Water and Wealth Creation

Water and Wealth Creation

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were educated.)

In other words, a sustainable solution.

There were 3 key elements highlighted through our research:

1. The correlation between sustainability of wells and community involvement.

2. Most organisations measure track record in terms of wells drilled, not how many are still functioning after two to three years and no reference to the ongoing benefits e.g. economic development, creation of schools etc.

3. Main contributor to wells failing is lack of maintenance.

Applying our methodology, we searched for and identified a number of NGOs, charities and grassroots organisations. We screened them for their capabilities, track record, efficiency, transparency and ability to deliver. We finally chose a grassroots organisation whose model and capabilities were aligned with the needs of the village.

We worked with them to provide water to the village and other initiatives, providing the villagers with the means to become self-sufficient. One such initiative was using their mobile phone to create a maintenance alert and tracking system.

We are forever indebted to the people of Samburu for opening our eyes and the work of The Samburu Project for making a difference to people’s lives.

AMANI™ is in part due to their teachings.

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were educated.)

In other words, a sustainable solution.

There were 3 key elements highlighted through our research:

1. The correlation between sustainability of wells and community involvement.

2. Most organisations measure track record in terms of wells drilled, not how many are still functioning after two to three years and no reference to the ongoing benefits e.g. economic development, creation of schools etc.

3. Main contributor to wells failing is lack of maintenance.

Applying our methodology, we searched for and identified a number of NGOs, charities and grassroots organisations. We screened them for their capabilities, track record, efficiency, transparency and ability to deliver. We finally chose a grassroots organisation whose model and capabilities were aligned with the needs of the village.

We worked with them to provide water to the village and other initiatives, providing the villagers with the means to become self-sufficient. One such initiative was using their mobile phone to create a maintenance alert and tracking system.

We are forever indebted to the people of Samburu for opening our eyes and the work of The Samburu Project for making a difference to people’s lives.

AMANI™ is in part due to their teachings.

Water and Wealth Creation

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were...

read more

A Country Search for Innovators

As part of a Ideas from Europe and Malta's Presidency of the Council of Europe, we were mandated by the Government of Malta to identify Maltese innovators with solutions to global challenges - businesses that were purposeful and profitable. The challenge was two-fold:...

read more

Vision + Execution = Value

A budding entrepreneur wanted to create an investment company focused on Africa. We helped him define and shape the vision, as well as the values and behaviours he wanted to stand for and demonstrate. Wanting to ensure he could translate his vision into practice, we...

read more
A Country Search for Innovators

A Country Search for Innovators

As part of a Ideas from Europe and Malta’s Presidency of the Council of Europe, we were mandated by the Government of Malta to identify Maltese innovators with solutions to global challenges – businesses that were purposeful and profitable.

The challenge was two-fold:

  • Predominant perception that a business’s sole purpose is that of making money, with charity being the vehicle for doing good
  • Malta only has a population of 400,000 people, so a limited pool of potential innovators that would meet the criteria

Hence, in addition to the search, we needed to:

  • Create an outreach programme to educate stakeholders on what we mean by purposeful and profitable companies
  • Engage and encourage innovators, businesses and researchers to participate
  • Develop a mentoring networking to work with innovators that need guidance and support
  • Galvanise support from the investor and business community
  • Tap into the Maltese communities abroad to extend the search to innovators amongst the Maltese Diaspora
  • Use the opportunity to strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem

Execution:

  • Mapped out the key players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and included them in the process
  • Held one-to-one meetings with key members of the business community who saw the value and lent their support
  • Held information sessions on campus, startup events and business parks
  • Publicised the search through interviews with the press, social media and communiques to Maltese Consulates and Embassies
  • Targeted a variety of companies ranging from well-established institutions to startups to:
    • Further explain the criteria
    • Explore ideas they have in development
    • Determine their fit
    • Encourage them to submit a formal proposal
  • Developed a search specific site to capture submissions
  • Curated a panel of judges to review submissions and determine best ideas to present in person
  • Organised an event with a curated guest list
  • Held practice sessions with shortlisted innovators to prepare for the event

Key outcomes:

  • The winner will represent Malta in the semi-finals to be held in Estonia in November
  • Connected innovators with related ideas to converge their thoughts and explore ways of collaborating
  • AMANI has adopted one of the teams, providing them access to international markets

As part of a Ideas from Europe and Malta’s Presidency of the Council of Europe, we were mandated by the Government of Malta to identify Maltese innovators with solutions to global challenges – businesses that were purposeful and profitable.

The challenge was two-fold:

  • Predominant perception that a business’s sole purpose is that of making money, with charity being the vehicle for doing good
  • Malta only has a population of 400,000 people, so a limited pool of potential innovators that would meet the criteria

Hence, in addition to the search, we needed to:

  • Create an outreach programme to educate stakeholders on what we mean by purposeful and profitable companies
  • Engage and encourage innovators, businesses and researchers to participate
  • Develop a mentoring networking to work with innovators that need guidance and support
  • Galvanise support from the investor and business community
  • Tap into the Maltese communities abroad to extend the search to innovators amongst the Maltese Diaspora
  • Use the opportunity to strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem

Execution:

  • Mapped out the key players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and included them in the process
  • Held one-to-one meetings with key members of the business community who saw the value and lent their support
  • Held information sessions on campus, startup events and business parks
  • Publicised the search through interviews with the press, social media and communiques to Maltese Consulates and Embassies
  • Targeted a variety of companies ranging from well-established institutions to startups to:
    • Further explain the criteria
    • Explore ideas they have in development
    • Determine their fit
    • Encourage them to submit a formal proposal
  • Developed a search specific site to capture submissions
  • Curated a panel of judges to review submissions and determine best ideas to present in person
  • Organised an event with a curated guest list
  • Held practice sessions with shortlisted innovators to prepare for the event

Key outcomes:

  • The winner will represent Malta in the semi-finals to be held in Estonia in November
  • Connected innovators with related ideas to converge their thoughts and explore ways of collaborating
  • AMANI has adopted one of the teams, providing them access to international markets

Water and Wealth Creation

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were...

read more

A Country Search for Innovators

As part of a Ideas from Europe and Malta's Presidency of the Council of Europe, we were mandated by the Government of Malta to identify Maltese innovators with solutions to global challenges - businesses that were purposeful and profitable. The challenge was two-fold:...

read more

Vision + Execution = Value

A budding entrepreneur wanted to create an investment company focused on Africa. We helped him define and shape the vision, as well as the values and behaviours he wanted to stand for and demonstrate. Wanting to ensure he could translate his vision into practice, we...

read more
Malta – In The Heart of an Interconnected World

Malta – In The Heart of an Interconnected World

If an earthquake struck today, could you imagine the devastation? The ground torn asunder and everything we treasure ripped apart. Technology and architecture have evolved to minimise damage and loss of life. And yet we still see city after city, community after community, having buildings destroyed by the immense forces of an earthquake.

The same can be said of our society. We live in strange times. We have seen banks bailed out by people, people who then saw their homes repossessed. We see the vastly wealthy grace the covers of magazines, while a child dies every 15 seconds from lack of access to clean water. We watch corrupt politicians line their own pockets, disregarding the rule of law or even what is humanly right.

Yes, the world is strange. It is a world where the pursuit of profit and personal gain outweighs the implications and consequences of our actions.

We may think these things don’t affect us, but we would be wrong. We live in an interconnected world, whether we are aware of it or not. Just like the effects of an earthquake reverberate around the world, so the ripple effect of events abroad impact our daily lives.

The question is – are we going to keep our head buried in the sand or are we going to do something about it?

Education

The purpose of education is not the acquisition of certificates, but the ability to think and apply knowledge. For this to happen we need an education system equipped with teachers, as well as a methodology that instils a sense of curiosity among our children.

The purpose of education is not the acquisition of certificates, but the ability to think and apply knowledge.

A system in which our children are encouraged to seek experiences that broaden their mindset and outlook. A model that encourages a desire to learn about the world around us, to think through better ways of doing things and eventually the role we can play in shaping it.

Businesses

The seeking of profits at all costs has justified some terrible business practices – the most recent of which is Volkswagen. Where is trust and integrity? While profit is important, businesses need to be smarter in seeking and adding value. By smarter, I don’t mean more conniving.

The winners of the future will be those who seek financial and social benefit. This isn’t some marketing campaign that says how good a company is because of its corporate social responsibility initiatives. Rather, it’s where the raison d’etre of business is the intrinsic desire and commitment to add value, seeking win-win solutions and whose business positively impact people, society and the environment.

Government and Regulatory Bodies

One of the objectives of governing bodies is to provide the framework of what can and cannot be done. From a business perspective, this framework should be like a well-oiled machine that facilitates good practice and supports efficiencies. The current paradigm, however, is one that creates stumbling blocks (unless you are someone who is part of the fray or has a team of lawyers to navigate the system). With a lack of understanding of the challenges businesses face, regulatory bodies seem to create more hoops for businesses to jump through, eating up time and resources that would be better spent elsewhere.

Systems are only as good as the people behind them.

If, of course, these systems stopped corrupt and unethical practices, they could be condoned. But they don’t. Why? Because systems are only as good as the people behind them.

The Mindset

The ultimate challenge we need to overcome is our mentality as a nation. As part of the developed world, we have become a society of consumers programmed to get a job, buy a house, buy a car. We live out life in a simple cycle: earn this, buy that. This has created a nation of automatons. We wake up in the morning, go to work, do tasks, go home and then sit in front of a box or glued to some ‘social’ device clicking like.

We are outraged when we see atrocities such as the refugee situation. Some react to the senseless deaths, others react to a perceived invasion of foreigners into our land.

But very few think through how, why, and what can we do about it. We are driven by our emotions without engaging our intellect. Why? We have been programmed to believe our actions are of no consequence, numbed into a sense of helplessness. Sounds pretty bleak. And yet, this tiny little island has the greatest potential in being a force for good.

This tiny little island has the greatest potential in being a force for good.

We are a democratic country with a thriving economy and a strong rule of law. We have education and health available to all our people. We have a mere 400,000 souls, smaller than the individual workforces of Wal-Mart, McDonalds and IBM. Surely, we can come together and formulate a better way forward.

The question is, will we step up and surf the wave of change or will we be engulfed by it?

As appeared in the Sunday Times of Malta

Deborah Webster is the Founder of AMANI™, a thought leader in Innovation, Leadership and Impact, and a catalyst for business as a force for good.

8 Reasons Ethics Make Good Business Sense

8 Reasons Ethics Make Good Business Sense

good business

8 reasons Ethics make good business sense
 
Facebook is the latest company to learn the hard way that bad conduct affects stakeholders. The share price has seen a 13.5% drop since the Cambridge Analytica drama. Here are eight reasons why ethics are good for business.

Shareholder Sentiment

Trust and confidence in management affect shareholder sentiment. News related to unethical behaviour negatively impacts this level of confidence. Negative shareholder sentiment does not attract investment.

This is relevant to private companies too, especially family businesses, where reputation and standing of the company impact the family name. Family businesses also have other stakeholders to bear in mind – other family members used to dividend payouts.

Engagement and Retention

Employees prefer working for companies that treat people with dignity, respect and fairness. An environment where employees feel valued. When employees see, hear or experience negative behaviour or practices misaligned with their principles, their trust and loyalty to the company erode. Hence ethics = higher engagement + retention.

Customer Satisfaction

Would you want to do business with a company you don’t trust? Other customers wouldn’t either.

Companies with high levels of customer satisfaction tend to generate a higher degree of customer loyalty, repeat business and greater market share.  Moreover, businesses that genuinely contribute to their community and maintain good relationships with other businesses tend to be more successful in the long run.

There is a caveat to this. Companies who have corporate social responsibility initiatives but poor business practices are in danger of breeding cynicism and mistrust. This is counter-productive to building brand and customer loyalty.

Focus on Creating Value

A business needs its people to focus on activities that grow the company and create value. Unethical practices are more likely to open a company up to unwanted distractions such as lawsuits. Why would a business engage in activities that detract from creating value?

“Ethical business practices are sound business practices.”

Financial Records

The last two decades have seen a number of cases centred on fraudulent financial reporting. Whilst the effects of misleading financial reporting may boost the company’s stock price in the short-term, there are almost always ill effects in the long run.

Accurate financial records are more than a regulatory requirement. They are key to sound decision-making and long-term success.

Green Practices

I was once told ‘whether you’re chopping trees or hugging trees, people look for returns.”

The fact of the matter is if you don’t keep an eye on your bottom line, the business will be unsustainable. The bottom line is affected by people’s perception, belief and likeability of your company. The internet and social media have provided stakeholders with greater insight into the impact businesses have on our environment and society. Customers seek to do business with companies that reflect their values. Suppliers and investors would be wise to follow suit.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Waiting until a crisis strikes to instil and encourage good behaviours is a poor strategy. It takes time to overhaul embedded systems, beliefs and practices, so businesses are better off setting off on the right foot, rather than trying to course correct when calamity hits.

Genuine errors and unforeseen circumstances do happen. The ability for a business to respond appropriately and speedily speaks volumes in the eyes of stakeholders. When bad news hits, taking prompt and proper action is essential. Delayed decisions fuel negative public opinion, causing a downward spiral in relationships with stakeholders. This is not good practice for any business that needs customers, employees, suppliers and/or investors to thrive.

Counteract Apathy

Some may still argue why change when some are getting away with it. Others may wait for regulatory bodies to force them to clean up their business practices. But the fact of the matter is, we can no longer ignore the impact business has. We can no longer exonerate our actions through corporate social responsibility. We need to challenge the status quo bred under the guise ‘but this is business’. It’s smart to start right – acting responsibly in the first place.

Originally featured in Fresh Business Thinking and updated on 25 April 2018.

Facebook is the latest company to learn the hard way that bad conduct affects stakeholders. The share price has seen a 13.5% drop since the Cambridge Analytica drama. Here are eight reasons why ethics are good for business.

Shareholder Sentiment

Trust and confidence in management affect shareholder sentiment. News related to unethical behaviour negatively impacts this level of confidence. Negative shareholder sentiment does not attract investment.

This is relevant to private companies too, especially family businesses, where reputation and standing of the company impact the family name. Family businesses also have other stakeholders to bear in mind – other family members used to dividend payouts.

Engagement and Retention

Employees prefer working for companies that treat people with dignity, respect and fairness. An environment where employees feel valued. When employees see, hear or experience negative behaviour or practices misaligned with their principles, their trust and loyalty to the company erode. Hence ethics = higher engagement + retention.

Customer Satisfaction

Would you want to do business with a company you don’t trust? Other customers wouldn’t either.

Companies with high levels of customer satisfaction tend to generate a higher degree of customer loyalty, repeat business and greater market share.  Moreover, businesses that genuinely contribute to their community and maintain good relationships with other businesses tend to be more successful in the long run.

There is a caveat to this. Companies who have corporate social responsibility initiatives but poor business practices are in danger of breeding cynicism and mistrust. This is counter-productive to building brand and customer loyalty.

Focus on Creating Value

A business needs its people to focus on activities that grow the company and create value. Unethical practices are more likely to open a company up to unwanted distractions such as lawsuits. Why would a business engage in activities that detract from creating value?

“Ethical business practices are sound business practices.”

Financial Records

The last two decades have seen a number of cases centred on fraudulent financial reporting. Whilst the effects of misleading financial reporting may boost the company’s stock price in the short-term, there are almost always ill effects in the long run.

Accurate financial records are more than a regulatory requirement. They are key to sound decision-making and long-term success.

Green Practices

I was once told ‘whether you’re chopping trees or hugging trees, people look for returns.”

The fact of the matter is if you don’t keep an eye on your bottom line, the business will be unsustainable. The bottom line is affected by people’s perception, belief and likeability of your company. The internet and social media have provided stakeholders with greater insight into the impact businesses have on our environment and society. Customers seek to do business with companies that reflect their values. Suppliers and investors would be wise to follow suit.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Waiting until a crisis strikes to instil and encourage good behaviours is a poor strategy. It takes time to overhaul embedded systems, beliefs and practices, so businesses are better off setting off on the right foot, rather than trying to course correct when calamity hits.

Genuine errors and unforeseen circumstances do happen. The ability for a business to respond appropriately and speedily speaks volumes in the eyes of stakeholders. When bad news hits, taking prompt and proper action is essential. Delayed decisions fuel negative public opinion, causing a downward spiral in relationships with stakeholders. This is not good practice for any business that needs customers, employees, suppliers and/or investors to thrive.

Counteract Apathy

Some may still argue why change when some are getting away with it. Others may wait for regulatory bodies to force them to clean up their business practices. But the fact of the matter is, we can no longer ignore the impact business has. We can no longer exonerate our actions through corporate social responsibility. We need to challenge the status quo bred under the guise ‘but this is business’. It’s smart to start right – acting responsibly in the first place.

Originally featured in Fresh Business Thinking and updated on 25 April 2018.

What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People

What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People

The right people are essential to a company’s success. In our view this is not limited to ‘staff’. Rather, it is the entire ecosystem of value-creating people – founders, teams, mentors, partners and investors. Through our experience, the greatest challenge is not finding the right people. It is finding great companies you want to find great people for. This is what a company needs to attract the right people and create value.

PURPOSE

A company needs to present a compelling purpose and proposition. A purpose candidates can relate to and connect with. Companies whose sole objective is to make profit with no sense of meaningful purpose, will attract a particular breed but not top talent. Purpose doesn’t have to be complicated but it has to real. And the company has got to be committed to it in practice.

PRINCIPLES

People want to ensure their own personal values will not be compromised through their work. Hence companies need to ‘walk the talk’. It is pointless and counterproductive to brandish a set of values if this is not reflected in decision-making and day-to-day business practices. For instance, an investment company that espouses high ideals may attract great people. But if in practice its investment decisions are made solely on the level of return, regardless of impact, it will not keep them.

PEOPLE

People starts with great leadership. People in positions of power may have the title but they may not necessarily be great leaders. Great leaders understand the value others bring. They also have the ability and desire to bring out the best in people. This includes: providing access to tools and resources required to succeed; a conducive environment where people feel they can contribute, where they feel safe to try, make mistakes, learn and grow; where their experience will help them excel and thrive.

People ultimately need to form a team. The team needs to consist of colleagues that resonate and have a balanced mix of different yet complimentary capabilities to get the job done. An optimised team harnesses people dynamics and fosters collaboration, trust and mutual respect. We call this the FIT – Finding Interconnecting Talent.

PERFORMANCE

High ideals are great but for a company to be successful it needs to deliver. Failure to do so will result in poor financial results and the inability to support the employees. There is no point in hiring people if you hinder them in getting the job done. So get clear on the mission and the deliverables. Moreover ensure you have the willingness and appetite to allow people the latitude they need to deliver.

PACKAGES

Companies need to ensure alignment between financial performance, desired behaviours and rewards/recognition. Whilst I would ward off any company from hiring anyone who is interested solely in the financial package, it is important for people to feel they are fairly rewarded for their efforts. Some companies have pay bands, compensation packages linked to a particular rank. Although these may be useful to HR in setting a guideline, but they are often a hindrance to the heads of the business unit who are ultimately held responsible for results. It is far wiser and more effective to view a person in terms of the value they add, adjusting the pay accordingly. So for instance a base (which can fit the bands) with a fair and measurable bonus component. This in effect shifts people away from job titles and focuses them on adding value. Companies also need to ensure the metrics they are using are in alignment with the business’s objectives and principles. Mismatched incentive programmes are a sure way to create conflict, demotivate people and create an atmosphere of resentment.

PRODUCTS

The company needs to produce or provide products and/or services that add value in terms of financial and social returns. For instance, a financial institution that provides project funding for power, water, telecoms and other infrastructure projects, thus enabling the advancement of society and a sound return. Companies also need to ensure they are mindful of the impact their product or service has along its entire lifespan, from sourcing and production to its use and disposal. Mechanisms needs to be in place to identify, eradicate and avoid negative practices.

PARTNERS

Who a company aligns themselves with and how they treat them speaks volumes about them as an organisation and as a group of people. Regardless of an organisation’s success, a level of humility, respect and fairness are essential. Companies that demonstrate arrogance based on their brand, size and supposed standing tend to breed a similar level of arrogance amongst their people. This is not the type of environment people of character opt to work in. Yes they want to work for respected organisations but acting superior is not a great way to earn respect – positive results and a proper manner of doing things are.

PROCESS

The process through which a potential candidate will be taken through is also essential. From interviewing to induction, companies need to ensure the company puts its best foot forward. It also needs to be open and honest about the challenges the company is facing – a reality check if you will.

A process which gets bogged down in HR processes is a sure way to turn off top talent. Talented individuals want to get a handle on the business environment and if they can add value. They need to understand the vision and the task at hand, and will be looking for data points that will enable them to determine if this is the type of company they are best suited for and if they are the right person to take it on.

Companies should ensure they have the ability to understand a candidate’s capabilities as well as their character – what makes them tick. Only in this way will you ensure you have people on board with the right FIT – essential for people to thrive in and add value to your business.

What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People