09 Aug Inspiration: a source of energy, a fuel for passion. Here are some of the Business Leaders that have inspired me over the years.
Inspiration is the cradle of business, it inspires you to create, to build, to improve. Not only this, it guides many on how to live life. There are many people that have inspired me to work hard, be a better boss, and a better father and they come from all walks of life. There are a few pioneers in the world of business that have particularly stood out to me and have certainly made me think of how I would like my life to play out. So much so, that I feel they are worth a mention.
Andrew Carnegie, inspiration in Philanthropy
“To spend the first third of one’s life getting all the education one can, to spend the next third making all the money one can and to spend the last third giving it all away for worthwhile causes”.
Carnegie’s words have rung around in my head endlessly, not only do they remind you that we can’t take earthly goods with us, but ultimately, all we leave behind is the people that we have impacted. But it also had me questioning if a model so defined and almost rigid could not be advanced upon. Do we really need to work and then give away our rewards, or could we maybe work whilst helping worthwhile causes?
This is where my inspiration for supporting businesses that have a strong social cohesion built into them. If you can build a bank, build a bank that drags people out of poverty. If you are investing in technology, spend time on technology that will change the way the world operates, technologies such as blockchain. Imagine a search engine where the users were also the given a share of the profits, or a Facebook where the data was owned by the users and they were rewarded ultimately for being the source of that income.
Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland in 1835 to Scottish/American parents. He went on to become one of the most famous, and most loved, industrialists and large-scale philanthropists of the time and eventually gave away 90% of his entire fortune.
The proceeds funded all kinds of foundations, education institutions and charities and he was particularly keen on the very wealthy paying their fair share. Carnegie made this public in 1889 when he wrote an article called Wealth in the North American Review. Today this is known as The Gospel of Wealth and many in the field of philanthropy consider this manifesto for giving its foundational document. Carnegie thought that wealth should be used to make other people’s lives better during the giver’s lifetime. One of the most famous quotes from is: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced”.
The latter half of his life was completely devoted to using his wealth to help other people. With his fortune he founded: Carnegie Concert Hall in New York, The Peace Palace in the Hague, Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS) in Washington, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which consists of four museums.
Beyond these remarkable achievements, he also funded libraries and swimming baths in his native Dunfermline, regularly gave money to hospitals and research centres, publications. In total, Carnegie funded around 3,000 public libraries in 46 US states, but also in New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, Britain, Australia, Canada, Fiji and the West Indies. He part funded the establishment of the University of Birmingham in 1899, and donated millions of dollars to all kinds of foundations, trusts and research projects.
An avid writer, Carnegie published three books on travel, befriended all kinds of world leaders, offered $20 million to the Philippines towards the end of the Spanish/American war for them to buy their independence from the US, joined the American Anti-Imperialist League in 1898 along with the likes of Mark Twain and ex-presidents Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland.
As we can see, if you are looking for inspiration and guidance on how ‘to spend it’ Carnegie, rather than the FT supplement, is probably a better starting point.
Sir Siegmund Warburg, inspiration in Relationships and Duty
One of the most prominent people in the formation and development of merchant banking, Sir Siegmund Warburg was born in Germany in 1902. In 1946, he founded SG Warburg & Co in London, along with Henry Grunfeld. This firm became one of the most important British investment banks and Sir Siegmund remained at the helm as MD until the 1970s. SG Warburg & Co was acquired by the Swiss Bank Corporation in 1995, creating SBC Warburg. SBC went on to merge with UBS AG and rebranded. Knighted in 1966, he died in London in 1982.
For me, Siegmund Warburg was a pioneer, a workaholic and a truly inspiring man. His work in founding the Eurobond market is rightly lauded. He also cared about more than simply making money. Whilst I believe that hard work is admirable, i also very much push for an equal balance and moderation. Weekends, time away from ‘thinking and spending time with friends and family, all help for better outcomes. As a leader, I support all my staff in trying to find that balance. Fresh minds are result of rest, not excessive hours.
Sir Siegmund always said that the most important influence in his life came from his mother’s values. He said that she instilled in him that “happiness in life consists in fulfilment of duties and not desires”.
This basic idealism is part of why I find Sir Siegmund so inspiring. He focused on building relationships and mentored many proteges throughout the years. In fact, relationships were so important to him in his work that he said that most of his “substantial transactions were the result of cultivation of contacts over many years.”
More than anything else, Sr Siegmund put people, passion and gut feeling first. Profits would follow. Today’s banking world is marked out by algorithms and AI, but Sir Siegmund was all about gut feeling, humanity and first impressions.
A world away from any soulless banking system of today, he was all about the people. He cared about people – who they were, what they loved and their personality. He ran on first impressions and was unafraid to make decisions about money based on them. This relationship based approach is something I hold dear to me today.
Muhammad Yunus, inspiration for Social Innovators
“I personally believe that financial inclusion is more than a fundamental right – it is a moral obligation. I am pleased to be in the fortunate position to champion this” N’Gunu Tiny 2019.
With a focus on financial inclusion, no discussion on inspiration would be complete without mentioning Professor Yunus who is particularly inspirational thanks to his implementation of microfinancing and how this helps people in developing countries access funding and a financial sector that was previously unavailable to them.
Muhammad Yunus was born in Bangladesh in 1940. He is a leading economist, banker and civil society leader whose main contribution to betterment of mankind likes in his pioneering and development of the concepts of microfinance and microcredit.
This was so world-changing that Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the foundation of the Grameen Bank in 1976. Grameen is a community development bank that makes small loans (microcredit) to people with little or no resources with no need for collateral. He has also received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 from President Obama, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.
In 2011, he co-founded the impact investment fund Yunus Social Business (YSB), which is headquartered in Berlin. Its mission is to take the social business model he pioneered at the Yunus Centre in Bangladesh and take it to many more countries throughout the developing world.
His goal, through YSB, is to from and develop self-sustaining companies that focus on the reduction of poverty. The fund has supported more than 2,000 social business entrepreneurs, positively impacted the lives of more than 13 million people and created more than 74,000 higher incomes.
Yunus is unafraid to state his mission clearly, that is to harness and utilise business to put an end to global poverty. This is a big ambition, but he is achieving it step by step. By funding social enterprises through impact investment throughout the developing world, sustainable changes can be made.
There is nothing more important facing the world today than eliminating poverty and creating a sustainable future. At Emerald Group, we know this and every decision we make is geared towards an overarching focus on improving the future for all. Our specific aim is to ensure that the millions of unbanked across Africa have access to financial services in a fair and accessible way.
Inspiration, as I stated earlier, is the lifeblood of business that allows us to marry our business goals with our passions and in so doing this, we are able to live a life where every day we implement some kind of change. We have a motto at my Families Private office; ‘wealth should be measured not by the numbers in a bank account but by the number of lives we change for the better’. Taking inspiration from many people, not only those mentioned above, has been a real driving force for me as I hope it will be for you.