B1G1 Chairman, Paul Dunn’s journey from a Serial Entrepreneur to Social Enterprise in Entrepreneur Country Magazine UK November 2012 issue. Read more about it below…
AS the famous business magnate and philanthropist Warren Buffett once said: “Making money is far easier than giving it away effectively.” It wasn’t a glib remark, but a reference to the scale of the task of tackling problems like global poverty.
However, one man who might challenge that statement is Paul Dunn, international business speaker, marketing guru, and now chairman of Buy1Give1, a social enterprise designed with the specific goal of making it easier for businesses, especially start ups and SMEs to give something back.
It is in stark contrast to his own earlier career, which over the course of 20 years, saw him build a succession of $20 million-plus businesses from scratch.
He says: “When you look back at all the excesses that have been going on you have to ask yourself, when did we get into this very incorrect thing planted in our genes that says being able to have everything we want, without having to think about giving anything back, will make us happy for the rest of our life?”
What brought about Dunn’s own transition from corporate advocate to champion of charitable giving is a tale in itself.
A hugely charistmatic figure, Paul’s Australian accent belies the fact the he is indeed a native Brit, born and raised in Dover in Kent where his father worked as a coal miner. His career began in the engineering industry, and his first job was in the research labs of Belling & Lee, designing antennae.
In the early 1970s at the age of 21, he was headed Down Under for promotion, but ended up being head hunted by Hewlett Packard as one of the ten-man team behind the company’s Australian start up. “It was a very unique culture; the place to be, and all very exciting for a young engineer, but it was in this environment that I realised that my real passion wasn’t for things, it was for people. My role increasingly involved talking to customers, and I found I was enjoying that a lot more than the design process,” he said.
It was at a marketing seminar that he attended in Brisbane in 1980 that Paul has one of what would be many eureka moments.
He said: “I was listening to this guy speaking and I had this weird experience, what I would describe as a time tunnel moment, when I suddenly realised that this was what I should be doing; spreading the word about how to build and sell things.”
The following year Dunn quit HP to launch The Results Corporation, a consultancy that worked with business owners to improve their practices and their profits. A decade later it had grown to a $20 million company with 23,000 business clients, mainly SMEs.
A decade later he launched Results Accountants’ Systems (RAS) aimed at teaching accountants to leverage their skills to create far better businesses for their clients. By 1994 the company had offices in Europe and the USA, and by 2000, it was working with over 3500 practices and their clients worldwide, while its founder was delivering over 200 programmes every year.
Needing to take some time out from his gruelling schedule, Paul ‘retired’, sold all his business interests, and moved to France where he bought 18th century farmhouse in Provence, to focus on writing books, including Firm of the Future, still regarded as the standard text for professional service firms, and his speaking engagements.
Then in 2006, everything changed. While travelling through India, during a visit to Bangalore, he was introduced to a local pastor, a man who had been caught up in the 2004 Tsunami.
“He’d been teaching at a Sunday school on one of the nearby islands the day the tsunami struck. He managed to rescue his little class of 12 children and escape to the high ground, where they stood and watched their homes and families being swept away. Now 15 months on he was trying to help these children rebuild their lives, and he was trying to raise funds to do it,” he explained. Deeply moved by what he was hearing, Dunn wasted no time in providing the $3,500 that was required. And six weeks later, the pastor emailed the photographs of the children’s home that it has paid for. Over the front door was a sign that read ‘Paul Dunn Home’.
“That was the moment when I got it,” says Dunn. “Whereas I’d always thought business was about profit, it suddenly became very clear that there is something else and that what really matters is not what you make, but what you give back.”
And it was that life changing experience that helped sow the seeds of the idea for B1G1, the organisation that along with founder Masami Sato, he helped to build and that he chairs today. It works on a simple premise; every time a customer purchases a particular product or service, the business makes a donation to hundreds of designated global causes, ranging from basic life provisions, to education and conservation, crucially with 100% of the donations going to the chosen projects. Since its launch in 2007, over 4 million giving transactions have been made, and according to Dunn, it bodes well for the future.
He said: “We are seeing a marked increase in business giving, and that is really encouraging, because it means that entrepreneurs and business owners are ‘getting it’ too. They are recognising that social responsibility or whatever you want to call it, it is an important part of their strategy that will not only impact positively on the lives of others around the world, but also on their own businesses, because increasingly, it is how customers, employees and suppliers are expecting and demanding businesses to be.” For more info, visit www.b1g1.com
By Alison Coleman