Introducing Branko Horvat
We sat down to learn more about our recently hired Director of New Product Development Branko Horvat, an energy industry veteran with experience spanning across many disciplines. In our interview, Branko discusses his background and his agenda in this new role, and offers a prescient vision for the future of electric utilities. Let’s dive right in.
Please give us a snapshot of your background. What initially attracted you to explore and eventually pursue this role with Novinium?
My experience has been in diverse roles serving the OEM equipment market both as a supplier and producer. Through that experience I applied engineering, sales, and marketing concepts that I learned along the path to Novinium. The Novinium attraction was initially a market study I was doing that allowed me to explore Novinium’s success stories. After investigating the Novinium product/service and learning about its culture, I determined that it would be a good fit. Novinium is made up of many facets: entrepreneurial spirit, empowered workforce, visible innovation. Most of all, it is a company that wants to make the world better.
What is your perspective on Novinium’s position in the energy industry?
The canned answer is that we are a leader in the industry. In actuality we are more than a leader. We are teachers of our trade by helping utilities make their systems better and more reliable, while having a positive impact on the environment. We are opinion leaders–people want to hear what we have to say. Our word is important to them because it is backed with a promise of quality service, reliability, safety, and culture.
What are the most exciting advancements occurring in electric utilities today?
The electric utilities market is on the verge of converging technologies. Information is “king” and allowing our customers to gather data and apply analytics will give them the path to better their systems and provide that reliability that their customers expect. I always tell new engineer “want-to-be’s” that materials will be even more important in the future. Scarcity of materials will force new synthetics and metals to be explored so that we can further reliability and capacity of the market.
Over the next 5 years, what ways will our industry change, and how does Novinium fit into that vision?
The biggest challenge we have in our industry is attracting the employee talent that is needed in a very typical trade-oriented environment. The attraction to the industry is not visible to the new generation of millennials and thereafter. We have to do our part to educate the younger generation about their contribution to the industry. Novinium’s part in this will be to further innovate, educate, and allow that new generation to feel and understand the industry.
On that note, in what type of environment does innovation thrive?
Innovation thrives in an environment that allows for failure but is backed by reapplication of the learning that comes from that failure. This can only be done by leadership at all levels of the organization. Everyone at Novinium is a leader: the people that learn model the way for others; the people that see a path to success provide a story of the vision; the people that see success encourage the heart by celebration; those that lead people know when to step aside to allow others to lead. Leadership thrives with this type of environment.
What items on your agenda are you looking forward to tackling first?
Being new to Novinium, a person can get overzealous and try to enact all kinds of ideas. My goal is to understand the Novinium culture and find areas where I can make an impact by applying tools, processes, and mindset while maintaining the culture. Novinium is going through a culture change of sorts because it has typically been a services company. Part of my agenda is to help navigate the company through the steps of instead becoming a solution company surrounded by products. The customer is at the forefront of this endeavor.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever been given?
Over the years I learned that to move business forward you need to be a great situational leader. The “great” part is the goal but you never reach it…your goal should always to move towards it. We live in a world of different people. We should constantly learn about and always strive to understand each other. I have never met a person that didn’t have at least one strength that helped a team be successful. As a leader we need to help people find their strengths and then we need to provide the atmosphere for them to show and exhibit that strength. The end result is success in the business but the greater achievement is that individual found their strength.
How does that fit into what you want to accomplish at Novinium?
As I said before, Novinium is made up of 300+ leaders. We have to help each other find our strengths as individuals. The greatest tool we have is our people and at Novinium that observation is very clear, our people are our differentiator. People’s strengths connected to innovation makes for a formidable enterprise that can continue to grow through many generations.
What is your management style?
I don’t want to sound like a textbook, but I believe in goals that extend but do not overwhelm the organization. Those goals need to be backed by a vision that can show/tell the story of how we are going to get to that future state. Novinium has a culture that makes oneself feel safe and hence accountability is sort of baked into the culture. I believe in accountability but more in terms of the team versus individuals.
What do you identify as your paramount challenge in your new role?
Learning to navigate through the culture of a new company like Novinium. Driving change to how products are introduced to the market is the easy part. Getting an organization to see and understand your vision is hard work. Understanding and living the Novinium culture while driving change takes a certain amount of caution so that people will follow. There is no magical formula–it’s a matter of apply and test, and then apply and test, and apply and test again.
You’ve earned your BS and MBA. What’s one thing that real world experience taught you that you didn’t learn in school?
How to be a good leader and team member in great organizations. The BS and MBA provides the foundation.
Over the past 25 years, you have worked in sales, marketing and engineering. How does this confluence of experience equip you to be a better leader in this role?
Broad-based experiences give me a wide view of the many aspects of solution creation for our customers. It has allowed me to learn about the various people and roles so that I can be that situational leader. Leadership is constant learning. My 25 years has taught me to be that leader that continues to learn over the many aspects of the business.
With this newly created role as Director of New Product Development, you likely have less spare time. How do you like to spend your time when you’re not at work?
Moving to the Northwest a few years ago changed my life. My wife and I spend a lot more time outside in many different ways from hiking, exploring, and just spending time on our patio overlooking Orting Valley. I spend time woodworking because it allows me to experiment and create pieces of furniture with my brand. When given the time my wife and I like to travel. I’ve been all over the world and perhaps my leadership has also evolved because I immerse myself into understanding other cultures. I mentioned my wife. She is my cornerstone in life. We both serve very different industries and I would like to think that my leadership is the result of our relationship. Spending time with her in any level of activity is priceless in my life.