Credo: James Kao

James Kao, CEO of GreenCitizen, located in Los Altos, tells us what principles guide his career, his life philosophy, where he finds inspiration and how he balances business and good work.

Why do you do what you do? What made you choose this for a career?

After working for Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Oracle and starting three software companies, I was looking for something more challenging and meaningful. GreenCitizen’s long-term business mission is to develop a comprehensive collection, tracking and processing system that provides convenient, accountable and safe electronic recycling and material reclaim in the U.S. and eventually for the rest of the world, to stop the current global dumping crisis. The crisis and the opportunity is so big, difficult and pressing, it energizes me and my team at GreenCitizen to continue to find broader and deeper solutions to address this crisis every day.

What do you consider to be the guiding principles or philosophy that have led you to your current position in life?

Doing good for the environment, society, family, customers, employeesand investors. Also, always do more than asked for, be persistent through good times and bad, and never give up or lose sight of your big goal at all times. Don’t get annoyed or distracted by temporary setbacks, inconveniences and sacrifices.

Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? If so, what religion or philosophy or set of beliefs guides your spirituality?

Not particularly, but I believe in leaving the earth a better place than when I am here. That is a philosophy — if one does that, he will be welcome everywhere. Don’t worry about where you’re going to end up. You’re going to end up somewhere, and if you do good, you’ll be welcome everywhere.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in success for individuals which are able to launch successful business ventures, which have gone through a lot of obstacles and have come out surviving and stronger. As far as I feel, if a business has not gone through a couple of downturns and come out stronger, it has not been tested.

How do you balance good works and business?

Warren Buffett says, lesson one: Don’t lose money. Lesson two: Don’t forget rule No. 1. When you’re running a business, that’s critical. Don’t lose money. The first rule in doing any business, especially a socially responsible business such as GreenCitizen, is to not lose money. Then you can survive to do more good. Don’t lose money and you can continue to do more and more for the environment and the customer will come.

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