Monday, August 26, 2013

Crossing the Threshold

I was asked to contribute a guest blog for Jesse Lyn Stoner's Leadership Blog The Value of Vision series.  Jesse asked each of us whether we thought Vision was still relevant today.  Here are my thoughts... 
Last month reSET opened its new social enterprise incubator and co-working space.  At the Open House, seeing the space full of people, energy, and ideas I realized we had crossed the threshold from vision to reality.

Fifteen years ago it was just a thought.   The Walker Group, was strong and growing, but something about “business as usual” was starting to bother me. I began to see that a single minded focus on the bottom line was taking us down a dark and dangerous road, environmentally, economically, and spiritually, and I started wondering - what would a business look like that wasn’t totally focused on profits. Why not have a business that declared itself up front to be about making a positive difference in the world.   At first the vision was fuzzy, it was more of a dream, but I kept asking the question, and it became a compass setting putting me on the path I needed to be on and kept me walking in the right direction.  And as I walked it transformed me and a clearer vision emerged.

Ten years ago, as a result of this vision I decided to transform Walker into a social enterprise. We increased transparencies and participative governance, decreased the potential for egregious discrepancies in pay and restructured the company so distributed profits would be split, with one third going to employees, one third to the community, and one third to shareholders.

Six years ago we formalized our structure legally and put protections in place to ensure that Walker will remain a social enterprise even after I am no longer the majority common shareholder.

Five years ago I started the Social Enterprise Trust, a nonprofit with a goal of promoting social enterprise.  I donated preferred shares in my technology company to ensure that its social enterprise structure is protected in perpetuity.

Three years ago we held a conference for over 200 people to learn about social enterprise.   We talked about making Connecticut a hub of social enterprise.  Over 70 people came to a follow-up meeting to figure out how to make that happen.  We decided that one important component would be an incubator to provide space and services to new social entrepreneurs.

Last year with funding from the State of Connecticut, Connecticut Innovations, The Walker Group, Boehringer Ingelheim and many others we were able to turn that vision into a reality.

On June 27th we celebrated the officially opening of the reSET Social Enterprise Incubator and co-working space.

Without that initial “question turned dream turned compass turned vision” none of this would have come to pass.  

Today more than ever, with seismic changes happening ever more frequently all around us, vision is critical.  My own personal experience has taught me that vision allows us to rest in the uncertainty of chaos and move forward in a meaningful way.  Vision allows us to pivot, dodge, and even to retreat, knowing that all of these actions can ultimately lead to progress if we know where we’re headed.  Without vision, detours and distractions become destiny.