Social Venture

‘The Magic Question’ – an Interview with Thread Publishing

Here is my Interview with THREAD Publishing:

I do everything with a business partner. And my formula for finding a business partner is very Californian. It’s like allowing the universe to solve the problem. You take any question and you follow it, you ask this same question to everyone suitable you meet. By the time you’ve met 50 people, you’ll have an answer.

You decide what the question is and you ask people. It could be anything from, ‘What job do I want?’ to, ‘What should I do next in my life?’ to anything. After I left my first company, DMS (Dispatch Management Services) I didn’t know if I wanted another company because I had clearly hit the glass ceiling. I did it twice, very quickly. I was made Partner at a leading management consulting firm in spite of very few women in the company and then I became CEO of a public company in the United States. Very few women had achieved this.

So my question to 50 people was, ‘Did I want to create another company?’ And by the time I got through my list, I’d answered that. I’d come up with the idea for a company; something that people wanted and needed.

Think disruptively

The whole concept reflects on how you think about starting a business. You need to think about it globally, you need to think about it big, you need to think about it being disruptive. You want to do it in threes.

Then you look at anything in the world that’s already being practised, anything that’s out there. Think it through. Ask yourself, ‘What is this going to be? What does it look like?’ That means you have a global and disruptive mindset from the start. You also have to be clear about what it can enable – what your new idea or company is going to do.

Of course, there are a lot of people who start and then leave their growth down to luck. It doesn’t have to be like that. If you put it out there – if you say, ‘This is what I’m going to do’ – then suddenly other people are there with you. It attracts support and it suddenly puts you into a mindset where you think quite differently.

You might think, ‘Okay, I’m going to go and learn now how Arianna Huffington put that out there. I’m going to look inside all sorts of businesses to see how they did it. How am I going to do it?’ Then you start asking these sorts of questions. Asking the question helps you to solve the problem, but it also helps other people contribute their ideas to how you should solve the problem.

Together, people can genuinely help each other in so many ways. Linda Jenkinson

Take the long view

I’m proud to say that I have raised $280 million throughout the years. I’ve got to the point where I don’t ask for it because people give me money. It’s one of my formulas.

I’ve got this whole idea on taking the long view. For example, here (in Australia), people have close personal relationships but they don’t value relationships in business so much, because everyone knows each other and reputations are more difficult to shake. In big countries it’s the opposite: the reputational risk of having something go wrong can have a huge impact. So people really value the business relationship.

It becomes about fighting for the same piece of the pie. In other parts of the world there’s so much resource that it’s about collaborating to be the greater fool[1]. We don’t have greater fools down here, that’s not our culture.

That has a big impact on your ability to quickly grow things overseas. If you’ve met somebody three times they’ll call you a friend. But a lot of people only go and meet other people individually, once. Within a month, if you’ve made the investment – if you’ve taken the time to meet someone more than just once and in turn build your reputation with them – then you have that relationship. Having a good relationship achieves something different than having a cordial relationship and you have different responsibilities.

Respect your ethos

I’ve got a pretty radical new business idea and part of it is that the more we create an ethos of holistic living and integration between business and philanthropy, the more people can actually support social things. That’s what I want. It empowers a lot of people to do things for themselves.

I see so many people who haven’t done that. They have worked for companies, but they haven’t actually started them and run them. They go by the book. That doesn’t work for me – I want to change people’s lives. Part of it comes back to the fact that I knew someone in New Zealand who changed my whole way of thinking. I want to take that and to give that as a gift to other people.

You take any question and you follow it. By the time you’ve asked 50 people, you’ll have an answer. Linda Jenkinson

Remove self-limitations

So often in life, we limit ourselves. But the reality is that there is so much more out there for the taking. It’s a discipline and a way of living.

I remember when I was cynical; I would say in my cynical ease that I didn’t know if donating to social global causes was the right thing to do. It’s just another form of white colonialism, and how do we redefine that in the right way? That attitude changed very quickly when I became involved with a group of business women in Senegal and founded WOW Investments. But that is another story.

Everyone has to do it from his or her own perspective. The more you can be in the place to give people that insight in terms of themselves, the more you find that’s a much better way of doing it. Together, people can genuinely help each other in so many ways – if you invest in the relationship and broaden your horizons.