The Ten Ps to Look for in People

May 1, 2021 by
The Ten Ps to Look for in People, a FountainBlue Blog

When you’re looking to grow your network and team, you want to set a high bar and get the right people on-board. But how do you know who’s right for you for now and for the long-term? Below are ten qualities to look for when evaluating someone’s fit: 

  1. Passionate – why do anything half-heartedly? Look for someone who’s passionate about the mission and vision and can bring energy and excitement to day-to-day activities.
  2. Patient – Everything takes time. A patient person understands this and knows when to wait, and when to accelerate.
  3. People-Focused – Work with individuals who put people first. Choose people who are supportive and kind to others, even when things are not quite going as planned.
  4. Positive – Attitude is everything. A positive outlook helps build resilience and perseverance. This fortitude and positivity is contagious and positively impacts others, which is especially important when circumstances are challenging.
  5. Pragmatic – A practical person is more likely to get things done and more likely to be creative in seeking solutions. Pick someone who is pragmatic and practical for your team.
  6. Professional – A professional person knows when to focus on the business objectives and communicates in a way which is not-personal, while also enabling and empowering others. 
  7. Principled – It’s much less confusing to communicate and connect with principled leaders as they are generally aligned with values – in thoughts, words and actions.
  8. Proactive – A proactive leader takes initiative even when it’s not their job, even when it means much more work. Erring on the side of the action also improves productivity.
  9. Productive – A productive leader gets things done – no matter what’s asked of them, no matter the constraints, timelines or challenges. Generally, productive leaders are also versatile, agile and excel at multitasking.
  10. Purpose-Driven – A purpose-driven leader passionately works to deliver to their values, connects with teams, delivers to specifications, and, in general, moves the needle forward for both the business and the cause.

May you find the right people for your team – people you who will work and grow with you.

Note that all ten listed qualities start with a ‘P’ and that the list is alphabetized. It’s up to YOU to decide the weighting of each quality – what the must-haves are, the nice-to-haves, and the OK-to-skip, because nobody can have it all, right?

Managing Up

April 19, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s April 16 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Managing Up’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

ManagingUpApril16Panel.png

We were fortunate to have an experienced and passionate panel share their stories and best practices for Managing Up. Below is a summary of their thoughts.


Proactively Manage Up, as well as you would manage down and sideways

  • Manage up in a way which benefits all, ensuring that there’s alignment on objectives, clarity on progress, agreement on resources and timelines.
  • Listen to the voice of the customer and relay the needs of the customer to the executives as you manage up. 
  • Listen to the voices of your team, and translate their message to the executives as you manage up.
  • Look not just at the surface problems and challenges – look also at the root cause of the problem and address that root cause and its implications.
  • Speak in a language executives respect… Articulate the value and risk/benefits of a proposal and the return-on-investment/ implications and impact for a cause you’re supporting.

Be Strategic and Fact-Based

  • Opinions do matter, but they matter more if they are based on facts. Do trust your gut instincts, but make sure that your position is validated by information and data.
  • It’s great to be passionate about what you do, but when you’re managing up, down or sideways, be the master of your emotions. Stay professional and fact-based while you’re also passionate about a project or cause.
  • Understand the perspectives and motivations of the executives you’re approaching, so that you can plan your message and communication.
  • Be prepared to articulate the current opportunities and challenges, but also prepared to communicate the ripple effect and longer-term implications of a suggested recommendation.

Invite Opportunities to Learn and Grow

  • Take Ownership and invite initiative, even if it’s not your job, even if you weren’t asked to do so.
  • Be confident that you may know more about a potential problem or solution than the executives in charge, and be willing to speak up and step in if your data/information/perspective helps drive solutions which benefit all. 
  • Step into stretch opportunities and learn from each of them. Don’t expect to be perfect each time, every time, but do expect to learn from each experience. 
  • Adapt your strategies and skills to current challenges, especially as it’s hard to predict what will happen next through the pandemic and beyond. 
  • Where appropriate, seek executive sponsorship and resources to unite teams across common goals.
  • Be collaborative and supportive of others at all levels, and invite them also to learn and grow.

Communicate and Connect People and Teams

  • Understand the perspectives and motivations of the executives and customers you’re working with. Translate their desires and intentions to the team to help ensure that you deliver on requirements.
  • Inform executives how changes in their vision and requirements impact those who are delivering results, especially if changes in requirements impact timelines, resources, and features. 
  • Provide ongoing KPIs/data/metrics/reports to executives and customers in a way they understand. Facilitate decision-making and problem-solving based on this dashboard of information.
  • Tell a story about the problem, solution and result so that customers and executives understand.

Our panelists have raised the bar for us, inviting us to directly and authentically manage up, to better serve ourselves, our teams, our organization, And as we continue to grow in your ability to manage up, may we all evolve from direct communication of the facts to the more subtle skills art of telling a story with passion and finesse, driven by the data.

Building a Culture of Trust

April 9, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s April 9 When She Speaks women in leadership series program, on the topic of ‘Building a Culture of Trust’. We were fortunate to have a seasoned and varied range of panelists to speak on the very timely question of building a culture of trust.Building trust has been especially important as leaders at all levels are dealing with many uncertainties and challenges with the pandemic and its aftermath. Below is a summary of our learnings from the panel discussion.
Trust is essential for leadership and management. It is something that’s slow-to-earn, and quick-to-lose, which makes the stakes high. A team, a company, an individual can’t thrive and succeed unless he/she/they/we have the trust of the many others in their circle. Below are best practices for building trust.


Be Worthy of the Trust

  • Be credible. Work hard. Be clear on what’s required and consistently exceed expectations.
  • Be authentic, sincere, honest and true. Your character will help you build trust.
  • Own up to your mistakes, and be willing to humbly learn from them.
  • Be vulnerable about what you can and can’t do, and persistent about learning what you need to do to perform well.
  • Be courageous and bold, especially when you are uncomfortably doing what you know to be right by others.
  • Do the right thing. Do right by others. Do this consistently. Especially when it’s hard. 
  • Share a vision for what’s next, especially when so much is uncertain. 
  • Consistently walk the talk and talk the walk, building a brand worthy of the trust of others.

Be Other-Focused

  • Listen well and deeply to what the other is saying so that you can understand both the needs and the motivation.
  • Relationships matter. Be sincere, transparent and direct with your communications and act like those relationships matter.
  • Be empathetic and supportive of others. Manage and communicate with grace. We are all working and living in strange, uncertain and at times difficult circumstances. 

Be Collaborative

  • Identify and work toward that common ground, in concert with an ecosystem of others.
  • Set high expectations for yourself and others, and communicate how each stakeholder benefits from collaboratively working toward a common goal.
  • Value those who think and speak and act differently, and invite them to collaborate. 

Keeping Learning and Excelling

  • Be self-aware enough to know yourself and your own strengths and limitations. Keep reaching for stars from there.
  • Never settle – keep reaching and learning and making things better for yourself, your team, your customer, your partners.
  • Assertively make a stand for divergent viewpoints and input. Graciously invite others to do the same.
  • Embrace the opportunities to feel uncomfortable. 
  • The measure of a (wo)man is not just how they behave when they succeed but also how they learn and grow when they don’t.

Be Strategic

  • Ask the ‘why’ before the ‘what’. Make sure that the ‘what’ always aligns with the why.
  • Don’t let the ‘how’ interfere with the ‘what’. 

The bottom line throughout the conversation is to be credible – to provide a constancy amongst the change, the all-in support of others which helps all to reach confidently for what’s next.

Leading Industry 4.0

April 9, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s April 9 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Leading Industry 4.0’. As usual, our participating executives represented a wide breadth of backgrounds and perspectives. The conversation focused not just on the supply chain, process improvement, automation and robotics which are typical for Industry 4.0 discussion, but also focused on the data management and strategy around it.The first comments are of course about the increasingly larger volumes of data and the increased pressure to respond more quickly and more strategically based on that data. Below are some best practices on how to successfully manage that data.

  • Collect data for strategic reasons, focused around corporate goals, around customer current and anticipated needs, market trends.
  • Create and reinforce a culture where data share and best practice sharing is the norm, where everyone helps everyone else solve problems and make decisions.
  • Share your data and your learnings with other products, other divisions, other organizations, etc., but use your best judgment to ensure that you maintain a competitive advantage and are engaged in win-win collaborations.
  • Analyze the data anomalies as they may point to opportunities or current or pending challenges.
  • Move from Reactive to Proactive mode, going beyond generating and reporting on data, but looking beyond and beneath that to address questions such as
    • what are the data trends
    • what are the implications based on data
    • what are the underlying causes for the data
    • what kinds of decisions should we make based on data

Below are additional best practices for managing Industry 4.0.

  • Add value across the value chain within and across companies, products, roles and geographies. The more of the right partners and leaders participate, the more value for all. 
  • Focus on both the performance of the hardware/software/solution while also ensure that the user interface is intuitive and meets the preferences and needs of the targeted profile audience.
  • The more energy and power you can channel the better, within reason, but make sure that you’re focused on solving the problem and creating the solution which fits your corporate goals and your customers’ needs.
  • Think ahead at all the things which might impact how you can custom-design, create, distribute, manage, support, etc., your solutions to manage the ripple effect. We all learned the lesson about the well during the pandemic 
  • Look not just at the data generated real-time today, but also at the decades of data we’ve amassed to help us better manage the needs of others.
  • With that said, the need for privacy, security and access is of primary concern. No solution is complete and effective without folding in these elements.
  • Look not just at how products are manufactured, but look also at how the innovations around Industry 4.0 will help leaders from all industries better deliver exceptional value to their very demanding customers. 
  • Leverage the latest technologies to keep current, realizing the impact of Industry 4.0 advantages, including Digital Twin and 3D Printing, data analytics, robotic automation, etc.,

Industry 4.0 is in its infancy, as we work to be more efficient while being more excellent, leveraging technology and collaboration. The challenge has been how to vacillate between looking at the strategy and big picture while also focusing on the weeds of the data, the details of the process, the needs of the individual customers and each individual person involved in delivering customized solutions for these customers. 

Resource: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/americas/building-a-more-competitive-us-manufacturing-sector 

Data Trends Best Practices

April 2, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s April 2 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘One Dot a Point, Two Dots a Line, Three Dots a Trend’. Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation. 

  • Kristen Brastad, Lam Research
  • Claudia Galvan, Oracle
  • Shruthi Koundinya, HPE
  • Nivedita Ojha, CITRIX

Our panelists spoke eloquently and knowledgeably first about how their individual companies leveraged data to address the changing business and technology landscape with the pandemic and its aftermath, and then about the opportunities and challenges around the data itself, from the Validity and Relevance issues to the need to respect the Privacy and Security issues, while managing all the most Urgent needs. Below are some best practices around data trends and management.


Thoughts about data:

  • Not all data is created equal. Some data is more ‘sticky’, more ‘transient’, more ‘relevant’ than other data. Plan accordingly.
  • Not everybody needs to know all data, so reports must be tailored to individual audiences.
  • Look not just on the raw data, but focus on the trends of that data. 
  • Data will be relevant in all industries, so all industries must adopt and embrace the technologies and solutions which will produce the volumes of data necessary to deliver quality products and services. 

Below are some thoughts on how to best filter out the large volumes of data generated:

  • Focus on the data set which aligns best with the goals. Adjust the data generation and reporting plan as the goals change.
  • Create reports on the data which will help individuals make data-driven decisions.
  • Work closely with customers to understand their needs to ensure that the data collected maps to the objectives defined. Collaborate to regularly update those objectives.
  • Focus on the ‘Vital Few’ – the anomalies and non-conforming data set and information which might tell you about what’s broken, what needs to be fixed, how things are really going.

Thoughts on seeing the trends:

  • Consider the urgency of the need, the ‘freshness’ of the data when generating reports on data trends. 
  • The data is generated in a report, but the user needs to interpret the report to see the trend. The user must know what data is needed, which data would generate the report needed as well. 
  • Ask users frequently for their input.
  • Look not just at the data, but also at the root cause of a problem or anomaly. 
  • Look not just at the data but on the workflow and how users acquire and act on the data.
  • Look not just at the WHAT of the data, but the SO WHAT – what are the implications? what decisions can you make based on the data? how are you doing based on objectives?…

The bottom line is that brilliant and agile companies and leaders are leveraging the hardware and software to solve real-world problems, including the healthcare, operational, logistical, manufacturing, supply chain, and other problems introduced with the pandemic, and in the world which follows the pandemic.

Consultative Sales in the Next Normal

April 1, 2021 by
Consultative Sales in the Next Normal

Nobody knows what exactly the next normal will entail, but we do know the following:

  • The Next Normal will not be the same as what we’ve known in the past in specific ways.
  • It’s difficult to predict what will happen in the next normal.
  • Individuals and companies resilient enough to endure the inevitable changes and agile enough to embrace the differences will be the ones who thrive.

Consultative or Solution-based selling differs from more traditional transactional sales opportunities and is more suited to ‘next normal’ circumstances for the following reasons.

Being Customer-Focused When Nothing’s Normal

  1. Consultative sales is more about understanding the problem statements of the customers than it is about the vendor’s product line, business model, or quota and commission. 
  2. Consultative sales is about asking open-ended questions about current and even anticipated challenges. 
  3. The consultative sales professional is fanatically curious about the perspective and challenges of the client or prospect, regardless of whether a current conversation leads to a direct sale in the short term. 

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

  1. Consultative sales generally involves research about the prospect/customer and their needs as well as around market trends. This research is generally conducted prior to the meeting.
  2. A consultative sales approach strategically qualifies leads prior to initial conversation, to save all parties time and money. 

Navigating Troubled Waters

  1. To best work with clients to navigate uncertain and even troubled circumstances, the consultative sales professional must at times be connected to and versed enough with megatrends in the business, the economy, and the industry trends to provide relevant information to guide exploration and decision-making. 
  2. With that said, the consultative sales professional would only provide relevant background information if it benefits the client or prospect, not just because it would increase the sales volume.  
  3. Listening deeply to what is said and what is not said, and asking clarifying questions may even help consultative sales professionals to collaborate with clients to brainstorm future scenarios based on risk factors, market trends, or technology development timelines for example.

Connecting for the Long Term

  1. The consultative sales professional will work with the team to ensure a successful delivery of products and services and a deep ongoing relationship.
  2. Because of all of the above, it’s clear that the consultative sales process generally leads to broader and deeper relationships and transactions built on trust. 

And therefore, it is clear that the consultative sales model will increase the likelihood of success for professionals providing products and services in the Next Normal. 

To better support sales professionals in our network, FountainBlue will be offering a four-module workshop series for sales professionals interested in developing and improving their Consultative Selling skills. We invite your initial questions about our workshop series and consulting services.

Show Me the Data

March 19, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s March 19 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Show Me the Data’ featuring:

  • Zane Hall, Executive Director, IT, Maxim
  • Tracy Meersman, Director Sales Enablement, Skybox Security
  • Ravindra Thadani, Sr. Director – IT Business Applications & Services, AMD

Our panelists shared their wide and deep experience around data collection, management and reporting. They commented on how we can evolved from the days of large file cabinets to an era where data is kept in the cloud, and now on the edge as well.

They consistently remarked on the volume of data and provided advice on how we can better strategically and tactically manage data.

Thoughts on Being Strategic

  • Start with the end in mind, to design a strategy for gathering and reporting on data which reports on specific objectives. Develop a consensus and understanding of what’s being measured for what purpose. 
  • Focus on the needs of the customers – whether they are internal or external.
  • Data is used across use cases, across industries. 
  • Separate measurement from ownership so that there’s less likely to be a conflict of interest, and more likely to be objectivity.
  • Embrace Data Democratization – provide the data and tools to the people, with clear policies and guidelines on how to measure, use and report on the data collected
  • Ensure there’s not an agenda around the data. 
  • You will get garbage-in->garbage-out (GIGO) if you don’t measure the right data. 
  • You can get data to make the case for just about anything – but make sure that the report/the data is valid.
  • Data doesn’t have an ROI, it has a POC so plan accordingly.
  • Understand the velocity of change around the data collected so you can have the right strategy on how to manage it.
  • What’s the so-what of data? What actions/decisions would it trigger?
  • Think through who needs to know what, when and why?

Thoughts on Improving Execution

  • Provide guidance on data usage and governance on how to use it
  • Make the conversations around data not personal, the culture data-philic.
  • Agree on metrics and how to report on these metrics
  • Develop and use a Common language around the data
  • Ensure Compliance
  • Password Management
  • Providing Security at the Data Level  
  • Proactively Manage home and work networks

In closing, we’ll conclude that data is the lifeblood of the organization. How we use it, communicate with it, manage it, work with it, says much about our culture, our leadership, our ability to get things done.

Be the Brand You Seek to Be

March 12, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s March 12 When She Speaks women in leadership series program, on the topic of ‘Be the Brand You Seek to Be’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Maxim and our esteemed panelists. We were fortunate to have a remarkably talented and centered group of panelists to speak on our panel on the topic of ‘Be the Brand You Seek to Be’. Below are notes from the discussion.

Know Yourself and Be True to Yourself

  • Make the time to know what you’re good at (skills), what you like to do (passion), what the market needs are (market), and find the intersection between the three.
  • Know your values and honor them in your interactions, doing right by others, well for your company. 

Evolve, Learn and Grow with Your Brand

  • Know where the customers and markets are going and evolve your strategy and your brand to meet these emerging needs.
  • Don’t expect perfection from yourself or from others, but do expect to learn from your experiences, both good and bad.

Take Ownership of Your Brand

  • Proactively define your brand, rather than have others define it for you/make assumptions about you.
  • Proactively address any stains you might have on your brand, making amends, re-building perceptions and relationships where necessary.
  • Align intentions and perceptions.
  • How you respond to a scenario will speak to your brand.
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Be Other-Centric and Results-Focused

  • Build broad and deep relationships. 
  • Understand the needs and motivations of others and collaborate with others to deliver results.
  • Be the person who consistently delivers results, preferably in a wide range of circumstances.

As we look to a future which will be more collaborative, more connected, more immersive, more digital, more socially conscious, it’s more important than ever that our brand is Open, Resilient, Persistent and Resourceful.

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Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s March 12 When She Speaks women in leadership series program, on the topic of ‘Be the Brand You Seek to Be’ and our hosts at Maxim.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
  • Panelist Marie Le, Chief Marketing Officer, Good Deeds
  • Panelist Laura Owen, Chief Human Resource Officer, Maxim Integrated
  • Panelist Krista Pavlakos, Senior Director, Marketing Communications & Demand Creation, Renesas Electronics
  • Panelist Monika Thakur, Vice President, SaaS Engineering, Oracle
  • with opening remarks by Karthi Gopalan, Product Line Director, Mobile Power BU, Maxim Integrated and
  • closing remarks by Cara Bilinski, Executive Director, IT PMO, Maxim Integrated

Innovating on the Edge

March 12, 2021 by

Innovating on the Edge

FountainBlue’s March 12 VIP Roundtable on the ‘Innovating on the Edge’ topic included executives representing a wide breadth of backgrounds and perspectives. We began with some definitions about the ‘Edge’. In the ‘old days’, the Edge might be defined by where the wires end – at the point of going wireless. But today, most things are not hard-wired, and we look more at the edge of the cloud – where the cloud meets the sensors and devices.Our executives agree that it’s becoming increasingly more important to innovate and manage on the edge, but there are many business and logistical challenges for doing this well. 

  • Data Challenges: The volume of data generated by devices on the edge is immense and the challenges are varied.
  • Relevancy: getting filtered and relevant data to the right reports and programs
  • Latency: the time it takes to get the data to the right report and programs
  • Movement: moving data from the edge to other areas in the network and in the cloud can be complicated and takes time
  • Storage: management and maintenance of current and past data can be complicated and expensive

Problems beyond the data include:

  • Computational Issues: programs processing of the volumes of data to understand what’s relevant, what the implications are
  • Outdated and Sub-optimal Programs: legacy applications and other programs on enterprise networks may not be as effective and may even pose security challenges and additional expenses
  • Communicating between moving entities: car-to-car, car-to-object, car-to-people communication has its unique challenges which require collaboration between many stakeholders – from cities to auto dealers, from government officials to 5G developers, from business leaders to consumers
  • Infrastructure and Policy Challenges: we need the policies, support and funding so that we can invest in infrastructure upgrades which further allow for innovating on the edge

Below are best practices for innovating on the edge.

  • Practice Data Gravity, which treats data at its origination site, rather than moving it to another location before working with it. This addresses the data issues around latency, storage and movement.
  • When filtering for relevant data on the edge, the algorithms don’t need to be that precise, just identifying data that’s in the right ballpark.
  • Invest in solutions which minimize latency, especially when lives are at stake –  for example for healthcare and automotive solutions.
  • Design smaller form factors but with more functionality and more control.
  • Get immediate, deep and broad visibility on security exposure and breaches.
  • Create and join partnerships with carriers, vendors, providers, regulators to support the infrastructure needed to innovate on the edge.
  • Look to the AI for the historical trends and integrate that into your solution,  while also looking at Machine Learning to make predictions based on past behaviors and information.
  • Optimize for tiny computers on the Edge, which can do much more processing more quickly. 
  • Design more sophisticated environmental sensors which would give real-time feedback, monitoring for specific issues. 
  • Pay close attention to the user experience – what’s intended and what’s experienced. 

The bottom line is that we will all continue to innovate on the edge, and companies and consumers will continue to reap the benefits of it in our day-to-day lives. 
Resource: March 8, 2021: Global Mission Critical Communications Market Report 2021: AI-powered IoT Critical Communication Market in Public Safety will Surpass $20 Billion by 2028 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-mission-critical-communications-market-report-2021-ai-powered-iot-critical-communication-market-in-public-safety-will-surpass-20-billion-by-2028-301242381.html

Change Management Best Practices

March 8, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s March 5 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Change Management Best Practices’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. Our panelists were certainly experienced prior to the pandemic, but the events of 2020 and the resulting changes have made them more adept, more courageous, more gracious in the face of change. 

They agreed that when dealing with change, be bold about what to do, courageous about how to do it, gentle with yourself as you manage through it, open-minded about how to repeat the cycle. Below is a summary of other suggestions and recommendations around change management. 

Be the Best YOU you can be

  • Be courageous, strategic and humble enough to pivot through the changes, knowledgeable and connected enough to be agile, making it up as you go (within guidelines), and practical and tactical enough to keep shifting, measuring and correcting with your adjustments.
  • Reflect on your ‘Zone of Genius’, your personal Super Power. Leverage that when appropriate. Hone it and learn from it.
  • Push through the fear with microbursts of energy, small trials with clear objectives and guidelines for success.  

Manage Your Team Through Change

  • Be more empowering, more inclusive, more supportive of your people through these changes. 
  • Remember that Change will impact people from all backgrounds at all levels, but it will impact everyone differently. Be open and curious enough to help others adjust to changes.
  • Look not just on the change that’s happening, but also at the ripple effects of the change on yourself, your team, your product, your customers and plan accordingly.
  • Get the team aligned to a common rhythm, and build engagement and connections following that team rhythm. 
  • Create many touchpoints for individual team members and the overall team.
  • Create and nurture a culture which invites trial and error, and learning from both wins and losses. 

Be Customer-Centric

  • Put your customers first with every change. 
  • Being customer-centric and developing collaborative strategies will create an ecosystem of partners which would increase the likelihood of surviving and thriving through changes. 

Embrace Technology

  • Fortunately, technology will continue to evolve to support leaders in envisioning and creating changes which better connect people, better support customers. But only companies and leaders willing to make investments in technology advances shall reap those rewards. 
    • Quote – we have God-like technology, run by Medieval institutions, and people with Paleolithic emotions. Which leaders can help rise above their more primitive emotions (including fear) and the constraints of short-sighted, inflexible organizations? 

This pandemic and its aftermath has taught us yet again that change is not easy, but it is inevitable. It also provided the bonus lesson about our shared humanity and challenged us to collaborate with others to take change by the horn, and together shift to a more gracious, more sustainable mindset benefitting more people.