Do Good While Doing Good: How Values and Profits Align. Rollins Stallworth, BAS Management Science and Engineering; Investor, Nava Ventures
Rollins Stallworth hosted a session where he discussed how he honors his personal values as he pursues his career: how they inform his day-to-day work and actions, how they’ve helped him make major decisions, and how they’ve led to new opportunities.
- The first step for figuring out how to align values and career is self awareness. We all have a lot of demands and priorities - but how to balance it all?
- Three tenets of career: goals, structure, accountability.
- SMART goals on a goal ladder: outcome (hopes/dreams), performance, and process goals.
- Most important thing with value-based goals is to understand yourself and measure progress.
- Values have to work for the business, by giving you a competitive edge, or allowing you to charge more, and if they don’t, then figure out other values to make the focus that will help the business (or yourself).
- Life is short - build relationships with people who share your values. (This is another reason why you need to know what those are!)
- Relationships and conversations lead to the next opportunities.
- Best founders are the people who put themselves into a position to be successful. Put yourself in the middle of what you’re passionate about and good at. That’s when you accomplish things.
- To cultivate collaboration, compete against yourself and assume that others are doing the same thing in pursuit of the same greater goal, eg, success for the team.
- Perseverance through adversity: this is what entrepreneurship is - experimentation, and dealing with all the “No’s” before you get the “Yes”.
- Always keep an open mind - don’t get too fixated on one industry or even company.
- Success in one area brings energy, which translates to success everywhere else too.
Details from the discussion:
- With two educator parents, education was always a top priority in childhood.
- Rollins’ athletic career gave him plenty of practice with perseverance through adversity. In junior year, after 2+ years of practice with no play, he finally had a walk on chance. In his first play, he caught the ball, only to have a defender knock it out of his hands. The total devastation of not taking full advantage of that opportunity. This led to a crossroads - continue to train and push with football, or take a step back and refocus on education? Decided to do both. Two years later - he had another opportunity, this time, he made the catch and scored a touchdown. So there’s the answer. It was less about the touchdown, and more about the power of perseverance.
- After graduation, Rollins played in the Canadian Football League. Then he had a horrible game, and was cut from the league - the same day as his MA was conferred. While having very mixed emotions, he was faced with another crossroads - where to go next?
- Rollins joined T3 advisors (commercial real estate), the company had success, and an exit.
- While thinking about the transition to the next opportunity, Rollins reconnected with an old friend, and over several conversations, one thing led to the next.
- Moved into venture capital, with Nava. The T3 experience had essentially been a trampoline.
- As a student, the three tenets (from takeaways above) are embedded: goals (good grades), structure (class schedule), accountability (report card, professor expectations). In his early career, Rollins got a little bit lost, and was working all the time, with the rest of his life on the back seat. He realized that goals, structure and accountability could and should be part of his career too.
- Daily process: take off and landing. This translates to the following daily structure:
- goal tracking (ask yourself - “am I getting towards my outcome goal?”),
- review to-do list,
- email sift,
- review calendar,
- actual work,
- repeat 2,3,4, in that order.
- repeat 1.
- Rollins now has 5-6 years of data tracking how his goal achievement panned out - personal, community, and career. Views of weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual achievement.
- Personal outcome goal example: “use my blessings to be a blessing”. Measure this on the wheel of life (personal, relationships, career, environment). Every 6 months, Rollins meditates on this and asks himself how satisfied he is in that area, on a 1-10 scale. This gives him an honest snapshot, ready to adjust and organize his next set of goals. He likes it all to be balanced. He’ll ask himself, “what do I need to do to make the goal happen by 6 months from now?” Example of action: call grandma once per week.
- The actual practicals of doing this tracking: daily goals are weighted differently. The scores get averaged to a weekly score, weekly averaged to monthly etc. Rollins tracks it on a google sheet, but there are habit builder apps that would also work.
- Lesson learned by reviewing the data: his hypothesis was wrong. He thought if things were going well career wise, his personal life would be the inverse - but it’s not. He’s found that when he’s aligning his values in personal life and career world, he gets energy from what he’s doing and that increases his output.
- Rollins gains energy when accomplishing his goals - which then rolls into doing even better in all areas. He can understand and, if necessary, redefine what success looks like for him.
- Rollins has peace of mind because he trusts his process, system and infrastructure.
- Relationship building is important. Rollins recalled how in his freshman year, a professor was talking about relationships, and he felt frustrated – “I just worked really hard academically to get here, and now you’re saying it’s about who you know not what you know?! That doesn’t feel right!”. He pushed back, and realized it was less about going and meeting people for the sake of it, or for a transactional purpose, rather it was more about putting himself in a situation to be authentic and help others, flex his intellectual curiosity. This way, he built relationships, and they ultimately helped him in some way – new directions, new learning.
- Relationship building is how Rollins got his career started. He’d (reluctantly, because he was tired!), attended a Student-Athlete career fair, where he met Bo McNally, a senior leader at T3. Commercial real estate was not what he’d been thinking about, but in talking with Bo, and learning about the company, he decided to work there. T3 introduced him to a non-profit called build.org, and Rollins loved their mission. He joined their advisory board and while attending a fundraising gala, he met Freddy Martignetti, they kept in touch. A few years later, Freddy was starting Nava Ventures, and invited Rollins to join.
- Relationship building needs to have a bottoms up perspective – Rollins asks himself what he values in himself (kindness, ambition, etc) - and he wants to see those values in the people he connects with. The relationship itself always comes first, never the “what can this person do for me” question. With Bo, for example, Rollins was initially thinking he’d learn more to pass that info along to his football team mates who might be interested.
- Typical structures can be flipped to better fit values. For example, commercial real estate is traditionally very cut throat with no sharing of clients. T3 flipped that model to a family pot, where a % of every deal went to everyone on the team. This meant that everyone was rooting for each other, and helping each other. This aligned with Rollins’ personal goals.
- Similarly, the values at Nava are kindness, truth and hustle. Kindness is a huge differentiator - a people first culture, and with that, their founders feel safe to be bold, and that boldness then leads to success. Truth helps with understanding why to invest in a certain company, and means they can operate with transparency and more collaboration with their founders, which in turn minimizes bias and maximizes returns. The hustle is that they’ll do anything they can for their founders (because of the empathy and trust in the relationships built through kindness and truth). These values are why Rollins chose Nava over other bigger name companies that also gave him offers. He knew, based on his understanding of himself, that he would thrive there.
- Nava, as a Series A focused investment firm, takes a long term perspective, including when making short term decisions. Eg, if a company has to cut costs, they’ll think about the core values when examining how to do it, and work out a solution that honors those values as best they can.
- Early stage venture capital is more about people - Rollins and his team at Nava look at the people leading the company first when deciding whether to invest. Later stage venture is when it starts to become more about the numbers. Private equity is typically heavier operationally. Figure out what works for you: we’re all different.
More about Rollins:
Rollins Stallworth’s first taste of the venture and tech ecosystem came during his time at Stanford. Rollins graduated with a B.S. in Management Science & Engineering as well as a M.A. in Communication with his thesis centering around Virtual Reality’s impact on one’s empathy as a part of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
While at Stanford, Rollins represented the Cardinal as a two sport athlete, was the chairman of the Pac 12’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee and represented Student Athlete’s Name, Image and Likeness rights nationally in Washington, DC, at the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
After a short stint in the Canadian Football League, Rollins started his professional career at T3 Advisors and became T3’s New York Market Lead and Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), where he established an internal DEI Committee, developed novel recruiting and hiring processes as well as a systematic goal method that led to tangible social and economic impact for the firm. Following T3's exit, Rollins joined Nava Ventures as a member of their investment team focusing on early stage investments in consumer, enterprise and frontier tech companies.
Rollins is a proud board member of BUILD.org where he has the privilege to use the power of entrepreneurship to ignite the potential of under-estimated youth. Rollins is the 2021 Star Volunteer Award winner of the first ever CoreNet NYC DEI committee, where he helps lead the effort to increase DEI initiatives across the commercial real estate industry.
Rollins is an active mentor for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals with Hustle 2.0 as well as black undergraduate students with The Takeoff Institute. Rollins is also a regular guest lecturer for Stanford’s Technology Entrepreneurship students and a mental health advocate with Lifeisworthit.org.