All sorts of people find success as entrepreneurs, in every profession and area of life. What many have in common is that they’re ready to try and fail while they are figuring out which of their ideas will work, and so perseverance and courage are an entrepreneur‘s best assets, as I’ve mentioned in previous columns. A characteristic that I’d like to add to that list is self-awareness, because it can speed up that learning process and help you along the way. Like most other companies, we at the Virgin Group have experienced a number of failures along with our successes — it is so easy to get things wrong. After you’ve launched one or more businesses that take off and start growing, it’s tempting to think that you know what you’re doing. Then, after you’ve started up another new venture, seemingly along the same model, you find to your astonishment that it’s about to fold. This is what happened when we launched Virgin Cola in 1994. We started out with so much ambition, and we had a real impact: Our new business shook Coca-Cola to the core. We heard later that every meeting the top executives had for nine months was dominated by the words “Virgin Cola.” But as time went on, we realized that we’d failed to adhere to our own rules. Virgin specializes in shaking up industries where consumers are getting a raw deal, but there was no great dissatisfaction with Coca-Cola, Pepsi or the other soft drink brands at the time. Why would customers want to switch to Virgin Cola? After all, we weren’t offering them anything that was radically different or much better value, and so the business was a financial failure. With Virgin Cola, we were so intent on repeating our model that led to previous successes that we didn’t notice the problems with our idea. But we always learn from our failures, which makes us better at being self-aware — as has answering all the questions over the years about Virgin’s going into new industries.
On the other hand, today everybody is stressed about achieving business goals, dealing with difficult economic conditions or business institutional problems:
Nearly every week a new survey appears showing how stressed out workers are today. The damage is visible in its negative impact upon mental health, increased risk of disease and death, lower worker productivity and a range of other harmful consequences. One recent survey found that 83 percent of all workers report stress. That includes people of all ages, baby boomers to Millennials. The sources cited include too much work, insufficient pay, not enough time for rest or sleep, too little leisure time, co-worker conflicts and general work-life imbalance. But most of those sources have a deeper origin that the surveys and research don’t tap into. Major changes in our society and world have created a “new normal” of continuous turmoil and disruption. This new environment is pushing both organizations and workers to redefine success beyond the long-prevailing rewards of money, power and position; and towards criteria less focused on self-interest but more adaptive to living and working within what is now a “post-careerist” culture. Much current stress reflects the strain of this growing transition. It’s inevitable and necessary.
But, innovation has a main role in doing business in a post-carbon economy by taking advantage from people, business practices and current technology:
A “to-do” list of how to create a post-carbon economy evolved from the remarks of an array of innovators from business, politics and Hollywood at the 2013 Climate Leadership Gala the other night at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. From Sir Richard Branson, to Elon Musk CEO and founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Quebec’s minister, to the actors Ed Begley, Jr. and John Corbett, and the indomitable Melanne Verveer, each presented a piece of the puzzle:
1. Increase Efficiency: The newly-sworn in Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz emphasized the need for various types of efficiencies (from appliances to vehicles, to the grid, to clean and efficient fossil fuels, to renewables), and for the efficiency standards to support them for the long-term and for the private sector to use to drive innovation. We also need to improve the efficiency of best practices by sharing them – between the states, and between the public and private sectors.
2. Slay dragons: Innovators like Branson and Musk who EDN President Kathleen Rogers described as “dragon slayers,” have taken on climate change with practical and ambitious solutions, “slaying” structural and policy standards such as monopolies. We need more such courageous innovators.
3. Tax Carbon: Elon Musk gave an impassioned and at time comedic argument for a tax on carbon. “It’s just the sensible thing to do,” Musk explained, “We know we need tax revenue to run the government… so we should tax the things that are bad… like tobacco” and carbon, to dissuade their use and generate revenue at the same time.
Finally, developing self-awareness is important as it makes you know your personal “boundaries” in many fields of relations and business activities. On the other hand, it may help you to dream by visualizing the big picture of your goals. Richard Branson is here…