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Monday, July 15, 2024

Innova Solutions – How to succeed through two financial crises

After adapting and surviving two financial crises, high-strength bonding tapes and sustainable adhesives manufacturers, Innova Solutions, turned 20. The firm, based in Lancashire, founded by Glenn Dunleavey and Spencer Kelly, is marking two decades in business by setting an ambitious target of becoming a £10 million turnover operation in the next five years, and launching a new fire retardant tape, within their incredibly successful NovaBond range, revolutionising fire safety in signage, construction and transport.

Founded in 2002, Innova Solutions began life with a small team of just three sharing space with another business: over two decades it has flourished into an organisation spanning more than 30,000 sq feet employing 30 people, selling into the UK, EMEA and US marketplaces, and they’re about to launch perhaps one of their most revolutionary products yet: a high strength, double-sided, fire retardant bonding tape.

Their journey from small local startup to a global exporter with a range covering high-strength bonding tapes, structural adhesives, high performance photoluminescent materials and anti-slip surfacings and now fire-retardant bonding tapes hasn’t been a simple path. Throughout its 20 year history, Innova Solutions has faced several challenges but thrived in challenging economic settings. From surviving the 2008 financial crash and subsequent economic downturn to the ongoing uncertainty caused by Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic and more recently, the ongoing cost of living and inflation crises’. Innova Solutions’ agile management structure has enabled fast decision making and along with repeated brave early investments continue to help the company see sustained growth, adapting to changing business and economic landscapes.

“We learnt early on that we needed to make rapid, brave decisions to survive. Off the back of the financial crisis in 2008/9, we reduced our workforce by 20% and diversified into new markets to counteract the drop in frequency and order value that we were seeing from our existing customer base. For three years, we flatlined – in hindsight, a remarkable achievement – but as we emerged from the recession in 2011, growth from our existing and new markets was a beneficial double-whammy, delivering year-on-year growth of over 30% and 42% in the successive two years”, says Dunleavey.

It was this early navigation of crisis and the success that came from it that meant Innova Solutions could start making some serious investments. On the back of three very successful years, where they doubled their turnover, they invested £100k+ in SAP, a business platform that Dunleavey now credits with transforming their business operations and customer relations: “It was challenging, but our team immersed themselves in the implementation and we quickly achieved a clear return.”

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union in the Brexit referendum of June 2016 heralded the start of another turbulent time: as Innova were expanding in international markets, dealing in both dollars and euros on a major scale, severe pressures were placed on their import/export trading margins, and the rippled effects of this will still be felt for years to come. The biggest game changer, though, came not long after in 2020: a global pandemic; a one-in-a-hundred year event. For most, a moment for consolidation, not investment, but Innova Solutions were fortunate enough to be able to diversify quickly, entering new markets to offset the damage done when the world had to shut up shop and stay at home. “We were fortunate to have a reputable customer base, and whilst we did not lose any clients, the volume and frequency of orders dropped significantly. We had already made inroads into the plastic extrusion market, and we knew that to penetrate this volume-using sector in a significant way, we had to invest in our own conversion machinery.

At the height of the pandemic, Innova Solutions invested over £250k on a new slitter and rewinder, a 12-head spooling machine, and a 10,000 sq. ft. premises in which to house the new equipment. “This was a calculated risk, but one we were able to take quickly. Once again, fortune favoured the brave and we are already at full capacity on the equipment with plans to invest further to satisfy demand”, adds Dunleavey. 

Between increasing their physical space, transformative operations systems and machinery to break into new markets, you might think it’d be difficult to pinpoint the one investment that’s propelled the business forward over the last twenty years, but to Glenn Dunleavey, it’s simple: “The best investment we have made is in building the excellent team we have around us. We have continually injected youth into the business, to maintain energy and proactivity levels, and introduced a production-skilled workforce into the operation – leftfield move for us but built through word-of-mouth referrals from trusted employees.”

Looking back on two decades in business and planning for further growth, Dunleavey is reflective but honest and ambitious. “It seems like just yesterday we were starting this business. But when we break it down over the many game-changing events that we have encountered, the time frame is pronounced. I am resolute that our success has been managed professionally but it is our ability to make quick decisions and take calculated risks, with the flexibility of the whole business to react, that has seen us overcome challenges and turn them into opportunities for growth.”

Looking ahead, Dunleavey and the Innova Solutions board are raring to go, hoping to build even more partnerships and help many more customers in the next 20 years and beyond. “We’re not hanging around. We’re currently preparing to launch a new flagship product, and one which will transform fire safety across a number of industries including construction, engineering and commercial travel. Our fire retardant tape is here: it’ll be hitting the market officially in early 2023, but it’s already been developed, tested and perfected.”

“We are forever grateful to our loyal customers and supportive supply partners. We have established long-term, trusted partnerships and a reputation for reliability, earned through successfully navigating choppy waters for the past 20 years. Here’s to the next 20!”

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