KEEPING IT REAL with our Summer Interns at #tech2000 and #appnetic

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I had the privilege of having lunch with our Tech 2000 and appnetic summer interns yesterday. I’m pictured above with them and one of my Partners, George Churchwell, Co-Founder and President of Tech 2000.  This crop of 7 of the best and brightest students from MIT, Georgetown, Emory, UVA, UNC, and Virginia Tech give me a high degree of confidence in the future leaders and entrepreneurs of America! They are smart, confident, talented, ambitious, and want to make an impact in the world.

We had a terrific discussion about entrepreneurship, innovation, startups, business, and management.  They are each excited about learning new skills and garnering some good business experience.  They came to the right place and we are very grateful to have them this summer (We selected these 7 out of over 150 applications; special thanks to our awesome Head of Talent, Jackie Churchwell!).

Inevitably the conversation turned to advice, on both business and life. So I divided my thoughts into 2 lists: “Winning Advice” and “What I Wish I Knew at Your Age,” the latter of which is one of my favorite slides when I speak to students at some of our local business schools.

WINNING ADVICE FOR OUR INTERNS

Integrity is #1 – this is about you and your reputation. Do the right thing and keep your promises, be honest and transparent.

Find your Passion – it’s ok if you don’t know it yet. I know 50-year olds who haven’t yet found theirs. Experiment, try new things. You will find your passion or it will come to you.

Always give 100% – work hard, be proactive, bring your “A” game, and be prepared

Learn how to sell – the most underrated yet important skill you will ever have is knowing HOW TO SELL. Understanding your customer’s motivations and buying patterns is critical to business and life.  Life is about selling and persuading, and your “customers” include friends, family, bosses, etc.

Have Fun! Life is short. If you’re not having fun, then you’re wasting your time. Move on until you find something you truly enjoy.

“WHAT I WISH I KNEW AT YOUR AGE”

Everything is hard! Everything takes longer and costs more than you expect. If you go into any endeavor knowing this fact, you will have more reasonable expectations and not get so discouraged when you have a few setbacks.

Nothing comes without Hard Work and LUCK – you need Luck, and eventually it will find you. The harder you work, the more prepared you are and the “luckier” you will get.

When building a startup, there’s no such thing as “Work/Life Balance.”  It’s “Work/Work Balance.” Once you find your passion, life and work converge and become one. I don’t know any successful entrepreneurs who have not put in huge hours and sacrifice.

Work with great partners, advisors and people. The key word here is great. Great people can achieve multiples of what mediocre people can do.

Don’t waste your time with liars, posers, and cheats. Eventually, they will bring you down. You will be known and judged by the company you keep.

Trust YOUR gut, it’s usually right. You know more about yourself than you realize.

Money is overrated and Contentment is underrated. Enough said.

Please let me know what YOU would add to these 2 lists.  Thanks for reading and subscribing!

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Magic Johnson – WINNING on the Court and in the Boardroom

Magic Johnson 1

Seeing Magic Johnson speak was one of the highlights of my week in Nashville at the SiriusDecisions 2015 Summit a few weeks ago.

He was funny, engaging, and inspiring, and also had some sound business wisdom for the crowd of 3000 or so sales and marketing executives in attendance. Everyone knows Magic Johnson as one of the all-time NBA greats, but his business resume would seem to qualify him also as one of America’s top entrepreneurs.

He’s a true Unicorn, a rare individual who has reached the pinnacle in sport as well as in business. He spoke about how he made the transition, and how he started winning in business.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, which reportedly has a net worth of $700 million

Part owner of the LA Dodgers, Major League Baseball team

Former minority owner of the LA Lakers, National Basketball Association team

Owner of Magic Theaters

Partner in the $500 million Yucaipa/Magic private equity fund

First franchisee of Starbucks ever, built a chain of 125 stores in urban locations, sold the chain back to Starbucks corporate

Co-owner of the Dayton Dragons (minor league baseball) and the LA Sparks (WNBA)

Founder, Magic Johnson Foundation

MAGIC’S KEYS TO WINNING

  1. Play to win, and work with Winners
  1. Know your customer – an example he cited was his knowledge of the “Urban customer”, and how he replacing scones w sweet potato pie at Starbucks, and adding more flavored drinks to the menu in order to cater to his customers
  1. Over-deliver – “the key to business success and the key to retention”
  1. Work with great partners
  1. Sell at the right time – Johnson sold his stake in Starbucks and the L.A. Lakers NBA team as valuations started to rise.

OTHER INTERESTING FACTS AND THOUGHTS

He does an annual SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of all of his companies AND himself.

Magic’s All Time starting 5 lineup – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan and himself.

His number one, top rival on the court: Larry Bird

Mentors – Magic has a network of 20+ CEOs who mentor him. He built this network after retirement from basketball by obtaining a list of the Lakers’ VIP season ticket holders and cold calling them one by one.

His biggest failure – Magic 32 sporting goods stores, which failed after only one year.

Magic, on the handful of traits which makes him a success in business (he said he brought these skills he learned as an athlete to his business ventures) – desire to WIN, perfectionism, preparation, focus, discipline, professionalism, and his ability to motivate his team and those around him to reach their full potential.

I’ve never met Magic Johnson, nor have I seen him speak at this length, but here are my main impressions of him, garnered from his 50 minute talk:

Burning desire to WIN. He hates to lose – “underperforming is not winning the Championship

Supremely confident – he KNOWS he’s going to win

His “game plan” is simple. He sticks to the basics (customer focus, over-delivering, good teams, good partners, etc.)

Coachable (he spoke extensively about soliciting and absorbing good advice from his network of 20 CEO “coaches”)

Magic Johnson 2

It was quite inspiring and refreshing to hear from an entertaining, motivational speaker who backs up his thoughts with relevant stories and sound business advice. Always a fan of him as a basketball player, I am now a fan of Magic Johnson as an entrepreneur.

Internet Legend Doug Humphrey and Sid Banerjee, CEO of Clarabridge Featured at Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Fall, 2014 Forum

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The next Big Idea CONNECTpreneur FORUM is coming up this Thursday, September 11, 2014 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
 
Doug Humphrey, CEO of JETCO Research and Founder of DIGEX and Cidera, will moderate the Panel of Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors.
 
Sid Banerjee, Founder and CEO of Clarabridge, will talk about his company’s story, growth, and bright prospects for the future.
 
The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forums are quarterly gatherings of 300+ of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.
 

The event is regarded by many as “The Best Networking Event in DC.” InTheCapital calls CONNECTpreneur a “NETWORKING JACKPOT” of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.

CONNECTpreneur events are “essentially the be-all-end-all of networking events in the city” 

The “premier networking event in DC tech and investing”, CONNECTpreneur is “networking on steroids”

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum is a “Networking Jackpot.”

Presented by appnetic, Tech 2000 and LORE Systems, this UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, because of the high quality of its attendees, speakers and presenters.

And YES, the networking is unprecedented!

 
 
Program Highlights:
 
  • We expect 300 business leaders, includng 175+ CEOs & Founders, as well as 60+ angels & VCs
  • Conversation with Sid Banerjee, Co-Founder and CEO of CLARABRIDGE
  • All-Star Panel of INVESTORS
  • SHOWCASE of Emerging tech companies
  • Heavy NETWORKING before, during, and after the event
 
The venue is the Tysons Corner Marriott in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.  A plated breakfast is included.  CONNECTpreneur is a quarterly networking mashup, which has been attended by over 2500 business leaders in the past 3 years. We expect another SELL OUT crowd, so there will be no on-site registration.
 
All attendees MUST BE pre-registered.  Register now!
 
 
And visit our Website.
 
 
DATE:  SEPTEMBER 11, 2014
 
AGENDA
 
7:00–8:15 am – REGISTRATION / NETWORKING
 
8:15 – 8:20 am – WELCOME
 
8:25 – 9:15 am – FIRESIDE CHAT with SID BANERJEE,Co-Founder and CEO of Clarabridge
 
9:15 – 10:15 am  –  COMPANY SHOWCASE
 

10:15 – 11:15 am –  ALL STAR INVESTOR PANEL:  LATEST TRENDS IN VENTURE CAPITAL AND EARLY STAGE FINANCING

 
Introductions: JEFF REID, Founding Director, Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative
 
Moderator:  DOUG HUMPHREY, Serial Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Internet Pioneer, President of JETCO Research; Founder and CEO of DIGEX and CIDERA.
 
JOHN BURKE, General Partner, True Ventures
JIM PASTORIZA, Managing Partner, TDF Ventures
 
11:15 am – NETWORKING
 
 
EXPECTED INVESTOR PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
 
We expect 65+ angel and VC investors including Core Capital, Grotech, Novak Biddle, New Atlantic Ventures, Revolution Ventures, True Ventures, Edison Ventures, Amplifier Venture Partners, SWaN & Legend Venture Partners, RLMcCall Capital Partners, Multiplier Capital, Updata, Saratoga Investment Corp., DFW Capital Partners, Farragut Capital, NextGen Angels, CIT GAP Funds, New Markets Venture Partners, BluVenture Investors, Leeds Novamark, Maryland Venture Fund, TEDCO, 1776 / K Street Capital, Fortify Ventures, Acceleprise, US Boston, VentureCross Partners, Berman Enterprises, Dingman Center Angels, Neuberger & Co. Ventures, McLean Capital, Angel Venture Forum, Exhilirator, National Capital Companies, Enhanced Capital, MTECH Ventures, Mosaic Capital, Opus8, Starise Ventures, Blue Heron Capital, Duncaster Investments, Private Capital Network, Next-Stage Development Group, Lancaster Angel Network, Harrell Partners, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, Conscious Venture Labs, Great Falls Capital, Hafezi Capital, and Keiretsu Forum.
 
 
EVENT PARTNERS:
 
 
 
 

Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons and Other Recommended Reading

People, especially students, often ask me for recommendations of great books to read. A few days ago, the Washington Business Journal, asked me for a list of 5 books.  Here’s the LINK to the Article.

Following is the full text of the piece with my comments in bold italic.

Digital Producer-Washington Business Journal

Tien Wong, chairman and CEO of Opus8 Inc., talks the best business book he ever read and which book can help you win a major.

1. “Topgrading,” Bradford Smart

“The best business book I have ever read.”  Why?  Because you can’t build a great team without a methodical recruiting, measurement and retention process. When we had 2300 employees at CyberRep, we found this book and it became our “Bible” for managing human capital.  I liked it so much, I have bought over 300 copies of the book to give to colleagues, partners and clients.  Awesome book.

2. “Five Lessons: The 5 Fundamentals of Golf,” Ben Hogan

“Every business leader should work on his or her golf game. Master this book and you can win a major. Just ask Larry Nelson. “There’s no disputing that a ton of business still gets done on the golf course.  I was a tennis player growing up, and kind of looked down on golf as not being a “real sport.”  What I totally missed as a kid is that learning to play at a young age is invaluable for business.  Why?  Because many, if not most, business people love golf.  And while it’s not a requirement to carry a single-digit index, it’s important to be able to play decently and not embarrass yourself when a boss or client invites you out for a golf outing, or vice versa. Having not played until my early 20s, I found myself playing “catch up” and having to learn the game through a lot of practice, lessons, and reading books.  Ben Hogan’s book is concise and simple.  It teaches the basics, the fundamentals, which can not only help anyone become a decent player relatively quickly, but create a Master’s champion like Larry Nelson.

3. Anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Because nobody could put together a sentence like him. His writing is pure beauty.” Anyone who’s read Fitzgerald knows what I am talking about.  I was lucky to have studied him in college and found myself reading his books twice, once for the story and once to appreciate the way he constructed his sentences.  The upside is that my writing improved…a lot.

4. “Think and Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill

“It’s not just about making money. It’s a classic ‘how to’ guide for achieving your goals.” Countless business leaders give credit to this Napoleon Hill’s classic as a big reason for their success.  The book lays out a blueprint for achieving your goals, and I like to read it and review its words of wisdom every few months.

5. “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” Clay Christensen

“This book proves why companies who don’t innovate become extinct.”  Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor and I recommend not only this book, but the many YouTube videos of his talks.  His work is excellent and provides a lot of truth for all kinds of companies, but especially tech companies. 

Four Challenges of Hypergrowth

This is the unedited version of my December 5, 2012 Blog Post which was published in the Washington Business Journal.

I’m really thrilled to start writing a weekly Blog post for the Washington Business Journal as of today.  Thank you Roger Hughlett and Alex Orfinger, Publisher, for the opportunity to express my opinions and thoughts about a wide range of business ideas and topics.

As a novice and inconsistent blogger, I now have a “boss” and weekly deadline, so there are no more excuses NOT to post consistently.  And to have the WBJ platform distribute my content?! What more could I ask for?

I’ll be blogging on leadership, entrepreneurship, technology (all kinds), strategy, private equity, venture capital, international business (particularly in China and Brazil), and probably a bunch of other random stuff.

Last week I had the pleasure, along with Devin Schain of CampusEd and Mark Richardson of CASE Building and Design, of speaking to Professor Andrew J. Sherman, Esq.’s University of Maryland class on Entrepreneurship.  The topic: Challenges to Growing Your Business.

I co-founded and ran CyberRep, Inc., a call center/customer relationship management business which, over a 12 year period,  grew from 0 – 2200 employees and $0 – $80 million in revenues.  So I broke down the types of challenges we faced into 4 categories:  1. Keeping Clients Happy, 2. Keeping the Culture Pure, 3. People Issues, and 4. Personal Growth Challenges.  These 4 types of challenges are all integrated and interdependent with each other.

Keeping Clients Happy – When you are small, it’s relatively easy to focus on thrilling your clients.  As you hypergrow, you start working on lots of other very important things in addition to client matters.  Things like capital raising, shareholder matters, hiring and staffing, technology issues, etc. start to command your attention.  It’s natural.  As a hypergrowth company, we had our share of growing pains and glitches especially with people, processes, and even technology.  What was key for us was that “Client goals are our goals” was our #2 corporate core value and “Client satisfaction” was one of our “4 Pillars of Success” so we were able to ingrain this client-first thinking into our culture.  When hypergrowing, it’s critical to never forget who signs your paycheck – your clients!

Keeping the Culture Pure – As CEO, my job was to establish, evangelize, and enforce the Company culture.  As we  grew, and acquired 3 companies, and hired people from competitors and companies which didn’t have our company’s value set, we risked diluting our culture.  When a company loses its culture, it will eventually die.  We kept the culture pure by repeatedly dispatching our senior leadership team into all of our offices (we had 10 in 6 states) to evangelize like crazy.  We lived by our “Top 10” core values and developed our own lingo and reward systems to train all associates on what was important to the Company.  Very tedious, grinding work – very challenging, but it did pay off.  Our leadership team studied Jack Welch and the GE way, and what GE was doing at Crotonville, and we were inspired by their commitment to nonstop repetition in inculcating culture into the organization.

People – Dealing with people issues is one of the toughest parts of running a business.  As you grow, your people necessarily must grow…or they will be left behind or worse.  I would say that less than 1/3 of our first tier of management were able to “keep up” with company growth and client demands as we grew from $5 million – $20 million in revenue.  We saw the Peter Principle at work for dozens of our managers.  It pained me to have to let some of them go, especially the ones who had been with us from early on.  Others just stayed in their jobs or grew a little more slowly than the Company.  The bottom line here was not sacrificing quality or settling for less than excellent performance.  So that meant lots of training, reorganizing the org chart appropriately and often, and being able to recruit new talent for the right positions.  The main challenge was maintaining focus on what was best for the Company, and putting those needs first and ahead of any one team member.

Personal Growth Challenges – This set of challenges may have been the most trying of all for me.  At each stage of our growth, our executive team and I were all in uncharted territory.  We’d never grown a company this fast or this way.  As startups hypergrow, the Alpha Male or Female startup entrepreneur has to develop into a professional executive.  I have seen many fail at this.  So, I had to make the transition from manager to leader, and I had to develop soft skills and become more diplomatic.  The realization that my decisions could affect 2200 families was another eye opener, and I was forced to deal with the psychology around that fact.  Also, as our company progressed, we had to all become more thoughtful, analytical, and process-oriented.  Company and CEO must both face this reality of “growing up.”  The challenges are too many to enumerate here but these were just some highlights.

So that ends my inaugural WBJ blog post.  Please comment or email me your thoughts and experience.  I’d love to hear of your personal experiences and challenges in hypergrowing your company.  Thanks for reading!

Tien Wong is a serial entrepreneur and private investor.  He is CEO of Lore Systems, Inc. an enterprise network engineering firm specializing in cloud computing and network infrastructure for commercial, nonprofit, and government clients.  He also heads Opus8, an investment and strategic advisory firm.  His Twitter handle is @tienwong and the web address for his blog “Winning Ideas – On Leadership and Hypergrowth in the Entrepreneurial Economy” is tienwong.wordpress.com.

“The Power of Entrepreneurship” at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business

One of my greatest sources of joy is being able to get into the classroom and interact with groups of smart, ambitious, idealistic people.  I love the energy, the passion and creativity that awesome academic institutions like Georgetown foster among their students.

I was invited by my good friend, Professor Jeff Reid, head of Georgetown University’s Entrepreneurship Initiative at the McDonough School of Business to speak to his MBA class today about the “Power of Entrepreneurship.”  Jeff is a national leader and pioneer in Entrepreneurship education, having built one of the world’s top entrepreneurship centers at UNC; and now he’s building an amazing entrepreneurship program at Georgetown.

Jeff (@hoyapreneur) tweeted “Identify a real painful problem and solve itpic.twitter.com/W9iUVk8t when I talked about how and why I started Unitel/CyberRep.  (Short version: My co-founders and I worked in sales and we HATED making cold calls.  We figured that if we found making cold calls very PAINFUL, then many others would too, so why not start up a business that specialized in making cold calls? That’s what we did!)

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Georgetown U presentation Sept. 26, 2012
The class consisted of about 40 MBA students, about 2/3 of whom intend to start their own business either now or in the future.  I only got through about 20% of my originally planned remarks because of the questions and great dialog that ensued.  We covered a lot of ground including making a go/no go decision on starting a company, sacrifice and hard work, life balance, challenges of growth, dealing with employees who can’t keep up, getting inspiration to start a business, doing business in Brazil…and China, etc.
I am fortunate to speak at MBA and undergrad classes at Georgetown and Maryland relatively often.  Just last week, I spoke in Professor Will Finnerty’s class on Entrepreneurship, one of the highest rated and highest demand classes at the McDonough School.  Will teaches as much about life as he does about business, with a focus, passion, and attention to detail which I have rarely seen in a classroom.
Always, I end my talks in the classroom with a slide entitled “Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.”  Here are the bullet points:
Integrity
Do it now
Great people
Focus (on your customer)
Be flexible
Build a culture early
Be persistent
Overcapitalize
Have FUN!
More details on these bullet points can be found in two of my prior Blog posts:  Winning Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs Part1 and Part 2.

Persistence and Commitment at HONEST TEA, a guest post by Marissa Levin

Guest Blog Post from Marissa Levin, CEO of Information Experts and Founder of Successful Culture, a new business dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and business leaders build successful cultures within their organizations.

Marissa was a guest at Lore Systems’ Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum on March 7, 2012 and Seth Goldman, Co-Founder and TeaEO of Honest Tea, was one of our featured speakers on the “Entrepreneurship with a Higher Purpose” panel.

This post was written on March 13, 2012 and can be found on Marissa’s awesome new Blog, Successful Culture.

Honest Tea CEO Seth Goldman Takes Persistence & A Commitment to Mission to New Heights

Imagine pitching your idea to 1,000 investors. Over and over and over again. A little insane, right? Not if you’re Seth Goldman, TeaEO of Honest Tea. When we think of Honest Tea, we think of a delicious beverage, and a wildly successful business.

Dig a little deeper into the roots of Honest Tea, and you’ll discover an entrepreneur who is forever committed to the mission of “changing the way people eat, drink, think and live.”

Seth shared the struggles of his early days with 300 business leaders at the sold-out ConnectPreneur Event in the DC region, architected by global serial entrepreneur and angel investor Tien Wong, CEO of Lore Systems (www.lore.net).

Building an Empire One Brick at a Time

As a bootstrapped entrepreneur who has never sought outside funding, I was amazed at Seth’s relentless quest for angel investments when he launched Honest Tea. “I did over 1,000 pitches and landed 120 angel investors. I took $25,000 at a time,” Goldman said. “There were plenty of times when I was financially out of business. But you need just enough fumes to keep things going.”

The question on everyone’s mind – which was asked – was, “How did you keep going?” All entrepreneurs seek the answer to this question from others that travel the path of business ownership. What is the magic bullet -the secret sauce – that gives us the strength to keep pushing when we are seemingly out of options?

Always Return to the Mission

“What kept me going is I always believed and still believe in my mission. I believe we have to change the way we eat, drink, think, and live. Quitting was never an option.”

In addition to the initial 1,000+ calls, Goldman had to ruthlessly follow up with potential investors. Follow-up apparently is just as important as the initial contact.

“You need to be ruthless with your follow-up. You can’t ever quit. Your follow-up is a good indication of your commitment to what you are trying to build, and to your work ethic. Some we talked to for years before they came on,” he said.

Seth’s tenacity is an inspiration to anyone trying to make their entrepreneurial mark. Equally inspiring is his commitment to his core values, and his refusal to relinquish what matters most to him – providing healthy products that consumers feel good about drinking.

Coca-Cola now owns 40% of Honest Tea. The mammoth company’s management is like a bull in a china shop. This, however, doesn’t sway Goldman from his values. “Coca-Cola wanted me to remove “No High Fructose Corn Syrup!” from our labels. I asked if this was a legal or regulatory requirement, and it wasn’t,” he explained.

Goldman continued, “Because their products contain this ingredient, our label wasn’t a positive reflection of their brand. I refused to remove it it. The discussion made its way to the very top of the executive ladder, and I refused.”

Finally, Coca-Cola relented, and conceded that as a minority owner, they couldn’t force Honest Tea to remove the labeling.

All Natural Ingredients for Successful Entrepreneurship

Goldman boiled successful entrepreneurship down to the two basic tenets that we all inherently know: 1: A steadfast, laser-focused, driven commitment to what we are building, in which we will do whatever we need to succeed, and 2: A passionate belief in the change we are trying to make.

Thanks to Tien Wong (follow him on Twitter: @tienwong, and subscribe to his blog – Winning Ideas at (https://tienwong.wordpress.com/) for helping to quench the entrepreneurial thirst for learning with a great event!

And thanks to Seth Goldman (@HonestTea) for showing us what happens when you never ever ever ever ever give up.

Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” ~Napoleon Hill