Sometimes it can feel like the world is falling apart all around you. HIV is threatening populations already ravaged by heroin, the environment is on the brink, and the national debt continues to grow. Think about them too hard, and these problems can feel overwhelming. They're global issues without clear solutions. The highly coordinated international response they surely require might prove impossible to achieve. Resources are limited. In the face of this stark reality, what hope could one single person have to make a difference?
Jack "Tato" Bigio is not intimidated. He recognizes the size of the problem, but doesn't let that stop him from taking up the fight. Bigio is the Co-Founder and CEO of UBQ Materials, an Israel-based company working to eliminate trash by converting it into a sustainable plastic substitute. Bigio has decades of experience in business, and has learned the incredible potential business has to make a massive difference in worldwide problems. In the sustainability sector, he also has experience with bio fuel and solar and wind farms. Bigio speaks 4 languages and has an MBA from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he graduated summa cum laude.
Here's what Bigio says your company needs in order to have the potential to change the world:
1. Recorded Proof
Big problems require big solutions, but it all starts with a single step. "Just like you can suffer death by a thousand little cuts, you can enjoy success by a thousand little proof points," Bigio says. He recognizes that people may be hesitant to believe progress can be made, so he puts UBQ to the test. "UBQ developed what we call a 'Climate Impact Data Sheet' that shows the before and after impact of adopting the UBQ Material into an industrial process. This gives everyone from the factory floor to the boardroom a clear representation of the reduction in CO2 emissions versus existing processes. Those numbers add up to a big proposition," Bigio beams. He encourages companies with global missions never to shy away from doubters, and even to seek criticism, saying, "Consult with global experts and highly reputable third parties, who can push against your company's value-proposition and convincingly prove that it stands against even the strongest doubts." It's advice with wide applicability, Bigio explains, because "In a world of skeptics, hacks, and fakes, unfortunately, it's a game that any startup needs to play."
2. Values With ROI
Companies with a mission of changing the world need core values that can withstand the pressure. Bigio admits that it's not easily done, conceding, "Deciding to run your company based on a set of values is challenging, and it means you'll have to take detours in everything from R&D to product development to fundraising, in order to do things 'the right way.'" It costs time and money, and can require some difficult choices. Ultimately, however, the payoff is worth it. He says, "While this strategy will likely add time to your product launch or profitability, it will be a lot easier to explain your company's story and vision to potential investors or customers, if your values shine through everything from production procedures to hiring practices." UBQ, for example, chose to adhere to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact and become a certified B Corp. "Your company's values should mean just as much as revenue," Bigio asserts, even if it takes hard work.
3. Diversity That Isn't Just a Slogan
Bigio believes strongly in the power of diversity, and bristles at the way some companies pay only lip service. "Most businesses these days will claim to pursue it. It's an overused term," he laments, continuing, "You can't just preach diversity - you have to really live it." Done right, "The value of diversity can really be a small company's secret weapon. Diversity is the only sure-fire way to build a company point-of-view that is based on a wide range of perspectives, therefore making it stronger by dint of wider appeal and broader scope," Bigio states. He encourages, "Go out and find diverse candidates as a mission, and don't settle for applicants that naturally gravitate to you. Being proactive is a key way to make a dent here." UBQ, for example, chose to build its first plant in Israel's southern region, allowing it to hire a considerable part of its workforce from underserved demographic groups. Don't just talk the diversity talk - walk it, too.
4. Backers and Advisors Who Add Value Beyond Money
Companies need investors and advisors, but you need to be careful accepting money and guidance from just anyone. Much like his belief that you need to put your product to the test, Bigio also believes in listening closely to naysayers. He explains, "There's an argument to be made to build an advisory board of former skeptics who, in their participation alone, can serve as proof points." Bigio goes on, "UBQ left no-stone unturned in finding advisors who could help both validate our claims and help scale the company in a truly meaningful way. Our advisors, investors, and partners have names and reputations that enabled us to proceed with caution and not overextend." Their board consists of Nobel Prize-winning biochemists, global experts on sustainable development and climate change, and business visionaries. Bigio believes each advisor should bring expertise, experience, and perspective, and should challenge you to achieve greatness.
5. An Atmosphere of Magic
Companies perform better if the employees love coming to work. "If the employees understand and believe in what they are building, they'll approach their jobs with a strong sense of 'why' that makes their daily productivity objectively better," Bigio says. "One great way to achieve that is to infuse the mission with a sense of wonder. It will trickle down into every element of every employee's day," he enthuses, continuing, "It's very powerful when you can say that what you do is changing what was once perceived as too good to be true, and that it goes against the grain of what was conventionally thought humanly possible." Remind your employees that what they're doing is making a difference towards a remarkable goal. Remember that your first clients are your employees, and building advocates for your company starts from the inside.
On Fridays, Kevin explores industry trends, professional development, best practices, and other leadership topics with CEOs from around the world.