Most people have probably never heard of Jianyi Dong. He’s not particularly famous or a well-known celebrity. But for me, he’s remarkable. He is a Change Ready Leader.
Look at what he did in 2014: Jianyi quit a secure, well-paying job with an Oil Company in China. Shortly afterwards, he and his young family emigrated to northern Canada. Even though he was a geologist by training, Jianyi reinvented himself and transitioned to agriculture when oil prices crashed. At his new home in Olds, Alberta, he researched passive solar greenhouses for 6 months. During this time, he travelled back to his native China to talk to farmers, builders and manufacturers in the greenhouse industry. Jianyi Dong purchased a $250,000 greenhouse kit from China. While waiting for the crates arrive, he and his wife took a 5 day welding course. Together they welded the entire frame, poured the foundation and assembled the infrastructure and shell.
Jianyi’s passive solar greenhouse is innovative, inspiring and successful. He grows vegetables year round even in Canada’s harsh winter climate where temperatures range between -20 and -30 degrees. Last year, they produced more than 30,000 pounds of tomatoes with no heat source other than the heat from the sun.
How did Jianyi Dong transition from the Oil Industry in China to growing tomatoes in Canada’s frozen north? Jianyi understood the dynamics of change; he adopted and practiced change-ready mindsets and behaviours.
Change Ready Leader Mindsets
Anticipate the Future
In 2013 Jianyi saw that oil prices were crashing. His research showed that the industry would continue to be unstable. Rather than waiting and hoping for the best, he anticipated the future. Jianyi acted on what he saw as a hard trend and transitioned to agriculture.
Jianyi was convinced that his future in China would be limited. In a series of bold moves, he quit his job, emigrated to Canada and started a new career. With no guarantees, he embraced the uncertainty of the future and rejected the status quo.
Even though his new venture was untested in northern Canada, Jianyi took calculated risks that involved learning many new skills. Undaunted, he accepted the challenges and embraced continuous learning. In fact, there is a long list of new skills that Jianyi developed with no previous experience: building a state of the art greenhouse, monitoring the temperatures, moisture and humidity levels inside and outside the greenhouse. In addition to these technical skills, he became the owner and operator of his small business; Jianyi learned to manage all the employees and volunteers. And last but not least, he learned to market and sell his produce.
Jianyi Dong’s story is remarkable. He the owner of Freshpal Farms, a small enterprise which has grown to be the largest passive solar greenhouse business in Alberta. He’s not only successful, his innovations are recognized in agricultural circles around Canada. Daniel Chappell is the manager of the botanic gardens and greenhouses at Old College. Chappell says it’s really exciting to see what Jianyi has accomplished. “He has single-handedly innovated the way that we’re growing winter vegetables in Alberta.”
Jianyi Dong’s example as a Change Ready Leader is both inspiring and instructive for business leaders today. Jianyi realized that in a world that is changing faster and faster, he needed to be in front of change rather than behind it. Peter Shehan says, “real growth happens when you move towards the edge of disruption where the converging forces of change create emerging new possibilities.” Jianyi Dong embraced uncertainty, stepped into a new future and created a remarkable breakthrough business.
For more information on becoming Change Ready, check out Mark DeVolder’s new book Perpetual Pivot: How the Best Leaders Adapt to Exponential Change. He provides valuable insights, answers and solutions about change, transition, leadership, engagement and teamwork. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1777386438