5 Important Lessons From an Eco-preneur

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By Jessica Thiefels

If you want to be in a business with a focus on the environment, you want to get advice from Ted Rollins. He’s the successful eco-preneur who started Campus Crest with $14,000 and grew it to become the second largest student-housing platform in the world, with a focus on the triple bottom line of environmental, social and economics.

He took it public on the New York Stock Exchange and recently worked with a group to buy it back and take it private once again. It grew from that $14,000 investment into a company with $2.3 billion in assets and 46,000 beds in 65 markets around the U.S. and Canada

He’s recognized by the Inc. 500 as the founder of the second fastest-growing business in his division. He’s also a regular nominee and finalist for Ernst and Young entrepreneur of the year.

He’s now on the eve of his latest venture, Valeo Groupe, a multinational vertically integrated niche-housing platform.

He’s sharing the top five most valuable business lessons he’s learned over the course of his career thus far in hopes that other ecopreneurs will be be successful as well. The lessons seem simple, but can have a significant impact on your success.

Find balance throughout your business

“Balancing economic returns with environmental and social stewardship is something that requires thoughtful leadership,” Rollins says. It’s this kind of focus that brings about the success you set out to see, both in your business and the environment.

“In our business, we had taken an ongoing entity [Campus Crest] and then began to integrate these components. In doing so it really challenged our team’s creativity and thoughtfulness, but we kept our focus on this with milestones and eventually were successful.”

Invest in another eco-preneur … or a few

Your business can’t stand on your shoulders alone — at least not forever. Take the time to invest in the right people, who believe in what you’re trying to accomplish and share the same passion and drive about what you are trying to accomplish.

Don’t just invest in them by hiring them on and training them. Involve them in your decision-making, says Rollins. “Good team members working together will make better decisions.” Make sure that you have a good group with complimentary skill sets.

Not sure where to start? Rollins suggests checking out “Smart Tribes” by Christine Comaford.

Be persistent — especially when you’re ready to give up

Being an eco-preneur and finding solutions for an environmental problem, isn’t easy. Thanks to lawmakers and regulations, you’ll get push back every step of the way, but Rollins urges: “Keep on pushing until you achieve your goal even when you are at the end of your rope. Especially when you are at the end of your rope.”

The cautionary tale of the old gold miner that stopped digging on his claim 1 inch from the gold is one to hold onto.

Be thoughtful

It’s nice to be thoughtful in terms of your employees, what you offer and what your company culture provides. But, Rollins is referring to your plan. Make sure you take the proper amount of time to plan and follow a process.

“Once you’ve taken time to create it… follow it!,” urges Rollins. He continues, “It’s that simple. If you Plan your work, and work your plan, then your plan will work.”

Dream big — seriously

It’s something your parents always told you to do as a child, but you may scoff at it now as an adult. But now is not the time to forget about dreaming big, especially if you want to make the environment a better place for all of us. “If you can’t dream it, you never will do it,” says Rollins.

Invest in the people who believe in the world that you believe in, create a thoughtful plan and execute it, and most importantly, don’t stop dreaming. If it’s worked for Ted Rollins, it just might work for you.

Image credit: Flickr/Andrew Malone

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a lifestyle blogger and the editor of Whooo’s Reading and Carpe Daily. She is also the owner of her own small fitness business, Honest Body Fitness, and is using her experience from writing, editing and marketing to become a successful entrepreneur. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.

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