Rebels, misfits and innovators: 50over50 – Russ Stoddard

We think it’s time to recognise and celebrate the true talent in our industry, the creatives, technologists, founders and leaders that are really driving our industry and shaping society, who just happen to be over 50. 50over50 is a series of interviews, shortly to become a podcast, with our most influential and inspiring industry leaders aged 50 and over.  

Russ Stoddard is the president and founder of Oliver Russell, a social impact branding agency based in Boise, Idaho, USA. Russ is also a co-founder of Humanista, a hybrid consultancy and social impact lab. He’s the author of the 2017 Amazon business bestseller, Rise Up – How to Build a Socially Conscious Business, and was instrumental in passing benefit corporation legislation in the state of Idaho in 2015.

What is the biggest mistake companies are making in their attitude to age today?

Companies generally don’t get age beyond customer demographic breakouts on a spreadsheet, especially when it comes to their workers.

Companies certainly don’t understand younger generations and they throw away older ones. They’re missing out on making the most of their primary competitive resource, which is their people.

They need to put the same effort into understanding their employees that they do into their customers.

What one thing are you proudest of in your career?

We were a critical contributor to the creation of the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial here in Boise, Idaho. A time-sensitive fundraising campaign for it had stalled—we jumped in and made a significant contribution that propelled the campaign to success, and we did it when we were least financially able. We’re still around decades later—and so is this amazing memorial. It’s the best investment I ever made.

What creative heights are you now capable of that you wouldn’t have been able to achieve at the early or mid-point of your career?

While the world increasingly speeds up, I think I can make it slow down and see more effective solutions than I could earlier in my career when I was rushing to find them. Make the game a bit slower and the solutions often reveal themselves to you.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your role today?

Being the founder of a Certified B Corporation that uses business to intentionally create social and environmental impact. Along with this, I invest a lot of my time providing advice and help to young social entrepreneurs.

Oh, and I’m still incubating new businesses, having started one last year, Humanista, with two more on the way to launch this year.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?

The power of developing long-term relationships with no intentional economic payoff in mind or return expected beyond fellowship and trust.

Funny, when you approach them this way and offer your help and ear and friendship, these relationships often do pay off for your business, sometimes many years down the road.

What advice would you give your 25-year old self?

Take it easy. Don’t push so hard. Above all, breathe—and start practicing yoga now rather than waiting until you’re in your 40s.

What are you most excited about in your industry over the next 10 years?

I’m very excited about the growing international community of for-profit businesses who use their influence and resources to purposely create positive and lasting social and environmental impact for our world.

I’m seeing many entrepreneurs in their 40s and 50s making this career switch, bringing their wisdom and wallop to the movement.

And of course, younger workers are all over it as it’s a primary driver of their personal and professional lives!

What is your biggest regret about the industry today?

Our industry is still too short-term oriented, primarily around making as much money in as little time as possible, and too often views people as a disposable resource. It’s sad—and it’s still a problem.

I wish it had a longer-term perspective. Reminds me of an unattributed quote I saw the other day. “Sustainability doesn’t mean fewer profits today. It means profits forever.” That’s the mind-set I’d like to see in our industry.

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