“Can you help me find a job in VC?”

 About 18 months ago, I was cold called by a young, ambitious MBA student who wanted some advice and guidance on something very very difficult to do: breaking into the venture capital business. Relative to huge demand, there are very few entry level VC positions available in the Washington, DC region.

Since his initial cold call, I have met him a few times at various events around town. I had not heard from him in several months until today when, in response to an email announcement my company sent out, he responded that he was still seeking my help in landing a VC job.

I emailed him my response:

Here’s how I may help, with some (free) advice:

YOU have to HELP you. The buck stops with you!

You have to create true value for your customers and constituents (boss, coworkers, investors, friends, etc).

You must give 110% every single hour of every single day, and MAKE SURE all of this is recognized.

Network like a machine. You should be out every night going to 2-3 events per, and genuinely HELPING others – Thats how you build YOUR brand!

Work 80 hours per week. There’s no substitute for hard work.

In this market, the ideal job does not come to you.
YOU have to attack and make it happen.
And the tools you need are contacts, credibility and expertise, all of which you will develop by following the advice above.

Pursue your dream and never give up!! It may take a month, year, or 10 years, but the persistent person ALWAYS wins…eventually!!

All the best,
Tien

That’s advice I would give to my kids, the students I work with at Georgetown or Maryland, and anyone looking to land any kind of job, especially a high-demand job.

Bottom line: you have to help yourself, and there are no shortcuts. Buckle up because the road will be long and bumpy,

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Thanks!

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

T2KInterns2015

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!

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.

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. 

Tien Wong’s 2012 Predictions as Published in WashingtonExec

Happy New Year!  I’d like to say a special Thank You to JD Kathuria and my friends at WashingtonExec for publishing my look into the crystal ball for 2012.  Here is the Post:

Tien Wong, Chairman and CEO of Opus8

2012 is here, and with it comes big changes for the Federal IT industry.  WashingtonExec gave local executives the opportunity to share their thoughts on where they see the government contracting industry headed.

Tien Wong, Chairman and CEO of Lore Systems and Opus8, gave WashingtonExec six factors that he believes will affect the 2012 Washington, D.C. entrepreneur and government contracting communities.

1.  IT SPENDING and THE ECONOMY – IT spending will increase both in commercial and government sectors, particularly in infrastructure, cloud, and mobility.  We have seen an uptick in business at Lore in the last quarter particularly from our commercial clients.  In conversations with many clients, I believe that overall confidence in the economy is improving a lot!

2.  PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – Obama will be re-elected.  If the economy is improving, that favors Obama.

3.  STARTUPS – Startups in the DC region will continue to blossom.  The ecosystem is as active and sanguine as it has been in the past 10 years.  You are seeing groups like Startup America, Startup Maryland, Startup VirginiaFounderCorps, and established and new incubators take a keen interest in our region.  Angels are investing, and groups like Virginia’s CIT and Maryland’s DBED will be investing new allocations of seed money.

4.  CLOUD COMPUTING – Cloud adoption in the federal government will accelerate both internally via virtual private clouds, and via commercial providers with new FedRAMP guidelines and the award of commercial Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) contracts (GSA’s IaaS and the Army’s APC2, for example).  The economic and performance benefits are far too great for cloud not to be aggressively adopted well into the future.

5.  DATACENTER CONSOLIDATION – Regarding the federal government’s datacenter consolidation efforts, the government will successfully close many datacenters.  However, I doubt they will hit their goals in 2012  because many individual application owners and datacenter operators are not as cooperative in providing information and complying.  Further, there’s a cost to consolidating and there are limited funds to achieve this, so you’ll likely see a lot of funding come out of O&M budgets.

6.  SMALL BUSINESS – Because of drastically reduced budgets, the government will rely on small business and entrepreneurs for creative ideas to cut costs, drive productivity, and improve performance. The DoD customer has been very open to the commercial best practices Lore is bringing to the table re: datacenter consolidation and application migration.  In addition, small business is more nimble and unencumbered by the fixed costs of the “Bigs,” so we can offer creative pricing structures, and ways for the government to buy from us.  We will see more firm fixed price offers, and shared-risk pricing, which inevitably will save the taxpayers money.

Please let me know what you think about these predictions. Thanks for reading, and please subscribe to my Blog!  All the best for an awesome 2012!

Featured image courtesy of Mike Licht, notionscapital.com, licensed via creative commons.

If You Could Give Your Kids ONLY 3 Pieces of Advice…


IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR KIDS ONLY 3 PIECES OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

This question was posed as an “Icebreaker” to our Forum meeting a few weeks ago.

Think about it.  Of all the DOZENS of great ideas you’d like to give your children, what would be the TOP THREE?

Here are mine:

1.  THINK for yourself – To live a fulfilling life, you have to think independently.  This is how you can create a world of limitless possibility.  Question everything!  It’s OK to listen to “conventional wisdom” and advice that people give you, but YOU have to ultimately form your own opinions.  This is what the best LEADERS do, whether they are leading a company, a family, or their own lives.

2.  Always maintain your INTEGRITY – In the end, you have only 2 things:  your memories and your name.  And your name and reputation live on.  By keeping your promises and doing the RIGHT THING, you will sleep soundly at night and have peace of mind.

3.  Find your PASSION and give 100% – Life is very short.  You don’t have much time, so make the most of it by doing what you LOVE and giving your ALL.  It’s not easy to find your passion. Maybe the search will be painful and long, but you will find it at some point.  And the feeling of satisfaction knowing you have given 100% brings tremendous contentment.

My Forum Brothers all had awesome Advice as well:

Find Yourself.  Be True to Yourself.

GIve and Get Love.

Be Present – Take in the Moment.

Work Hard

Enjoy Life

Be Respectful

Listen Carefully to Advice Along the Way

Modulate Your Emotional Highs and Lows

Embrace Difficulties and Hardship – They are a Catalyst for Growth

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Find a Life Partner Who Shares Your Values and Life Experience

In Your Profession: Be Good at It, Enjoy It, and Make Sure It Pays Well

What Top 3 pieces of advice would YOU give to YOUR kids?

Thanks for reading, and please subscribe!

Featured image courtesy of aldrin_muya licensed via creative commons.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

“You don’t know what you don’t know.”  That’s one of my favorite sayings, and a true maxim in life and in business.  Having a “know it all” mentality can lead to disastrous decision making.  I’ve learned this the hard way, and if I had a dime for every time I have said “you don’t know what you don’t know” to one of my teammates or colleagues, I’d be very rich!

The beautiful hand painted wooden Russian Nesting Dolls from the city of Penza (above and below) illustrate this point very well.  The dolls descend in size and fit inside one another.  You open the largest one and keep going until you finally come to the impossibly tiny little doll at the end.

Ever had a problem you think you solved until another related issue popped up? Something completely unexpected.  Then you thought you solved it again but then another surprise came up?  And so on and so on until you finally got the correct answer?  Finding the right solution is just like opening up a set of these nesting dolls one by one.

Problems can be solved faster by knowing the simple fact that “you don’t know what you don’t know.”  So here are some simple ideas to keep in mind.

1.  Don’t Assume Anything – You’ve heard bosses and mentors say, “If you A-S-S-U-M-E, you make an A-S-S out of U and ME,” right?  I have to agree that, while extremely difficult NOT to do, assuming things can be very costly, especially when communicating with others.  Of course, you have to assume or guess at some things, but try and get as many facts, background info, etc. ahead of time.

2.  Be Prepared – For anything.  Expect surprises, and just take the issue as it comes and think things through carefully.

3.  Have a “Beginner’s Mind,” or “Shosin” as the Zen Buddhists like to call it.  By being open and devoid of preconceptions, you bring a level of humility and desire for learning to the challenge at hand.

4.  Get Help – Ask experts or experienced people and advisers who can help you.  And do your homework independently, as well.

5.  Test and Iterate – If you have the luxury of time, take baby steps and test your ideas. Whether it’s a new product or a new target audience, or whatever, put it out there on a test basis first, then evaluate feedback and results….and then adjust accordingly.

We at Lore Systems have put in place these practices and have benefitted immeasurably in making better decisions in everything we do.

Good luck, and thank you very much for reading.  Please feel free to comment and sign up for my Blog!