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Business Cards

Business Cards

I’ve made a conscious effort this year to expand the QUALITY of my professional and personal network. As any introvert aspiring to be a good networker, things tend to be a bit more mechanical on my side of things but I am working on an automation formula!

Anyways, I’ve noticed something very interesting in the networking events I’ve attended – it seems we’ve entered the era of Business Card Personalization.  As the name suggests, Business Card Personalization refers to the application of Personalization (a concept very popular these days in the digital world due to Web Personalization) to networking – in layman’s terms carrying multiple business cards and targeting the recipients of the card based on how closely they fit your information or skillset on each card.

Using myself as an example, I have 3 business cards (soon to downgrade to 2). Each business card has it’s own brand and depicts a somewhat unique side of my professional aptitude. For the record, business cards should be for business purposes – for personal relationships please exchange cell phone numbers. As you’d already guessed, which business card I hand depends greatly on the person I’m handing it to. If I’m at an entrepreneur or startup networking event, I usually give out my Miigle business card, if I am approached by a potential client I hand out my consulting card, and if I’m acting on behalf of my employer I hand out its branded card.

Why am I writing about this? Well, let’s start with my own reasoning. I decide to carry 3 cards because I have and usually pursue different interests at various points in time and thought it’d be too confusing to 1) fit all that information on one card and 2) have to answer the question “So what do you do?” with multiple titles on a card. Given I already have a very hard time answering the question “Where are you from?”, I figured I’d save myself some time there. But I’ve got to ask. Am I doing it right?

Surely, people before us (i.e. our parents and grand-parents) had multiple interests? Yes! However, those interests did not always translate (intentionally or unintentionally) to being an additional source of income as they do today. It’s actually quite amazing if you think about it. There is no prior period in time when people have embraced and felt so comfortable about creating favorable financial conditions for themselves through their different interests and skills! #Entrepreneurship

To be fair, is that not why business cards were created? i.e. Remember me. I’d like to make money from or through you [one day].

So I ask, is this the death of the single business card?

p.s. Perhaps I could keep it simple and just get one business card with the title “Hustler“? I have a feeling there’s someone out there who’d be more deserving. Peace.

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Globalization

Globalization

Last August, McKinsey Quarterly published a great article entitled Winning the $30 trillion decathlon: Going for gold in emerging markets in which they predicted that “by 2025, annual consumption in emerging markets will reach $30 TRILLION USD – the biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism.” Just like I did on my post The Technological Revolution: How the Internet is creating a new kind of poverty, they turn to the Industrial Revolution as the benchmark of their argument – why? because that’s the only period in time worthy of comparison. This topic is extremely fascinating to me – after all I decided to focus my MBA on Global Business which I believe is one of the most important degrees today – no, that’s not just me trying to justify the cost.

However, a concern I’ve had is that the current level of investments global companies are making towards emerging markets does not seem to match the opportunity. McKinsey seems to agree. According to their report, leading companies in the developed world earn just 17% of total revenues from emerging markets, even though these markets represent 36% of global GDP. By 2025, only 13 years from now, consumption in emerging markets will account to nearly half of the global total.

I firmly believe that successfully tapping into these emerging markets will require a change in the Western management organizational hierarchy. Every company in the Fortune 1000 and Global 3000 rank should immediately create a new position of Chief Globalization Officer (CGO) along with a Globalization Business Unit because doing this right will require a fully committed team to analyze, evaluate, test, and optimize these companies corporate objectives in their respective markets.

In a highly competitive market, 13 years is a lot of time to fall behind, never catch up, and die.

May the race begin.

Boss talking to employee

Boss talking to employee

How many times have you read a job description that included the word “entrepreneur” or any of its derivatives such as “The right candidate should be entrepreneurial, self-starter, blah blah blah…”? My guess would be at least 90% of the time? If you are truly an entrepreneur (meaning actively working on a project outside of your commitments towards an organization that employs you full-time) you might get excited and think “Well, this company seems like a great environment for me” … and more often than not you’d be wrong. This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed for a few years now — sorry it’s taken me this long to write about it.

The truth of the matter is that there’s a certain amount of hypocrisy many companies show towards entrepreneurs. They want the skill sets and drive you’ve developed but only want it for their own benefits. What does this mean? I’ve had many people tell me, including recruiters, that you should not mention your side projects to employers before, during, or after job interviews. Even after you’ve secured the job you must thread carefully depending on your audience. To all of you, I rhetorically ask: WHY?!?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that companies invest a lot of money and resources to developing their employees and therefore must have systems in place to mitigate the risk of turnovers, which is a process that begins during the recruiting stages, rightly so. The point I’m trying to make is that they can’t and shouldn’t have the best of both world. Last time I checked, the legally accepted hours for a full-time position is 40 hours/week (many people go well above that especially if you’re salaried) and therefore employees should feel comfortable to pursue other interests or ventures beyond their job descriptions. I will go a step further and say employers should not only allow but vehemently encourage their employees to create or join startup projects.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. It is well documented that companies that truly foster an entrepreneurial culture tend to be more innovative and have higher employee morale. Google’s 20% factor – a rule that allows Google employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects that interest them – is a perfect example of this. Checked Google’s stock price over the past few years?

2. It is a great way to think outside of the box. Many of the ideas I’ve successfully implemented or that have failed (just being honest) at companies where I’ve worked did not originate from my cubicle. Many of times they were results of late nights and weekends projects that had nothing to do with my job function. Surely, I am not the only one.

3. The world is changing – get used to it. Advancements in technology and lower productivity costs partly due to globalization over the past decades have lowered many of the barriers that imped entrepreneurship. It’s become relatively easier for people to find the resources they need to turn their ideas into entrepreneurial ventures. Employers will have to get used to the growing trend of their employees starting or joining startups as “curricular” activities.

4. It could be a great investment opportunity for the company (or your boss). Don’t believe me? Ask Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com and his former boss at Oracle, Larry Ellison. Mr. Ellison did not only support Mr. Benioff when he began working on Salesforce.com (even though it was a direct competitor of Oracle’s Siebel CRM) but he was one of its first investors. Salesforce.com is a billion-dollar company and Mr. Ellison’s investment in SFDC has surely contributed to his fortune.

My argument is not that companies must employ entrepreneurs, it is their choice. However, the word “entrepreneur” on a company job description should not be limited to “former” entrepreneurs but include active ones as well.

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

I have a vivid memory of my early teens; it is one of me about 11 years old, looking at a wooden plaque on the wall reading “Mieux vaut une hutte on l’on rit, qu’un chateau on l’on pleure” (French to English translation: It’s better to live in a hut where people laugh than a castle where people cry). Why do I remember it so vividly? Because rather than reading it and thinking “Well, yeah that makes sense “, I actually stood there for about 5 minutes trying to understand the message in between the lines. I replaced the metaphor of the “hut” and “castle” with real life situations. Little did I know that I was teaching myself one of the most important lessons in Management.

I am a BIG FAN of Corporate Culture. I personally think it is the most important element of an organization and when done right it can:

1. Save a company a lot of money

2. Attract and retain the most brilliant talents

3. Exponentially improve productivity

4. Build strong customer loyalty

So why wouldn’t EVERY business be investing heaven and earth on this? Because quite frankly many companies are ran by idiots.

I therefore find it refreshing and I’m quite happy that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO, is proving not to be one them. I have never worked for Yahoo nor am I one of their stockholders. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I went on Yahoo’s website. What’s prompted me to write this post is that since Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo, there’ve been articles after articles on the different steps she’s taken as CEO – and nearly every single one of them has been to revive and redefine Yahoo’s image not vis-a-vis of shareholders but of the employees. Mrs. Mayer is addressing and tackling Yahoo’s biggest problem – employee motivation. Many of her actions might seem trivial, such as her plan to give Yahoo employees an iPhone 5  but I think goes a very long way. The main question is: Will it work or is it too late? Only time will tell but there’s no doubt she’s in the right direction.

Jim Goodnight, the CEO of North Carolina based SAS Institute – the world’s leading business analytics software vendor, is another great example of a leader who understands the value of Corporate Culture. A couple of years ago I watched a 60 minute episode featuring SAS where Mr. Goodnight was shown standing at the gate of the company’s headquarters at the end of the day waiving his employees goodbye. When asked why he did that, Mr. Goodnight confidently replied, “95% of my assets drive out the front gate every evening and it’s my job to bring them back.” What is equally as impressive is that SAS is a multibillion dollar organization but still privately owned and Mr. Goodnight has expressed no interest in taking his company public, despite multiple pleas from Wall Street to which he said, “it’s pressure from Wall Street to please shareholders by delivering rising quarterly earnings that has poisoned the corporate well” – and he couldn’t be more right!

My plea to all of you, future managers and CEOs, is not to underestimate the power of corporate culture and refuse to settle for mediocrity in your management approach. It is possible to create a strong and positive corporate culture within your organizations and be successful.

Your employees are your most important assets and it’s your job to bring them back. There’s nothing wrong treating your people good.

For additional inspiration watch 60 Minutes’ “The World’s Best Employer” featuring SAS and Jim Goodnight – Part1 and Part 2

The Southern California Story Networking Event Poster

The Southern California Story Networking Event

This part Thursday, I was honored to be a guest speaker at a great networking event The Southern California  Story – A Narrative of Successful Networkers and Entrepreneurs alongside networking expert Mark Sackett. As I contemplated how to position my speech, I decided to look at my own networking experience and how my affinity towards EVERYTHING international has helped me make amazing professional and personal connections.

I focused my speech on the importance of networking beyond just around-the-corner Meetup events but really looking at the entire world as a networking community. As an entrepreneur and an avid traveler, I’ve personally benefited from this greatly. I explained how the world is changing and as more of us are “forced” (this is not a bad thing) to turn to our own creativity to create better economic opportunities for ourselves, many of the relationships we’ll need to foster to help us succeed will be with people not from our neighborhoods, cities, country, or even continents.

I have already experienced it with my startup Miigle, which is a global social network for established and aspiring entrepreneurs, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s one of the big reasons why I created Miigle in the first place. I wanted to empower people to materialize their ingenuity and I believed making it easier for people to connect globally based on their interests would be a great catalyst.

As a final take-away networking is extremely important but my recommendation is to find ways to expand those networks globally. The experiences you’ll gain will be invaluable and as the world continues to change you’ll find yourself at the forefront of it all. It’s a great feeling – Trust Me!

Thank you Helene Vo and Albert Qian for inviting me to your event!

Stay Driven.

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