April 27, 2017

A Valuable Lesson for Today

The following is a guest post by Yan Tang.

Photo by Yan Tang
A friend recently asked me if I could work as an office assistant for her friend Lisa who owns a dentistry in Bellevue, Wash. Lisa has been through several of changes in her office. She injured her arm and two staff members quit recently. She was desperate for people working for her. On the other hand, I was still in uncertainty about when I could get an internship and I thought I could do a favor to my friend. So I said "yes."

The interview with Lisa was quite simple, and she even did not ask me what career I would like to have or what was my long-term career plan. Apparently, she was in need of more hands. Soon, she made an internship offer to me as an office assistant. I was not excited as I should be. Having years of experiences in recruiting and project management prior to starting the MBA program at Seattle University, I clearly know that I want to pursue my career as a professional recruiting consultant or project manager upon the completion of the program in 2018. However, I could not convince myself not to take this offer. I was even thinking it might be an "OKAY" internship for the short-term. I called my mentor, Sue Oliver, for her opinion.

Sue was a little disappointed that I would take this job since she knew I have been looking for an internship related to recruiting and project management. She challenged me: "Do you want to become a dentist?" "No," I replied. "But I will work for Lisa temporarily and she needs help."

Sue simply said you would lose every single hour that was supposed for searching your dream job if you worked in the dental office. If she needed help, you could help her find interns as you were a recruiter before. I was suddenly enlightened. No matter how discouraging finding my dream internship or no matter how long it will take, I need to hold the belief and faith. I made up my mind that I would not take this internship.

I went to Lisa's dental office and observed how she operated the business. Because of her severely injured arm, she had to reschedule patients which caused a lot loss for her business. It was also very stressful as she did not have enough people working in the office. She had to see patients and train her staff at the same time. I knew I could help a lot if I could work here, but I had made up my mind sticking with what I dream to do.

I talked with Lisa that I could not work for her as an assistant here because my long term goal is to become a professional consultant or project manager. But I could help with finding interns for her and help with staff management as I have a lot student resources at Seattle University and have some friends who want to find a job. In addition, I worked for a Fortune 500 human resource company where recruiting and staff management were my expertise. Her response was a little surprising to me. She appreciated that I was being honest to her and she even felt fortunate that I have the talent helping her find right people which she needs the most. She said, "Yan, I did not know your background before. But I am glad we had such an open conversation. No matter how many hours you spend in looking for interns, I will pay you to do that." Then I was getting excited as it turned out Lisa becomes my "client." My job is to provide recruiting consultation for her. I will not only recruit interns for her, but also show her how to manage and retain her staff since she has high turnover rate in her practice. That is being said, she will not just get the fish; she will learn how to fish as well. What is interesting for me is that I created an opportunity for myself to practice my recruiting and consulting skills!!

After the conversation with Lisa, I could not wait to call Sue Oliver about the turnaround. Sue said she was not surprised, because if you know what you want to do, the world will make the way for you. She also shared with me her mentor's wisdom which is: follow what you love to do, you will not go wrong. I feel so blissful that I am able to hold on to what I love and dream to do, and this faith turns out to be a great opportunity for me and for others. Today's experience really taught me a valuable lesson that I will always keep in mind: never compromise to something that you do not love to do and hold the faith in your heart!!

Yan Tang is enrolled in the Professional Master of Business Administration (Marketing) program at Seattle University. She also serves as a Business Relationship Management and Small Business Coach at Seattle University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Previously, Ms. Tang worked for Manpower in the company's Shanghai, China office where she served in several roles including Service Consultant, On-Site Project Manager for IBM Shanghai, and Recruitment Consultant. Ms. Tang may be contacted at yantang1126@gmail.com.

April 23, 2017

Report Identifies Hundreds of Africa's Most Inspirational and Dynamic Private, High-Growth Companies

The London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) launched it inaugural Companies to Inspire Africa report, which, according to Xavier Rolet KBE, LSEG's CEO, identifies "hundreds of Africa's most inspirational and dynamic private, high-growth companies – ones which have come to the attention of major global investors." The companies listed in the report "boast an impressive average compound annual growth rate of 16%. On average, each firm employs nearly 400 people."

Highlighting African companies from the following eight sectors: agriculture, consumer services, ELITE Morocco, financial services, healthcare and pharmaceutical, industry, renewable energy, and technology & telecoms, the report "also highlights the unique role of female entrepreneurship, with approximately 12% of these high-growth companies led by female entrepreneurs, three times the average for companies across Africa." Moreover, Mr. Rolet says: "This new report demonstrates that high-growth, private companies are fast becoming the driving force behind African economies: developing skills, creating high-quality jobs and driving economic growth."

In her commentary, Priti Patel, Member of the House of Commons of the United States and Secretary of State, Department for International Development, rightly notes: "Entrepreneurship is the cornerstone of any vibrant economy. It is the motor that drives investment, job creation and economic growth. Throughout history, sustained, job-creating growth has played the greatest role in lifting huge numbers of people out of grinding poverty. It is entrepreneurship that delivers the life-changing progress that comes from growth in developed economies, and it is entrepreneurship that is beginning to deliver the same in Africa."

Ms. Patel further explains that "Companies to Inspire Africa showcases some outstanding stories of innovation, bravery and growth across the continent. It brings Africa's entrepreneurial spirit to an international audience, and I would like to congratulate all the companies featured for their vision, ambition and tenacity. It is their success that will drive Africa forward to a future of prosperity, and away from a reliance on international aid."

With respect to the technology and telecoms sector, the report notes that the growth in mobile phone usage in Africa will grew 344 percent from 2007-2016 and 314 tech hubs are active around the continent. In addition, $608 million is expected to be invested in African tech startups in 2018.

Dale Mathias, Chair of the Partners Forum, Africa Private Capital Group, USAID, correctly maintains that "Africa is distinguished by the enormity of the scope, range and size of commercial opportunities available to technology-based companies. This stems primarily from the continent's growth potential, its lack of commercial sophistication and the sheer size of its markets."

Importantly, Ms. Mathias says "technology can provide the solution to widespread African economic inefficiencies. Technological solutions will significantly enhance access to many types of products and services that businesses and consumers require, but that are not yet available, accessible or affordable."

Moreover, "With African mobile phone penetration exceeding 50%, numerous entrepreneurial tech companies have launched throughout Sub-Saharan Africa by creating products and services built upon the continent's established mobile phone infrastructure. Increasing access to the internet has resulted in the building of numerous such businesses across a broad range of verticals that include logistics, FinTech, agriculture, marketing, media, education and healthcare."

I strongly agree with Ms. Mathias that "Africa is poised for tremendous growth, and investment capital is becoming more available. Awareness of the region's potential is increasing and there exists today an abundance of capable and highly motivated entrepreneurs. Sub-Saharan Africa is truly an area of great investment opportunity, with technology destined to lead the way."

What role does Africa play in your global business strategy?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

April 17, 2017

Progress and Outlook of China's Supply-Side Structural Reforms

"Supply-side structural reform (SSSR) dominates the economic policymaking landscape in China," according to a white paper published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The paper, which is available in both English and Chinese, continues to explain: "In place for more than a year, the policy shapes everything from the government's efforts to reduce excess industrial capacity to initiatives designed to curb high levels of corporate debt, such as debt-for-equity swaps. Evaluating China's ability to overcome its chief economic challenges and sustain its economic growth is impossible without having a proper grasp of SSSR." The EIU's white paper provides the first comprehensive, independent analysis of the program.

The paper explores five components of SSSR: cutting excess industrial capacity, destocking property inventory, corporate deleveraging, lowering corporate costs and improving 'weak links.' Below are the key takeaways for businesses as presented in the paper's "Executive Summary":
  • We expect slower progress on coal and steel industrial capacity cuts, potentially applying downward pressure on commodity prices. Capacity reductions in 2016 involved a significant amount of idle capacity and were concentrated in the private-sector; they have yet to extend meaningfully into productive capacity or the more sensitive state-owned enterprise (SOE) sector. The drive against overcapacity might also be extended to sectors including automobiles, new materials and renewable energy.
  • Efforts to destock property inventory will likely have a fairly marginal impact. Investor unease and slow progress on key reforms make it difficult to stimulate demand across smaller cities. Efforts to restrain supply are complicated by the dependence of local governments on land sales revenue; a property tax is unlikely to come in force before 2020.
  • Some of the deleveraging schemes backed by the authorities, such as debt-for-equity swaps, are problematically structured and may not achieve that much in terms of meaningfully reducing corporate debt. More important will be pushing a productivity reform agenda, especially among SOEs.
  • Companies will benefit from lower effective tax rates, with the government set to ease burdens associated with administrative charges and social security. However, we do not expect a broad cut in the corporate tax rate and the introduction of the Environmental Protection Tax in 2018 will create significant additional costs for industrial firms.
  • Strong government support for innovation under strengthening "weak links" and the Made in China 2025 initiative will provide local firms with resources and capital to help their transition up the manufacturing value-chain, to the likely detriment of foreign players. There are inefficiencies associated with this top-down approach, however, and in terms of innovation, private technology companies will play a bigger role in the transformation than state-owned firms.
Importantly, the paper explains that "SSSR's close association with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, means it is likely to shape economic policy for many years to come. Companies and investors need to monitor the development of the policy carefully if they are to be alert to both opportunities and risks in the Chinese business landscape."

How do you anticipate SSSR impacting your business?

UPDATE: The EIU held a webinar on Apr. 27, 2017 discussing its whitepaper in greater detail. You can watch a recording of the webinar through this link.

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

April 15, 2017

Integrating Technology to Solve the World's Healthcare Challenges

"The time for leveraging technology to solve the most pressing healthcare challenges across the world has come," writes Ivy Teh in the "Forward" of a report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Ms. Teh, who serves as Global Managing Director of EIU Healthcare Consulting, continues: "With the explosion of technological innovations ranging from artificial intelligence and big data technologies to ever more powerful sensors, the possibilities of using technology to improve healthcare are endless. The challenge now is less about technology than it is about finding viable models to implement those new technologies in order to make a real impact on the healthcare challenges that the world currently faces."

According to Ms. Teh, the report, Digital Health: Total Convergence, explores "how digital health is already changing the healthcare landscape in different parts of the world, in order to provide a deeper understanding of the topic of digital health, which has been dominating conversations in the healthcare industry. Based on this deepened understanding, we also examine the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in terms of the practical realities of finding digital health solutions for the world."

Witnessing the digital health evolution over the past several years, I have become discouraged by the view held among many entrepreneurs and innovators that technology alone is the answer to solving the healthcare industry. Therefore, I was pleased to read the report's assertion that "the current challenge in digital healthcare is no longer purely about technology. Companies have to figure out how to initiate entire healthcare ecosystems to adopt new technology-enabled ways of meeting the innumerable challenges faced in healthcare."

The report provides a relevant and insightful discussion on three subtopics:
  1. Digital health hubs: Scaling up digital health solutions for the world;
  2. Digital divide: Locating technology's value proposition in different markets; and
  3. Digital adoption will prompt a radical rethink of existing customer segments.
With respect to digital health hubs, "The interactions between technology and healthcare ecosystems in different parts of the world are creating digital health hubs with distinct areas of specialization and focal points that have formed in response to local healthcare challenges." The report "examines how the geographical dispersion of innovations and testing of digital health solutions will be critical to the implementation of high-impact solutions on a global scale."

On the topic of the digital divide, "Digital health instantiates itself uniquely in different countries and markets, each of which faces its own particular set of healthcare challenges. The value offered by digital healthcare lies in the way in which companies can apply recent breakthroughs in science and technology to different healthcare challenges to bring value to users." The report examines "how companies are extending their reach to new patient pools and markets by growing telehealth use in different settings and geographies." It also looks gives attention to "data-driven solutions that can be used to create smarter, more efficient and more precise healthcare delivery and better patient experiences."

As for digital adoption prompting a radical rethink of existing customer segments, the report illustrates how "digital technology is creating new market spaces in healthcare. New customer segments, such as internet hospitals, have emerged. Digital technology has also reshuffled the delivery points of the various medical services, in a way that will create opportunities in decentralized and near-patient products and services. Patient pathways and journeys will need to be remapped in response to patient demand for technologically enhanced products and services."

Encouragingly, the report "explores the true value of digital health—namely, the convergence of technologies to support healthy living around the world. This definition reflects the aim of this report: to provide a comprehensive and integrated view of how technology is used to solve the most pressing challenges that are faced in healthcare today."

I recommend reading the report if you have an interest in digital health. For those who read it, what are your thoughts?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

April 10, 2017

Spain's Thriving Aerospace and Defense Industry

Photo of representatives from
Spanish aerospace and defense
companies companies visiting Boeing's
factory in Everett, Wash.: Extenda
On Mar. 27, 2017, my colleague, Yan Tang, and I had the pleasure of attending the US-Spain Aerospace and Defense Business Forum, which featured 18 Spanish companies from the autonomous region of Andalusía seeking business opportunities in the United States. The forum was sponsored by Extenda-the Trade Promotion Agency of Andalusía, a public company owned by the Andalusían Regional Government, and hosted at the Seattle office of K&L Gates. While you can download the event booklet containing detailed information on each company, this blog post highlights a few that captured my attention.

Photo of Solar MEMS
sun sensors and replica
USB flash drive:
Yan Tang
Solar MEMS Technologies specializes in designing and developing sun sensors for high technology applications in space, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and renewable energy markets. Headquartered in Seville, Solar MEMS' sun sensor is a device to measure the incident angle of the sun rays when they go through a small window. The sun sensors developed by Solar MEMS were designed using sensor on chip technology: they have small size, low weight, reduced cost, high accuracy and reliability thanks to the characteristics of the miniaturization over MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems). Solar MEMS developed this technology to use it on satellites and aerospace applications, but nowadays it has been transferred to other fields of application as solar energy, where the sun sensor improves reliability and features, and it reduces costs. Solar MEMS' customers include the European Space Agency (ESA), National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Beihang University in Beijing, China.

CARBURES is a technological industrial group specialized in the manufacturing of composite parts and structures and in designing engineering systems, which operates in the aerospace, automotive, civil works, railway and security industries. Founded in 1999, CARBURES has developed its own technological and manufacturing processes to produce composite structures, allowing the Cádiz-based company to branch out into different industries. With respect to the aerospace and defense sectors, CARBURES has over 15 years of experience as a tier 2 supplier to these industries. In addition, the company plays as key player in the manufacturing of composite parts and structures for the industry giants and the world's most relevant tier 1 companies. Currently, CARBURES, produces composite parts for a large part of the most modern civil and defense airplanes. 

Since 2004, the Hélice Cluster has been promoting the development of the Andalusian Aerospace Cluster supporting all of the cluster's stakeholders such as universities, technology centers, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as to providing subcontractors with the technical resources to ensure a better integration with contractor companies. Its main clients include Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, Bombardier, and Dassault.

As stated in a press release dated Sept. 28, 2016: "The Andalusían Aerospace industry had a turnover of €2,343 million in 2015 and created 1,052 new jobs, according to the 'Aerospace Annual Report 2015,' carried out by Hélice Cluster. According to the Andalusían aerospace data, the industry contributes 1.62% to the Andalusían GDP." Entrepreneurship is growing throughout Europe including Spain and the Hélice Cluster provides an ideal setting to help startups connect with strategic partners and customers.

Photo of US Coast Guard
HC-144A Ocean Sentry: Airbus
I had the pleasure of being part of a U.S. delegation of journalists, attorneys, and business professionals to Andalusía in 2010. The trip, which was sponsored by Extenda, provided me with the opportunity to tour the Aerospace Technology Park of Andalusía (Aerópolis) in Seville. My visit included a tour of the final assembly line for the Airbus A400M airlifter and HC-144 Ocean Sentry, a medium-range, twin-engined aircraft used by the United States Coast Guard in the search-and-rescue and maritime patrol missions. Seven years later, it is encouraging to see Spain's aerospace and defense industry thriving.

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

April 4, 2017

Doing Business in Vietnam: Always Look Ahead, Don't Worry About the Past

Photo of Ho Chi Minh City:
"The U.S. is now Vietnam's largest export market and a major source of foreign direct investment, helping fuel Vietnam's remarkable economic growth," according to the Vietnam Country Commercial Guide, a report produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. Given the Economist Intelligence Unit's prediction that "Vietnam will be one of the region's fastest-growing economies" from 2017-2021, I was interested in attending an event hosted by the Trade Development Alliance of Seattle on Mar. 23, 2017 featuring Stuart Schaag, Commercial Counselor with the U.S. Commercial Service in Vietnam.

In his presentation, "It's Time to Rethink Vietnam," Mr. Schaag explained how the U.S.-Vietnamese commercial relationship has grown since the U.S. lifted its trade embargo against Vietnam in 1994 and the two countries renewed diplomatic relations in 1995. In fact, American exports to Vietnam increased by 77 percent from 2015-2016 with Ireland placing a distant second at 22 percent (exports of American products globally grew 10 percent for the same time period).

Vietnam is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN, Mr. Schaag noted, is the largest destination of U.S. investment in Asia and the fourth largest market for export of U.S. goods and services. "560,000 American jobs are directly or indirectly supported by goods and services exported to ASEAN." Using 2012 statistics, he said "almost $100 billion of U.S. goods and exports go to ASEAN." Importantly, ASEAN contains a young population and growing middle class.

While American firms exported $26.9 billion in goods and services to Singapore in 2016, making it the largest export market in ASEAN, U.S. businesses exported $10.2 billion worth of goods and services to Vietnam--more than four times the amount exported in 2007.

Regarding the country's demographics, Mr. Schaag told the audience that Vietnam is the world's 14th most populous nation with 93 million people. Vietnam's labor force is comprised of 55 million individuals. The median age of Vietnamese is 30.7 and 24.1 percent are aged 15 and under. Citing statistics from the World Bank, 13.5 percent of Vietnamese lived below the poverty line in the 2014 compared to 60 percent in the 1990s.

The aforementioned Vietnam Country Commercial Guide notes: "With disposable income levels in major urban areas four to five times the national average, significant opportunities in the consumer and services sectors are fast emerging. A 2013 study by the Boston Consulting Group predicted that Vietnam's middle and affluent class will double by 2020, exceeding 30 million consumers."

Encouragingly, the report says: "Telecommunications, information technology, oil and gas exploration, power generation, transportation infrastructure construction, environmental project management and technology, aviation and education will continue to offer the most promising opportunities for U.S. companies over the next few years as infrastructure needs continue to expand with Vietnam’s pursuit of rapid economic development. Health care will also be a growing sector as the government expands programs and an increasingly wealthy population spends more on medical treatment."

My colleagues and I think Vietnam could be a lucrative market for technology companies specializing in cloud computing, connected devices, fintech, and mobile applications (particularly in education and health).

On the topic of entering the Vietnamese market, "U.S. companies preparing to enter the Vietnamese market must plan strategically and be persistent and consistent with face-to-face follow-up. It can take up to one or two years to make a successful sale into this market. Building relationships is important."

Mr. Schaag concluded his presentation by showing a video that illustrates how doing business in Vietnam is similar to the traffic in the country's dense cities:
  • Go slow, take your time, don't expect to get there quickly.​
  • Get some experience before venturing too far.​
  • Always look ahead, don't worry about the past.​
  • Have confidence (i.e. don't show fear).​
  • Be in the right frame of mind. Find your zen.​
  • Be open to doing things differently…​
  • …but don't waiver on your values.​
What is your experiencing of doing business in Vietnam?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.