs in China and develop their processes. For me this was all an extension of big problems and fascination - but I found that most engineering problems weren’t engineering problems at all. All of this work came down to systems, processes and people that had decided the rules 50 years ago, and were not seeing the advancements in modern engineering and supply chain, and how it might affect them. For a lot of these businesses, my lack of experience was a strength in highlighting the nonsensical areas of their business that had never been challenged before.
There must have also been some incredible highlights, what are some of your favourite memories?
It’s all fun! I first went out to China about 10 years ago - in Shenzhen. I stayed in Nanshan District, a region that is now bustling with activity and commercial life, as much as London. However at the time I looked out over a city built for the future, that hadn’t yet been filled with life. 16 lane motorways with no traffic, endless high-rise buildings with no occupants - a deserted town. Contrast to now, where I sit in traffic for hours on those 16 lane highways, and am constantly amazed by the sheer volume of people and commerce in the area.
A fundamental aspect of business is encouraging innovation. What steps have you put in place to guarantee this happens in RPD International?
It’s a serious challenge. For a business championing and unlocking innovation within so many of our client businesses - it can be quick to forget that we ourselves must keep moving. A lot of this is inspired by running client teams as their own small projects, with small teams who are allowed to think independently. There are key guidelines they must follow for compliance and regulation, but otherwise they have the freedom to explore and challenge our systems.
When we see one project team excelling, we’re quick to ask why and to look at how their processes might be applied back into the core operating procedure in other teams. We’ve found the best way to promote innovation, is to allow people the free-will to think, and to demonstrate the intention to implement change where it is proven successful. Innovation is as much about communicating and demonstrating your willingness to change, as it is about execution. Most people in most companies have the answer to a better world - the barrier is the belief that anybody will listen or implement the changes necessary.
If there is one message that your audience could take away from your talk, what would it be?
Our messages always focus on execution. Our talks focus on what to do, not just endearing stories of people doing a better job than you! If there’s one consistent message in all of our talks, it’s that innovation is a meaningless word, and the real focus needs to be on execution. Innovation is a process of executing ideas, finding out what works, and more importantly, establishing what doesn’t work. The questions is always, how do you manage the execution and change involved in such a process.
What’s next for you?
Fun. It’s always got to be about fun. We’re working on bigger and more exciting projects every day, increasing our impact on the world through our client businesses. It always comes back to looking at how we can grow the business with the purpose of enjoying our impact on the world, through design, engineering and manufacturing.
Thank you for taking the time to answer all of our questions Josh, and we look forward to seeing how far you push the boundaries with the business!
For further information or to book one of our speakers, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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