Entrepreneur encourages service in lecture

(Photo by Raychel Johnson) Robert Workman, founder of GoalZero, holds one of his products at a lecture he presented on business ethics.
(Photo by Raychel Johnson) Robert Workman, founder of Goal Zero, holds one of his products at a lecture he presented on business ethics.

Dumke Legacy Hall filled with students, business owners and professors tonight to hear an ethics lecture by Robert Workman, founder of nonprofit organization TIFIE and businesses Goal Zero and Bare Bones.

Jeff Steagall, dean of the John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics, said the annual lecture was by far the best-attended of any in the past. Steagall attributed that partly to Workman’s message of “do good, get good.”

“I really think his message of if you do good things, good things will happen — and there are certainly counterexamples of that, but generally, I think that is true,” Steagall said. “If you are creating value for people, that’s how you get paid.”

During his lecture, Workman discussed his successes and failures with startup businesses in different countries. He said the real way to be successful and enrich the lives of others is to rethink models to fulfill people’s basic needs: power, water, food and shelter. This, he said, is how solar electricity company Goal Zero was born.

“When we got these people in the hands of tools like this (Goal Zero solar chargers for) an economic benefit or an education benefit, we were 100 percent successful,” Workman said. “It changed our paradigm of how we work with the poorest of poor.”

Workman also said his products are successful because they are also relevant to the rich, who are often concerned about sustainability.

“This is where the human needs and things that are really important in life comes in where everything is equalized,” he said. “We make products that everyone can use.”

Trevor Wessman, a senior studying human resources, said Workman’s lecture answered many of his life questions.

“The main thing that I got from it was really how I can set up my life goals,” Wessman said, “and I think the projects that he set up are the kind of things I’m looking towards in life, something that benefits life in general.”

Full coverage of the lecture will be included in Monday’s print edition of The Signpost.