Lessons from a Fortune 500 CEO

Not too long ago, a member of our team had the chance to sit in on a small talk with the CEO of Owens Corning — a company that’s been on the Fortune 500 ever since the list’s inception. He took away three key things from that meeting — so read what follows closely because it comes from the mind of someone who knows business.

1. Newer isn’t always better

Imagine your business has been going along successfully for a decade or two, when all of a sudden someone new rushes into the market. Their product is different than yours and they keep on saying their product is superior. A temptation would be to radically innovate your product to try to keep up with the competition. But sometimes, that doesn’t make sense. Owens Corning for example trusted their science; they knew their scientists had determined their method of insulation was the best. As such, they proceeded to radically test their opposition’s product. Their findings were clear — their own product won out. It’s important to not fall into the whims of the market — even though Owens Corning lost some market share in the short run, in the long run they ended up as the winners.

2. Stick to what you know

A big temptation as your business grows is to diversify into a whole variety of different areas in your field. While that seems appealing, and seems like it could make you money, it’s often not the best choice. Owens Corning has managed to stay on the Fortune 500, a list which changes with increasing frequency, by sticking to a very small and defined niche. Diversifying into different areas within your field often means you lose focus on your key products and become complacent allowing others to take your spot as the niche leader. Stretching yourself too far also means that each one of your product areas will not be as good as they could be if you gave them more attention. The takeaway here is simple: stick to what you’re good at and make it the best product in that area in the world.

3. Make an effort to impact the world

One of the most inspiring things we noticed about Owens Corning was the impact they are having on sustainability. Most private corporations today often ignore the environment and the people they impact in hopes of having a greater bottom line. The people who see this problem and still do not act attempt to justify their actions by saying that if they were to act sustainably their competition would destroy them. Owens Corning acts as evidence to the contrary. They have enacted policies on making their operations more sustainable and are well on the way to being a net-zero energy user. Sustainability is possible, you just have to act. Here at Rafiki we want to make the world a better place through business and we need all of you on board to do that.