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Tuesday, May 21 News

Woog’s World / Breaking free of the corporate world

Two hundred years after its launch, HMS Beagle is still the British Navy’s most famous sloop. Charles Darwin was on board for its second voyage. His research changed the world.

Today, the HMS Beagle is the name of a company. It comes from Darwin’s famous quote: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.”

HMSB is a strategic consulting firm. Its mission is to help clients navigate the journey to survival. They “equip the next generation of brands — from start-ups to legacy companies — to weather the perfect storm of brand extinction, talent erosion and business model implosion.”

Joseph Jaffe founded the company. It’s his third startup, following the equally intriguingly named Evol8tion and crayon.

His title at HMSB is “Admiral.” That says all you need to know about the creativity and outside-the-box thinking of the longtime Westporter.

Like so many others, the Admiral — er, Jaffe — took a circuitous route here. The South Africa native fell in love with a fellow Cape Town resident named Terri. In 1993 she got a job with Sotheby’s in New York City. He stayed home, helping Nando’s Peri Peri Chicken roar to success with an irreverent marketing campaign (they used sex, religion and politics — the three taboos — to great effect).

After four years apart, Jaffe moved to New York. He followed love and, like many immigrants, saw a substantial future for himself in the States.

He worked in advertising, then in 2002 ventured out on his own. He’s been a consultant and entrepreneur ever since. His corporate experience inludes Nestle, Purina, Colgate-Palmolive, Keurig and Dr Pepper.

Along the way, Jaffe wrote four books. His fifth — “Built to Suck: The Inevitable Demise of the Corporation ... and How to Save It?” — was published this month.

Its thesis is that the very thing responsible for the success of corporations — size, scope, scale — is now the single biggest contributor to its demise. Large companies have lost their competitive edge. As the world speeds up, they’re slowing down.

“The corporate legacy world of lethargic, conservative, risk-averse, dysfunctional, siloed, political shenanigans is coming to a close,” Jaffe writes.

Bob Liodice put it in even more dire terms, after reading an advance copy. The CEO of the Association of National Advertisers said, “Joseph Jaffe has done it again. This time, he’s brilliantly demonstrated how companies’ ages are just like people. Corporations must stay young, fit and agile — or face the outcomes of company weight gains, vision problems, hearing difficulties, flab, dementia and an early death.”

There is, thankfully, hope. Survival, Jaffe says, is possible, with a “four-pillar” antidote. But companies must “embrace their inner heresy. It is only through this cathartic process that transformation can occur.”

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It’s a scary thought, for the millions of men and women working in dinosaur-like corporate America. As for Jaffe, he works largely in Westport in a very 2019-ish, totally un-corporate setting. He is a poster child for the anti-company.

Jaffe does much of his writing and consulting at B:Hive Southport. That’s the new co-working space on the Westport border. It features everything a modern worker needs — desks, conference space, private rooms, fast internet, plenty of power outlets, a kitchen, the chance to meet and collaborate with like-minded individuals — all with killer views of the Sasco Creek waterfall.

At B:Hive, Jaffe is surrounded by men and women doing intriguing things. “The next Industrial Revolution is entrepreneurship,” he notes. “It’s a huge cultural change. People can now be productive, and work together, regardless of where they live or who they are.”

He has “tremendous respect for people who do the Metro-North commute every day.” But when they get to the city, he says, they work for companies that are “increasingly not friendly to people. He cites layoffs and a lack of loyalty, along with all those other forces mentioned earlier that he believes will kill corporate America.

B:Hive — and the rest of Westport, with its critical mass of bright, creative, energetic people — is “a great place for people with different skill sets” to find each other, collaborate, and help build whatever will replace big, lumbering (and dying) corporations.

Meanwhile, Jaffe’s life here is far from all work and no play. He says, “Cape Town has been called the most beautiful city in the world. But Westport must be the most beautiful town. I absolutely love it.”

He is very involved in the Westport Soccer Association, as a coach for his three boys’ rec and travel teams.

He is also the cantor at Chabad of Westport. Jaffe leads Friday and high holiday services, and he sings with the School of Rock in Fairfield.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.

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