It takes a village. Grow your village as fast as you can because your business will depend upon it. Our village consists of our team members, investors, partners and customers.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing JP McNeill of Ando.
With more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership roles at early-stage and high-growth companies, JP is skilled at combining vision and pragmatism to transform concepts into thriving businesses focused on reversing climate change.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I was born in Mexico City to a Mexican mother and an American father and moved to the United States (Ohio) when I was four. My family and I frequently traveled back and forth to Mexico to visit family and friends; to this day I feel so grateful to have grown up with influences from both of these cultures, as I feel it truly shaped me to be who I am today.
My parents started and ran a Mexican restaurant for 35 years, treating their employees and community with kindness, respect and courage — and also great food and margaritas! I began working there when I was 14 years old and was able to learn so much about hard work and cultivating a positive work environment. Much of what I learned working under my parents has shaped the way I run my own business and interact with my peers and colleagues.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Our goal is simple: we want to empower everyone, everywhere to combat climate change. We do this by making everyday banking a force for good that benefits people and the planet.
Banking works under a simple principle: for every 1 dollar in a checking account, savings account, CD or other bank account, a bank is able to invest and make 1 dollar worth of loans. Unfortunately, of the 1 trillion dollars in total loans issued each year by banks in the U.S., less than 2% support green initiatives. Most loans fund companies and assets which create more emissions and further harm the environment. This problem exists not only in the U.S., but throughout the world. Our money has been utilized, and continues to be utilized, to fund trillions of dollars in loans which harm our environment.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. What we need is a method in which our money solely gets utilized to fund green investments which will create a thriving sustainable economy. Ando introduces two new principles which have the power to transform the banking industry on a global scale.
1.) Loans should be green, not brown. 100% of customer bank balances in a checking and savings account should be green. Green loans exist across every major economic sector. For example, in the energy industry, banks can provide loans for renewable energy investments. In the building industry, banks offer residential and commercial green mortgages. In the transportation sector, banks offer loans for electric cars, hybrids, busses and trains. In the agriculture and forestry sectors, loans exist for sustainable agriculture and forestry. In sustainable industry, banks make loans to reduce waste, increase recycling, increase sustainable materials.
2.) Banks should provide 100% transparency on what they finance. When you buy food, they tell you exactly what’s in it and provide the nutritional facts. Transparency is important so consumers know exactly what they’re buying into. The same should be true of banking. Banks should be transparent about what they do with customer deposits. If I have 2,000 dollars in my checking account, I would like to know how my 2,000 dollars is being utilized by the bank. Is 1% of it going to finance green loans, 5% or 100% of it? This level of transparency helps inform customers on what happens when they hand over their paycheck to the bank.
When enough people join Ando (and other banks who follow these additional two principles), we hopefully will create a social tipping dynamic, whereby other banks will need to incorporate these principles so that they don’t lose their customer deposits. This transformation will shift trillions of dollars away from funding brown loans to funding green loans thereby stopping global warming, improving our environment and creating a sustainable global economy.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
In August 2000, my wife and I heard Bill McDunough speak at a conference in Palm Desert, CA. He described that our economy was broken; it creates significant waste that harms our well-being and all life on the planet. He went on to describe how through better design we could create an economy modeled after nature, where there is no waste and a tremendous amount of abundance. After hearing him speak, I was forever changed. I realized my purpose in life was to work on solutions which promote sustainability and improve life for everyone on this planet.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
In the fall of 2019, I had a conversation with my 13-year-old son who is very concerned about the environment, global warming, and the implications of both on his future. I explained to him how banks operate, how much money they hold, and that people actually hold the power by choosing whom they bank with. When I was done, he looked at me and sighed and said, “Dad, I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders.” I knew that if a 13-year-old boy understood Ando, we were going to connect with enough people for Ando to be successful.
Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I reached out to people who have been extremely successful, many of whom I have worked with in the past, to ask for advice, guidance and insight. I presented the concept to them, invited them to join and gave every person an equity stake in Ando. Admitting that you don’t always have the answers and learning from people who have been successful in their respective endeavors is what has helped me get to where I am today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
It takes a village to do almost anything. Our purpose and opportunities enable us to connect with people who I never thought possible of reaching, mostly because of the team of people I have behind me. When you start something new it may feel like you are climbing Mt. Everest alone. I am in constant awe and extremely grateful for those who have joined the Ando team and continue to play a critical role in its development and success.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I had a key team member once say that they maybe were not the right fit for the role because my ideas were too “out there” or too heavy. I didn’t know how to control and express my passions effectively, leaving him overwhelmed by my ideas. At the time, I didn’t think it was funny, but we look back on it now and laugh. For me, the lesson was and is now to lead with curiosity and seek first to understand and to apologize when and if you’ve made a mistake.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I am fortunate to have a number of people who have mentored and advised me along the way. First my spouse and children, both of whom inspire me and support me on my journey each and every day. Second, my co-founders and the entire Ando team who are experts in what they do and keep the machine running. They each influence and shape the company, and myself for that matter, on a daily basis.
Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
The community and society can do two very important things to help address the root of the climate crisis. First, raise awareness of the connection between banking and the environment and the role we each play. We enable banks to either harm the environment or heal it by simply giving them our money. Second, to encourage people to take action. With awareness comes responsibility, but many people don’t follow through on this or don’t know where to start. It’s important we each support each other and encourage one another to be a participant of change rather than a spectator.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Today more people care about sustainability and the environment than they ever have before. As such, I think the biggest impact sustainability and environmental care have on a company’s bottom line is their role in defining a company’s culture. As Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In the last company I started and grew to 650 people, we had an intern program for MBA students. In our first year, we had 300 people apply for only nine spots. By the end of the program, the nine participants had offers from some of the top firms nationwide. Each intern we extended an offer to stayed in the industry because of our mission.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Love what you do. Challenges occur regularly. When you love what you do, it makes it much easier to work through them.
- It’s not what happens, but how you relate to it that matters. I wanted to launch our services in the summer, but this was not realistic. I could have been angry or disappointed, instead I reevaluated my expectations and moved forward.
- Trust in your community to spread awareness. Ando is now a community of people who I have never met and are joining in the conversation and contributing in ways I had never imagined.
- Fail quickly and fail often. There have been a lot of trial-and-error periods while launching Ando. For example, we came up with many different names for the company. It was important to “fail” quickly and realize what names worked vs. what didn’t as to not waste time and money building supporting assets for a name that didn’t stick.
- It takes a village. Grow your village as fast as you can because your business will depend upon it. Our village consists of our team members, investors, partners and customers.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Fantastic! The world needs lots of people to participate in making a positive impact. Your participation will propel others to do the same!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
As mentioned above, “It’s not what happens, but how you relate to it that matters.” For me, this life lesson comes into play almost every day. There are so many things that happen in life, and how we relate to them makes all the difference. I wish I would have learned this life lesson early on in my life.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Billie Eilish and Greta Thunberg. Two young passionate climate change agents.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!