Staying truly innovative

Steven Farrugia and Theo Pappas

Vative’s Founder Steven Farrugia and CEO Theo Pappas discuss the philosophy of Vative, where it’s been, where it’s going, and the recent acquisition that is helping it deliver real results for the supply chain now – and in the future.

Vative, the Australian-based continuous-improvement training and consultancy, has been transforming businesses since 2006. 

Back then, the company’s Founder, Steven Farrugia, recognised a gap in the market for a consultancy that would guarantee results for clients without upfront fees. 

“We always were and remain confident in the results we can deliver, our business focuses on delivering a return on investment,” Steven says. “We help organisations establish a culture of Continuous Improvement to deliver increased productivity, profitability, and growth.”

Steven says the first company he worked with experienced efficiency improvements in excess of 500 per cent. Vative took off from there. 

The holistic deployment model is emblematic of Vative’s whole approach: there’s a proven methodology in how they deliver business transformation for clients.

Vative’s offering encompasses a 5-phase continuous improvement strategic deployment model, guaranteed to deliver ROI when followed. Business transformation, through a holistic implementation of ‘lean’ business principles is the approach they take with a vision to continually expanding the breadth and reach of its services across Australia and eventually internationally. 

While traditional applications of lean methodologies originated in the manufacturing industry, the expansion into the entire supply chain sector has been an inevitable evolution. 

Its offering and business ethic are anchored in the “founding concept” of ‘Kaizen’. “Kaizen is a Japanese mindset, concept, and practice that emphasises continuous improvement and striving for perfection – without expecting to ever reach perfection itself,” Steven notes. 

In 2010 Vative got a big boost, Steven says, when it recruited its now-CEO Theo Pappas.

“Theo was clearly on the same page in terms of mindset and work ethic, and he was also an innovative and outside-the-box thinker,” he says. “That’s what Vative has always valued, and Theo has been instrumental in driving our growth and growing our team with people who share our vision and values.”

“When Steve called me and asked whether I’d consider coming on board I had other offers, but there was something unique about where Vative were going – and I really bought into that vision,” Theo says. “There was a true entrepreneurial spirit among the small group of founders at the time, and that energetically drew me right in; being truly innovative wasn’t only a tagline, it was embedded in their mindset”

Theo pioneered Vative’s move to become a registered training organisation and carve out its niche in the education and training space. 

“He was not afraid to take a big risk and back himself, which was representative of his character,” Steven says. “He saw an opportunity for Vative to become a registered training organisation and take control of its own training rather than relying on external partners. Although it wasn’t something he’d done before, he was willing to immerse himself in it, and we backed him – to great success.” 


It will come as no surprise to readers that supply chain has faced – and continues to face – significant challenges in today’s economic and political climate. But Steven and Theo both reject the notion that businesses should trim their sails when entering economic headwinds. “The challenges are coming no matter what,” Steven says. “The question is, do you want to try and shield yourself from them as long as possible, or make yourself robust and resilient enough to withstand and thrive in the face of them?”

“Most businesses engage in process improvement when the business pain points get too unbearable and something needs to be done to fix it quickly,” Theo says. “That is a reactive strategy and typically the damage is already deep.”

Perhaps the most pronounced challenge businesses in supply chain face today is a labour- and talent shortage. Theo notes that many businesses are struggling to meet customer demand and are hiring whoever they can find to fill the gaps. “Many businesses are just throwing money at hiring employees to try and meet customer demands,” he says. “But that’s a band-aid fix that doesn’t address the underlying problem.”

Vative has expanded its operations across NSW and QLD.
Vative has expanded its operations across NSW and QLD.

Rather, to properly address this challenge, Theo suggests that businesses need to think differently and more innovatively. 

Steven notes that the mindset of trying to protect oneself from economic headwinds is problematic. Instead, he suggests its clients should lean into the challenge and view it as an opportunity to grow, the same philosophy Vative applies at the executive level.

This aligns perfectly with the Japanese Kaizen principle, which involves stepping toward the strain and strategizing about how to navigate it and find opportunities within it. “I think companies should welcome challenges and competition,” he says.

“It’s no surprise that Toyota – a Japanese company – has demonstrated willingness to share their intellectual property with competitors to improve the industry as a whole. That evinces extreme confidence in their own work – and it’s something I take inspiration from.”


But to continue continuously improving companies across Australia, Vative has realised it needs to expand its presence across Australia. To that end, it has recently made a new acquisition.

The acquisition is strategically important for Vative as it will enable the organisation to grow its operations regionally and establish a foothold across the entire eastern seaboard of the country. Theo says, “This acquisition has been an 18-month process, we began working on acquiring the company while we were in the midst of the pandemic. 

“Being truly innovative is in our DNA. Vative has a history of it, it secured Government accreditation as a registered training organisation in 2011, expanded its industry specialisation, and is now going through a acquisition and merger to grow across regions as well.” 

Theo emphasises that the latest acquisition of Corporate Partners will help Vative drive growth and customer demand from Queensland through to New South Wales. “Strategically, QLD was a region of opportunity and growth,” he says. “We knew that if we could carbon copy our model into Queensland it would work;all was needed was a local based leadership team to own it.

“We looked at the QLD market, and there was certainly an opportunity for us to carve out market share in this region through our unique offering. Through this process we came across the opportunity to acquire Corporate Partners, a training and consulting business who had 20 years of operation in Sydney and had also shown recent growth in the QLD market. The opportunity was ripe.”


The philosophy of continuous improvement is critical to achieving longevity and success in business – and particularly in supply chain today, Theo and Steven agree.

When it comes to changing mindsets in business, Theo Pappas believes that strategic thinking and a long-term focus are essential. 

“It all stems back to the original thinkers of continuous improvement,” Theo says. “Changing your mindset – your paradigm – is the first step for companies in 2023 that are worried about forthcoming challenges. But that change in mindset is guaranteed to be the difference between those get through this economic climate versus those that, unfortunately, don’t.

The executive team and owners of a business play a crucial role in shaping the mindset of the organisation, Theo notes. 

“What separates the businesses that succeed versus the ones that spiral out of control comes down to the mindset of the executive team or the owners. Those who prioritise strategic thinking and a long-term focus can set their businesses up for success, while those who focus only on short-term gains may struggle to survive.

“Executives should think agile and focus on building strength in culture. Leadership is judged when the times get tough, when it can retain its team and continue to grow during a retractive market. 

“It works best when you go in opposing directions. During good economic times, look within, invest in people, strengthen your core systems and build culture so when the tough times do come calling – and they always do – you are ready to be bullish in growth because you’re confident your business systems and people can handle it, the hard work was already done.

“At Vative we’re primed and ready to help businesses in that journey.” 

For more information on Vative, click here

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