By Lou Rubin

The Business of Health. Lessons from Esther Dyson and Wellville.Can Idealism and Profit CoExist?

crday1How often are you conflicted in business when putting profit before principle?  It takes enormous rationalization of conscience and emotional energy to ignore decisions that harm the world and people in the name of profitability. This is especially true when we talk about the “business” of health.

Good health is good business and good for business. Healthy employees are happier and more productive. The cost of chronic and (mostly preventable) conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are well documented and out of control.

And it’s irrefutable that people who are alive use more goods and services than those dead.

How can your business be morally responsible to good health and become more profitable?

Esther Dyson and her Wellville initiative (http://www.wellville.net)  typify smart thinking in this area. The premise of Wellville is for its five US communities to cultivate health rather than rely on expensive, remedial care to recapture it when it’s too late.  How? Through everything the local environment has to offer. That includes the food supply, the built environment, access to pre-natal care and pre-K education, health coaches for everyone (not just the sick), and the like.

Esther summed up the problem: “The motivation was sheer frustration at the stupidity of a system— food, environment, spending priorities, personal efforts at healthy behavior undermined by culture, marketing and human nature—that causes so much avoidable ill health.”

So she took it upon herself to create a new approach.

But Esther has studied economics as well as human nature; she’s looking for a business model that can sustain these changes by producing return on investment as well as health outcomes. And that requires “accountability and long term thinking,” not just goodwill.  How many businesses do that?

Does your business do that?

Having our businesses be responsible to good health, the environment and the planet while taking action to change behaviors is beautiful, morally correct and profitable.

It’s a true virtuous cycle of business decisions that bring health and profits by:

– Acknowledging and proclaiming “It’s all about health”– both physical and mental.

– Staying active and being fit as a way of keeping healthy.

– Having a body in tip-top form to breath clean air, drink clean water, and eat well.

– Getting around on your own power – walking, scootering, cycling.

– Improving your mental state through fitness leading to being more  productive and creative and solving problems faster and with less anxiety.

– Improving our planet (less fossil fuel used).

– Decreasing the rates of chronic and preventable diseases so medical research dollars are reallocated to other longevity issues.

This can go on and on but I think you get the idea.

Is it possible to adhere to the corporate governance principles of protecting and increasing shareholder value and still make decisions that help the greater good – – especially in health?


And you can start by just riding your bicycle everywhere you need to be. That can help too.


“The blessing of the MOOTS” or How to make your brand a religious icon.

Blessing of the MOOTS

That’s my 91 year old mother with my new bicycle. I call it “The Blessing of the MOOTS”. I rode it over to her house (19miles northwest as the crow flies) on its maiden voyage to get it blessed.

It’s a titanium super bike. I hold it in awe.  It’s a MOOTS after all.  A brand of bicycle that has developed a cult like following and held in extreme esteem by its core user base.

A MOOTS is more than a bike. It’s a religion. MOOTS riders (and there are not that many because of its limited production) secretly pray to their machines and become entranced easily when thinking about their ride. They think nothing of dropping hundreds on a few tiny titanium nuts and bolts because……. well just because it is a MOOTS.

MOOTS is based in Colorado Springs and they have done a brilliant job of  managing their brand in the most authentic way: uncompromising devotion to quality, engineering, and design integrity. There is no marketing to speak of and the fancy website is mostly all business.

Great brands and companies are  like religion replete with acolytes and preachers. Word-of-mouth is what sells the product.  Functional differences fade away because emotion is what makes the sale.

Hence the blessing. You don’t mess around with a religious object.

Do your core users bless your company, product or brand? Sanctify it and yes, worship it?
If not maybe the brand needs some burnishing.

Meanwhile, help make cycling safer in NYC by supporting me on my first really long ride:



It’ll be on my new, blessed, MOOTS Vamoots. Can I get a Hallelujah?

How does riding a bicycle 250 miles from NYC to DC help improve business and save the free world?



It’s a stretch goal and establishing stretch goals helps you grow.

Without goals people, like businesses, tend to drift from one event or crisis to another.

Having a goal that is tangible as well as a stretch is a way of giving context to chaos, meaning to mush, and focus to action.  Those are all good things in life and especially in business.

Have you set your goals? Are they BIG? Really BIG?

The outcome is already envisioned.

The most successful visionaries can see, feel and taste the outcome of what they want to accomplish. You internalize your vision. “What will I feel like when I cross the finish line?”

Making that feeling real helps you push through the months of training.

In commerce we are often working on projects that are undefined and vague but envisioning the outcome keeps us working even when things seem completely undefined.

Failure is not an option.
The fact that EVERYONE KNOWS about my ride means that, short of being hit by a bus, I have to finish. How embarrassing otherwise?

And so failure is not allowed.

This mental state means you push through no matter what. Bring that same attitude to an innovation challenge or any business challenge and you get it done.

Doing good while doing well.
A life well-lived is one with a virtuous cycle (no pun): we know what we do, how we do it and why we do it.

It is the “why” that many in commerce struggle with.

The why must have a higher purpose – – something that gives back and makes the world better. When we have no “why” we usually are just going through the motions.

My “why” was about being green; I think everyone should ride a bicycle if they have the opportunity to use it as a replacement for a fossil fuel trip. The world would be better. Your body would be better. Your mind would be clearer. You get the picture.

Being in a dream state fosters creative ideas.

Dreaming, whether you are awake or asleep, is often where we find our best inspiration and solve tough problems.

For me, the act of bicycling produces a heady dream-like state of mind. I begin to think about my toughest problems and often solve them on my bicycle. I carry a pen to scribble and a smartphone to tap. Innovation requires a dream state. Bicycling and innovation are made for each other.

Believe in the power to accomplish anything.

Something changes in us when we accomplish great things. We understand what it is like to win, to achieve, and to conquer our fears and anxieties.

Professional athletes know this feeling well. And business people know it as well.

Success brings more success. Once you know what it feels like you want it again and again and you begin to know what to do to get there.

You stop checking the distance covered or average speed or how long it’s taking. Instead you “enjoy the journey” and live in the moment all while achieving a tough goal.

In the achievement of our life goals, time is the only caliper we have to measure success. The distance covered or goals achieved are simply the OUTGROWTH of how we chose to use the precious time we have.

Happy cycling.

Oh, and don’t forget to support me: http://support.climateride.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=4334

Four simple steps to greatness in 2016


Four simple steps to greatness in 2016. Here is the executive summary:

1.Choose carefully the specific companies or customers with whom you want to do business.

2. Individuals who toil tirelessly until the effort is as perfect as it can be spell the difference between success and mediocrity.

3. You can never underestimate the roles that creativity and human instinct play in commerce.

4. Have the patience to be diligent, focus on what’s important and who’s important with respect, care and love.

It is enormously difficult to create a sustainable business model that continually reinvents itself through progressive thinking and innovative product and service development. Achievement of that goal defines continuity success regardless the size of your business.

Successful business development creates OUTSIZED results that last generations and allows for reinvestment in the future to insure more growth.

Here are some of the myths of growing your business that you need to blow up.

Myth number one: “New business is a numbers game.”
 Sending a barrage of proprietary content-focused emails or having a room of eager supplicants  dial all day may seem like valid activity but what are the results?  The yield ratio of this approach is suspect and the true costs are usually underestimated.

An alternate approach (and myth buster) is to carefully choose the specific companies or customers you want to do business with. Choose people you actually enjoy working with, products about which you have some authentic understanding, services you feel passionate about and the ones you believe offer you the greatest opportunity for strategic growth.

Do you want your business to be fun and a natural outgrowth of what you love to do?  Or do you want to grind away in pain all day?

It’s not how many. It’s which ones.

Myth number two: “The smartest people always win”.
Intelligence is not a precursor to success. Not even close. Just look at how many intelligent people we have in Congress. Being smart does not mean you will be successful.

If you are at a decent company, being smart is the assumed price of entry for you and your colleagues. It’s the individuals who toil tirelessly until the effort is as perfect as it can be that spell the difference between success and mediocrity.

The real key to success is combining smarts with commitment. That’s smarts, not smartest. Ask any athlete which team member they value the most and it will most likely be the one with the greatest heart for commitment. Commitment to winning and commitment to working and commitment to others.

Are you surrounding yourself with those types of people?

Number three: “Big data will not save your sorry marketing ass.”
We now have enough transactional data to accurately predict what color flowers your children will pick for your graveside. Seriously, the amount of predictive transactional data that exists not to mention what is coming is staggering. We are close to a “Minority Report” type of environment where someone will know what you are going to buy before you buy it.

So what? Has anyone noticed that overall conversion rates are still abysmally low – – in single digit territory?  Why is that?

It’s because you can never underestimate the roles that creativity and human instinct play in commerce. People will line up to buy things that they hunger for, literally and figuratively as evidenced by cronuts and IPhones. I have seen teenagers line up around the block for a new sneaker model. Is that rational?

Is your product or service speaking to that hunger, that instinct, that creative juice that runs with success?

If not, what are you doing to provide it? Big data cannot create a completely new idea. You have to do that as a human being. One with imagination and the ability to create things that are not there yet.

Number four: “Think Big.”
Actually this isn’t a myth. It’s the truth. Big really is better. Big means you can do more stuff, see more of the world, meet more interesting people and forge all new paths. Nothing wrong with big.

The myth is that you can become big fast. There are no shortcuts to proper growth. Have the patience to be diligent, focus on what’s important and who’s important with respect, care and love.

Take the time out to visualize what you want and then execute the plan to get there. That’s big. And done correctly you will be able to realize big dreams. No myth.

In summary:
You have picked the right target prospects for the most noble reasons, surrounded yourself with smart and committed people, learned the difference between Hadoop and Hortonworks, and practiced the Zenful art of being still to allow your big plans to materialize. What now?



Can or Should Board of Directors Influence Corporate Culture?


The Power of Culture

Why is it that brilliant management teams and their board of directors’ don’t maximize corporate culture in order to build business and attract and retain the best talent?

Great leaders understand the power of culture and human connection and usually have an instinct on what to do to achieve greatness. They inspire as they lead. But sometimes even great leadership can’t influence cultural uptake.

An organization’s culture can be difficult for insiders to define, much less evaluate. Often managers, even senior managers, are so immersed in the culture they cannot objectively assess its strengths and weaknesses…and even if a manager is aware of weaknesses, it can be politically risky to confront them with peers.

That’s where boards of directors have an advantage. While still technically “insiders,” their distance from day-to-day operations enables them to better see the effects culture may be having on the organization. The boards’ dilemma is often not in determining what needs to happen when it comes to culture change, but how to make it happen without usurping the authority and accountability that rightly belongs to the organization’s leadership team. Often that dilemma is best addressed with the help of skilled outside consultants.

Management teams and boards can engage professionals to help leverage culture for maximum success in the same way one might bring on Accenture or McKinsey to address an strategic operational issue.

Cultural alignment, goal setting, communications and trust are areas that require expertise. Those “soft measures” are an asset, and similar to every other asset on a balance sheet, culture can be managed professionally for maximum return.

Trust, like love, cannot be legislated in any organization or group. So engaging an outside professional to help identify and align goals, create transparency and bring the values of deep-seated respect and honesty can help. It also sends a signal that about what’s important.

It’s a different strategic exercise than a cost reduction or choosing a sector in which to compete. But at the end of the day, the culture of an organization is what will set it apart and create a legacy. It will also lead to its long-term financial success.

So shouldn’t an exemplary board lead the charge to shape the culture? Even if for the board alone? In speaking about a BOD’s overall relationship with management, venerable board director, Richard Goeglein once commented, “Boards like to keep fingers in but noses out”, and that is certainly the case when advising management regarding operating policy. But influencing culture is one area where more board involvement could pay handsomely for all parties.

Stick to the kniting

We often find that principals of service firms are successful because of their unique talent and not because they are good sales people.

Sales is a talent all its own. And in this era of overload, using a “dialer” or junior person to try and get senior level meetings with a strategic agenda usually does not work. The situations are just too complex for most inexperienced sales people to get traction with the correct people.

Wouldn’t it be better to use a senior, experienced sales executive to open doors and build relationships? Yes. But a full time senior person can cost too much.

That is why considering an outsourced business development approach that has the focus, experience and relationships without the FTE cost is an alternative that makes sense.