By Connor David, Freelance Writer
It is often said that a CEO of a company’s main role is to make a small number of high-quality, impactful decisions to dictate the direction and success of the business. All the easy stuff usually gets handled before it hits your desk. You must be decisive, strategic, and forward-thinking – all things associated with being a top CEO. But an often-overlooked trait that is key in these dial-moving decisions, is having a strong intuition.
As Riggs Eckelberry, founder and CEO of OriginClear, put it, “intuition is being willing to recognize what is important without overthinking it. In other words, beyond the constant and sometimes numbing data flow that I get as a CEO (what Elon Musk calls “chores”), certain key data stand out, and you only will spot them if you use intuition. Behind intuition is a deep familiarity with the business you are in.” Great advice for those that have been in business a while, but what about those getting their start-us off the ground? Riggs adds, “If you are new to the business, then be sure to stay connected to a mentor or a veteran of your industry to get the “smoke signals” that this person will recognize.”
Data is essential, but often the numbers don’t tell the whole story. As we know, nothing in life or business is black and white. There are grey areas and nuances to consider. To incorporate intuition into business, Riggs Eckelberry shares, “I use intuition to dictate rapid change in the company. The truth about business is that it is a continuous creation, and you have to recognize new trends and jump on them. Yes, you can call it pattern recognition, but you have to intuitively make those leaps to turn a pattern into a business decision.”
Intuition aligns your mind and gut to make a decision that could have significant implications for your company. It means analyzing numbers, being strategic, but also a bit of something unexplainable where you just know. And it can take courage to make that sort of decision where you just have to follow your gut, though the people around you may not understand. Riggs Eckelberry shares, “Early on in my company’s history, we had our first million-dollar sale to a major partner in Australia. But they promoted a very antagonistic person to the COO position. He started threatening to get a full refund on the entire thing – even though it had already been accepted onsite in Los Angeles by their own chief engineer! And they were “incorporating” our intellectual property into theirs. I decided the only way to go was to strike them hard with litigation. My backers were against it and thought we could lose our company. But by going very rapidly on the offensive, including mailing a copy of the suit to each of their board members’ homes, I got their CEO to settle in our favor. He even came to the US to visit us and is, to this day, a Facebook friend! Intuition must be backed by courage because it is sometimes tough to do something like this.”
As the CEO of OriginClear, Riggs Eckelberry aims to make the company a springboard of innovation for water projects. They conceptualize world-changing ideas to solve many of the growing problems within the water industry. They move quickly, think fast, and are always ahead of the curve. Riggs Eckelberry shares a recent win. “We recently focused our business on the emerging micro-communities for safe water. Human communities are going away from good water service due to migration from cities and overburdened rural water systems. And in the current dangerous environment, water autonomy is a necessity. We recognized this was a trend, and within a few days, we were making it our key company strategy!” The water industry is slow-moving, but OriginClear pivots fast and is constantly evolving to solve the world’s water problems. Riggs also emboldens his team to be part of the process. He shares, “I encourage a great deal of debate and discussion. We have multiple chat groups and an environment where everyone is kept updated. This creates very fertile ground.”
Investor buy-in and engagement are critical for a public company, especially when intuitively changing strategy or direction. Riggs Eckelberry shares, “I do a weekly Zoom briefing to bring our investors up to speed either live or through replays. We’ve done more than 160 so far! These briefings are then broken down into many letters and messages to investors. We recognize that our investors are our greatest asset, and we treat them like insiders, to the extent we are allowed to by regulation.”
Always with something new on the horizon, Riggs Eckelberry shares what is next for OriginClear. “We’re very excited about Water4Us, an initiative to deliver safe, independent water to human communities. The twist is that these communities can adopt our systems without spending any capital or hiring experts – it is water as a service!” To learn more about Riggs Eckelberry, OriginClear, and their many innovative water projects, you can join the weekly CEO briefings by signing up at www.oc.gold/ceo.
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