As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing William B. Callahan.
William was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and attended high school in Florida, where he graduated in 1964. Bill returned to Pittsburgh and went to work for Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. while attending art school. In 1970 Bill was hired by Chubb and later transferred to Chubb’s San Francisco Office, where he became its Operations Manager and a Corporate Officer. Following CHUBB, Bill worked for several computer hardware and software businesses, including IBM. Bill ended his corporate career in 1993 with Apple.
In 1994 Bill set out to apply his natural skills, designing and building lifelong modular furniture made sustainably. Bill became the founder of Tamalpais NatureWorks and quickly created a unique steel joinery system for empowering everyday people to make their own lifelong furniture. With limited interest and only modest success, Bill decided to set furniture aside, and pursue his life-long interest for a world far better than today. In 2011 Bill became the founder of OHIAS (Our Health Is At Stake). Today, Bill is fully engaged in communicating the URGENCY of our day in support of our youth, their future, and all those who are denied health and justice the world over!
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Much of what makes me the person I’m today was being born and raised in Pittsburgh. When I was around seven years old, I had a number of observations about our natural world and nightmares regarding our human world. They clashed, opposing one another, and drove me to become the person I’m today.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I was just hired as a general manager for a software development company in Southern California. The company was about to file an IPO and was recently authorized to sell IBM PC’s along with our medical billing software. We had a storeroom full of new machines but few sales. I was encouraged by the board to develop a promotion for our resellers. The one I developed offered a significant discount on multiple copies over a short window of time. The campaign tripled our software sales and depleted our IBM inventory. I was shocked how fast it all happened, so fast, I was sure the board was going to have my head for giving too much away. To my amazement, I was congratulated by all.
What I learned was, never doubt your best effort, and learn from each decision.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Jonathon Livingston Seagull, as Jonathan Livingston Seagull, though a gull, models individualism, creativity, courage, and generosity. He pulls away from the flock in part one, finding himself bored with their materialism and conformity. His own questioning and nonconformity result in him being exiled.
I see myself described as what makes Jonathon Livingston Seagull, Jonathon Livingston Seagull.
I never read this book, but much of what I know about it supports my thinking regarding how we live (cast) today, so unnaturally and irresponsibly.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
To design and build empowering, creative, and sustainable furniture products like no other. The objective of the product is to empower people everywhere with little experience, know how, few tools, and only a modest budget, to build their very own lifelong furniture creations at home. One of our trademarks, a byline reads Furniture Mother Earth would be proud to own.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
My guiding principle is, to be honest, and respectful of all people and the planet, yet this, of course, is not as easy as far too many compromises are made in conducting business. This conflict between profit and health and justice of people and planet is one conflict that requires change today before we can make any real progress addressing our many human threats.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My lovely wife Lois and I are both in our 70’s and, for the most part, healthy, and she is more than I, as I have a preexisting lung disease, which makes me one of the most at risk of COVID-19. Fortunately, I didn’t need to make any dramatic changes in my life since I’ve been living a very simple (sustainable) life for the past five years, working from home and driving my wife crazy.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I can honestly say COVID-19 has not challenged my work as Director of OHIAS. It has helped me communicate the urgency for fundamental human change today. Where many may find the reality of the pandemic shocking, I find it to be another loud and clear warning that our health, our children’s future health, and justice is at stake today if we continue with the pursuit of business as usual.
What I’ve done is authored a global petition at CHANGE.ORG. The petition asks all people everywhere to stand as one people and planet, alongside our youth and all people denied health and justice the world over, making the health and justice of all people and planet first in our lives, before capital gain and politics.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Whether we like it or not, many of us have a lot more time to think about things we couldn’t before, like time to think about life’s big picture and how we could make all our lives and our world more healthy than deadly for our children and their future. I’m now hearing more people say they now see how they can live a more satisfying and healthy life without all the unhealthy stuff and travel. If this plays out, even with modest global success early, we could see the door crack open enough to see inside, to the profound benefits of accepting fundamental human change and overcoming the extreme odds.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I, like many, believe this pandemic should not be a wasted opportunity, as it’s likely our last chance to change how we live with one another and planet, to save our children’s future. Their future should not be determined by their color, language, sex, age, race, political persuasion, or origin.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I’m, of course, hopeful people everywhere will listen to our children and stand with them as one people and planet.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I hear and understand people are looking for ways to fill idle time and make their lives healthier by embracing sustainable living practices. Since I’m also a designer of healthy and empowering living products, this event could prove to be an unprecedented opportunity to grow my business, and further demonstrate the life-saving benefits of living sustainable (healthy) lives as our natural living world requires.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
PLEASE, visit my CHANGE.ORG petition and PLEASE sign, demonstrating your commitment to stand with all our children, and all people denied health and justice, as one people and planet, for a world far better than today.
Here’s the link, thank you!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” — Albert Einstein
I believe his quote is very relevant in that we all recognize his genius, his comprehension of our world, and this was his warning to all of us today.
How can our readers further follow your work?