This is the second of two blog posts based on an interview of The Hon. Gregory W. Slayton by Richard (Rick) J. Goossen by phone on March 15, 2019. Gregory will be an instructor in the Entrepreneurial Leaders Programme to be offered by ELO is a collaboration with Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford (www.ELOOxford.com). To see Gregory’s bio click here: http://www.entrepreneurialleaders.com/GregorySlayton.
The first blog post with Gregory Slayton can be accessed by clicking here: http://www.entrepreneurialleaders.com/blog/190/Gregory-W-Slayton-Interview
RG: You teach entrepreneurship. What are some of the key points you teach in your classes that resonate most with students?
GS: I teach courses on leadership and entrepreneurship at some of the world’s finest universities. One of my most popular courses is called “Leadership in the ICE Economy.” ICE stands for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. It’s a very popular course. Let me summarize a few take-aways. First, not everyone is an entrepreneur. It is very important to “know thyself”, as Shakespeare urged us. I’m a venture capitalist, I’m not a deep technologist. I have other skills and abilities. You have to know yourself. Not just, ‘are you an entrepreneur?’, but what type of an entrepreneur are you? And where are you in your life cycle, and what type of risk profile are you willing to take? Those things are very important to understand before you start down the wrong path and you invest 5, 10, 15 years in something that really isn’t your strength. You’ve got to play your strengths in life, I really believe that. The wonderful thing we know from the Bible is that each one of us has different strengths. And each of us has a different calling, a different mission...but each one is important.
The second thing we look for is that when you’re building an investment firm or an operating company, you’ve got to build a heterogeneous team. If I get a team that is all Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, from Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College backgrounds – just like me - it actually doesn’t give good results. To get good results, you have people who have different mindsets, who come from different experiences. One thing I will say, I do like working with people who have deep faith. People who believe in something more than themselves. That is a critical determinant for me because when you’ve got lots of money on the table, if all you believe in is your own personal well-being, no matter how nice you dress it up, there’s going to be problems. I’ve seen so many partnerships destroyed in Silicon Valley because of ego and self-interest. Partners who can’t get along, they can’t humble themselves. In terms of building a team, I think you want a very diversified team, but you want a core spirit that is about service and seeking something for others, not just for yourself.
There are three things we always look for when we are investing at Slayton Capital. And in the ICE economy, whether you’re investing your money, your time, somebody else’s money – you’re investing.
We believe you have to look for three things (at the very least):
- Very large markets that are on the brink of transformation. An old industry like the taxicab industry, which was basically the same for 50+ years.
- Look for a disruptive technology that offers a 10x improvement in costs, service levels or productivity, for example there hadn’t been any real change in the taxi industry until Uber came along and used mobile technology to revolutionize the taxi industry.
- We look for truly world class leadership teams. The only thing we know for sure is that everything is going to change.
If you have a world class leadership team like Google or Salesforce, they’re going to be able to take the changes and take advantage whereas other companies with maybe lesser management teams will get swamped. To use the Uber example again, I would argue that they did not have a world-class leadership team. Clearly, their original team had some big issues, in terms of their values and moral compass. That has hurt Uber and its investors very badly. Leadership is about more than just brains. It is about doing the right thing and setting the right example. That is what true servant leadership is all about.
RG: What is your strategy toward Kingdom-based difference making?
GS: I guess in a way I look at it on one hand as a businessman: What’s the biggest underserved market? Where is the greenest field? I frequently give the example of Haiti. Don’t get me wrong: God bless the people of Haiti. But Haiti’s biggest export for many years has been Christians coming in and giving them money. They’ve made it an industry and they are extremely good at it. The North American Church invests more money in Haiti than all of China. Haiti is about 11 million people in total. That’s the size of one third-tier Chinese city. China is 1.4 billion people. The region we work in, East Asia, is about 2 billion people. It’s estimated that at least 10% of those people have never heard the Name of Jesus. I’m not talking about the Gospel, just the name of Jesus. That’s 200,000,000 people who have never heard the Name of Jesus. That’s the territory I want to work in. That is a fabulous opportunity.
The second thing we look for is, of course, where is the LORD moving? It doesn’t really matter what Gregory Slayton thinks. If God is clearly moving in my life in East Asia, then that’s where I’ve got to go. Maybe in your life it’s Haiti, or Western Europe or somewhere else. I think it’s that combination of faith and reason that is pretty powerful in terms of figuring out your calling and where you want to be.
RG: Who have been some of the most influential people in your life and why?
GS: Obviously I will start with the LORD. So, let’s put JESUS number one and then we’ll move to regular people. I’ve got a lot of heroes – Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman – fabulous servant leaders who put their nation and communities above themselves and saved our civil nation.
My middle name is ‘Winston;’ I’m named after Winston Churchill. A flawed guy, obviously a big-time colonialist. But when the chips were down, he could have made peace with Nazi Germany and saved England while giving away Western Europe. But he didn’t take the easy path. And because of that, my relatives in France are speaking French and not German. That’s a big deal.
On the Christian side, definitely Hudson Taylor. Most historians view him as the greatest Western missionary to ever come to China. Such a great man of love and faith and wisdom. He was one of the very few Western missionaries to abandon Western clothing for Chinese clothing. He cut and dyed his hair in the Chinese style. Many Westerners in China, including many Christians, made fun of him openly. His future wife’s guardian even forbade her to see Hudson, but the LORD soon corrected that. The point is this: because of his sacrifice and his great love and wisdom: tens of millions of Chinese Christians today trace their roots back to Hudson Taylor. Even I can say that for myself. My understanding is that my Chinese grandfather became a Christian at the age of 10 when missionaries from China Inland Mission (which of course Hudson Taylor established) came to his town. He was the only one in his village to raise his hand and accept the Lord. He was faithful all through his life. He even became a pastor. And he passed his faith to his daughter, my Chinese Mom. And she passed her faith to her son Ken, my Chinese Brother. And he passed his faith in Christ to me. All coming from the faith of Hudson Taylor and his band of brothers in the China Inland Mission. Amazing.
Obviously, Hudson Taylor built a great team and he had a wonderful wife (actually his first wife died in China and then he married another wonderful partner). He is a real inspiration for us about what can be done by a small, dedicated team. China Inland Mission [CIM] did amazing things, but they suffered. They had the largest number of martyrs in the Boxer Rebellion and suffered in many other ways. But they were faithful and courageous. As GOD said to Joshua: “Be Strong and Courageous.” He was – and GOD used that mightily. Hudson Taylor and his brethren at CIM were - and GOD used that mightily. Today, in our generation, I strongly believe the LORD is also asking us to be “Strong and Courageous” where He has called us.