It turns out that personality does change. I’ve become more introvert and intuitive over the past three years. Contrary to my impression that I’ve become more extrovert, I’m become otherwise. This happens probably because I’m more confident than before when networking with people, but deep in my heart I still feel more comfortable being left alone and quiet. Good thing is that my career path matches my personality. In ENFJ’s language, I’m doing what I want to do. 🙂
Yesterday morning I received a call from one business partner complaining about two german students not satisfied with the internship position at another business partner in Changzhou. So we decided to drive to Changzhou in order to get a subjective grasp over the issue. And the issue was more serious than we have expected: neither of the two interns are satisfied with the placement, and one was in a very bad physical situation. Plus, he had lymphoma — a type of cancer — a few years ago and is still recovering from the treatment.
Strange thing was that he felt quite in Germany, but since he was pale and didn’t feel very well, we took him to the hospital for a check. We we arrived at the hospital, he couldn’t even stand up and we had to use a wheel chair to escort hime to the emergency treatment department, where the doctor checked his heart rate, body temperature, oxygen level, and a comprehensive blood test.
We looked very serious about his situation, but the doctor said everything was OK with him. She smiled and said to us in Chinese, “I believe he has hysteria”. I’ve heard about hysteria before but never really met someone with such symptoms. So I observed him carefully as the doctor give him a saline. One of my colleagues sat next to him and chatted with him. He seems extremely normal to me when he is not discussing about his illness or cancer. They constantly bursted into laughters when they talked about funny experiences, which is a bit weird since patients next to him are really seriously ill.
After confirming with the doctor again and again, we decided to go for dinner before the saline was finished and he seemed much better. We went to a german restaurant and had a really nice dinner. Over the dinner no one mentioned about his illness nor cancer. And he seemed totally fine.
This is really the first time I see how one’s mind may affect his physical state — in such a drastic way. That’s why when one is afraid of bad things, bad things always happen. Because fear of something makes one weaker, so that one does not have enough energy to defend oneself. This is another ‘scarcity’ problem: when you focus too much on something, you’re using too much bandwidth and leaving too little bandwidth for other things. And you’re trapped deeper and deeper until you are completed depleted of bandwidth or energy — that’s when you collapse.
The best way to fight this problem is to lose some focus on the fears. Then you’ll have more bandwidth to cope with other more important stuff. Just step back, ignore the fears for some time, and find out the long-term plans or goals. After all, not all in life are important, at least some are not any important as we’ve thought.
I knew there was something wrong with the management and how we do things at Yabroad, but it was difficult for me to convince other people what we were doing and how we do things are not the best way to run a startup business. When I talk about pragmatism, people talk about visions and having a long-term goal; when I talk about experiments, people talk about previous experience; when I talk about planning and specific goals, people talk about execution. After reading “The lean startup” and “Running lean”, I’m more convinced about how a business should really operate.
The lean method is really about how to get things done efficiently, be it running a small project, or managing a international corporation. It’s about down-to-earth planning and taking advantage of resources efficiently. It’s a call for doing things that really matters. When proposing a new project, ask not if we think it’s cool, ask how we’re going to satisfy the end users. And the first step to go is really getting to know the actual users, what are the problems they find painful and how other products are approaching the problems, and why our proposal is better than the existing solutions.
We made a mistake at Yabroad that we think people are willing to come to China if we don’t charge them much. While our competitors are charging thousands of euros per application, we charge only a few hundred. But we didn’t see an exponential growth, the increase of applications was only negligible. We talked too much about disruptive innovation and thought lowering the price will piss out all our competitors and help us gain a portion of the market share rapidly. We were wrong.
The decision was made without much evidence to prove our assumption. Price is indeed an important factor when people want to visit a different country, but it’s not the deciding factor. Given the opportunity to visit North Korea or Iran, does it still matter if you want to pay thousands of euros or hundreds of euros? Our customers want security and reliability, lowering the price simply does not help, and let’s hope it doesn’t jeopardize customers’ trust in us.
We were not utilizing validated learning. In fact few of our decisions were made based on solid facts and validated results. Arrogant people often think they are the best in this world and they usually piss of everyone else and complain about “why everyone is against me?” Arrogant companies don’t get customers. What they do is not to satisfy customers, they just want to prove themselves correct.
The build-measure-learn loop should be continuous and iterate in fast pace. Build a minimum viable product and measure how successful it is and learn where it could be improved and improve the MVP and enter the next build-measure-learn loop. Validate minimal concepts at a time. Get the whole project running and receiving income before burning out what you have.
It’s true that starting up is really management — if you know where to put resources and man power, and keep track of the direction the business is running towards, you won’t be too wrong.
A friend of mine is considering to set up a startup company , here are the things I think are important for startup. Usually when people think of a startup they think of new ideas. However I don’t think good ideas are so important. It’s not difficult to come across a good idea, but it is extremely difficult to get one idea realized. People usually don’t buy ideas, they pay for products and services. Besides, ideas can be easily copied, while its more difficult to copy the implementation of the idea. Furthermore, one can easily judge if one idea is novel or not, by comparing with current solutions; while it’s not so straight to claim one idea to be better than others. Ideas solve problems and good ideas solve problems in a better way. However, before a problem is actually solved (that is when an idea is realized), ideas are nothing but plain wishful thinking.
I think the most valuable and important thing for a startup company is the team. The team decides where the company is going towards, what the company is going to do, how they are going to do it and whom they are going to do business with and sell the product to. The team determines how fast company will move and turn and act. Since the only advantage of a startup company has over a large corporation is its fast decision making process and execution, the team is the deciding factor of a startup’s survival or death.
It doesn’t matter really if you have a good idea or not, as long as you have a good team and given some time, you definitely will come up with a fantastic idea. An ideal team for me would be something like this: everyone has his/her domain of expertise and others can completely rely on his/her capability of getting things done in his/her domain. Members in the team has slightly intersecting capabilities and as a team form the whole capability map. Someone brings everyone else together and keep everyone motivated and moving; someone is a technical guru and has the insight of solving problems efficiently; someone knows customers and is able to sell them everything he/she has in hand; someone is keen to budget control and at the same time knows where exactly to spend money; someone has extremely good relationships with the rest of the world. Members in the team does not have to agree with each other and they should be able to discuss or argue and reach a decision in a timely manner. They should have the insight into problems and the analytic skills to identify and prioritize tasks.
And still among the team the founders are even more important. They are really what the startup is. They give the startup a life if done correctly; or else the bad genes will follow the company forever. They are the startup’s creators, parents and baby-sitters. They should have the courage to risk everything they already possess for a glimmer hope of success. They believe and love what they are doing not because they don’t have other choices, but rather choose to not to have a choice. They believe they are doing the right thing and are willing to take responsibilities for what they are doing.
When people think of startups, people immediately think the ultimate goal for a company is to go public and get listed in major exchanges. That’s not startups’ goal. Companies need to make money. And founders need to consider this task from day one, if not day zero. Making money is not the same as getting funded by angel investors or venture capitalists. Getting funded is one way out of many to get the ideas recognized but not the ultimate goal. People fund startups because they think the companies are going to make a huge amount of profit. Making profits is about proving to the world that what the startup does is meaningful. What’s the point of keeping burning cash anyway?
When big companies like Google and Facebook purchase small or startup companies, what they’re really buying is the customers, the technologies, and the talents. And among these three, talents are the most important to me, since without the talents the customers and technologies will be found nowhere. In short, you’re destined to success or failure the day you choose the team members for your startup.
Two videos today. The first one: Real Beauty Sketches (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk).
We all get used to the good parts of ourselves and often get trapped in the parts that we don’t like about ourselves. However, others may not view you the same way as you do. Things you hate may be the favorite of another. In a different eye you are more beautiful than you think you are.
And the second one: Information management as an organization on Yabroad.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3IogtSHVR0).
I didn’t know I could make a video relatively smoothly with much confidence. But I made it. It sounds not bad. I’m confident when talking about things I know and familiar of. I’m not afraid of getting my voice heard. On those occasions when I’m reluctant to speak out, it’s not because of I’m afraid I have a horrible voice or my English is not interpretable. But now I know my voice is more than OK and so is my English. I just need a little confidence on the contents when I start to speak. I may do more of these in the future, but probably with a script before rolling the camera. 🙂
We went to attend the Expat Show Shanghai this weekend trying to promote our Yabroad Open Platform. In the show we have to talk to different international people that may be interested in our business. Our targeting group is international youngsters who might be interested in coming to and living in China for internships, studies, traveling, or volunteer works. Unfortunately there were not many people within our target group in the Expat Show: not so many international youngsters came to the show. But we thought it might be worthy of convincing those mid-aged people to get interested in us. We went to speak with them and give them our flyers. I successfully sent out around 80 flyers in the morning and was nominated as the CFO (Chief Flyer Officer) by my team. Here’s what I’ve learnt:
- Stand close to the entrance. When people come to a show they may receive as many as hundreds of flyers, so it is important to talk to them as early as possible. Waiting for audience at the entrance has many benefits: they are not bored or exhausted (yet); it impossible to escape from you when they have to enter from the entrance; if people are interested in your business you can tell them where your stand is and they will remember your business when they come to your stand.
- Block the way. It may sound nasty but you can do it under camouflage. For example, simply stand in a narrow hallway and slightly stretch out, like bowing slightly may make you appear more politely. If you block people’s way and are smiling at someone, he/she has to listen to you.
- Observe and listen. Make eye contact and speak with people you feel comfort with. Generally, women are less likely to refuse your attempt to talk with them. In the meanwhile, listen to what people are talking about. For instance, I heard someone calling his friend “Patrik” with a Swedish accent, then I just asked him if he comes from Sweden. It turned out he is from Finland. Me too! Then I introduced him our business and he seemed interested.
- Smile, relate, compliment. Nobody likes a poker face when talked to; smile and people will get pleased. There are many occasions when I ask people where they are from, and I’ll respond “Hey! I’ve been/studied there!” or “My girlfriend is studying there!”. Then people may start to ask you questions like “how do you like it there”. Just compliment them. Then introduce them your business. Hard to refuse.
Overall I think the experience was great. I got to know more about our end customers and how to introduce our business in the shortest time, as well as how to communicate with potential customers and talk with strangers. And hey, being a CFO is not difficult! 😀 Continue reading