The key message of my book, The Connecting Leader, is about companies rethinking how they use their amazing resources and experience to change society for the better. By focusing on purpose, and aligning their identity to the attainment of that purpose (beyond profit), companies can have an incredible impact in improving the lives of 7.4 Billion people. What is required, is for companies to push back from the short-termism pressures from investors and deliver a “social contract” that benefits stakeholders as well as creating wealth for shareholders. The fundamental belief is that the world would be a much better place when companies understand and deliver their social goals as well as their economic ones.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alberto Lopez-Valenzuela, CEO at alva, a technology-enabled company that provides decision-ready intelligence for the largest companies in the world. For more than twenty-five years, Alberto Lopez-Valenzuela has worked in business information and analysis, developing decision-intelligence solutions for Fortune 500 companies. He held roles in marketing, strategy, and corporate development at numerous global companies before founding and serving as CEO at alva. Alberto has been a visiting professor at Cass Business School, where he earned an Executive MBA and holds an honors degree from the University of the Arts London. He splits his time between London and New York.
Thank you so much for joining us Alberto! What is your “backstory”?
In late 2008 things didn’t go well, I had a job that I enjoyed but my relationship with my boss was challenging, and I started thinking about what next.
Then suddenly in February 2009, I was fired. Initially, it was a shock, even though I was quite unhappy. However, after a few days and the situation started sinking in, I realized this was the perfect situation to “take control” of my life and do the things I wanted to do for a long time.
Among them, was to take a break to meditate more, go to the gym more often, eat better and spend more time with friends.
However, it also gave the opportunity to think about where I wanted to take my career — and the more I thought about, the more apparent it became that I wanted to set up a business. So, in March 2009 just with an idea, fifteen years of business experience and a lot of ambition and hope, I started what has been the most intense, fulfilling and challenging period of my career.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Sure, six months after launching the business we won our first client, an essential UK company had decided to commission a 6-month trial of our service. As I received the email, I got overly excited and decided to share the news with my colleagues by forwarding the email. My overly enthusiastic email contained many expressions of joy and described how this was going to be the start of a fantastic journey. Unfortunately, rather than pressing Forward I pressed Reply and the email went to the client.
Suddenly I started sweating, thinking whether the client might be put off by my response. Luckily the client sent a reply back after an hour saying “I don’t believe this email was intended for me, I look forward to starting working together.”
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are enhancing our technology platform with AI and Machine Learning to provide companies with the best intelligence available, to understand how global issues impact companies and the ability to achieve their objectives. I believe we operate in an interconnected environment and today more than ever companies need to understand how emerging issues might affect the health of the company.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
People that have challenged the status quo, with sheer grit, hard work, and belief. Those people who have achieved fantastic progress for humanity and have created something much much more significant than themselves.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I read consistently, at least 2 hours per day. Reading is one of my passions, and as a CEO helps me stay current as well as gaining perspective. I combine current affairs publications with philosophy classics. I also enjoy book thrillers like James Patterson, Stephen King, and David Baldacci.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Make sure that the outline flows naturally and that there’s a straightforward progression to the story/arguments. For a business book like mine, I would advise everyone to do as much research as possible and ensure that the reader can see a balanced perspective of the events, so that the reader can decide which arguments are more aligned with their beliefs.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The key message of my book, The Connecting Leader, is about companies rethinking how they use their amazing resources and experience to change society for the better. By focusing on purpose, and aligning their identity to the attainment of that purpose (beyond profit), companies can have an incredible impact in improving the lives of 7.4 Billion people.
What is required, is for companies to push back from the short-termism pressures from investors and deliver a “social contract” that benefits stakeholders as well as creating wealth for shareholders.
The fundamental belief is that the world would be a much better place when companies understand and deliver their social goals as well as their economic ones.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Great people make all the difference
2. Surround yourself with people with the same mission as you
3. Ensure that everybody lives the right values and don’t compromise
4. Things will take twice the time than planned
5. Raise twice the money you think you will need
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would like to have breakfast or lunch with Larry Fink, Chairman & Chief Executive of BlackRock