Tony Loyd

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Tony Loyd gets the award for interesting career path, one marked by continuous change. His journey began in Arkansas as a truck driver. Next, he earned his keep as a janitor. He graduated college in his mid-thirties and quickly charted a course to the senior executive levels of Fortune 500 companies working in numerous organizational development capacities.

So what do you do when you’ve finally made it in the corporate world? You jump overboard from the corporate ship, grab a life ring called “social entrepreneurship,” and start a popular podcast that blossoms into a radio show which then begets a book, due out August 31.

What’s the dent you’re trying to make in the universe?

I want to put more changemakers into the funnel. The problems we’re up against, from climate change to food security, are massive. They demand a massive response. It’s going to take all of us, from individual volunteers in non-profits to corporate social responsibility programs in global for-profit organizations. Every push in the right direction counts. 

What life lessons did you learn from your mother and father?

I inherited my father’s incredible work ethic. From my mother, I learned to balance a kind heart with an indomitable will.

Another lesson my parents taught me was critical thinking. I grew up in Arkansas in the 1960s. Like most children of the 60’s, I grew up with TV Dinners and the evening news. I remember the stark images from Birmingham, Alabama. Bull Conner applied fire hoses and German Shepherds on innocent black folks. Their only crime was walking peacefully downtown.

My parents provided running commentary. My dad described the scene, with language that revealed his racist upbringing. My mother provided a powerful counter narrative in defense of civil rights. Both provided impassioned arguments for their positions. So, I guess you can say that I had a broad, freethinking education. 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

You mean besides a cowboy who went into space? I thought I would grow up to be an author. When I was young, the picture I had of myself as an adult was, that I would look like Dennis the Menace’s father. I saw my future self as lean, wearing horn rimmed glasses and a sweater with patches on the elbows, clutching an unlit pipe between my slightly clenched teeth as I pounded out my novel on a Smith-Corona manual typewriter. 

The only part I got right was that I would eventually write a book. Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs is due out August 31. 

When you were a teenager, you had a near-drowning incident. How did this affect your outlook on life?

I understand that the tiny silver thread that connects our souls to our bodies is fragile. It can break at any time, without warning. This creates a sense of urgency to do all the good I can with the time I have.

It also provides a sense of perspective. When someone criticizes my work, when I accidentally wear navy blue socks with a black suit, when I am running late to a meeting, I’m tempted to fret. But then I think of the overarching imprint of my short life. And, I realize that I’m making these “issues” about me. The purpose of my life is to facilitate the growth of others. What is it to me if I have spinach in my teeth? 

You’ve had an extremely non-traditional career path. How did this benefit your work as you rose to become a senior executive for Fortune 500 companies?

Career paths are rarely predictable. They usually only make sense in hindsight.

I would describe most of my job opportunities as “someone liked me, they were kind to me, and they helped me to reach the next step.” This reminds me to look around to see who else needs a hand up.

Early in my career, I had plenty of hard jobs: janitor, truck driver, factory worker and more. These are honorable trades, and I’m glad I did them. These jobs gave me a unique perspective. They also taught me about the importance of becoming qualified to have other choices. 

For you, what’s the most exciting aspect of the social enterprise movement?

As a corporate executive, I often used the phrase “sustainable, profitable growth.” Yes, we had to grow, but grow while maintaining our profit. And profit can’t just be for the day or even the quarter. If we can’t sustain our profit and growth over time, the business will not last. Social enterprises add another element to this formula. They create sustainable, profitable growth, for good. By using smart business models, they create social good over time.

Traditional companies have an over-sized legal obligation to create shareholder value. That value is often created at the expense of other key stakeholders including the employees, society and the planet upon which we depend. New legal forms of corporations (Benefit Corporations) create the room to navigate this dynamic tension between stakeholders. 

What’s the biggest challenge the social enterprise model faces?

Doing both, running a successful business and making a social impact, is difficult. All businesses must make choices and tradeoffs. As we build enterprises that will last beyond the founders, how do we set companies up with a fixed set of values, but a flexible business model that can change with market conditions?

 I think we also run the risk of diluting the meaning of social enterprises. How do we stay true to the original idea of using business for social good while allowing for a broad definition of social mission and business models? Where are the boundaries? I tend to be very broad in my definition of the term social enterprise, and yet, I squirm a little with some businesses that claim to be doing social good. 

From your interviews with hundreds of social entrepreneurs, are there any commonalities in the advice you can offer aspiring social entrepreneurs?

Funny you should ask. That’s the topic of my new book, Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs.

In each interview on Social Entrepreneur, I ask my guests to provide their best advice for aspiring or early-stage social entrepreneurs. After the first 150 episodes, I went into the recording of each interview and transcribed their advice. I put these nuggets of advice into a spreadsheet. On each row, I recorded keywords from the advice. After a while, a pattern began to emerge. Here are the ten key pieces of advice given by leading social entrepreneurs:

  1. Work it good. The journey ahead is difficult and full of perils. Here’s your wake-up call.
  2. Purpose drives passion. You need a big “Why” to sustain you.
  3. Engage with empathy. You can only serve a need you deeply understand.
  4. Build something that lasts. Create sustainable, profitable growth, for good.
  5. Shift the system. The problems are large and systemic. Scale to the system level.
  6. Find your funding. Attract the capital to introduce or scale your impact.
  7. Persist and pivot. Maintain the vision, but remember that it doesn’t have to look a certain way.
  8. Build your tribe. Surround yourself with people who resonate with your vision.
  9. Put on your own oxygen mask first. Practice self-care.
  10. Just start. Ready? Go!

Are any of the social entrepreneurs you’ve interviewed on the verge of a mainstream breakout?

That’s such a good question. I tend to look at sectors that are making progress. And, I relate those sectors to the Sustainable Development Goals.

For example, companies that go after affordable and clean energy (SDG7) seem to be having the most commercial success. Examples include Barefoot Power, d.light, Devergy, EarthSpark International, GreenChar, Oorja, Solstice Initiative and SteamaCo.

Companies that are creating good health and well-being (SDG 3) are emerging as leaders. Some examples include BasicNeeds, BinaryBridge, EarthEnable, GirlTrek, KoeKoe Tech, KultureCity, Noora Health, OpenAQ, Perk Health, SMS Maama Telemed Medical Services, VisionSpring, and Watsi.

Companies that create decent work and economic growth (SGD 8) are making great strides. Examples include Avani Society, Drishtee, Du'Anyam, Empower Projects, Laboratoria, Lakheni, Old Skool Café, Prosperity Candle, Shea Radiance, Spark MicroGrants, and Twin Cities Rise.

I also see that women-led companies are doing quite well in this space. When I think of key stories I’ve heard over the last couple of years, I almost always think of stories that were told by women. 

What role does kindness play in the competitive world of business?

I have a fundamental belief that there are only two forces in the universe: love and fear. In fact, I believe there is only love and lack of love. Cold only exists as an absence of heat. Darkness only exists as an absence of light. Fear only exists as an absence of love. Perfect love drives out fear.

All other emotions and states of being are based on love and fear. Everything I value as a human and as a businessperson has to do with love. Generosity, gratitude, and, yes, kindness, are all based in love. Everything else is fear. And in the end, love wins. 

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

I had organic blueberries, yogurt and a homemade grain-free granola made with seeds and nuts. Yummy! 

Who inspires you?

My wife, Lynn. She is everything I admire in a human being. She is kind, generous, smart, strong, funny, capable, and attractive.

She suffers from a chronic illness, and yet, she is eternally optimistic and hopeful. I cannot imagine the kind of grit it takes to stay positive in the face of her physical challenges.

If they ever invent the human cloning machine, I’m pushing her to the front of the line. The world needs more humans like Lynn. 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’m working on being more disciplined. I’m a bit obsessive/compulsive. I tend to become fixated on one thing until there is the next thing.

First, I’m sure Malaria is the most important issue in the world. Then it’s global warming. Next, I want to start a blog. Then I know podcasting is the right route.

I have to be careful that I don’t switch routes too often. Focus = Follow One Course Until Success.

What are you reading right now?

I read a ton of business books and books on personal development. I tend to keep several books going. (See answer to the previous question about obsessive/compulsive). I’m currently reading Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett. I recently read Grit by Angela Duckworth; Will it Fly from Pat Flynn; and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

Listening to?

I listen to a ton of podcasts. My favorite is How I Built This. It’s what I want my podcast to be when it grows up.  Jackie Biederman has a brand new podcast called Changemaker. It is crazy-good. I love several podcasts produced by Gimlet including Startup, Reply All, and Crimetown. So many good podcasts. So little time. 

Rock, paper, or scissors?

Paper, as long as it is sustainably harvested and recycled. It’s the only renewable resource on the list.  

What’s one question you’d like to ask yourself – and answer?

Question: Since you can be any kind of person, why not be a kind person? 

Answer: OK, I think I will. 

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