Doing the right thing for Digital Specialty Chemicals

Succeeding by Failing: The Secret of Ultimate Achievement
December 17, 2016

Doing the right thing for Digital Specialty Chemicals

“It’s not about ‘what can I accomplish?’’’ writes Brené Brown,” but ‘what do I want to accomplish?’” Brown, one of my favourite writers, describes the process I went through when considering the future of Digital Specialty Chemicals. In 2014, I made a deliberate decision about what I wanted to accomplish for Digital Specialty Chemicals versus what I could accomplish. Since founding the company over 30 years ago, DSC had grown from a small team of bench chemists to a 25 million enterprise, with products serving global markets for specialty and fine chemicals. The company was a success, and its future bright. But looking ahead, there were many choices open to DSC as to the kind of company it could be. It was then I attended a conference at Harvard on deliberately developmental organizations. Inspired by the speaker, global expert Kazimeirz “Kaz” Gozdz, I set a goal directly tied to what was important to me: transform DSC into a deliberately development organization with a triple bottom line. [] By changing “can I accomplish” to “want to accomplish”, the goal I set for the company focused on what mattered to me in terms of what I most valued.

Understanding the triple bottom line company

Triple bottom line companies operated with 3 distinct yet interconnected priorities: people, planet and profits. None exist independently; each in turn, provides momentum to the next.

• People: A triple bottom line organization ensures that its operations benefit the company’s employees as well as the community where it conducts business. This first “pillar” holds up the importance of helping employees find value in their work by developing their potential through education and ways to become better human beings.

• Planet: Triple bottom line companies are committed to environmentally sustainable business practices, achieved by maximizing benefits while minimizing detriments. DSC ha always had the highest systems in place, (including ISO 14001 quality environmental standards). But this second pillar means a commitment to continually look for ways to surpass current measures and innovations.

• Profits: Profits are always connected to the economic and social impacts of what a company does. By emphasizing the profits pillar, the company then has ability to reinvest in the other two pillars—social and environmental.


I set a goal directly tied to what was important to me: transform DSC into a deliberately development organization with a triple bottom line.


Creating a triple bottom line for Digital Specialty Chemicals

My goal for transforming DSC into a triple bottom line organization is going to take 5 years. It involves learning on everyone’s part, discipline, openness to change, hard work, and focus. As a first step, we hired the expert I’d met at Harvard to guide us on the change process. For several months, Kaz advised on the transition to a deliberately development organization, and developing a framework for a new company structure. The process also means some serious letting go on my part. As a typical founder/CEO, I’ve been used to being in control. For example, DSC has always had a Board of Directors, but as the major shareholder, I made the decisions. It was “Ravi’s way” and it worked very well for many years. But part way through the transformation, we’ve created a functioning board called an executive council. Each member has an equal voice at the table, responsible for their own decisions based on the priorities set for the company. In order to grow its revenue to $100 million with just 180 employees, DSC requires a significant financial investment. To demonstrate my commitment to this part of the goal, I’ve reinvested a significant amount of my shares back into the company.