We are able to develop quickly’
Jan Witte has been COO of YouMedical since 2011. That develops and sells innovative over the counter medical products, available at Etos and Kruidvat, among others. “Our future ambition is to scale up.
Jan Witte already had extensive experience in product development, including for major clients such as Heineken and Unilever. YouMedical, turnover over 10 million euros, has 15 employees and exports to 40 countries. ‘I am responsible for the daily management and also for developing the physical product, i.e. packaging, holder and dispenser. For example, we have developed a patented system to freeze warts very locally, without affecting the surrounding skin.’
WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS CONCEPT?
‘We are a goal-oriented organization: we develop from the idea to the final product. Innovation is important to us; that’s what we drives us. Our strategy is ‘find, try, simplify’: make a medical device attractive and simple to use. The aim is to bring two product lines to market every year. We are able to develop quickly: in about 9 months. The big pharma need one and a half to more than two years.’
WHAT MAKES YOUR METHOD OF WORKING FASTER?
‘Large organizations cannot fix mistakes as easily. Therefore, in the innovation process, they will strive to finish each phase before starting the next one. We are already starting the next phase while the previous one is not quite finished. That saves a lot of time. But this is only possible because we have such short lines here in our team of five and adhere to a strict consultation discipline, according to Rockefeller principles.
‘STARTING YOUR DAY LIKE THIS IS BY NO MEANS A PUNISHMENT, I THINK IT’S KICK-ASS!’
WHAT DOES THAT METHOD INVOLVE?
‘A management style based on the idea that you set long-term goals and break them down into shorter-term goals and measurable components. Annual plans you divide into quarterly plans, and those again into monthly plans, weekly plans and daily plans. We have a “daily huddle” every morning at 9 past 9. Standing in a circle, everyone briefly tells what their main five goals are that day. In fifteen minutes everyone has had their turn. And starting your day like that is certainly not a punishment, I think it’s great fun!
HOW DOES THAT IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF MUTUAL COOPERATION?
‘You hear very quickly what the problems are. You solve them among yourselves afterwards. We also do that at the weekly level in a smaller group, and at the monthly and quarterly level. So you are constantly thinking about what your added value is for the processes in the organization. That makes you work quickly and efficiently and keeps communication on track.’
FOR A SMALLER SME ORGANIZATION, WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN OPTIMIZING THE INNOVATION PROCESS?
‘In smaller SMEs, you need to have the core disciplines in house all the people from your own company who have the knowledge and expertise to organize a product innovation technically, logistically and financially at the table. You shouldn’t outsource those core disciplines. With specific parts like IP and project management, you can.’
WHAT ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE AS A SMALLER ORGANIZATION OVER A LARGER ONE?
‘You don’t have to do politics here; we don’t have to do all the analysis to back up all the decisions. Multinationals do a lot of research to have the dossier complete. We act more on the basis of experience and the courage to decide, and to take risks.’
WHERE IS THE LIMIT FOR YOU AS A SMALL ORGANIZATION?
‘With overly complex designs, which we cannot oversee sufficiently. But as our knowledge and experience grows, we do want to scale up our scope to that type of innovation in the future. That’s our goal.’Back to overview