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The Development Exponent: A Leadership Perspective

Bruce Holoubek

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The Winding Road To Greater Purpose, with Max Duckworth

We’ve all heard it said that the shortest path between two points is a straight line. That’s undoubtedly true, but what we often fail to realize is that the BEST path is not always the most direct or straight path. Sometimes it’s the bends and turns in the path that brings the rich experience and learning that we need the most for carrying out our life’s work. My guest, Max Duckworth has taken his own winding path on his way to filling the important role he does now. It’s one that’s taken him from particle physics to environmental policy, to energy commodity trading, to impact investing. Max is now an impact investor and co-founder of Masa Partners, which in his words, attempts to invest in companies that make a positive impact on the world while making a profit at the same time. Putting together the varied lessons life has to teach us as we walk our winding paths enables each of us to move into opportunities we didn’t even know existed when we started the journey, and often, the world is better for it. Join me to explore the idea on this episode. Impact investing from a people perspective Impact investing is focused on making financial investments in companies that are taking on serious problems for the betterment of the world and mankind. It aims to be profitable through investment in companies that are making a difference — not just making money. Max says that his approach to choosing the companies his investment group will fund is focused around four “P”s: Problem — People — Product and Profit, in that order. It’s the people part of that progression that was especially intriguing to me, so I asked Max to elaborate on that piece. He says that he spends a significant amount of time assessing the founders and team of the company he’s considering an investment with. In his mind, he’s asking, “Is the group capable from a business standpoint and from an execution standpoint?” In other words, are they the kind of people who have both the skill and drive to get their product made and marketed well?  While it’s admittedly a subjective call, some of the things that go into answering those questions have to do with whether or not the team members have a personal connection to the mission. If they do, through life experience or history with the problem, they are more likely to be all in and will see the project through, and thus, create a profitable outcome. This assessment step is something savvy leaders could adapt and tweak it to help them create mutually meaningful work engagements for their teams. Hiring and retaining people who are personally connected to the projects you’re working on could dramatically impact the meaning your team members derive from their work and fuel your organization’s forward momentum over the long haul. When COVID hit, impact companies took the lead in caring for their people Though small and struggling to use their limited resources well, many early-stage companies that Max works with made what I’d consider the right choice when the COVID pandemic hit.  These mostly young leaders, by and large, considered the well-being and overall happiness of their employees as one of the essentials they must maintain during the pandemic. In my mind, this is an example of leadership done right. Perhaps it’s the focus on “impact” these founders already possess that enables them to see human capital as the primary consideration for the longevity of their companies. No matter the reason, I couldn’t help but say, “Well done” when I heard this news. Hiring is one of the most significant growth pains of early-stage companies As early-stage companies start to gain traction it can seem like a thousand things require attention all at the same time. One of the most crucial of the puzzle pieces that have to be sorted is hiring. Finding and hiring the right people

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