How capitalism can evolve

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This week, One Young World Ambassador community in London attended a talk by Paul Lindley, CEO of Ella’s Kitchen and one of UK’s most well known social entrepreneurs. Paul is one of those people you hear about about that gave up a safe, yet potentially exciting, career path to start his own business, Ella’s Kitchen, and re-mortgaged his home in the process. In 2013, he sold that business, and remained as CEO. Currently, he has started two new ventures: Paddy’s Bathroom and The Key is E.

Speaking with our Ambassadors, alongside representatives from start-ups based at Wayra UK (our hosts for the evening), Paul shared his story and how his thoughts on how business can shape the future.

During the talk, his effusive enthusiasm was infectious and his delivery and reasoning were reassuring. He clearly sees that enterprise can evolve beyond zero-sum exchanges. One Young World believes that the global challenges we face today can only be resolved if the private sector, government and civil society work together, and Paul’s example supports this vision.

Ella’s Kitchen was founded in 2006, with the mission to improve children’s health, and is now the #1 baby food brand by market share in the UK and over 50% of its revenue comes from abroad.

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It’s all about value(s).

“Value” and “values” were words that Paul frequently used during his presentation. Paul asserted that values are valuable to a business leader because they give your company focus – it is possible for a project team to make informed decisions based off a set of values. They create a simple and clear mission for your people and ultimately give them a common language to speak from, based in the either the UK office or elsewhere.

Furthermore, the company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are value based! Management within the businesses that Paul oversees are incentivised on whether the employee base believes that business is delivering against its values.

He also discussed the importance of value when he decided to sell his business – in these three ways:

1.) Will the buyer uphold the established values of the company?
2.) What value is the company worth financially? (And when is the right time to sell?)
3.) What added value will the buyer bring to the business?  (For an example, one benefit was access to new distribution opportunities.)

Additionally, Paul carries out an “interview period”, which lasts until the end of a new employees’ probation period. At the end of this period, he will sit down with the new employee and have a two-way conversation about whether expectations have been met by both parties. This was an approach I hadn’t heard before.

Those that remain in the business are empowered by a sense of collective ownership and responsibility.

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Thus, Paul is still a businessman. He started his professional life as a chartered accountant after all. However, his form of enlightened capitalism is completely logical. He deploys reformed capitalist methodology to meet the dual objectives of social-good and commercial return – showing that capitalism can indeed evolve.

We are lucky to have him as a Counsellor at One Young World. He has set forth a model for many of to follow in the future.

- Charlie Oliver, Coordinating Ambassador for OYWLondon

Charlie and Carlota Calvo are organising a European caucus on Friday, 1 July in Madrid. All One Young World Ambassadors (and their guests) are welcome to attend. For more information, follow him on Twitter.