People reached out to me about opportunities in social enterprises and impact investing from time to time, whether through common friends or Linked-in. I do not have anything intelligent to say. My usual suggestion is to attend related events and network. A good percentage of these events are free so the only investment is time. Most people in this field are very welcoming so it is not hard to reach out to strangers at events and have a useful conversation.
Most of us know networking is important but what is the essence of it? Here are three things that I take away from my investment in networking:
1. Building relationships： It is not about collecting name cards and distributing name cards. The number of connections will not enable one to pursue a project or a job. The nature and depth of a relationship counts. By going to events and panel discussions, I learn more about who is who and who does what, i.e. who has a view and who is the thought leader in my area of interest. It helps me to identify the right parties to be involved.
2. Developing insights: I learn the latest trends and practices from panel discussions and workshops. I proactively talk to people at events, share my feedback, as well as ask for other people’s thoughts during breaks. Before one knows, views are developed. Being able to share my own observations and point of view during interviews or catch-ups with potential partners is important.
3. Reflecting: I am not shy about sharing my thoughts, startup ideas or business plans with people I meet for the first time. I actually think it is extremely useful to bounce ideas with a diverse group of people. Sometimes my friends are too gentle with me and would not say that my idea does not make sense. One’s idea will not grow or evolve unless it is tested, either by obtaining more information or thoughts through talking to potential customers or users (of course, it is even better if one gets the chance to test it in the real market).
How to conduct networking effectively?
1. Proactive. Depending on the day of the month, I am an introvert. I am not comfortable in a crowd. If I leave it to my usual self, I may not end up talking to anyone. I commit to make two new acquaintances at any networking event.
2. Story Telling. People love stories. I share my personal career journey. Most people find it quite interesting. By sharing something personal, your new ”friend” may also open up a little and tell you more about themselves, i.e. what they do and what they are involved.
3. 48 hours. Most people score real bad in this. I email 85% of the people I have met. Say hello and thank them for their insight. If a useful contact is mentioned, remind them and appreciate their effort to connect.
4. Coffee. Again, bad score for most people. 300 cups of coffee may not do good to my health but it certainly do good to my soul and rolodex of resource. For those people whom I identify as having potential collaboration opportunities and have expressed interest to meet up again, I follow up. I do not wait for them to reach out. We are all busy people who get distracted all the time. I make a difference by reaching out. I cannot remember anyone turn round to say ”No, thanks!”. Majority of these coffee catch-ups turned out to be constructive discussions and led to more coffee, sometimes lunch or dinner which meant that those relationships have developed to a different level. A good fraction of these contacts have become my trusted friends and partners.
5. Volunteer. If I get the chance to speak to a leader or a responsible person in an organization that I am interested to know more, I volunteer to do some work for them. It is an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the subject matter or the culture and operation involved. Once I get the exposure, I can judge whether it is something I want to get into. It also gives other people the chance to know me better and understand my capability.
6. Getting Stuck? Of course, there are moments of awkwardness. After several attempts to identify common interests, there may not be a slightest spark of chemistry. Relax. Switch to talk to something more general, like where they are going in the coming holidays or whether they have gone on a hike during this dry and cool season. It is always acceptable to say that you want to find a friend or say hello to someone you know at the other end of the room. If I don’t think the dialogue is getting anywhere, it is very likely the other person feels the same way too.
Life is full of surprises. There were many times that I dragged my feet to attend networking drinks. However I felt good after the fact. I thanked myself for making the effort and creating more opportunities for new ventures.
I am looking forward to my 300 coffees in 2016. Hope you do too.
從一月一日開始，沒有停下來。每天四至五個約會，裝扮忙碌。性格及習慣使然，爭取聯繫上多些人，發掘工作機會。三個月打游擊般，什麼人提出見面都說好。雖然奔走各區，我是非常享受當中的過程。認識許多新人物, 學習許多新東西，建立更大的網絡。近兩個月亦有幸被邀請參與了一些新活動及會議, 原來從前種下的種子, 今天部分有收成。「被邀請」的確令我感覺良好，像是「授埋我玩」，令我對自己的「價值」多了一點信心。三個月活動中認識的人物，部份相約見面；有些交談完互相的工作範疇後，無疾而終；有些越談越起勁，互通資訊及網絡，甚至一起發夢，發掘合作空間。奈何籃子有點滿，是時候退一步，看清有什麼是有實際可能性, 意思是那個對話可演變為一個實在的, 有收入的工作崗位。這個所謂退後一步，抽離忙碌，成為離開香港的完美藉口。今次的藉口大了一點，暴走英倫及法國一個月。的確是沒有新鮮感… 又去歐洲。 這是大部分曾在英國讀書的香港女子的例行工事。我已早早肯定自己是中了英國的毒，沉醉英式的禮儀，幽默以及諷刺式的語話方式。間中要來朝聖, 吸吸這裡的空氣, 飲飲這裡的水。
最熱鬧的是首兩天在倫敦看了兩場精彩的芭蕾舞, 瘋狂的是兩場都是天鵝湖。唯一分別是首席舞者不一樣。風格不同，感受也不同。樂團指揮一樣，成員差不多，效果亦不一樣。誰與我一起瘋癲？友伴和我在小學四年班開始一同學習芭蕾舞，到現在大家仍十分喜愛欣賞這門藝術。難得有瘋伴共味細節，共研功架。小妹年紀也不小，看過不少舞劇。傲慢的我對在香港公演的沒甚興趣。即使是出色的外國舞團來港，首席的舞員通常都不會隨團，再加上配合的樂團是本地的，對不起…演奏音樂的質素更不是那會事。由於這樣嬌揉的原因，我已很久沒有觀看舞蹈。這次處於堂皇的歌劇院，聽著美妙的交響樂，優雅的舞姿，發覺自己差點忘記了這種享受，這種感官及精神的享受。那良好的體驗彷彿提醒我要多感受人物及事情的細節, 欣賞成功及美麗背後的漫長努力和鍛煉。
在香港可以有同樣的享受和啟發嗎？香港有許多有天份之士, 可惜制度的問題, 藝術的訓練, 發展和成績是中規中矩，很難為觀眾帶來很大迴響。我覺得深層次及優質的表演才令觀者感動，有體會。我談到的表演包括觀眾的投入, 儀態, 場地的配合，甚至誇張點是整個城市的素質及狀態。我看完表演之後, 乘搭地下鐵回住所, 步過骯髒的街道, 經過嘈吵的醉酒士, 但那份優雅的氣氛沒被沖淡。不清楚原因．．．會不會是簡單及浪漫到是因為整個城市對人與人之間對空間的尊重，一份對實際及精神空間的尊重。想像你在香港, 剛看完劇目, 隨人群禮貌的離開文化中心,乘地鐵回家。列車如常頻密, 當你到月台之時, 列車正好到達。車廂人多，但絕對可容納月台的人。當你正準備步入車廂，背後一名女子突然衝上，撞到你的膊頭。你不滿意說，「吓，小姐？」； 那位女子回應，「呵，係我嘅手袋呀！」。難道我落後，不知道現在有獨立思想，不受主人控制的智能手袋？那刻，什麼藝術氣質, 舒暢心情，對人類的美好, 立刻被徹底抹走。我敢說倫敦的地鐵乘客及車廂比例不會比香港多很多, 但怎麼在香港的非繁忙時間（雖然現只於半夜十二點半出現）比倫敦的繁忙時間令人更緊張？有什麼可向英國人學習，讓大家在趕車的時刻也感受有個人空間？
至於我說的精神空間尊重，大概是由自其傳統及前衛的和諧交合。倫敦的可愛之處就是你隨時可以在地鐵車廂內，看到一個老太太悠然地坐著，旁邊是一個面上穿了幾十個鼻環，眼角環，唇環，黑色皮衫，戴滿鐵鏈飾物，不再是青年的男人。老太太的悠然不是由於倫敦安全或對環境莫不關心，亦不是她理解或接受punk的文化，而是她對另一個個體的選擇和尊重。這城市的人不會茫然地因為別人的衣著及片刻的行徑而隨便下定論及作出排斥。換著是香港，老太太已早早避開，彈到另一個車廂。等等… 此情景的出現率很低，媽媽不會容許仔女面上穿幾十個環，戴滿鐵鏈配飾 （沒有說錯，是媽媽，她對仍然在家生活的中年男子有相當控制)；其實亦很難想像一個香港中年男子在光天白日下這樣打扮上街，一是有幾多人有自信可不理旁人目光作此打扮，二是走上街不到三分鐘已被警察叔叔欄途截劫，問長問短，無法到達地鐵站。
What a year it was for me in 2014! It has been so much fun meeting so many inspiring and passionate entrepreneurs. How do I curate my 2015? Well, left a paid job was a start. I do not think it is a bad start … not bad in a sense that being in an uncomfortable zone is healthy for the body and mind. Most important of all is to be thoughtful of the type of engagements one needs to establish … thoughtful in a sense that they may create platforms for ‘bigger’ things.
Let me share my current plan for the next 6 months and see what you think. This is not a list of new year resolutions. I believe we change and pivot everyday as we get inspirations.
The list goes on… I am also in the process of setting up an impact investor club with a group of like-minded friends and also an internship/placement program for small-scale social enterprises.
Friends think that I have been lucky and that my career path has been smooth.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
When are you going to get lucky?
是隨心還是任性? 在沒有確定下一個受薪工作的情況下, 幾天前離開了社企培訓項目的工作崗位。 就是覺得沒有太大發展, 所以離開。
我不是一個衝動的人，於正常情況下都不會這樣選擇。始終正正經經在一間機構工作,可以認識新人物, 參與活動及項目的機會較大，即是找份新工作也較容易。可是感覺就是告訴我沒有被聘, 反而有更多機會或發展空間。大概我對社會企業的發展有份天真的信心吧! 有時感覺勝於一切。 雖然人大了, 所謂的感覺是有少許根據, 但心裡偶爾也問問是否太隨意, 風險是否太大? 哈哈, 你為我評估吧!
或許太遲評估了… 不如一起看看我為未來六個月的計劃, 並給我一點意見:
大家很多時候都說真心的朋友是從學校處認識, 又或是第一份工認識。 非常認同。 觀看現在眾多朋友群組中, 大部分都是相識了十年或以上, 於生命中最天真, 最無機心之時, 共同努力去處理事情。
小妹於一年多前有幸於學習社企運作的過程中, 遇到幾位志同道合之士。 我們於2013年尾開始每月相聚, 談談各自項目的進度及挑戰, 互相交換意見, 好不暢快。 大家都明白各自的問題都是要自己解決, 但是有朋友肯耐心聆聽, 實在難得。香港的社會創新運動仍然處於幼兒班, 對於我們來說, 那是無比的力量。
我們的聚會內容當然隨著時間流逝而有轉變。 初期是雄心壯志談大計, 中段多了投訴, 最近大部份時間都是談人物的關係, 俗稱”八卦”。現在想起也會心微笑, 再想想感覺是幸福。原因如下:
1. 從討論項目細節演變到談人物的關係, 代表我們集中思考怎樣定位, 怎樣處理形勢。 這是一項進步, 有朋友一起分析更是美妙。
2. 可以一起說三道四, 但有建設性地討論怎樣處理問題, 代表我們之間有互信。幾個不同年紀, 不同背景, 不同性格的人走在一起, 可以坦誠交換看法, 這是緣份。
3. 可以無間斷地每月定期相聚, 代表我們真惜大家的關係, 這份心意何其難得。
人與人之間可以很簡單。 我信仍然會遇上頗多個有緣人, 留得住他們與否就看我的態度了。 我信, 就是可以那麼簡單。
我們於十日前慶祝此雅敘的一周年, 大家都期待來年的各樣挑戰, 最重要的是繼續互相支持。我們亦承諾多寫文章, 和更多人分享經驗, 推動社會創新。 希望你們也支持小妹, 我常常寫別字, 請多多提點。
At dinner last night, one friend said that someone bumped into her at the MTR (underground rail in HK). My friend stared at the person who in turn said that it was her handbag. So, it is the handbag’s fault.
Human-centered designed was the hot thing in the past decade. However the human race has become more self-centered. What an irony? Maybe it was such behavior which made the human-centered design such a ‘wow’ thing. I blame the self-centered-ness to the rise of smart phone. Everyone has become such committed reader and learner that they eye their smartphone while they are walking, even on the busiest road. HongKongers are especially good at this. Our body will soon develop a sensor, just like those of insects, that can detect forthcoming objects so that we can move our directions without hitting anyone or anything. We can save the time to move our heads and look up.
I read somewhere that schools are going to teach empathy. To be honest, I felt a bit sad reading that article. I thought this would be something developed as we grow and interact with different people.
Sorry for talking nonsense, my only point here is that, if you want to differentiate from the rest of the talents in this planet, I think you just need to be ‘human’. Be sensitive and considerate about other people around you. Smell, feel, taste, hear and see things around you.
I just came back home after a month in UK and Italy. I was glad that my first 3 weeks were spent in one place for a week. It gave me time to take in more about the places I visited. It was also less tiring. I saw a lot of great scenery but singled out one picture to share with all of you. A picture of this view between Pienza and Montepulciano in Tuscany. I spent a week of half-day cooking class in a villa which was well-positioned for us to admire the rolls of hills that one would find in a typical Tuscan postcard.
We really have not spent enough time to appreciate all the lovely things around us.
The beauty of the sky and nature really soothed the body and soul. The colours, smell and taste of nature was so refreshing. It reinforced my belief in protecting our earth through sustainable living. The passion of sustainable farming by the locals were encouraging despite the many challenges, from political to economical. Every country is facing similar challenges. I am hearing the same complaints and difficulties about sustainability. It is comforting that a lot of people are still trying their best to use the most original farming method and consumption pattern even if their neighbors may not be doing the same.
For those of you who have not taken or planned a vacation this year, please make sure you have a slow one!
There is a serious need of talents to run operations for start-ups and early stage companies. If I review the 5 companies in my incubation program, 4 of them do not have a chief operating officer. This scenario is not uncommon as I look at the deal pipeline for our investment portfolio or in the upcoming incubation program.
The founders are the ones who originated the business idea and therefore best in designing the product/services. When it comes to execution and on-going operations, they are generally not that good at it. If there are more than one founder, such start-ups are in a slightly better situation. At least, they can divide and conquer. In many startups, there is only one founder or in some cases, the second founder either leaves before the business takes off or the partnerships simply do not work well.
Where are these people who are good in leading, operating and managing people and processes?
I believe they exist. The issue, like many other things in the world, is the mismatch of demand and supply. I have heard a number of people saying that they are building an on-line platform to address this mismatch. If you are aware of any that are already in operation, let me know.
Another issue is that, I do not see founders jumping up and down to search for an operation expertise. Despite many talks about the success of business being “10% idea and 90% execution”, founders are not putting sufficient emphasis on the execution or finding the talents in this area. It is understandable. The creator of a product definitely believes that his/her product is unique and good and that there is a market for it. They focus on the product development and less on the marketing, sales or management of the production.
If you are organized, strategic, disciplined and can multi-manage tasks (even small boring ones), there is always a job for you.