Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO-International, a California- and Beijing-based intellectual property management company that focuses on the exploitation and management of the intangible assets regarding in situ regeneration in applied medical and health promotion systems (human body regenerative restoration science). They operate in more than 73 countries and hospital networks worldwide, and are opening a new era of bio-economy.
These days, every company is obsessed with innovation. The desire to develop something newer, faster or flashier drives companies to the competitive brink, leading them to favor innovation over people. However, the best business advice I've ever received is decidedly old-fashioned.
This advice was from my father, Dr. Rongxiang Xu. He invented a groundbreaking moist-exposed burn therapy and burn ointment, established an innovative human organ regeneration science, led doctors to build a nationwide medical network and directed a rescue team to treat Wenchuan earthquake victims in 2008. His selflessness continues to motivate me today.
What he gave me was more than a piece of advice — it was a way to live. Human life is the most valuable commodity, and our highest standard is humanity's well-being. Although our work is different, I've found a way to put his vision and advice into practice.
Choose purpose over profits.
If we put a value on human life and not just the bottom line, what kinds of projects will we say ‘yes’ to? What kinds of risks would we be willing to take, that we might not otherwise, because the payoff is too small to bother with if we only think about profit?
Entrepreneurship is a skill. The technology we use to carry out that skill has vast consequences. Pursue products and innovations that benefit people's quality of life. Also, vet the vendors and partners you consider working with. Ask questions about their environmental impacts, their benefits to customers and how they treat their team members. Companies that step on others to make a profit don't deserve your business.
Leave a legacy of giving back.
Most entrepreneurs give back. It's a natural response — and a satisfying one — once you become successful. Entrepreneurship is about pursuing a dream and helping others achieve theirs. This helps you fight through the everyday struggles in your own business, and encourages you to give back later on.
My wife and I created an award at the University of Southern California's Davis School of Gerontology for students who demonstrate entrepreneurship and whose ideas could benefit the elder population's quality of life. And we're not alone in this: A study by Ernst & Young and the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund showed that 89 percent of entrepreneurs donate money to charitable causes, and 70 percent donate their time. But they don't see this as an obligation; they view it as an opportunity to improve their businesses and the world those businesses operate in.
Surround yourself with purpose-driven team members.
To affect humanity for the better, you need team members who care about more than a 9-to-5 stint. They must believe in your company's mission for improving the greater good; they can't just work for the paycheck. This is similar to hiring a vendor that values profits over people: They're not worthy of your investment.
One of the big make-or-break tests for new entrepreneurs is hiring. When you interview, ask candidates why they're interested in your company and how they could see themselves fitting into the organization's vision. Provide a scenario in which candidates would be forced to choose between helping a group of people and helping the company's bottom line, and ask them how they'd work through resolving the issue. Their answers can help you avoid employees who will sap your company's spirit.
Aim unrealistically high.
This should get your juices flowing. Aim so high that you irritate others. Only audacious inventions will truly disrupt the status quo. Shoot to cure — not treat — chronic problems. For example, chronic diseases represent seven of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. Strive to end hunger not just by giving a meal to one of the 795 million hungry people in the world, but by creating sustainable food systems so people can feed themselves.
Find ways to incorporate this into your business model, even if these issues don't directly relate to your mission. If your company owns land it’s not using, for example, can you donate that land to an organization testing sustainable food processes? Shooting for the moon will inevitably draw detractors, but riling others up indicates that you're onto something revolutionary.
Working toward these goals won't be easy; nothing truly innovative comes without turmoil. But if you consistently focus your energy outward and let service to humanity be your guiding force, there's no telling what you can accomplish.