In his previous posts, Gerhard Dust talked about what motivated him to set up his business and discussed the personal challenges he has encountered and the issues his company has had to deal with as his business developed. In this, his final blog post, Gerhard talks about the human desire to leave a lasting legacy, and gives us his six golden rules of entrepreneurship.
This is my last blog for the time being and, frankly, I would have liked to talk more about PolyCare. How environmentally friendly our invention is; how we are able to finish houses in a few days; how it can be made using only desert sand; and how inexpensive this solution is. Of course you can still find all of this information on our website or on YouTube.
But today I want to talk about entrepreneurship and what an entrepreneur actually is. You see, I have often been asked a very direct question that goes something like this….
“Gerhard, at your age and time of life, why did you start this business?”
Some might find this quite rude, but actually it lies at the heart of what inventors and entrepreneurs are about. The simple answer is that every person dreams of doing and creating something that will stand the test of time – something great that will outlast them and benefit mankind.
Doesn’t every person with even a gram of compassion carry a dual responsibility: on the one hand towards his fellow human beings and, on the other, towards the generations to come? My partners and I founded PolyCare because we recognised that affordable housing world-wide is no longer achievable for more than a billion people through the use of traditional building technologies. We might be of retirement age, but that doesn’t mean we have lost the ability to dream and to wish for a better world. A world where an ordinary person can build their own home; where the money needed to do this doesn’t leak away into the coffers of the multinationals; and where a home is more than a shabby tent made of plastic.
Sometimes we joke and say that we are like the elderly people in the blockbuster RED. Our definition of RED is slightly different: Retired, Experienced and Dedicated. I admit that we are proud that our solution has been described as one of the most important inventions of recent times and that it could provide millions of people with quick and inexpensive housing worth living in. So far, for us this has meant endless work, many sleepless nights and often-severe worries about money, technical solutions and bureaucratic hurdles.
But we do not regret any of it. Many believe that we have transformed a good idea into reality and we have gained many supporters and friends in the process. So we are proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is still much to do.
You see, being an entrepreneur can often be its own reward and this is especially true when it is also economically successful. But an entrepreneur does not have to become rich to be happy. If we provide the means to make the world just a little bit better, then that will be reward enough. These old REDs will be able to approach the ultimate finishing line knowing that they have made a difference. What could be more motivational than that?
The last six years with PolyCare has certainly taught me some golden rules. These are my golden rules for entrepreneurship:
- Fairness – always treat employees and business partners how you would like to be treated. Friends are more valuable than enemies.
- Dreams – everyone has the right to change the world. Be brave and set yourself goals that are as big as your confidence will allow, but make sure that you are practical about what is achievable.
- Planning – don’t leave things to chance. Plan your steps carefully, review them constantly and always have a plan B.
- Develop the team and yourself – look beyond your horizons and learn from others. Invest time in networking. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the best people you can find.
- Commercialise – the best invention is useless unless you can sell it. Everything revolves around the benefits to your customers. Make sure it provides benefits for them.
- Team – if you need staff, get the best people, share your vision with them and continually motivate them.
I wish you all success on your entrepreneurial path. Follow your dreams with courage and confidence and don´t be put off by small setbacks.
And finally…..believe in yourself.
I am grateful that you have read my blog and I am grateful for the interest that you have shown in our solution. Now this technology must reach the people in need. I ask you with all my heart for your support… please spread the word about this invention to the world. Tell your friends via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail. Let UNHCR and others know that there is a cheaper more practical and ethical alternative to the use of containers in the desert for refugees and for worldwide affordable housing.
Your words might just fall on the ears of the right person at the right time, and that could change the lives of millions.
Best of luck to you all.
To read more about Polycare :
This month our EiR is PolyCare CEO Gerhard Dust. Following a successful career in business, Gerhard was looking at a life of cosy retirement. However, things were to take an unexpected turn. A humanitarian crisis forced him to re-evaluate his position, with major consequences for his future. In this blog post, Gerhard tells us about his motivation, his experience and what it was that led him on his current path.
This morning I am driving from my home in Gummersbach to Gehlberg in the German Thuringian Forest. It’s 350 km and a minimum three-hour drive. It’s quite tiring but I have been doing this each week, sometimes twice a week, for 6 years. Today, we are meeting a delegation from China that is interested in our breakthrough technology for building houses. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Gerhard Dust, the Managing Director of PolyCare Research Technology GmbH. We have invented a new way of building that uses essentially waste materials and unskilled labour to make houses and other structures. But inventing something radically new, something that has even won international acclaim doesn’t automatically mean success. Success ultimately relies on being able to enter the market and having the market accept what you do. So today’s meeting with the Chinese delegation is another critical step on the long road often faced by inventors and developers.
For us at PolyCare, and for me personally, this all started six and a half years earlier. It was another bright and sunny day in Florida. The most difficult decision I had to face that day was whether to play another round of golf, go for a swim, or just walk the dog. Life in retirement looked so good then – I had previously stepped down as the General Manager of Europe’s largest book wholesaler business.
But not too far away from where I was at the time, people’s experience of this day would be totally different. There, Mother Nature would lift her head and wreak havoc for millions. By the end of that day, more than 100,000 people would die and millions would lose their homes, their jobs and many – their loved ones. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this would also be a turning point in my life. From then on I would also be inextricably linked to that disaster. Haiti and its consequences had set me on a different course.
In the weeks following that terrible tragedy I had a constant feeling of futility. I had little to offer. Moreover, it seemed that the entire international community could not do much better. Relief in these circumstances relies on food, water, medicines and a tent, if you are lucky. But for me, rebuilding lives, rebuilding families and communities means so much more. It must involve building proper homes, homes that can stand the worst of the weather, and building them quickly. Having all those people sitting around with no work and nothing to do was such a waste of talent and positive energy. And that’s when I started to think…
Why do we continue to use a building process very similar to that used by the Romans two thousand years ago? Why can’t we bring modern technology to building and do something different? What if we could make super concrete from local materials and use it to make components for houses that fit together like LEGO? Wouldn’t that enable the ‘unskilled’ survivors to build their own houses? Can’t we all build with LEGO? If we could, wouldn’t that massively improve the building speed? At the very least this would provide just a chance of motivating and stimulating those survivors who had thought that, for them, all hope had gone.
A few months earlier I had a chance meeting with Gunter Plötner, a former builder and developer who told me of his idea to turn ordinary local/desert sand into a super form of concrete. This concrete was much stronger than ordinary concrete and was completely impervious to water and frost and could be set in extremely accurate shapes.
The memory of that meeting, and my determination to do something to help those unable to help themselves, led me to the path I am now on.
The meeting I am driving to will demonstrate just such a building technique. However, it has developed so quickly and to such an extent that it is no longer destined just for disaster relief and reconstruction. With a massive worldwide deficit in housing construction it is just as relevant for ordinary housing in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK as it is in Africa, India, South America etc. It provides super strong, very fast build homes for all markets, together with schools, medical centres etc.
So far the building industry has shown ‘interest’ but not much more. Nevertheless, since becoming a winner at the recent TEDx Binnenhof EU invention competition, the world has started to come to Gehlberg to see what we are doing. The Chinese delegation isn’t the first nor, judging by the enquiries we are receiving, will it be the last.
To see more about PolyCare and our revolutionary building technique go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hg3qujz7jj9ss1h/VTS_04_1.VOB?dl=0