Junxion Principal & Managing Director Mike Rowlands is heard regularly on Vancouver’s Roundhouse Radio, in conversations about socially responsible business. Visit this page to listen online for insights and ideas sparked by what’s happening in the news, and to find links to learn more.
May 24, 2016: Social Change Institute, Making Space, Managing Passion, Objectivity, Learning from the Best
“If you’re too close to your work, too wound up in it, it is difficult to stay objective, and to do the right thing for your cause.”
The annual Social Change Institute conference runs June 15 – 19, 2016 at Hollyhock, Canada’s leadership learning centre—and it’s designed to help social change leaders build the skills, make the connections, and build their leadership capacity—so they can retain the healthy objectivity to ‘do the right thing for their cause.’
Junxion’s Mike Rowlands, a volunteer Director at Hollyhock, and SCI Producer Theo Lamb, chatted with Roundhouse Radio’s Janice & Cory to talk about what makes SCI so valuable.
Along with her fellow conference producers, Theo helps ‘hold the space’ for attendees to look objectively at the work they do, to understand what’s working well, learn from their peers what might work better, and then come back into their work reinvigorated and ready to apply new ideas.
Social change leaders tend to sacrifice themselves to their passion for their cause. Running a marathon at the pace of a sprinter is impossible—personally unsustainable. SCI gives attendees the time, space and support to understand the right work to be done at the right moment to further their cause.
This year, SCI will welcome Alida Kinnie Starr, a critically acclaimed Aboriginal Canadian hip hop, music and spoken word artist who is working on the forefront of some of Canada’s most pressing social change issues; Gwaai Edenshaw is a Haida artist who has been carving for over 20 years; and Sadhu Johnstone, Vancouver’s City Manager, to talk about the ‘Greenest City’ strategy.
Junxion is a proud sponsor of Social Change Institute, and will welcome attendees to a beachfront oyster barbeque during the conference. A few spaces are still open for social change leaders to attend this year. Apply here.
April 28, 2016: Workplace Prima Donnas, Organizational Culture, Brand Values, Space for Courageous Conversations
How do we build brands that make the world better? Ought we to start by building workplaces where people work more effectively together? And what happens when a ‘prima donna’ comes to work?
We talk about ways to approach and engage workplace bullies and the not uncommon employee that feels they’ve earned the space to coast a little at work. We discuss ways that we can intervene person-to-person, empathize to engage, and—most effectively—design an organizational culture the delivers a consistent, values-driven experience for staff. This is a vital part of building an authentic brand.
If brands are built on a foundation of values, then their walls are the principles that carry those values throughout the culture. And those are traceable through observation of behaviours in the workplace. Leaders—and that can be anyone in the organization—can coach and support the behaviours that the culture desires.
We also talk about the ‘muck’ of outmoded values showing up in the workplace—and how to address them. Simple as well as structural tips to redress challenges at work, and even outside the workplace.
March 15, 2016: Workplace Mindfulness, Starting Courageous Conversations with Colleagues
For too long, the grand metaphor of business has been corporation as machine—with people being mere cogs. But people thrive on connections and relationships, and they’re more successful when those relationships are honest, open, and mutually supportive. Ultimately, companies are really more like communities. Successful leaders are recognizing that to build a great company, they must set the conditions for great relationships. And to do that, one answer is increasingly the implementation of mindfulness programs in the workplace.
We talk about the emergence of mindfulness training, and its growth to become a $1 billion industry. We talk about critics’ concerns that workplace mindfulness is a perversion of a spiritual practice into a productivity tool. And we talk about the counterpoint—that it’s both good for us and in demand by employees.
Scientific results suggest that mindfulness-based meditation practices improve our cognitive powers. Mindfulness densifies the gray matter in our brain, improving learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. An hour of yoga, for example, reduces stress levels by a third, and cuts health care costs by an average of $2,000 per year.
Add to that increases in self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and improvements in our ability to understand and engage one another, and mindfulness also correlates with talents that help people advance in their careers.
February 16, 2016: The Space Between What Happens in Community and What Happens in the Boardroom, Toxic Workplaces, Perspectives of the Generations
Mike joined Roundhouse’s great new afternoon hosts Janice and Cory for a lively conversation about how to solve common problems of workplace culture. We started by talking about “time thieves”—including the weird and wonderful story of Spanish bureaucrat Joaquin Garcia, who reportedly skipped work for six years! Shifting behaviours in workplaces often isn’t sufficient; workplace culture often needs repair. Enjoyable workplaces foster collegiality, engagement between peers, and other factors that encourage positive workplace behaviours. It’s better to skip the pool tables and foosball tables, and focus on making the work inherently rewarding. Perhaps by pursuing a purpose beyond profit—something that contributes to community and inspires team energy and effort.
If everyone’s aligned around a grander purpose—something bigger than the organization that has redeeming value in community for for the environment—then that shared purpose can make it easier to rally a team. Leaders may still need to step in when things do go awry with team cohesion or organizational behaviour. And the norms and standards of organizational culture, leadership and even generational differences of worldview must all be considered if management aims to engage their teams and achieve results.
January 26, 2016: Demystifying the Rock Star Status of Entrepreneurialism: Financial Risk, Burnout & Secrets to the Well-Lived Life
Freedom, flexibility and a driving passion have inspired and fuelled the success of many an entrepreneur. But behind the sexiness of owning one’s own business, lie several far less alluring realities: financial risk, overwork, relationship difficulties, and risks to mental health. We talk about building a business that serves our lives, rather than slipping into a life that’s all about business.
Starting a business can be a nerve-wracking financial juggling act. We talk about the challenge of scrounging together enough capital to get up and running, hopefully generating some traction in the market, and ultimately proving the value of our idea. If we’re lucky, a financial institution will match our funds; even so, chances are a second mortgage will be the great symbol of the entrepreneurial burden of risk.
We explore the alternative to this ‘startup methodology’—the tried and true ‘hobby business.’ Grow unhurriedly over time, this ‘slow and steady wins the race’ approach relies on the ‘day job’ for income while the new venture proves its market-readiness. Another approach that’s often rejected by first time entrepreneurs is to take on a co-founder—someone with complementary skills, experience, and perhaps even the funds to help a new venture hit the market running.
No matter which approach an entrepreneur chooses to take, overwork and burnout are also insidious entrepreneurial challenges. With global time zones and devices galore, it’s just too easy to be working all the time. Studies show that overwork results in a poor choice of priorities and a decreased capacity to do our best work, while burnout makes us feel emotionally and physically exhausted, disinterested, and depressed, and can even cause long term brain and heart problems. Not to mention that recovering can take a month of entrepreneurs don’t have! In reality, if overtime is a norm, it’s actually one sign of a structurally flawed organization. The moral of the story? Aim for 40 hours per week, and don’t go over 60. And design your business to work within those constraints. After all, the business is supposed to serve the entrepreneur—not the other way around!
Finally, we chat about the truth behind having to sacrifice family or friends or health in favour of fortune, and what a balanced entrepreneurial home life might look like. Hint: Self-awareness, team work and open communication tend to show up more often in healthy, successful entrepreneurs.
January 19, 2016: Arts, Business & Civic Vitality: Vancouver Ventures Collaborate to Support PuSH International Performing Arts Festival
On the first day of the 2016 edition of the annual PuSH Performing Arts Festival, Roundhouse host Emelia Symington Fedy and Junxion’s Mike Rowlands were joined by PuSH’s Development Director, Jocelyn Macdougall. Junxion is one of 10 enterprises that are joining forces to support Leftovers, a show that PuSH is presenting January 26 – 30 at the York Theatre. Each venture is providing $1,000 of sponsorship support, for a total of $10,000, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC).After seeing the show on the 27th, Macdougall and Rowlands will reconvene the entrepreneurs, along with representatives of the VEC and the broader performing arts community in the city for a dialogue on engaging more businesses in arts and cultural events in the city.
They talked about the growing recognition among socially responsible business leaders that to support a community is to support cultural activities. In any great city, arts groups play a vital role in connection across generations, ethnic groups, economic strata, and even business sectors. The very work of the arts is to unite through inspiration, and to ask the hard questions that businesses, non-profits, and government groups can be ill-equipped to ask.
Watch Our Ideas for a summary of the dialogue, and more on this promising new approach to convening support for always under-funded arts and cultural events.
January 12, 2016: Fetishizing Entrepreneurship, Local Economics, ‘What’s Eating Silicon Valley?’ Social Venture Institute, and Risk vs. Reward
Are we turning entrepreneurship into a fetish—something we celebrate as “glamorous and easy?” When founders of massive success stories like Google, Facebook, Tesla and others are the ones that dominate the pages of business sections and magazines, it’s easy to miss the thousands of other brave entrepreneurs that launch microenterprises (employing 1-4 people) and small businesses (5-100 employees), of which more than a million exist in Canada. As media attention gets focused on the minute percentage of businesses (< 0.5%) that go through “exponential growth” culminating in the seeming entrepreneurial holy grail of the IPO, we’re missing out on the essential value of wholly different types of enterprise.
Lifestyle enterprises feel more like hobbies that have turned into full-time employment: independent carpenters or jewellers like Vancouver’s incredibly talented Kate Barrazuol or Kevin Hume, establish businesses to create a livelihood surrounded by their craft. They’re less about ‘scale’ than they are about depth of commitment to art, passion and most importantly to service to local communities.
In Canada, more than 100,000 businesses are started every year, and the vast majority never grow beyond 20 employees. On average, these smaller enterprises pay more per employee, and that money stays in local economies. Rather than flowing into distant shareholders’ pockets, it gets re-invested through spending in local economies, where it circulates more widely.
In this week’s conversation, we also talked about Andrew Yang’s recent piece, What’s Eating Silicon Valley? He critiques the massive allocations of investment funds in young recruits pockets, the lack of gender and other diversity in the tech sector—a recognized problem that publications, including Wired Magazine, are working to publicize. Like Vancouver, San Francisco is struggling to deal with the challenges of big inflows of new residents, and similar lifts in real estate values that are making it prohibitive for those caught up in the Valley’s tech entrepreneur community.
We also talked about the dark side of this fetishization of entrepreneurship for individual business founders and leaders. When did it become implicit that running a small business isn’t good enough—that a steady, stable, community-contributing enterprise is somehow less a success than the IPO-bound tech giant? When we shift our focus from growth for its own sake, toward a focus on relationship and the quality of the work, then the day-to-day is inherently more rewarding. It’s similar to ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ If we can stop comparing ourselves to others, whose situations are naturally different than our own, then it’s easier to find ways to be happy. Similarly, we can infuse this in our enterprises: We don’t need to keep up with competitors; we simply need to focus on looking after our customers and clients.
Where do we learn skills and perspectives like this? I give credit to the inimitable Social Venture Institute – Hollyhock. This annual conference convenes over 125 social entrepreneurs for five days of learning, networking, and skill-building. The 21st annual SVI takes place this year September 14 – 18.
January 5, 2016: Economic Inclusion, ‘The Space Between’ Sectors, New Year Resolutions for Entrepreneurs
As property tax assessments are hitting mailboxes across British Columbia, particularly in Vancouver, where house values have increased as much as 25% or more in the past year, many homeowners are feeling stretched. It’s just one symptom of the challenges inherent as capitalism continues to concentrate more wealth with the ‘haves’ and leaving the ‘have-notes’ to try playing catch-up. Are we running into the end of capitalism as a ‘winner takes all’ game? We picked up on the themes of a long-read Guardian op-ed that posits we’re collectively moving into a post-capitalist era. What can be learned if we equalize societal respect for the public, social, and private sectors?
We also talked this week about new year resolutions that entrepreneurs can make—simple changes to bolster their effectiveness. Reflecting on David Whyte’s Three Marriages, I rejected the notion of ‘work / life balance’ in favour of more holistic integration of the things that drive and engage us. We talked about making time management far easier by deleting the todo list. And we talked about the value of a faux sabbatical—one of a number of tips for entrepreneurs in this great Inc. Magazine article.
December 15, 2015: Paris Agreement, Vancouver’s Greenest City Plan, ClimateSmart and Cross-Sectoral Collaboration
During the week after the historic COP21 climate conference, and the unanimous endorsement of the Paris Agreement, we talk about the turning point at which we now stand—and the hard work that lies ahead for governments, the social sector, businesses and people. In the face of a complex problem like climate change, collaboration among many and diverse stakeholders is the key to unlocking solutions. Platforms like the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan are the basis for these kinds of multi-party solutions. And local businesses like ClimateSmart and Bullfrog Power, both of which have been Junxion clients, are helping their peers act strategically, responsibly and quickly on the most pressing issue humanity has ever faced.
December 8, 2015: Philanthropy, Collaboration, Materiality Analyses, Facebook’s Giving, and Alternate Business Structures
Companies like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream have for decades used their business as a vehicle for driving attention to issues that matter in the communities where they do business. By building expertise and focusing their capacity on addressing the root causes of social problems, Ben & Jerry’s continues to deliver deep and enduring value in communities. But corporate social responsibility often begins with philanthropy—the first rung on the ladder of engagement in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Philanthropy doesn’t have to be in the vein of the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds: Small gifts to groups like Open Media and Check Your Head (two charities featured earlier in the day on Roundhouse) are easy to give for many small businesses. In fact, choosing a charity partner of a similar size to your business is a key factor in forging a strong, effective philanthropic relationship.
Moving beyond philanthropy, environmental sustainability is likely the group of corporate activities most closely understood as a part of CSR. All companies have some degree of social and environmental footprint. Understanding and quantifying that impact is the essence of materiality analysis, which is itself the first step in effective corporate social responsibility strategy and planning. For Junxion’s detailed guide to CSR, follow this link.
Lastly, we touched on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that he would give away 99% of his wealth during his lifetime. His decision to move his equity into a holding company—effectively avoiding capital gains tax—is viewed as controversial, and has sparked a healthy online discussion about the morality of significant wealth-holders’ influence on social sector trends and even policy.
November 25, 2015: Social Activism in Corporate Culture, Sustainable Supply Chains, Millennial Engagement, Working with Royalty, Startup and Growth
Increasingly, people are committing their work and their businesses to deliver social impact and environmental sustainability, viewing their companies as vehicles for positive change. They’re using their supply chains to foster communities’ development, and improve environmental performance. New, younger generations that are moving into management roles are insistent on uniting their sense of purpose with their work—and their demands are accelerating this movement toward responsible business. We’re entering “a no BS era!”
We talked as well about Junxion’s work with Sentabale, Prince Harry’s charity. Their work in Lesotho, one of the countries most impacted by the AIDS pandemic, focuses on child-led households.
We also talked about Junxion’s history, including our expansion to London, UK, the merger that took us to New Delhi India, and the lessons learned through the ups and downs along the way.
Lastely, we talked about some of the organizations I’m involved with: Hollyhock, where I’m a volunteer Director; the annual Social Venture Institute, of which I’m an Executive Producer; Social Venture Network for which I’m an Ambassador; RADIUS Ventures, where I’m an Entrepreneur in Residence; and husband and dad in a great family that means “everything.”