Business Masterclass with David Foote - video transcript

This is the video transcript of a speech from David Foote, Chief Executive, Australian Country Choice at Brisbane City Council's Lord Mayor's Business Forum on 21 October 2013. David talks about innovation - what is it, what does it mean, what will it look like and where do you start.

David Foote - So let’s get some things straight first. Shane I’m obviously digitally immature. I was away the day that they did technology at school. Mark, you mentioned the fax machine being old, well that’s just making me much older because my kids still thought that was a brilliant invention. It came before being able to send money via a telephone line was something quite fantastic.

Just before we get on with today, innovation is a great word and I don’t know if you know what it means. It took me a while to work out what it means because you are actually doing it every day. You just may not know what the word means.

Just quickly, Councillor Simmonds was kind enough to say who I am but I need to just mention about the business I represent, which is a Brisbane family company and it's been in business since 1958. I joined the company in 1999 when I had 110 staff, I had 8000 cattle, I had one farm. Today fortunately, 12 years later or 13 years later, I have 29 farms, 150,000 head of cattle and 1000 staff. We’re still a Brisbane family company with one chairman and one shareholder. I have a board meeting every lunchtime and I get a new priority at the end of it. Fortunately I’ve been around long enough that I can drop off the one that I didn’t do yesterday.

So innovation, let's see if we can work it out and what it means. So by the end of this, which won't be that long, we should work out what it is, what does it mean, what it looks like, and where I’ll start. So a lot of words there, its overused; its an adjective; it’s a breathless verb to innovate, the rallying cry of product managers, consultants, designers. It's been wrapped around everything from Apple iPod to a plastic bag, and that’s why I got my name in the book - for a plastic bag - we will discuss that later.

So how can one term be used to describe so many different things?

What does it mean? It really means just introducing something new. Simple innovation in your business, doing something new, different, smarter or better that helps you or your business. Easy as making cement. Sand, gravel and water.

What will it look like? It’s going to be an invention, you’re going to turn it into goods, or you’re going to turn it into a service. It creates value, not only for you, it creates value for your customer. More importantly they have to pay for it. If they don’t pay for it, you can’t fund your program or your process.

Innovation, what can it mean? So that, gents in case you don't know was a green fingernail file. What’s important about it, what somebody worked out, was when your wife, partner, girlfriend, throws her current one in her handbag it gets blunt and dull on the edges. It’s not as useful. So this one has a new layer under each one. So if it’s gone a bit blunt you just peel off a layer and you’ve got a fresh one to do your nails underneath. That was overcoming a problem with an idea.

A better one for fat blokes like me, the Happy Fork. It vibrates and tells you how many mouthfuls you’re having.


It counts how much you eat. The more it vibrates, you start to slow down your eating. I don't know why they called it a Happy Fork for. Obviously happy if you’re the bloke who designed it and now sold it and has conned me into putting it up on the screen to tell you about it. What’s something thinking of for me? I’m just here because I want a bus stop. Gundy Road, Murarrie, good place for a bus stop. I promised that to Shannon she said I could only come tonight if I talked about the bus stop.

So I’ve got to give 870 people who actually cant get the last three kilometres from the train stop or the bus stop, so we’re just looking at some ways - my innovative approach will be to not let the Lord Mayor out of the office until he says I’ll look at it.

Innovation, where do I start? It’s going to be pretty simple, remember cement - sand, gravel, water. Just think about your ideas as you’re driving around, mowing the lawn, doing the washing, peeling the spuds. Test the ideas. Test them on your dog, test them on your friends, test them on your family, but you’ve got to measure what happens. Measure a response. A famous saying in our business is, if you don’t measure it you can't manage it because you actually haven’t worked out where you were at the start to work out where you are at the end. Learn from how - not just customers, even learn from how your family react around you. Kids, kids are so honest, they will tell you straight up they think it’s a crap idea, or it’s a really good idea. If it's cool it means you probably didn’t design it. Share the learning.

We spoke about before about mentors - hey we’re full of giving free advice, aren’t we? Some of it positive, most of it negative but at least you've stopped somebody else from creating the same problem. I think they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Importantly, the other thing in terms of picking up on what Mark said, do these five steps; do it faster than your competitors - keep the edge. Faster than you’ve ever done it before which means you’ve changed your behaviours and your habits and faster than your customers expected.

I’ll give you one little example, most Asian hotels have a band, generally form the Philippines, that play music quietly in the lobby bar. They have a little request you can actually send up a little piece of paper half way through the night and write down your favourite song. I was in a hotel called the Pan Pacific in Kuala Lumpur, to show I’m old, it was about 1994. I gave them my favourite song which I can't remember what it is now, and they sent back an apologetic note on Tuesday that they couldn’t play it, they didn’t know the song, which is fine.

I went back to have that same drink 48 hours later on the Thursday night, they recognised me walking in the room and they played that song. Forty-eight hours they had decided to learn it, it was a new song in their repertoire but I got the buzz out of it. So you can imagine I did not expect that to have happened in 48 hours and it did.

From tonight, spend some time seeing what everybody else has seen but what nobody else has thought. First to market, but whilst I’ll always hear you say you can always judge the pioneers, they were the ones with the arrows in their back, or it's always easy to be the early adopter. Getting in front will actually always give you an advantage over your competitor because they actually tend to trip when they’re trying to chase.

That’s it, now I'll have a discussion about my bus stop.


Go back to the Business Masterclass - Innovation and new ideas videos.

08 June 2018