You’re never too small to make a big difference

A few weeks ago, I was asked to pen a few thoughts on the ‘Road to Recovery’, an article for the Sunday Independent Ireland newspaper. I am posting my thoughts first in my blog to get your comments. Writing an article for a newspaper is surely different to my ramblings on a blog site. What made Tom ask me to write about such a topic? Was it because he was familiar about my entrepreneurial journey to date? Maybe he liked my Lean Startup Initiative at ThousandSeeds? Maybe he read my blog, www.raomal.com where I talk about my own struggle with cancer? I did not ask him why, instead hastily replied that I would love to write about the Road to Recovery. This is called ‘Jumping into the Deep End without knowing how to swim’.

The article, if accepted will be published in one of the best selling Sunday newspapers in the country. The audience is people just like you and me except that I am a complete stranger to them. I guess this means that I will have to tone it down from my usual ramblings in my blog which is more directed at people who know me.

Thank you for your comments, the article was published in the Irish Independent on Sunday, July 22, 2012.

You’re never too small to make a big difference

“More diversity on our boards coupled with a real sense of entrepreneurial flair and positivity will put Ireland back on the road to recovery sooner than you think” – Raomal Perera

The Road to Recovery whether it is a personal crisis or a country’s crisis has many common threads to it. Here, I am musing on my own personal journey and the lessons I believe I can take and apply to many crises around me; Pump up the positives and Celebrate success, Solicit superb support, continuously course-correct and take small steps.

I cannot write about recovery without somehow bringing in my own life experiences. I am no different to many of you reading this, we have all seen lows and we have had to find a way to recover from the many messes we create for ourselves.

Saturday April 9, 2011 is one of those days that will remain fresh in my mind for many years to come. Our eldest. Lesley-Ann rang to say that she has just got engaged and we all celebrated the event. I had dreamt of the day of walking Lesley-Ann down the aisle and it looked like this day will not be too far away. Little did we realise that two days later my world was going to be turned upside down.

The following Monday I went for what I thought was going to be a routine blood test. That afternoon I got a call from my GP asking me to immediately go to the emergency department at St. Vincent’s Hospital. My white blood cell count was off the scale. I was diagnosed with having Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML). The challenge during this ‘low’ was trying to remain very positive and looking for a solution to get me out of the mess.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results” – Albert Einstein

My treatment was both intensive and invasive. I underwent a bone marrow transplant in December, which is a complete reset of my system. An intensive dose of chemotherapy killed off all my white blood cells and my brother’s stem cells were transplanted to take over my system. That first day was the most difficult day to handle. It was disbelief, shock, horror and fear all hitting you like a ‘perfect storm’.

I was in tears most of the night not fully able to comprehend what on earth is happening to me. I was very fortunate that almost immediately I was surrounded by support from family and friends. The rest of the journey was relatively easy for me, as I was able to accept the situation and work towards a solution.

Our country too will need to look at making some fundamental changes in how we do business on our road to recovery.

I am delighted to see the recent Enterprise Ireland initiative to encourage female entrepreneurship.

However, this should not end here. We need to do more. Let us actively bring in diversity into our boards. Time for a changing of the guard! Let us actively recruit females to our boards. I work with the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards and in 2009 the European winners were two ladies from Iceland; Halla Tómasdóttir & Kristin Pétursdóttir who built a financial services company based on ‘what they call’ feminine values.

To me, it sounded more like common sense, but while the rest of the Icelandic banking infrastructure collapsed, their company continued to grow. The key message here is bring in ‘diversity’ into our Corporate and Public boards. Diversity is not just bringing in Women but also looking at some of the ‘New Irish’, the immigrants.

I recently read an article in the Washington Post about the secret to Silicon Valley’s enduring success and attributes it to the ‘diversity’ or in the words of the article ‘creating a valley out of the nation of immigrants’.

It’s time to bring in ‘diversity’ into our boards – not keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

“The hardest thing to do is smile when you are ill, in pain or depressed, but this NO-COST remedy is a necessary first half-step if you are in the ‘Road to Recovery” – Allen Klein

Did you know that ESOF (European Science Open Forum) 2012 was held in Dublin last week? Take a look at these pictures from ESOF in the Irish Times website. There were over 5000 delegates at the event with 5 Nobel laureates and over 70 nationalities in attendance. I got an opportunity to be involved in the Science-2-Business stream at ESOF.

It was Europe’s largest Science gathering and it was truly an amazing conference. Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN spoke about finding the Higgs Boson. CERN is the birth place of the world wide web! Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr, NASA Administrator spoke about the new era of space exploration. Craig Venter, founder and chairperson of the Venter Institute spoke about reading and writing the genetic code.

These are just a few of the scientists in Dublin last week. This should have been headline news covered in the front pages in our daily newspapers and by RTE (TV News).

We must celebrate success.  It about getting us mere mortals, outside of the conference centre in Dublin, to experience some of the buzz created at ESOF. I saw very little coverage after the event.

If you take a straw poll, talking to people in the street, they are likely to say that they are sick of hearing about the doom and gloom and have switched off from listening to the news. If this is true, why do we fail to highlight good news stories?

My recovery from a ‘critical illness’ was thanks to an excellent team of staff from the cleaners, caterers, nurses and doctors at St. James Hospital and to the constant support and encouragement from my family and friends. Likewise, our country’s recovery will come from within and from our diaspora; “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”

It has been a roller coaster ride for me as I start to rebuild my immunity. Like a baby, I must start my immunisation programme all over again.

“If we can’t feed one hundred people, then just feed one” – Mother Teresa

We can extend this to ask, can we make a difference for one person, to get him (her) back on his (her) feet on the road to recovery?

I work mainly with Entrepreneurs and SMEs. Small firms play a significant role in Ireland’s economy. Almost 200,000 small firms involve over 655,000 people in their operations. That’s about half of all people engaged in businesses in Ireland. Our perception of ‘big is beautiful’ makes us susceptible to think that we need to focus on multinationals in order to create mass employment.

Yes, this will give us some temporary relief for the unemployment crisis. However studies have shown that long term sustainable employment is created by Small Firms.

There is a vibrant startup culture in Dublin with a number of ‘Accelerators’ to help young startups. NDRC LaunchPad was Ireland’s first digital accelerator and over 80 entrepreneurs have passed through their programs to date.

The Telefonica-O2’s Wayra initiative is the latest ‘Accelerator’ to join a growing list of Accelerators now supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ireland.

Wayra together with a ThousandSeeds will be hosting the ‘This week in Startups’ profiling the top three startups in Dublin on the popular Web TV channel in the US.

We should celebrate our success in creating this vibrant culture of entrepreneurship in Ireland and ask ourselves, what more can we do for them?

In four weeks’ time, I’ll get to live my dream, walking Lesley-Ann down the aisle.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito” – the Dalai Lama

Raomal Perera is a director, a motivational speaker, an entrepreneur and adjunct professor of entrepreneurial studies at INSEAD. Visit www.thousandseeds.com.

7 thoughts on “You’re never too small to make a big difference”

  1. Any chance you can advise the government or no scrap that – they wouldn’t listen to advice, we could do with you in there.

    I think its a brilliant idea you writing the article. For me I think you should continue writing the way you have been as ask anyone – your language is perfect and you grab our attentions and emotions.

    So good to hear you again. Bet great excitment in the household with the coming celebrations.

    Love Gillian, Roy Katy & Conor xxxx

  2. Hi Raomal, I think you have written the artical already, just get a good editor to take your blog and edit it down into what they term a compelling artical ( a expertise and skill in itself). However add an introduction and focus it on why a recovery is important for you, from your family side and also the lives you touch, especially the effect on Start-Ups and motivation to companies in IRl and abroad.
    And I love the Sister Theresa quote as a reminder never to underestimate the value and impact you can deliver to just one, or ten or a hundred people, when Roamal, you share your energy and experience with them.

  3. My first impression was that the article was too short. It just ended while I was just getting into the mood of it. I guess that was an indication of how interesting the read was!

    Re-reading couple of times and one notices the skillful manner the 3 messages: be positive, diversity and focus on Entrepreneurs were effectively delivered in just few short paragraphs. Never easy getting a single message (let alone 3!) effectively in 1000 words to a diverse audience.

    I was going to requesting you to write individual posts elaborating these messages further but then I started reading the rest of the blog …… This is amazing! How come I didn’t come across this before ?

    Keep the writing going. I’m sure you will have many readers and you can help many.

  4. This article was very well received, with a number of tweets, facebook messages, emails and phone calls. I will add some of them as comments here.

    Good afternoon Raomal,

    I have now read your article in the Sunday Independent and really enjoyed it, full of positiveness.

    However, it is very hard to shake the old school out of its fortress position as they are always afraid of losing the privileges they have appropriated for themselves. It is a bit like school prefects who when they first start school complain about the behaviour of those prefects, but when they arrive in that position themselves, they want to exercise authority over the younger ones just as their predecessors did.

    Delighted to hear that you are well on the road to recovery now and well able for the walk down the aisle in a few weeks time. I am sure that it will be a wonderful occasion.

    Hope all goes exactly as you would want for the wedding and that you have a wonderful day.

  5. Hi Raomal,

    Really enjoyed your article in the Indo yesterday, in particular coming from an industry which has had more than its share of doom and gloom recently
    .
    I find people continually ask me if there is any sight of a pick up, in truth there is little evidence of any in the short term, however in recent time I sense more people just want to get on with it or at least get on with something and many people are re-inventing themselves (with varying degrees of success!) but still it is encouraging that people are looking forward despite the lack of available funding which is making it very difficult in some instances for people to get started.

    We all know that the construction industry (well the forces behind it actually), went out of control but equally it has now contracted too much taking with it not just contractors but many SMEs involved in inventive material, product design, engineering and associated IT services resulting in a serious brain drain from these companies and the industry as a whole.

    The industry needs to re-balance itself to re-provide a market for all of these businesses and they will respond and create employment in the process. In fairness notwithstanding the madness of it all the Celtic Tiger demonstrated that the industry could and did respond to real pressure and many amazing things were achieved

    I think we need to focus more on good stuff and see how it can be a basis of a more sustainable industry going forward which will provide employment and stop the brain drain !

    Loved the article and the personal thread through it,

    Most importantly enjoy being the father of the bride !

    Donal

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