Screwing Business as Usual.
I was interviewed for Richard Branson’s book (‘Screw Business as Usual’) some time ago, although not by him. The idea behind the book was to look into how business owners could or were already putting the ‘triple bottom line’ (social, environmental and financial) at the heart of their businesses. To get the founders take on how they felt they could screw conventional business ideas. In many ways, I started Finisterre with more of an idea of the environmental and social line, rather than the financial. I had seen the wider industry lacked any environmental conscience. I wanted to start a brand to address these issues. Granted it’s been a bumpy journey, with passion carrying us much of the way, and ethical decisions being put ahead of financial ones (much to the amusement of conventional business heads). And yes, I was stoked that Finisterre and the collective it has become was asked to be in book.
So Tuesday saw me fresh off the train in Piccadilly at the book launch. Not a natural networker by any stretch, I was greeted by the ever present and friendly Virgin girls (capital v). Name badge on, I looked around a bit awkwardly, made my way to the coffee and pleased to say was soon in the swing (ish) of it. Loads of very interesting folk doing some pretty awesome stuff. Guys and girls who have started from scratch with stories to tell; using their businesses to address all kinds of fundamental environmental and social problems.
In walks Richard Branson. Super easy and relaxed amongst the 200 or so folk gathered there. Looking a bit older than I remember, but happy and laid-back. On my allocated table are a few journalists, Adam Balon from Innocent Smoothies and Peter Avis manager of Babylon, Richard’s award winning restaurant at Kensington Roof Gardens. Richard begins his easy spiel, speaking about the idea behind the book. I like him and the genuine feeling he evokes of going for it all costs. He talks about the work that his charity, Virgin Unite, are doing in the UK and in Africa. It’s grounding stuff and great to get a perspective of the bigger picture.
A number of things struck me during the talks. The real way people are using businesses to solve big problems and the dedication to which this is being applied. Take Barefoot Power who use micro solar units to provide lights and electricity in communities in Africa. No need to wait for a national grid to be constructed; the units are sold by a band of 2000 micro entrepreneurs. Or John Bird, who started The Big Issue, giving people on the street an opportunity to make money off their own bat. His view on the role of benefits was also pretty provoking.
When we started Finisterre we upped the environmental game within our industry. Some years later, the rest of the world has caught up to a certain extent - which is a good thing - but we always have to use the brand to continue to push ideas and initiatives forward. Something else we’ve talked about, but not got round to is voluntary work. I want to make sure that everyone here gets involved - starting as soon as possible.
So here’s to good screwing harder.
(We’ll be giving away some of the books between now and Christmas, so keep an eye out).