Innovation Destination Hartford talked to Dr. Ripi Singh, President and Innovator of Plus4pi about the mission and future goals for his startup, some of the challenges the company is facing, and the many ways he is involved in Connecticut’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
IDH: Were you entrepreneurial early on?
SINGH: Yes. I have consistently taken on new programs over the last two decades. I was referred to as “an intrapreneur” (an entrepreneur inside a company).
IDH: When and why was Plus4pi founded?
SINGH: I founded this innovation advisory and coaching business in 2014. I felt that it was time to inspire innovation, time to refocus on growth—and not just cost cutting.
My experience with working in academia, small businesses, and Fortune 500 developing technologies and collaborating with people helped me understand how innovation happens and how to inspire teams to create breakthrough products and processes. I was ready.
IDH: Your company’s mission and vision is to “Get small business technology companies on a path of sustainable growth using a new holistic approach to leadership in innovation and productivity.” How are you meeting that goal?
SINGH: We start by listening to the business leaders and then work as a strategic partner to help them get ahead of the curve in their “space” and move to adjoining “spaces.”
Our proprietary innovation framework is called “+4Pi.” It is a structured compilation of novel and traditional management tools. They are deployed progressively in five steps to rebuild a culture of innovation. +4Pi aligns the company growth strategy, expertise development, and customer success through innovation in products, services, processes, and business models.
We deploy the novel framework via a traditional consulting model—discovery, strategy, execution, and sustainment. However, we emphasize coaching more than just delivering recommendations and walking away. The result is that managers take ownership of transition and continuous improvement.
IDH: Why are you in this type of business?
SINGH: I am passionate about developing people and products. I have enjoyed it for the last 25 years and find it intellectually and emotionally very satisfying. It is a wonderful feeling when your mentee or a client can suddenly see an affordable growth path and experiences the “aha!” moment.
Additionally, there is a tremendous need in the U. S. for the services that we provide. For many years, companies have over-focused on techniques such as Lean and outsourcing to cut costs. Now, they are waking up to a realization that long-term growth comes from innovation. So, it is great when your passion intersects with the market need.
IDH: What’s the biggest challenge your company has faced?
SINGH: Primarily marketing. We have to first create an awareness that:
- Innovation happens all the time, everywhere. It can be encouraged and harnessed. Product innovation helps grow sales. Process innovation helps reduce cost and risk. Desktop innovation improves employee work-life balance. Business model innovation has the highest return on investment. They just need to come together in a systematic way.
- Quality, productivity, and innovation can all be achieved at the same time. Organizations are stuck in traditional management practices such as Six Sigma (which controls quality and stifles creativity) and Lean (which reduces waste).
- A disciplined thinking can help create a compelling vision and it is not just the privilege of the gifted few. Subsequently, the Lean development is important to help execute in a faster-cheaper manner.
The second challenge is pace of culture change. Once potential clients become aware of +4Pi, they typically want it as soon as possible. But the culture change does not happen overnight. We have to manage the “patience” piece of the project.
IDH: What are your company’s future goals?
SINGH: My goal is to build a brand around the +4Pi methodology for disciplined innovation. I firmly believe +4Pi is the next approach in line after Six Sigma and Lean. People talk about Agile and Scrum as the next magic wands. Those are again quick fixes to what I call an “innovation deficiency disorder.” +4Pi brings together quality, productivity, and innovation.
However, I know I need a strong partner to achieve my goal. I am talking to various consulting firms and corporations that see a value in my Framework and have a similar passion to build the eco-system.
In terms of the market, I would like to continue to expand globally. So far I have clients in four countries. There is a huge demand for disciplined innovation process in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Innovation education is becoming a formal study program in so many countries. In fact, according to an InnovationManagement.se article, “Top 10 Masters in Innovation Management Worldwide,” the top 10 graduate programs in innovation are all outside the U.S. I am in conversation with a few universities in Connecticut about creating a graduate program in innovation.
IDH: You are involved in Connecticut’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in several ways. Explain your involvement and how you feel the entrepreneurial ecosystem is helping to shape your startup.
SINGH: Given the nature of my business, it is a two-way engagement. I help other startups with my tools and methods and the ecosystem helps me with networking, education, and mentoring. For example, I am a SCORE client as well as a SCORE mentor. I support CTNext as a judge for their Entrepreneur Innovation Awards events, regularly participate in the XcellR8 platform at Nerac, and engage with reSET through mentoring and networking.
However, I must say that there is not enough startup-related support activity in our state. We have a long way to go. I get lot of value from platforms such as Nerac and reSET.
In Connecticut, we need to realize that the opportunity is larger than we all can support. We should collectively focus on building an inclusive platform, where we truly support innovation and progressive ideas by developing talent and knowledge, building assets and retaining businesses, and strengthening the supply chain of innovation for our key industries—aerospace, pharma, and insurance.
Connecticut is a great area to live in with four wonderful seasons, beautiful landscape, history, and culture. If only we could find a way to attract talent with exciting entrepreneurship opportunities, small businesses growth programs, small business incentives and infrastructural support, and effective use of our limited government resources. It could be one of the best places on the planet to live, which might then attract corporations to move to Connecticut.
IDH: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever given or received?
SINGH: I seek out advice all the time and I have received some good advice at various stages of incubation over two years. A good piece of advice that I received and have also passed on to others is to let your business model continuously evolve. It is okay if it looks different than what you originally envisioned.
My advice to other business is to focus on customer success—not just customer satisfaction.
To learn more about Plus4pi, www.plus4pi.com.