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Bold Leader Spotlight: Howard Hughes – Aviator, Innovator, Industrialist

The Bold Business Bold Leader Spotlight returns to cast its light on history, with a look at aviator, innovator, and industrialist Howard Hughes. Hughes was born on Christmas Eve in 1905, and his proud parents could not have anticipated the tremendous impact their son would have on the world. Over the course of his lifetime, Hughes would demonstrate a bold leadership that few had witnessed previously. This not only occurred through Hughes’ accomplishments, but it also stemmed from the way he conducted everyday affairs. Without question, he has been one of America’s boldest leaders throughout its history.

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Howard Hughes was a bold leader.
What stands out among Howard Hughes’ accomplishments? The man was certainly an aviation pioneer!

Driven by Results at a Young Age

Bold leadership is often epitomized by a focus on goals and results. These drive bold leaders to accomplish the unthinkable. And for Hughes, this remarkable trait was evident at a young age even before the Howard Hughes corporation existed. As a teen, Hughes describes two major goals that he wished to achieve in his life. The first was to become the world’s best pilot, and the second was to be the world’s best movie producer. While this might seem like any child’s fantasy ambitions, this was not the case for Hughes. These were goals that guided many of his actions throughout his life.

Believe it or not, Hughes became a millionaire while still a teen as well. Unfortunately, his mother passed away when he was only 16 years of age, and his father died when Hughes was 18 years old. As a result, the Hughes Tool Company, worth $1 million, became the first Hughes corporation. And with this fortune, Hughes soon pursued the goals that he had dreamed about for so long. With a focus on attaining his boldest visions, Hughes pursued his vision with passion. And the Hughes corporation dream would certainly follow.

Howard Hughes doing some sort of radio interview
As a bold leader, Hughes did his best to inspire others.

Exuding Confidence in Self and in Others

Shortly after Hughes established the Hughes Tool Company as the first Howard Hughes corporation, he made an important decision. He chose Noah Dietrich, an accountant, to operate the company under Hughes’ bold leadership. As it turned out, this choice was tremendous. Within five years, Dietrich had turned the company into a $75 million entity. By showing such confidence in others, Hughes amassed significant wealth in a short amount of time.

Dietrich was not the only individual in whom Hughes showed confidence. Throughout his career, he often delegated authority to others in whom he trusted. This included other companies outside the Howard Hughes corporation, such as TWA airlines. When Hughes believed TWA was excelling in the airline industry, he purchased a significant share of the company. Though Hughes was often recognized as a lone wolf and a recluse, he was not without the ability to see talents in others. This was actually a notable aspect of his bold leadership.

Hughes was an aviator willing to take risks
Piloting the Spruce Goose was a memorable Hughes accomplishment!

Bold Leadership Through Example and Humility

It is well known that Hughes was determined to be the very best in a number of areas. As part of the Howard Hughes corporation conglomerate, he founded Hughes Aircraft Company, film production companies, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. At the same time, Hughes set his own world records in the process. This included the world’s fastest airspeed record, the fastest transcontinental flight, and the fastest world flight. Hughes was always willing to do whatever it took to achieve the mission. In leading through example, his bold leadership influenced many during his lifetime.

Hughes’s humility in this regard extended into all his projects. One notable example of this bold leadership trait involved an aircraft collaboration project he pursued with the CIA. Named the “Spruce Goose,” Hughes designed and built a flying boat at the end of World war II. However, its size received criticism with officials suggesting Hughes had simply pursued a vanity project. Taking the criticism to heart, Hughes humbled himself and flew the Spruce Goose himself. While this was the only flight the vessel would take, it demonstrated Hughes’ humility as a leader.

Championing Change for a Better Society

Hughes was quite powerful in championing change during his lifetime. As already described, his innovations in aviation set records and prompted the evolution of commercial flights. Likewise, the Howard Hughes corporation also included a film production studio, and his achievements here are noteworthy as well. Some of his films received Oscar nominations, and a film he produced at age 21 received an Academy Award. And later in his life, he invested heavily in Las Vegas modernizing the city into what it has become today. His bold leadership embraced these types of changes and made commitments to see them through.

Hughes ultimately died in 1976 after years as a recluse. But despite this less than spectacular ending, he was the epitome of bold leadership. And when he died, the Howard Hughes corporation was worth $1 billion. To this day, Howard Hughes remains an inspiration to millions for the bold leadership he consistently exhibited.

Wattpad Stories and the Monetization of User-Generated Content

The publishing world has seen its share of changes over the last couple of decades. Thanks to things like online journals and blogs to other self-publishing trends, traditional routes of content publishing are clearly things of the past. And these changes have opened the door for many aspiring authors to share their talents (or lack thereof) with others. Yes, I’m talking about Wattpad, which offers not only a publishing platform, but a vehicle for connecting with other writers, and… possible compensation.

With Wattpad, user-generated content can now be enjoyed by millions of readers on a global web-based platform. The publisher has 80 million users from around the world and allows user-generated content to be shared with a vibrant literary community. In short, the site is a social story-telling community where four million monthly writers share Wattpad stories for entertainment and feedback. And increasingly, this same user-generated content allows previously unknown talent to gain not only recognition but some income as well.

a photo quote from Allen Lau in relation to the site, Wattpad, and its Wattpad Stories
Wattpad CEO and co-founder Allen Lau has 20/20 hindsight, but no real regrets.

Wattpad’s Challenging Journey Toward Success

The co-founders of Wattpad launched the company in 2006—a time that was well before smartphones and advanced mobile devices. Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen wanted to create a digital platform where reading materials could be shared on a mobile device. But then, the most advanced mobile device was the Motorola Razr, which was hardly conducive to easy texting or reading. So, they acquired several public domain books for users to access and used their site as a social e-reader. After a year, Wattpad had only 1,000 customers regularly on the site without anyone providing new user-generated content.

Fortunately, positive change came in 2008 by way of Apple and its iPhone and App store. With the introduction of smartphones, mobility and texting became quickly in vogue. Wattpad stories from original content writers began to appear on the site. And readers progressively began to flock to user-generated stories identifying their favorites through better customer engagement. By 2011, Wattpad had over a million users and was seeing exponential growth. Despite having struggled for the platform’s first several years, Wattpad stories were now a real thing with a real following.

a photo quote from Allen Lau in relation to Wattpad Stories
Wattpad Co-founders Lau and Yuen wanted writers to receive monetary compensation from the start.

Monetizing Wattpad Stories and Rewarding User-Generated Content

Having had public domain or open-access books only for its first couple of years, Wattpad was thankful to have original user-generated content. But while the presence of readership encouraged original writings and Wattpad stories, additional incentives were being considered. Specifically, Lau and Yuen wanted writers to receive monetary compensation for their efforts and turn their hobby into a profession. This objective, as well as the need for Wattpad stories to generate income for the company, led the co-founders to develop several monetization routes. To a large extent, these strategies have led to the tremendous growth that the site has experienced in the last decade.

In essence, writers have more than one potential way to monetize their user-generated content. The primary route is by getting readers to pay for additional content from the writers they enjoy the most. Other Wattpad stories by a specific author can be accessed if a reader chooses to pay a small amount. Also, writers can receive compensation for branded work by companies that promote writing projects on the Wattpad site. And on occasion, top-rated writers “hit it big” and receive large publishing contracts and other media opportunities. Several Wattpad writers are now well-recognized internationally for their initial user-generated content on the platform.

cartoon of a female Wattpad stories writer penning another user-generated content for the site
With Wattpad’s practical digital monetization approaches, writers have a few potential ways to monetize their user-generated content on the site.

As for Wattpad, the company also has developed effective digital monetization approaches (Want more on digital monetization? Check out this Bold Business story!) approaches. Naturally, ads placed alongside Wattpad stories are used to generate income for the company. Likewise, users may pay a monthly subscription fee for a premium service with enhanced access to user-generated content. And writers can also pay for their own branding or sponsored materials as a means to increase reader outreach. These monetization strategies, along with the company’s own publishing and media projects, allow a revenue turnover of $24 million annually.

Invested in a True Community Centered on Wattpad Stories

Notably, the challenge for many businesses is to create a model that not only permits financial success but also gives back at the same time. By supporting its users and by providing customers what they want, Wattpad has been successful in this regard. The monetization opportunities for user-generated content keeps active writers contributing to Wattpad stories. Likewise, tying reader preferences and inputs to these monetizing rewards empowers readers while ensuring that the right content is promoted.

In addition to these strategies, Wattpad also employs data analytics and artificial intelligence in its platform. In doing so, the company can track reader responses and preferences related to Wattpad stories. In turn, this information is used to enhance user-generated content and enhance its TV and movie work with Wattpad’s partners. Here too, Wattpad is committed to creating win-win scenarios from which their entire web-based community can benefit. This formula has worked exceptionally well for Wattpad in its other endeavors. And it will likely continue to serve the company well in the future.

Is the Marijuana Industry Coming Off Its High?

It’s been roughly a year since Canada legalized cannabis use, and the year has been a rocky one. The Marijuana Index, which tracks cannabis stocks, has shown more than a 50 percent decline in value. And larger companies like Aurora and Medmen implemented measures to cut expenses and limit risk exposure. What does this mean? Is the entire cannabis industry is doomed to fail? Or are these simply growing pains for a marijuana industry trying to find its way? To answer these questions, a deeper analysis is in order.

marijuana industry
Will the marijuana industry pick up again in 2020?

Major Challenges for the Cannabis Industry

For any new industry, environments can either pose challenges for success or facilitate the path toward success. When it comes to the marijuana industry, the environment has certainly been challenging to say the least. Despite the legalization of cannabis in some states and in Canada, regulatory barriers pose some of the biggest barriers to success. Specifically, the amount of red tape retail stores must overcome to obtain licenses has been significant. This not only impedes supply, but it also increases costs. And higher costs naturally mean higher prices, which has allowed illegal marijuana sales to still flourish.

These are not the only hurdles that the cannabis industry has had to face. Along with the legalization of the marijuana industry came significant restrictions on advertising. Also, mysterious vaping illnesses have also curbed sales in the cannabis industry. And perhaps the most notable barrier for the marijuana industry is access to funding. Declining share prices combined with varying policies regarding its legality have made investors wary. Altogether, these factors represent the perfect storm that more than accounts for the cannabis industry’s struggles.

Possible Solutions to Weather the Storm

For the larger players in the cannabis industry, some strategic moves are already being made to survive short-term challenges. For Aurora Cannabis, that means reducing expenses, cutting short-term debt, and improving liquidity. (For more on Aurora Cannabis, check out this Bold Business profile on the company.), they have embraced policies that reduce expenses, cut short-term debt, and improve liquidity. This has been achieved by canceling some planned projects and by issuing shares in an effort to preserve cash. Other companies in the marijuana industry, like Pax and Medmen, cut jobs and temporarily pulled back on some initiatives. Overall, the sentiment is simply that the current issues are temporary ones. If the marijuana industry can wait it out effectively, the strong potential for success remains.

One of the most challenging problems, however, remains access to capital and funding. For companies like Aurora, they enjoy access to a $360 million credit provided by a syndicate of Canadian banks. For large medicinal marijuana industry companies, FinCanna Capital Group offers financing for top-tier businesses. But for smaller startups that rely on venture capital, fewer solutions exist. For now, reducing expenses and scaling back operations may be the only viable options available until the climate changes. Without a doubt, the cannabis industry remains in its infancy from a legal perspective. And surviving while the industry matures might be the means to “weed” out those who will enjoy ultimate success.

marijuana industry, terry booth qouted
The cannabis industry is leveling up with new products.

Glimmers of Hope and Positive Change

While the last year has seemed rather dismal for the marijuana industry’s stock performance, positive changes have occurred. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill that no longer labels marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. Likewise, the passing of a farm bill advanced hemp cultivation in the U.S. for CBD production. And if the U.S. eventually legalizes marijuana, the cannabis industry will likely see nearly a dozen other countries follow suit. Any of these developments could mean serious revenues for those currently in the marijuana industry.

At the same time, Canada is about to launch into its Cannabis 2.0. This version of legalized cannabis extends use to edibles, beverages, and vape products. This similarly has the potential to bring new products to the market that consumers prefer. This could also undermine existing illegal marijuana sales as retail stores increase. And finally, advancing legal use paves the way for much-needed research in the marijuana industry. If science further supports the array of health benefits already touted, this could be a game-changer. And in fact, preliminary studies already are showing these types of positive results (What health benefits? Check out this Bold Business story here.).

marijuana industry, bruce linton
Curative products may be part of the future of the cannabis industry.

A Potential Banner Year for the Cannabis Industry

While a massive turnaround in share prices for marijuana stocks isn’t likely to happen overnight, progressive improvement should be expected. Many of the positive developments cited may come to fruition in the upcoming year. If they do, then access to funding and capital will increase, and this will help boost stock values. From this perspective, 2020 will likely be a telltale year for the marijuana industry. Certainly, many unknowns exist. But likewise, several indicators suggest the cannabis industry may be in much better shape this time next year.