SPEECHES

Messages Tailored For Your Company or Event

Douglas talks about (what else) the weather. But he uses weather as a metaphor to talk about disruptive storms of change impacting every sector, and the implications for your business. Whether it’s sharing his journey from climate skeptic to accepting the science, or sharing the trials and successes of his entrepreneurial ride, Douglas inspires audiences with a message of curiosity, experimentation and continuous reinvention. The forecast calls for change.

“Reinvent Your Business Model, Before Someone Does It For You”

“Gales of Disruption. Storm-Proof your Company – and Your Life”

I’ve started 8 companies in Minnesota since the mid-80s, the vast majority of them weather-related. Stick to your passion. Do what you know and love, right? In each of these businesses I drew up a business plan, with what I thought was a sustainable model. In reality not ONE of these companies turned out like I thought it would, through a combination of new competitors, changes in the business landscape, new inventions and things none of us could foresee. I had to adapt, change the model (on the fly) to remain competitive and live to fight another day.

Of all the business attributes that increase the odds of success – the most important, in my humble estimation, is flexibility. Yes, creativity, and an empowered work force, clear-cut goals and incentives are all critical, but the one factor that has emerged above all others in my entrepreneurial walk is the ability to turn on a dime, to adapt, in real-time, to the unforeseen and unpredictable.

The most successful companies today are motivated by more than money and shareholder return. They have a collective vision, a passion for creating great products and services, and serving their customer base. That’s a given. But the business world is littered with the road-kill of great business plans and exuberant founders. What’s the secret sauce? I don’t pretend to know, but in my experience the one factor that has made all the difference is flexibility; the willingness to shift business models literally overnight, reinventing our business to be in tune with rapidly shifting market forces beyond our control.

Who, in your company, is charged with reinvention, with reimagining what your business will look like 10-20 years from now. Focusing on short-term metrics can be fatal. Who is looking out over the horizon, anticipating change, pushing the boundaries of what is possible? Do you have a skunk works program charged with cannibalizing your own business? If you don’t do it – a competitor will. The reward goes to the nimble, the business owner willing to transform and even eliminate existing lines to meet the needs of future customers.

Change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same. How can you embrace uncertainty and create an environment where colleagues aren’t content with status quo? Intel’s Andy Grove put it best. “Only the paranoid survive.” Translate that paranoia into action by re-imagining your business, and building in the flexibility necessary to survive and thrive, long-term.

I’ll describe my harrowing plunge into the business world, and how passion isn’t enough. Building a culture of change and transformation into your business model isn’t optional. It’s mission-critical.

“Climate Change: Natural Cycle or Troubling Trend?”

"Climate Change: Natural Cycle or Troubling Trend?"

It’s good to be skeptical. Scientists are skeptical, and highly competitive by nature. I was skeptical of climate change in the 1980s, but by the 1990s I was seeing the effects of a warmer, wetter atmosphere on day-to-day weather. The concept of “normal weather” had shifted, morphed, with more extreme weather events; drier droughts, wetter storms and more historic flooding events. I began to review peer reviewed climate research and, slowly, over time, reached the conclusion that climate theory had become a meteorological reality.

Climate change is flavoring all weather now, and it has profound implications for our future. I’m an optimist by nature, and I’m a businessman – there are market solutions that will help us cope with a warmer, more volatile climate. But first we need to get past denial. I trace the evolution of my discoveries, and the growing realization that it’s no longer your grandfather’s weather pattern anymore. What can we do? How do we wean ourselves off fossil fuels without hurting economic growth? There is no silver bullet with climate change – but there’s plenty of silver buckshot: thousands of ideas and innovations that will smooth the transition to non-polluting, cleaner energy alternatives.