It’s time to change

The plus side of the current virus crisis is that it allows companies to think if what they are doing is the best way to do business. Many are finding the way to reduce cost and find their ways to come back. Some companies didn’t do well before and now could hide their issues behind the virus pandemic.

Changing business model is a big deal and wouldn’t happen often. If you are a sales-driven organisation, it’s likely that you have been struggling for a while. You probably are in a discount game and in a cost cutting mode for a while. These 2 words are a clear signal that you have to change. And, there is no better time than using this crisis to change. This is because you are about to have another cost cutting exercise.

I am a firm believer that demand creation should be done with marketing. This is because the focus can be placed on solving customer’s problems and on building up brand for a longer term. Putting sales in front of the business model means the focus is ‘right now’. And, it doesn’t matter if a solution is right for customers or not.

It’s time for companies to put customers in front of their business model. And, the way to do it is to have an infinite mindset with marketing thoughts. As Steve Jobs once said – “Marketing is to create demand, sales to fulfil it”.


What I learn from Eric Yuan – Zoom founder

Everyone is using Zoom – a video/audio call + collaboration tool now. Many companies try to introduce a work from home solution as quick as possible. And, Zoom is a perfect solution because its ease of use and its call/video quality. We tried to use Skype before and we were very frustrated with its service quality. We then jumped to Zoom and really like the solution.

I am curious to learn more about the person who founded Zoom. His name is Eric Yuan, a Chinese immigrant to the US. These are what I learn from his story.

  • It starts with solving a problem. Eric got the idea of creating Zoom when he was in China. He had to visit his girlfriend (now his wife) who lived 10 hours away.
  • Never, never give up. To fulfil his vision, he determined to move to the US. His VISA applications were declined 8 times. He got it in the 9th effort – 2 years later.
  • You have to listen to your customers. When he was working with Webex and then Cisco, he heard a lot of customer’s frustrations about the solution at the time. He tried to introduce a new, better solution, but the company didn’t accept the idea. So, he left and founded Zoom.
  • You don’t have to hire the highest qualified people on paper. Instead you should hire those with self-motivation and a self-learning mentality.
  • Company’s culture is the number 1 thing that determine the success of the failure of a company. And, it starts from the top.
  • If your employees are not happy, you cannot expect any success from anything.

He also encouraged us to jump into the startup journey. It’s hard, super hard but it’s worth it. This is something I want to do too, to start my own business. I just don’t have the courage to do it yet.


The secret behind connecting the dots

You might have heard Steve Jobs’ connecting the dots speech. It was his formula for innovation.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.

Steve Jobs

How does it work in practice? Bad news is in order to successfully connect the dots, it requires a lot of works in a learning and self improvement process. You have to acquire new knowledge every day or week. At the time, you might not know what to do with the knowledge you acquire. However, you still have accumulate the knowledge like saving money in a bank account.

In doing so, you would have dots everywhere in your brain. When you encounter a problem – business or personal – you would start finding a solution. As you set a focus to solve this problem now, the connection of the relevant dots in your brain starts to work. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Only one piece of information could connect the dots and give you the solution you want.

I was working on a new promotion a few weeks ago. I ran out of ideas at the time. Until I watch an unrelated TedTalk video in the morning. I heard one key word that helped me connect all the dots. I came up with a new promotion by late morning.

There is no short cut. Acquiring new knowledge – big or small – is something I try (very hard) to do every day. It’s a true form of ‘connecting the dots’.


Louis Gerstner’s management principles

I have a few “book” mentors. They are the leaders that I admire and they wrote books to share their wisdoms. One of them is Louis Gerstner. He was a former CEO of IBM who turned IBM around. When he took over the role, he shared his management principles with his executive team. I want to share some of them that I strictly follow until today.

  1. I manage by principle, not procedure.
  2. The marketplace dictates everything we do.
  3. I look for people who work to solve problems and help colleagues. I sake politicians.
  4. I am heavily involved in strategy. The rest is yours to implement.
  5. Move fast. If we make mistakes, let them be because we are too fast, rather than too slow.
  6. Hierarchy means little to me. Let put together in meetings the people who can help solve a problem, regardless of position. No committee decision making.

One of his quotes that I like is…

Watch the turtle. He only moves forward by sticking his neck out.

Louis Gerstner

I put my neck out there all the times. It would be chopped off one day.


How to prioritise

We are very busy. We cannot do everything. There are a lot to do. And, I don’t have time to do this for you.

I never say the last sentence. This is because you always have times for things that are important to you. If I say that to anyone, it means he/she is not important to me. The easiest solution is to add the word ‘now’. I don’t have time to do it for you now. Is tomorrow ok?

How about prioritisation? To prioritise, you need a clear goal. Will this thing move me closer to my goal? Which option is more likely to get me closer to my goal? What is the most impactful thing I could do to move closer to my goal? Without the clear goal, you just choose to do things base either on doing a favor to please people or just taking orders. You will be super busy but end up feeling achieving nothing.

In a professional life, you don’t come to work to please everyone or to be everything to everyone. It’s not possible. Setup a clear goal to add meaning to your career.


No one to someone

I got a new team member who has been working with the company for 5 years. I wonder why he has been in the same role with minimal changes in salary. He has great potential and is very eager to learn. It’s the attitude that I like. Something doesn’t add up.

Upon investigation, it turns out he doesn’t have any academic degree, this is his first corporate job, and he is an honest person. Being honest in a corporate environment is not always good, especially if your boss doesn’t like blunt responses (even the facts is the facts).

So, I am going to change his focus and his job. He wouldn’t go back to study. Therefore, I will position him to fill our gap in the Google world. He will be a Google expert in our team – Analytics, SEO, SEM, Google big query, etc. He has to get all relevant Google certificates for his future references.

I am excited with the idea. If I could change someone’s life for the better, I feel fulfilled even though he might leave us one day. I am a university. My team graduate from me, hopefully for a better future.


Making mistakes

Do you work in an environment that accepts staff mistakes? I make quite a number of mistakes myself. I am lucky though that most of my supervisors were ok as long as I could show them what I tried to do and how I managed potential risks. That’s how innovation happens.

There are 2 types of mistakes that I cannot accept though. Firstly, I don’t like the mistakes that are careless. If you don’t care enough to make an effort to think it through, it’s not acceptable. And, secondly, I expect my team to weight pros and cons before spending the company’s money. When you do that, you calculate the potential risk if things go wrong.

When you make mistakes, you normally feel bad about them. My tip is that you just focus on what lessons you learn from those mistakes. Then, you move on.

“Forget it enough to get over it, remember it enough so it doesn’t happen again”



Sales and marketing function

The context in this post is specific to my industry. I work in marketing and my goal is to change the way our product is marketed and sold. I believe our product is suitable to certain groups of people, but not for everyone. I also believe that we should create demand and build a brand. I have been testing and trying different inbound marketing approaches in the past 5-6 years, none of them is big enough to make a difference.

My mentor used to tell me, I cannot change the way the company is doing as long as our sales process is not changed. In my mind, I agreed with him but didn’t want to accept it. He said that 3-4 years ago. It has come to my realisation that I have to accept it.

The era that companies “sell” stuff to customers has long gone. The whole company must have the same understanding and act the same way. Marketing should lead sales. Marketing should create demand, not sales.


The most important asset for a company

I have been working in a corporate environment for more than 25 years. One of the most challenging aspect in my career is to find the right person to do a job. I made a few wrong hiring decisions along the way and they were miserable. What is the quality of the right person?

The answer is the best person for the job is the person who possesses the right balance of her skill sets, attitude, work ethic and how she puts work in her life. It’s easy to say but very difficult to find. If you can find the persons with these traits, believe me, please do everything you could to keep them with you. They are your greatest assets. They can make a big difference.

I hope that before I retire, I would have an opportunity to work in a company that treats staff well. If you already work in such company, you are very lucky. Do your best, give it all, and make a difference. Those companies are very, very rare to find. Most of them are hopeless.


What happened to Holden (2)

I wrote about Holden yesterday. And, my mentor was kind enough to send his thoughts to me. We like to discuss and share ideas. Below is his input.

There were other reasons Holden was shut down.
1. It was unprofitable and when the Australian government finally stopped bailing it out, GM couldn’t continue. Shutting the plant was just step 1.
2 Holden was an Australian only brand. GM cars are branded internationally. Chevrolet is sold in many countries. I know in the UK it is called Vauxhall, but there are 65million people there versus 26 million in Australia. 
3. GM didn’t move with the times. SUVs captured a large slice of the market and GM didn’t launch one in Australia.
4. Asian manufactured cars have a bigger market share here and even bigger in New Zealand.
5. Government taxes are ridiculously high making cars much more expensive in Australia.
6. The much loved Ute, only existed in Australia. When the plant shut down, Aussies lost the car they loved the most and the market moved to light trucks like the Hilux. The GM version couldn’t compete.

So in summary, importing right hand drive cars and rebranding just for Australia didn’t make sense. Ford might still be okay as the branding is the same internationally.