May 25, 2017

Build Stronger Relationships, Not a Larger Network

Members of SeattleU's CSSA and
invited speakers attending
"Class of 2017 Networking
Night" on May 24, 2017
As the 2016-17 academic year comes to a close, I reflect on my interactions with young adults attending one of the colleges or universities in the Seattle area. Receiving the honor of participating in Seattle University's Chinese Students and Scholars Association's (CSSA) "Class of 2017 Networking Night" on May 24, 2017, I was asked to speak about entrepreneurship and the opportunities and risks of owning your own business.

I informed the attendees the three reasons why people start their own business: (1) be your own boss, (2) be in creative control, and (3) make a lot of money. I cautioned the SeattleU students that successful entrepreneurs rarely consider the option of making a lot of money when taking on the risks and responsibilities of owning a business. While entrepreneurship provide the opportunity to generate substantial income, most successful entrepreneurs will attest that much personal sacrifice is the price to pay for achieving such success. An entrepreneur runs a high risk of failure if they are considering the financial gain that can be realized through owning a business. The freedom of being your own boss and maintaining creative control of the development of your product or service are the primary drivers for successful entrepreneurs.

For those considering taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, I recommend they do not:
  1. Build a company with no revenue;
  2. Follow shiny objects (opportunistic);
  3. Lie to themselves or others about their traction;
  4. Focus on too many things at once;
  5. Use the word "I" (building a successful venture requires a talented, hard working team);
  6. Ask investors to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA);
  7. Think they are the only company in their space; and
  8. Calculate the future value of their stock.
Conversely, entrepreneurs need to:
  1. Fix a problem;
  2. Tell a story that people will understand;
  3. Hire for ambition;
  4. Get to know their customers;
  5. Make informed decisions;
  6. Understand time has the same value as money (and manage both wisely);
  7. Become a shameless self-promoter (without becoming obnoxious);
  8. Project a positive image;
  9. Be accessible;
  10. Master the art of negotiations;
  11. Get and stay organized;
  12. Follow-up constantly;
  13. Have a business plan; and
  14. Focus.
Serving as a panelist at the Technology and Business Association at the University of Washington's "2017 International Biz-Tech Forum" on Feb. 27, 2017, I emphasized how assembling a strong team is essential to building a successful business venture. A mentor advised me early in my career to "surround yourself with people smarter than you."

Members of SeattleU's CSSA
visiting the Seattle office of
TR International and ROI3
on Mar. 10, 2017
My colleagues and I had the privilege of hosting members of SeattleU's CSSA at our office in Seattle, Wash. on Mar. 10, 2017. The conversation focused on our business operations, challenges and risks of doing international business, and career advice to those about to enter the workforce. During the discussion, I presented the following ten items that are essential in serving as an effective leader:
  1. Good communicator;
  2. Coachable;
  3. Lead by example;
  4. Know your strengths and weaknesses;
  5. Always improve your skills;
  6. Take responsibility for your actions (mistakes);
  7. Do not micromanage: trust your colleagues;
  8. Give credit where credit is due;
  9. Avoid criticizing, condemning or complaining; and
  10. Expect results.
In my conversation with students attending the University of Washington's chapter of the China Entrepreneur Network's "Dinner with Professionals" on Nov. 3, 2016, I recommended they build stronger relationships, not a larger network. My recommendation connects well with an article, Nick Corcodilos of Ask The Headhunter®, published that correctly notes:
Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts, not through job postings, career centers, or employment agencies. College students' first job is to meet people — preferably people who work in companies and on products and services you think you’re interested in. Those people will educate you about work and about jobs and employers. The sooner you start developing these contacts and learning from them, the better.
I appreciate Mr. Corcodilos' additional insights on relationship building:
Smart managers tend to hire people they know, or people known to their employees. While this might bother you because it seems unfair, consider that it's prudent because it lowers the risk of getting a lousy worker. Would you loan money to a friend, or a total stranger? Would you trust your business to someone a friend vouched for, or someone you don't know anything about? This is just basic human nature – but it's not unfair. It's a good survival mechanism.
What advice do you have for those of whom are in the early stages of building their career?

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.

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