James Bidwell of Re_Set tells us about working exclusively with businesses and companies who want to make a positive global impact.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
James Bidwell: We are doing well, thank you. We are very aware of how fortunate we are to have a home in the English countryside and a business which is fundamentally about helping organizations navigate disruption. There continues to be so much suffering in the world, much of it due to inadequate political leaders who have managed Covid badly. On the positive side, it has been a moment for reflection, a moment for the world to consider our impact on nature, and a moment for us to think about different priorities and behaviours as we emerge, slowly, from the pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Re_Set.
James Bidwell: First and foremost, I am a father to 3 amazing daughters and 2 fabulous stepsons and husband to my extraordinary wife, Sophie.
From a career point of view, I spent many years working at Board and CEO level across retail and tourism, including Disney, Selfridges, Visit London, and Anthropologie Europe. I loved the creative side of what I was doing but began to feel uncomfortable with encouraging consumption. In 2012, I was the CEO of London’s Tourism Board, Visit London, and helped bring the Olympics to the city. Although this was a very exciting time in my career, I still felt uneasy, especially given tourism’s reliance on air travel and the associated carbon emissions inherent in mass travel. In many of my leadership roles, I began to introduce green incentives; however, the more I reflected, the more I was drawn to the idea of “purpose” and the role I could play by committing to encouraging innovation to tackle climate change.
From this was born the journey which led to me acquiring Springwise, the world’s leading innovation community, in 2015, and, two years later, co-founding Re_Set, the next generation strategy consultancy for innovation and sustainability, with my wife, Sophie.
Both our businesses are B Corps and members of 1% for the Planet, and all our teams are 100% committed to maximum positive impact.
How does Re_Set innovate?
James Bidwell: At Re_Set, we work exclusively with businesses and companies who want to make a positive global impact and embed sustainability into their core business strategies. As a next-generation strategy consultancy, we work with clients to ensure they thrive in disrupted times. We achieve this by understanding what’s next and how to make change happen at a pace with a positive, sustainable impact.
Springwise is a global platform and community for innovation that matters; it is the world’s largest source of global innovations offering access to the world’s top innovators, entrepreneurs, original thinkers, and inventors. Our Springwise network spreads across 190 countries and gives us a unique advantage in bringing you the latest real innovations from real innovators from every country in the world. This all happens in real-time, keeping people up to date and inspiring them as they create a better future.
Climate change is now an existential problem, and much of the solution to solving this crisis is to innovate. We work to persuade leadership teams, investors, and customers to make a real difference every day.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
James Bidwell: Re_Set specializes in disruption and helping companies thrive in the face of a fast-changing world. We also specialize in innovation and sustainability as the key levers for growth. So, we are in demand and have grown during Covid.
We have also seen a seismic shift in the way people are responding and adapting to the climate emergency. In that sense, Covid has impacted us in a positive way as more people than ever are engaging with the work we do. Covid has also been a testbed for business founders and leaders, pushing them to try new things and change their business models. Re_Set has had to be agile and flexible in order to successfully pivot and respond to shifting sands, seeing and seizing the opportunities wherever possible. I believe there is a huge opportunity now to be brave and bold.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
James Bidwell: We make difficult decisions every day! We saw that Covid could be an opportunity for us and doubled down on our mission. We grew our team, and we became a B Corp – a growing community of businesses committed to redefining the role of business in society as a force for good. I believed that if we could get through Covid, we would emerge much stronger, and that seems to have been the right decision. We did also apply for a government loan to help us, though – I am delighted to report that we did not use it at all and are about to pay it back!
The key lesson is to have confidence in oneself, to do the right thing, and to remain agile.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
James Bidwell: We use all the normal meeting software and have adapted our client’ innovation interventions’ and other work to the virtual environment. My team is brilliant and has kept up momentum throughout so that we maintain the highest standards; our motto is “excellence at pace,” and we do that 100%.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
James Bidwell: We often compete with the big consultancies, like McKinsey and KPMG, because we work only with the most senior teams. We are clearly differentiated in the sustainability space as we really walk the talk, while the others do not (as you can read in the press!). As a next-generation consultancy, Re_Set is highly differentiated; we are lean and agile, so we can move fast for our clients at the same time as creating amazing work.
One of the biggest distinguishing factors for us is that both Re_Set and Springwise are B Corp accredited and members of 1% for the planet. I am also an ambassador for B Corp, which gives us that competitive edge. In terms of how we stay ahead of the game, Re_Set works selectively with companies who are enlightened, who see the absolute value in what we do. That way, we know that our work is not falling on deaf ears, and we can really instigate progress. We work to make companies more resilient, allowing them the opportunity to be on the right side of disruption from a growth and sustainability point of view.
Similarly, Springwise collects and collates the best and most cutting-edge innovations from around the world to publish each day at www.springwise.com, ensuring that we are ahead of the trend.
Just as important, though, is the company culture. Sophie and I created this business with a shared vision of leading a purposeful life and existence. The desire to make the world a better place and to have the maximum impact is integral to the company’s core purpose, and we drive this agenda: there is no ambiguity about what we’re trying to achieve together.
Becoming a B Corp and chairing 1% for the Planet in the UK are part and parcel of this, and I believe that this is what makes us attractive to the increasing number of candidates who share this outlook and want to work in a company like ours.