Henry Ford once said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a bad business”. Ford is acknowledged as a key figure in history that, as a Captain of Industry, pioneered the assembly line process of production. This novel approach revolutionized the industry in the United States and the rest of the world. Despite being known as an innovator who knew how to make a dollar, history often overlooks his philosophy of business, a philosophy that included taking care of his own employees by paying them higher wages. For many living in today’s world, business is a means to create wealth in order to better one’s own life, sometimes at the expense of others. Tim Fairchild takes a different path. Fairchild, the Director of Global Energy Practice for SAS, was a guest speaker at WACC’s Global Energy Series on June 2, 2016. He discussed how business is more than a means to make money, but rather an avenue to make the world a better place.
Since its founding in 1976 at NC State University, SAS has been frequently ranked as one of the top-performing privately-owned businesses and one of the best places to work by Fortune Magazine. Fairchild, who is head of the Energy Department at SAS, began his speech with an excerpt of his personal experiences with Dr. James Goodnight, a founding member of SAS and its current CEO. For Fairchild, in order for others to see how SAS is different from many similar companies, it is necessary to understand the man at the helm. Goodnight’s vision for the company has influenced its unique culture. Worth 8.1 billion according to a 2012 Forbes report, Goodnight’s philosophy is being down to earth`. He drives his own car, eats in the cafeteria, and can be seen walking around the SAS campus. When SAS had the option to go public, a move that would have made Goodnight one of the wealthiest individuals in the nation, he decided against it, stating that the culture of the company he helped build would be lost, and that SAS would be run by shareholders who have no relationship with the company’s employees.
“You can sell sugar water or you can do something that matters,” Fairchild says with a grin on his face, taking a small poke at Coca Cola, which also has large operations in Charlotte. Diving into his speech Fairchild addressed problems of the current electrical grid setup, how individual solar panel units for homes are woefully inefficient for their cost when compared to British Thermal Units (BTU’s) produced, and how if green infrastructure is to flourish in residential areas, it will be communities that need to make the push, not just government laws and regulations. He gives a personal anecdote about how when he and his wife moved into a new city they had to choose from dozens of different electric providers. Praising the system put in place for Charlotte and the surrounding area, he highlights Duke Energy’s commitment to quality and environmental awareness, similar to SAS which has now spread around the world. For Fairchild, companies like Duke Energy and SAS are prime examples in how companies are taking point in the push for sustainable energy.
Summarized by William Floyd, recent graduate from Appalachian State University (B.A. History)