Welcome to the Alexander Johnson podcast. Join us for discussions on business mindset, health and fitness.
Hello Ting Ting and thank you very much for joining me today.
Hi Alex it’s nice to be here. Thank you.
So, first of all, I’d like to give our listeners a little bit of an introduction. Tinting Peng is a business account list and a community builder with over 15 years of experience across many different industries. She’s been a strategy consultants and investment banker. Hedge fund analyst are real estate investor and advisor to startups and a cross border business development executive. And’s lives and works in the USA je to now currently residing in the UK for the past five years. Alongside her roles in the world of Business, Ting Ting is also a passionate yoga teacher, a mother of two young boys and a fierce advocate for diversity of ideas and sustainable well being and aspects of ones life tinting. Thank you very much for joining us. Thanks, I like that was a great introduction, so you’re clearly a woman of many talents. Yeah, I guess I. I guess one could call me that. I have a lot of different interests. I think that’s fantastic. I think by having a diversity of interests I think we end up learning more and being able to contribute more towards all of our individual interests. So, so where I’d like to start us off is obviously the purpose of this particular conversation here is to talk about how resilience triggers success, how the ability to have that sort of bounce back ability is something that can lead towards results even when things seemingly appear at their gloomiest. You know, I I have here some points that I really like us to try and cover, but I think where we stopped from is this idea of where resilience sets in comparison to grit and where these two come together. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve done a lot of I guess personal
development in reading on the topic of grit. Uhm, I think a lot of it has been covered by people like Angela Duckworth in her Ted Talk in her book on grit in a more recent book that I read called range by David Eppstein, which also touches upon the idea of great. and I do think fundamentally there’s a difference between the two. But I mean I I’d be here, just curious to hear what your thoughts are. UM, in terms of whether the two are distinct and whether you know one is a component of the other and how the two kind of work together to drive motivation and people. Yeah, I mean I always looked at it and I thought that grid is like another word for conviction. Uhm, it is. It’s effectively a component which drives us towards a long term goal. It’s a measure of our passion and perseverance, whereas I see I mean, obviously see resilience and grit, both being contributors towards this this. It’s a commitment mindset. That’s what it is. It’s something that allows us to to reach what we define individually as our success. Because of course, success is on an individual level. That’s a different meaning for all of us. Know. Some of us will have a much more financially driven version of success where others will be thinking more about particular goals related to family. Or it could even be something as simple for sales individual who really wants to be able to afford that holiday to Australia at the end of the year. So so where I see resilience. Philly, Yeah, I’m fitting in is resilience is it’s the mindset of optimism that keeps us take. Taking a step back towards our goals when we are perhaps discouraged, or perhaps have doubts or fears or or not. Quite sure which direction to go. It’s that thing that ever comes down to overcomes negativity. And of course, they both
contribute towards that one set direction, but you know it really. It’s how you were able to balance both which which I think is what allows people to ultimately be successful. Yeah, I would definitely agree. Uhm, you know one of the words you use at the very start bounce back ability. That’s very much at the core of resilience is sometimes recognizing that you do have to. It’s unavoidable to take a step back or many steps back before you can take a step forward and at the path from A to B is not necessarily always a straight line there. Infinite possibilities of reaching your end goal, whatever that might be.
So I think for me what’s interesting is thinking about it or conviction. I’ve been called in the past, you know, having quite a gritty, I guess personality in terms of perseverance of having the stubbornness the mule headedness, which my children unfortunately have inherited of just exactly just blindly continuing on no matter what’s happening. And sometimes especially in the current environment, I think you do have to take into account that you know is that the best approach. Is continuously kind of bang your head against the wall where there are no roads you know is there a way around as opposed to through? Are there other ways of looking at? How do you reach ultimately what you’re trying to accomplish? What you’re trying to achieve, and it has the resilient minds. That means that you can be a bit more nimble and that you can actually adapt. Yeah, I think something that I’ve seen through studying entrepreneurs is that they, rightly or wrongly, they do tend to find what they believe to be the only solution to a problem, and that is useful in the fact that it gives them that conviction that they will follow that through and deliver on it. But rarely is is there are always multiple ways of solving one problem, and it’s about finding the most efficient one. You know there’s this killed entrepreneur sometimes even does this subconsciously, but I think that what I’ve noticed over the last few years where I’ve been involved in a lot more in helping companies to grow and having several of my own my own startups is what I found is that there’s two very different mindsets which are for those that can create things, and those that operate things. So by definition I’m a creator more than I am an operator, and what that means is that I’m very happy to play. Affectively, the guesstimate game. I’m very happy to go about trying to figure out some things where I don’t have the metrics. I don’t have the KP eyes. I don’t yet know really what I don’t know. I have no proof to say that a product will be successful except the conviction that I have towards that concept or idea. And then I work with others who are very good on a micro level running businesses and taking care of the nitty gritty. And then that relationships works very well, but I notice that you know sometimes I try to push some of these operators to. Be creators and they can’t get
their their mind behind an idea they can’t. They can’t embrace it until they first see some real world figures in some proof. And up until that point happens where an idea is actually up and running, they struggle very much to be able to to accept that something could work. and I think that’s really what separates creators and operators. And you know, but both both, both people within the equation need to have. They have to have that resilience and grit towards being able to accomplish something, but I think I think when we look at resilience in companies. In your experience, you worked inside of very large institutions and and in startups. So how would you say resilience translates into workforce or a company?
So just maybe also reflecting a little bit on what you said in terms of identifying different strengths within groups of people or individuals within a firm, and everyone has their role to play.
It does take you know that one person or one group of people to identify the problem first, whatever that problem might be in order to channel the rest of the resources of a team of a company to be able to. Coming up with creative solutions that solving that problem and not everyone is the same human makeup or the human. The same human design. To be the one to come up with or identify the problem. So I absolutely agree that there are different roles in different people that contribute to making a team successful. Um in coming up with solutions now it in terms of where do you think sorry to interrupt you? Where do you think you draw the line? Because you know something for me that I really struggled with for years as I is, I knew that I had certain people who I didn’t think were of the correct. The right caliber standard. I didn’t think they were really prepared to sort of like commit the time and effort in the energean really commit themselves towards a role and I didn’t know how to effectively measure that to be able to know the difference between someone who. Is going to get there and someone who still part of this. So in that process. Yeah, it’s something that I struggle with two on an ongoing basis in terms of manage my current team. I think some of the things I’ve learned in working with different different size organizations at different stages of their growth. Part of the development of an individual within a team is, I guess, cultivating a sense of confidence in their capabilities and identifying you know what their strengths are, not only what their strengths are, but also what they really enjoy doing. And then structuring a set of processes or a framework around them so that they understand you know what their expectations are. You know whether there’s certain timelines or specific goals that they’re working towards. I think that helps to Orient people in the right way and then, to a certain extent you know one of the things that working in finance. One of the things I also struggle with it. How do
you measure things that may sometimes not be quantitative? And one of the facets of that is in terms of mentor, mentor, ship or coaching. In terms of individual development in assessing where people are, where their strengths lie, where their interests lie so that you can actually either create roles or put them into roles that really allow them to shine. And it’s something I mean. I think the correct term for this is match quality, so given their skill sets, given their strength and their interests, are they? Suitable for the role an having that flexibility as an organization to move people to create opportunities for growth. When people feel like they’re learning is stagnant. To have that continuous dialogue, you know, I’ve definitely been there early on in my career where I felt that I wasn’t getting either. The resources that I needed in order to grow into my fullest potential, or I wasn’t allowed the platform to step outside my box. You know, with an investment banking that was particularly the case, you want analyst. This is what you’re supposed to do. Don’t do anything else. Don’t have any ideas. And so yeah, and that must be must be quite frustrating at times. Yes, and I think you would end up losing a lot of talented people if you don’t as a leader or manager, spend time. And this is one of the areas of focus for me that takes up a lot of my time is not actually in the doing. Of the work, but actually in the thinking in the listening to my team, my peers, my reports to understand where they’re really coming from, I started introducing a very simple process so that every single time that an instruction or an action is communicated to a member of a team. I have
a process where I sign someone who is century to responsible for performing the task, and then I assign someone else who is responsible for making sure that that person does that task. And it sounds insanely simple, but it’s incredibly effective tool because it it gives you this automatic follower process to ensure that things get done ’cause ’cause. For me I I’ve I’ve never been afraid of making mistakes, never being afraid of of having the small failures. In fact, I like having a small failures because they are what ultimately push you towards success. There were there are what allow you to optimize what you’re doing, and ultimately every small failure avoids a large one. But where I live where I struggle with and one thing that I could, I could never accept or tolerate within a company is is this idea that we keep making the same mistakes again and again, so every single time that I’m a mistake happens and you know the reason why I mentioned this in the context of a conversation about resilience is because I don’t like it when I hear and I hear this lot about people who I believe are are wasting some of their energies on failure. Effectively negative aspects which they are repeating and and that’s going to. It’s a little bit like a philosophy towards dieting. You know, sometimes it does help just to keep yourself away from the bad foods. If you want to be eating healthy for a week, you don’t want to be hang around in a place that sells junk food 24/7. So it’s a little bit like if you want to stay positive and be able to have the mental conviction in the mental clarity towards working on the healthy aspects of business. The good aspects. It’s about how you set yourself up for success, how you prepare those aspects and that allows you to. To effectively give yourself mental willpower by not diluting yourself with so many unnecessary problems. So, and what you were talking about? Uh, the mindset for success and setting up a team for success is there. Is there a framework that you use and thinking about how, how you create a culture
of success? So what are the attributes that you would look for? In the members of your team. That would demonstrate their ability to add to that number one. I think the most important thing is belief. I once I once read and I can’t unfortunately remember the exact reference, but they were putting together a team for a project and they asked everyone. They said they said out of everyone in this room right now, who has doubt that we’re going to do is possible, and then about two people put up their hands and he said, OK, I want you guys to leave and you know when you start off with an initial concept, you need to create that that central attitude. And that feeling of optimism towards being able to do things, and I have to say, and it sounds almost unoriginal. But the most important characteristic behind every company is that is that belief and optimism towards their product or their service. So I’d say that’s central and true of any business. So I would uhm. I would like to challenge that a little bit if I may by asking. And it might be a generalization to ask the question that is doubt necessarily a bad thing. The reason why I ask this is because, uh, you know, for those who are listening, who know me. I think you would love to hear me say that a lot of times I have significant doubts about my own capabilities. You know, sometimes I have an overwhelming sense of impostor syndrome. I don’t, I don’t know how to do something. But I very much recognize that within myself and I use it as fuel to fire my ambition so that I make sure that I read more that I talk to lots of different people that I’m the most prepared person in the room so that I can move beyond my doubts. That’s
exactly what you’re talking about. You. You are your mindset by its very definition is about removing the doubt you have your process for being able to take that doubt away. And that’s absolutely fine, because what you were referring to there is is a healthy sense of realism, which I think is very. It’s very different from when I referenced example I give. I think refers much more importantly to an air of negativity. It’s an air of certain mindset where people will will. Effectively nag other people out and and I think there’s a big difference between people looking at something with a degree of not skepticism, but you’re looking at it with a degree of detail, an considered thought, and of course, of course, we’re not assuming that everyone in the company just has to blazingly say, OK, this is going to work no matter what. We’re not saying we’re not saying that we’re going to suddenly just become brainwashed into thinking everything is going to be 100% successful. Otherwise, of course, you would end up with. With failing concept or business, but what we are saying is we’re removing removing the aspects where people will effectively cloud judgment with negative thoughts. And I think when we refer to your process, your process is a lot more. It’s a lot more to do with getting to the detail. It’s about saying, OK, I want to make sure that I have everything within my tool kit to be able to make sure that I have the highest chance of making a success. And that is quite a positive thing to do as opposed to some people who don’t provide solutions but would constantly highlight problems. and I think I think that’s an important thing within companies as well as to have that ability to be constantly. Looking for solutions. You know, a lot of people can find a problem, but being able to find the solution that requires talent. Definitely agree yeah, so individuals can have their own methodology, their own process of their own toolkits to move through
doubt. Negative thought. It’s also important within teams and as leaders of companies to provide sufficient support systems recognition that different people need different things. Whether it’s one on one, mentorship within the firm or outside coaches that people can work with to get different perspectives. Yeah, I think I think, particularly in in a modern context, where technology is giving us the ability to self monitor a lot and a lot more of a metric driven manner, I think. I think that this this monitoring process is something which we can be introducing even to smaller companies on a sort of peer to peer basis. So where you might lack infrastructure for a smaller business where you can’t rely on senior management because it might just be 12 people sitting underneath one boss. So where is that? One boss might not be able to get that level of individual attention. This idea of peer to peer monitoring or reviewing or assistance I think is a newer concept, but I think it’s proving to be very successful because. ’cause you can now. Nowadays you can back it up with so many real real numbers. Are there other ways in which your businesses have leveraged technology? As almost an enabler or accelerator in doing the things that are, I’ve always, always seen technologies and means by which to take away the mundane and allow talented people to focus on what their talented on and where. Where my companies have evolved over the last 10 years is a lot of lot of lot of the companies that I still managed on a day-to-day basis. Where where we are with them is that most of them work remotely and have done so for the last year. We rely a lot more on figures and statistics, and I think there’s there’s something very interesting that a
friend of mine who runs a bigger company than any of mine. He was telling me about the reliability that consistency of data and he was effectively saying that when you look at one individual, you see so many. Arenas of unpredictability. It’s so difficult with one individual to be able to to guess the actions of an individual. However, when you start looking at statistics, you start looking at overall data based on hundreds of individuals that you suddenly start getting an aspect of clarity and whether that’s towards working towards how many sales you’re going to get from traffic that comes through to website, or whether you’re looking at the turnover rate of staff. You suddenly start to appreciate the data, and I think that. This is very telling of the statistics that I’ve been reading in various newspaper articles and reports about how important the role of data scientists will be because of all the technology that we’re leveraging. One of the one of the challenges I think we’ve had in my current role. I DSO capital or small firm 34 people, multiple offices in Europe. I think we’ve tried to, as you said, really embrace data, statistics, quantifiable information into our investment process in terms of our portfolio monitoring process. However, I think for smaller companies, resource constraints can sometimes be. A hurdle that management has to overcome in order to implement any technology technological transformation. What have you found to be? I guess a useful way, or you know, an efficient way to embrace technology without I guess. Creating more problems during the implementation process. Yeah, I have found that a tremendous amount of it is about. It’s about the foundation of a company’s Technology. I find
that I. Consult to a number of companies who have invested a crazy amount of money into, for example, their website, which might be you know, the central point of sales and what you find is that they build a very expensive central solution because they insist on having a very particular type of design, for example, which you know most of the time is more than a branding ego thing that comes from founders and ultimately ends up costing the business a lot of money going forward because everything that we’ve been doing for the last few years is being built on WordPress. And the reason we do this because for aspects of the website it’s very hard to find a better system which already has so many things pre built for you. And this is this is all about reducing burn rate for me. I’ve always been very careful to have a Capital Reserve within companies and I’ve always been very careful to make sure that I minimize the burner as much as possible. And this is always giving me a degree of protection in the event of any sort of worst case scenario or a temporary liquidity issue or any. Natural thing that can happen to a business, so most of the time when I look at some of these companies which is saying, well, we’ve now got to introduce all this technology or somebody saying yeah you guys are talking about building custom APIs. You’re talking about introducing things into an existing very complex system and most of the time these are tools which accompany won’t necessarily need. So sometimes it’s a question of going back and really rebuilding their entire text system for much cheaper, much, much cheaper way. Yeah, what you’ve just mentioned in terms of understanding customer needs. I I think UM one of the things I’ve come to realize is also understanding in its entire T all of the stakeholders and what their needs are, and then fundamentally deciding what are the most important things and what are the most critical components and how can technology help that in
the long run? Yeah, sometimes it can take a little bit of time to. I think people over the hurdle of change change management I think is a huge part of. What we’re talking about today in terms of resilience in building resilient companies and having that culture of adapting well, and certainly is. You know, I, I find I find it amazing how many companies that I go into when I go in to try and help them to grow. And there’s two things that you always notice. Now number one they underestimate the value of their existing client database and how much more revenue they can be producing from now. That’s the first thing that you usually go and you fix and you instantly create value added. Then the second massive component, which is quite surprising to me. How often I come across this is how many firms that you could go to and they wouldn’t be able to tell you what it costs them. To generate a new customer. And not not having this this core data, it makes it very hard to understand when you spend money on marketing or you go about introducing a new strategy or a new initiative, it becomes very difficult for you to be able to measure and and properly estimate. For example, when at your next quarter and exactly what growth that will trigger and what results you’re going to going to get your level of profitability and in turn that affect your ability to be recognized by other stakeholders such as your shareholders to necessarily be able to raise the next round of financing or. Or perhaps just just to be able to get that sort of optimism behind your company if it’s listed, or any component like that. Again, the power of data of of actually capturing useful data to be able to make those decisions. Yeah, I mean, I think I think what’s very interesting for a lot of people right now is obviously how much technology can effectively take away jobs. and I think that it is definitely a concern for a large majority of the workforce.
And and I think that a lot of people are going to be looking at a job which they traditionally see. And they’re going to see that they have to learn some tradition. Some additional skill sets in order to effectively revolutionize that job towards towards, uh, a changing world and I think being able to recognize that change on an individual level and being able to continue to invest in yourself and pick up new skills. I think that’s paramount to being able to continue on. A healthy career path which you know a lot of people are ambitiously seeking. Absolutely agree. Uhm one of the questions I had wanted to ask you are one of the top of that had wanted to for us to discuss was around how 1 builds resilient careers. I think given the kind of aging population longevity are developed countries now people are living longer, living healthier lives and so does that necessarily mean that we continue to work in one career path. Our entire life, and if it doesn’t, how do we up skill and how do we tackle the issue of? I guess technology as you said, replacing some of the roles and functions that has historically been done by humans. You know, I have a friend who is being a doctor. He’s been a lawyer and he’s now an entrepreneur. And if if there’s anyone who’s better proof that you can do it all when you can change careers and you can follow your goals and your goals can change, I think. I think it’s definitely this guy. I think. I think a lot of people put a lot of pressure on themselves and they feel quite ashamed if they commit to One Direction and then they want to change direction, they view it as changing and going against what they said they were going to do. They view that as them lacking proper structural stability or enough of a plan. But I think that you
know if if something isn’t working to the expectation that you want. If it isn’t really getting you those results, then I think that. That dramatically jumping in making changes to pursue what will work, I think, is actually one of the most important aspects of particularly for entrepreneurs. And and I think it massively ties in with when you look at it on a business level and it works on a career level as well is it falls into the aspect of sales cycles or it falls into the aspect of the amount of time that it takes to measure success. So the reason I say sales cycles because it’s obviously it’s quite clear cut. You spend money on marketing. You see as a result of that time and that commitment. What you then get in terms of revenue or sales. Now that then it enables you to measure success in for a large part of my career I focused on higher ticket sales prices which as a result meant by its very nature it met longer sales cycles 4560 days sometimes or even longer. It would be to be aspects and. And what that then caused is it caused my invented the process for me being able to know whether what I was doing was going in the right direction or was working went from being a three month process to being one year process. So by the time you optimize and adapt and overcome certain obstacles and build something, you have to then end up dedicating two or three years. And that’s where you can end up losing a lot of time in terms of sort of career. Trajectory. So for me where where everything really changed a lot was when I started focusing a lot more on on aspects which were effectively working on shorter cycles to be able to prove whether they really worked and and as a general umbrella for the way that I’ve that I’ve always thought about things, and I think I inherited this mindset from actually from my father was I would look at. I would look at a business. I would look at its typical
aspects which make very standardized returns and I would always say I’m not here to make standard returns, so I would never focus on those aspects. I would always say to myself like those are traditional business margins. Traditional business trajectory’s. Those are things that there’s going to be someone else who already understands that, and we can find the right, the right consultant or some contractual employee the right people to do those aspects. So I’ve always I’ve always looked at the innovation, the newer aspects, which. Are the higher profit margin aspects usually by the nature of them being newer, less discovered, a greater disparity that exists and I’ve always focused on those to be able to try and give me that jump forward that leap forward rather than the step by step process, because in the end, if you look at a very wealthy person, if you’re examining a billionaire who didn’t didn’t start sort of Nepotist, IDK manner, then you’re effectively saying is you’re saying well. Even if you did it step by step, you would have a very, very, very long process and it’s you know there’s these comparative examples given of, you know if you made X amount of money per day, if you did it for a million years, you still wouldn’t be as rich. Is Jeff Bezels or something like that? Yeah, I think it’s It’s about going for that moon shot. I think that’s the term. It’s a complete step change kind of aim for the 100% or 100 times as opposed to 10 times in terms of incremental improvement or incremental change and its scalability. If you create something, just be sure that it can scale, because if you don’t know from the get go that it’s got that scalability then you could end up wasting a lot of your time. And it’s even I’ve almost regrettably built businesses for. The UK market. When I had had wished that I had originally built them for an Asian market or a US market because I quickly realized that I built and optimized everything for the UK, only to realize
how how small the UK was by comparison. And then I’ve had to completely rebuild it, almost making the wrong assumptions ’cause I just assumed the US consumers would react very similar to the UK, not realizing quite how different they did. There’s buying psychology is.
So in terms of, I guess having the risk risk taking mentality. And having the courage to make these types of decisions. I think in my in my career I’ve thankfully had the opportunity to transition and do a lot of different things. You know, In addition to banking hedge funds, what I’m doing now on the management side. I’ve also done executive education. I’ve been part of a nonprofit book project which is gone global. What would you say in terms of how? Whether it’s your upbringing or people around you, your biggest inspirations, who helped you to cultivate that mentality of being able to take risks, to have that courage to. Yes, really. Step outside your comfort zone. I honestly the biggest influence for me as being my father. My father’s been retired for a long time now and he wasn’t has been actively active in business since the since the 70s, but I think that you know what I picked from picked up from him was a certain mindset. You know he was. He had a way in which he thinks about things. Which is it has that conviction that grit to see things through and also. Never being afraid to to sort of challenge the world a little bit and to work against preconceived ideas. and I recently spoke at an event which is actually in the countryside at a private estate and they had this. Trying to remember his his name now is name escapes me, but he he’s effectively the Flying
man, so he’s he’s an ex Royal Marine. He flies literally in this man made. Flying suit, little bit like Iron Man. And any performs an entire show and then he does a presentation where he explains how he went about making this flying suit. Now at every step of the process he was, he was told that it would not be possible to make this flying suit that it would be too dangerous that it would be that it would never be able to work with the anatomy of the human body, but yet he ultimately still did it, despite the fact that there was all this information around saying that you couldn’t do it. But all of that information that was around was was not actually based on anyone who had ever tried. And and a lot of the people What’s more important than the people who give you good advice and direct you. It’s more important to not listen to the people who are not necessarily give you bad advice. Who put you off ideas ’cause there will always be someone who say it will tell you why something can’t be done always. But that conviction is about with standing. All of those negative views and percer veering anyway to the point that I think a lot of people they have to go and talk about a new idea or something they want to do because because they want to go and get that approval they want to go and get that backing, and they feel that they need that in order to follow through on something they’re doing and you need to be a little bit more. That the conviction needs to come from within. It can’t be relying on people around you because otherwise it’s never going to be sustainable.
100% agree. How would you? How would you view it?
Hum you mean in terms of what I’ve done or my experiences that have shaped me to be the risk taker that I am today? Yeah, well, I think my my brain is probably very different from yours. I was actually born in China in the early 80s. And I didn’t really know my parents. They left when I was very, very young, and so I was raised by my grandparents. My parents left to pursue a career, opportunities in Europe and then ended up moving to the US. And so I didn’t reunite with them until I was nine years old. So from the age of four to the age of nine, I didn’t see my parents and didn’t talk to them. You know this is pre iPhone days premium space time, yeah, and so I think you know the learning experience of having been raised by my grandparents. And having developed, I guess just being able to stand on my own 2 feet and having the grid is running around my neighborhood and just getting into all sorts of trouble. And when I when I finally moved to the States and reunited with my parents, it was having to deal with this imposed authority figure. You know, my mom and dad, who I didn’t really know at that point, and it was like, why do I have to listen to you because you weren’t there for me? And so I think all of these experiences have shaped me to kind of challenge authority in some way I have learned also to understand respect, different perspectives to understand and know the rules, but not necessarily. You know needing to play within the existing rule book? Would I be? Would I be correct in saying that because you had affectively sort of shifting? Your mother and father figure Patriot figure. Within the context of your childhood that’s therefore made you affectively more open to not necessarily seeing a set guidance or a set ruling figure towards how things should be done. Yeah, I guess you could say that um, and it’s also through my teenage years. And you know, later on when I went to University then looking back and understanding the sacrifices that my parents made. So yes, on one hand while I was living through my teenagers,
I was extremely rebellious. But then in hindsight, reflecting on, you know, the really tough decisions of my parents had to make and the sacrifices that they made in order for me to have the opportunities that I had. But they didn’t have, uhm, and I think that also to a large extent kind of really shaped my decisions and my career trajectory in my 20s that that would that. But that was something that obviously we came in your 20s when you had a bit more mature mindset to be able to recognize the value in those in those sacrifices. Yeah yeah my parents told me for many years I’d be grateful. And then eventually I got. I got to the understanding of why they were saying that as a parent now, uhm, you know, walking in similar footsteps, not nowhere near the same kind of situation that my parents were when they first moved overseas. But now with children. I’m trying to think about how I want to raise my kids to be resilient in this day and age or things are changing so fast. And there’s so much unpredictability in so much uncertainty. How do I raise him to be kind, caring human beings? An yet you know positive contributors to society when they grow up? Do you find there sometimes as a conflict between wanting to make your own children resilient and and being able to make them have that somewhat? Almost like stubborn mindset? Or maybe learning a lot of it? We can probably come naturally from you, but where where does it then stop? At which point you just want to say I actually just want you to be happy and to not have to always have all this resilience in all this. You know all these defense mechanisms and all of these, sort of like all this, you know, in a strength that maybe you don’t necessarily want them to need to access. Yeah, um, I’ve had this conversation a lot with my husband, actually, because we had again very different upbringings. He was born and raised in London. His parents were always around, you
know, kind of wonderful memories of childhood and so he never. I don’t think he ever had the kind of adversity if you will that I went through when I was younger and we’ve we often debate, you know whether or not given the circumstances that were able to provide for our children today versus our parents, you know. 3040 years ago. What kind of challenges do we want our kids to go through? What kind of adversity do we want? The more obstacles? Do we want them to go through in order to build their own resilience? Because unless you go through certain periods of adversity or go through problems and experience these things first hand, I think it’s very difficult to actually build resilience and to develop that understanding what it feels like to have to move through these difficult situations and also at what age is it appropriate? Two, yeah, introduce what level of sort of testing scenario in order to build that resilience without it causing more harm than good really exactly. And fundamentally I want my children to grow up to be happy. You know, functioning adults. I know a lot of that is within my control, but you know a lot of it is also also outside my control. I mean, my kids are still very young and so the focus for them being six and four years old now is very much on exploring the world and play an learning through play. And so I’m not the stereotypical Tiger Mom. You know, enforcing rules and structures. I really want them to develop their own understanding and develop their own relationship with the world on their own terms. I think that’s sounds incredibly smart and I’m not a parent, so. You know a lot more about that than I am. You are all experimenting in some in some shape or form of absolutely, and you know you’re also an incredibly healthy person. You know, I remember one of our previous conversations. We’ve known each other for a few years now. I remember you telling me about
a fitness project that you’re involved in, and I remember being updated on some of your own fitness goals that you’ve reached, and I’ve always been a big advocate of the mind body approach. And perhaps it’s my time that. I’ve spent consulting with the Royal Marines involved with a charity that has kind of made made me appreciate how much of the mind body aspect matters and how much mindset matters. But where do you think that fits in? Yeah, fitness has been a huge part of my life for Wellness has been a huge part of my life for the last 15 years or so. I was always active growing up, but I think it it didn’t really become one of the critical aspects of my life until I was probably this is my early 20s. When I was working in finance in Hong Kong and it was kind of went to the opposite end of the spectrum where I was not fit and not well at all. My entire life was about work. Um, and there was no balance, and as a result my health suffered, and so I had hit this bottom, where I realized I can’t get any worse than this. I might as well try something else omm, and so went to yoga class on a friends recommendation and actually fell in love with it. And it wasn’t just the physical guess Wellness that I felt there was also the mental clarity after one class after two classes and over the next several months. Ended up going into a full-time yoga certification program. Amazing and a true representation of that mind body connection. Yeah, I am a huge advocate of this whole mind body connection. Mindfulness meditation movement in the business world as well, because I feel like we need it now more than ever. I would say about 10 years ago when I first started teaching yoga and trying to combine
yoga mindfulness. Philanthropy, as well as kind of the corporate corporate mindset. So all around scaling, profitability, money, finances there. I think there is a way to achieve both holistic Lee because you really need to be the best version of yourself in order to make the best decisions on behalf of your farm on behalf of your team and in order to do that, one needs to have some form of mindfulness practice, whatever it might be, you know. It’s different for it’s too, I think in large parts to avoid that that burnout you see, you see it so often with people who they can be taught performers for a period of time, and then because they don’t look after that whole mind body relationship, they can end up having this incredible burnout, where which then effects their mental health and and effects in turn effects their overall performance. It can then stray into into their personal lives into their overall happiness, and then you can affect a lot of a lot of other things going on in the world in their universe. Yeah, it’s like the key is sustainability, so you can always have everything that you want. You can’t have it all all at the same time. Yeah, you may be able to have 100% some other time, but recognize that there are certain elements of life that will will need to be balanced out as a result of that, but. Yeah, sustainability is not just a I guess a word being thrown around now in the finance circles you know investing. But from all aspects of one’s life, when I was in my early 20s I worked in stockbroking and I had this had this sales role where I was effectively one of the junior guys. So you don’t get any of the sort of like hot leads, very glengarry Glen Ross style days and you end up getting the second fiddle and everything and you don’t get
the right. Quantity or the right quality and I ended up realizing that in order to be able to meet my personal career objectives, I had to pick up analytical skill sets. So I ended up sacrificing massive amounts of personal time, sleep, family time, relationship time, and I think I was sleeping about four hours a night just to make sure that I could get to the office early enough to be able to do all of the analytical work to be able to. Be up to speed with the analysts, but then at the same time I also needed to be able to still perform the sales function, which in its very nature has to involve high-energy after you have to have that ability to make the other person feel enthusiastic when you speak to them on the phone. and I was very much leading up to this point of I was burning myself out. I was getting colds and flus all the time. My immune system was clearly compromised. I was stressed out, no one was ever see him anymore. I basically didn’t have any friends that time ’cause I’m just working like a worker and I was I was making good money in the end because I was doing the opposite. Let’s go work, my sales were picking up and then eventually I just had this realization where I was like, right? Well I can pick up all this analytical data and so much of what I’m learning, which is theoretical, is kind of a bit of waste compared to the real life example. So I focused a lot more on sort of like the financial history of transactions and learning, learning a lot more about that. Many ways this as this went on, I suddenly looked at my sales role and and I looked and I thought you know what? Even if I was the best performing salesperson and even if I had double the amount of leads as the best performing salesperson because we had a little bit of like a system where if if you were more useful with the clients that you got, you got given more ’cause you were theoretically a better value to the business and eventually had this realization that I was never going to be able to do enough business in this company to be able to reach my objectives.
Yeah so anyway. A family friend who worked for a communications company in Delta, in and so like Wi-Fi and whatever was back then ’cause it was certainly wasn’t 3G. It was whatever whatever they were using at the time. Back in those days and it was, this was around the dawn of the time where you were just starting to get Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi was suddenly something that people would would look for or request and it was pretty rare to find places that had Wi-Fi. So anyway I had this. I had this idea that I could create a my own sort like personal Wi-Fi signal. Yeah, so I had this box designed and I looked like a look like a giant normous briefcase and I’m frankly, I’m impressed. Anyone let me go anywhere with it because it looked like a like a big briefcase bomb. And anyway, so and most of it wasn’t actually even the thing that produced the Wi-Fi was these coolants now just to keep the thing just to keep the thing running? And the device could run for about probably about 30 minutes before it heated up so badly that it basically well did the device shut and switch the whole thing off, yeah? But what I would do as I would I would go to conferences where I knew they had already got loads and loads and loads of investors or relevant people which I knew would be good possible clients for the stock brokerage firm. Yeah, So what I did is I took this signal box with me. And I would take it to a conference full of where someone else had already filled a conference with with potential prospects. They done all the hard work, all the marketing. And anyway, what I did is I filled. I effectively created a subscription page where you could register to my Wi-Fi and you would get access for. Unfortunately only 30 minutes with the way that the first first generations of machines I was I was working with wood would work and I
would subscribe hundreds of people who only had to do two things in order to get on the Wi-Fi. Give their name, email address and phone number and then the second thing they had a tick a box saying they didn’t mind me contacting them. So I created this ultimate lead source for myself with a stock brokerage and out of out of nowhere. Suddenly even with and I had pretty good conversion rates on my leads anyway. But just with the sheer volume of inquiries that I had to dealt with, had to deal with ice only was not only the top performer in the company, but I was on the top of former by about three times my second best. An you know eventually what happened is the owner of that business just sort of turned around. He said look, you know what’s the deal here? How you doing this? and I was a little bit kind of like, you know, I don’t really want to give away my little secret here and he set it up. You said, he said, let’s workout how this is how this is working so we can provide it to the company as a whole. And I’m going to make you my right hand man. And and one of my greatest learning experiences came from that role that followed with that. With that individual and how much I was able to pick up from him, but. So it was. It was an example of the type of innovation that that I’ve built my career on, but it was also it was accepting that if I did things the normal way, I was going to make a normal amount of money and I wasn’t there to make a normal amount of money. It’s amazing, it’s such an amazing story, Alex. I think it really demonstrates the value of not only continuous learning the power of continuous learning, but it’s just being able to, I guess. Be creative, tap into your wide network and to really connect the dots. And because I think it’s almost easier to be a specialist in something these days because all you have to do is follow the path. Follow the path of the people who came before you. It’s much harder action to be a trailblazer blazer because there
is no road and you have to kind of create your own road. And with that comes so much uncertainty. Yeah Yeah, but that can be that can be developed and you know and how you deal with it and how you respond to it. Everyone has that day by day. It’s a day by day aspect. You just you just really have to take it. You have to take it one day at a time and I think that people are too **** ** themselves to be able to expect these massive results so quickly. And unfortunately it is like you said earlier, it isn’t it linear process you. You will work for three months without anything really happening, as so many of the essential elements of being put into place and then suddenly everything will just start rolling in. For me, I’ve always focused on businesses where I could very very clearly understand. Traffic then traffic to conversion to sail and and I’ve always focused on this because it’s always been very clear parameters for me to allow me to know how making money and I’ve always stuck with cash flow businesses because I built skill sets within that through Stockbrokerage which then I’ve transferred over into various other types of businesses which most of them now don’t actually even have a aspect where a particular sales person is involved in a lot of that is driven by automation and online marketing strategies. But but what we found along along that process is how how sales psychology is so transferable and how much, how much the relationship still matters even as we go into an online equation into a technically personality list equation, there still is so much personality and so much psychology that you have to put forward into everything. Every communication that you make. And I think that sometimes where where the technology sometimes people fall apart as they look at technology and they say right, it’s technology now at zero percent personality. But the technology only works if you can still carry forward that personality. Yeah, so much of business is still going to be be dependent on human interaction. You know whether or not you trust the other side, whether
or not you see the potential for a longer term partnership, and that can’t be easily replaced by technology in my opinion, not a big game changer for two of my businesses in the last six months has been the way that we’ve advanced in terms of email automation. Uh, a large component now of of how we decide what a potential prospect or some within our database receives information is very much based in a very sophisticated way with their level of interaction with our website or with our materials that we send out and that is now leading to a whole New World of of increase conversion rates, because now the relationship is is not about just sending out random information and we will get it. You know we buy something. Then suddenly their marketing something that we’ve already bought is completely pointless. And it’s that is that process for the next generation of information that we’re going to be receiving, and that you know. Sometimes when we talk about resilience where we’re talking about. We talk about the mindset that it takes to remain resilient, but if you want to make a business resilient in and you need to have and I you need to keep an eye on the future and where things are going so you can remain a step ahead so that there isn’t some you market participant who comes in and takes market share. Yeah exactly, and keeping an eye on differentiation, uhm, and personalization and all of your interactions with your customers is really important. I mean, this is one of the areas that the fittness startup that you mentioned earlier. This is one area that we’re spending a lot of time on in terms of leveraging technology. So what’s available today while keeping an eye on what’s a possibly available six months from now 12 months from now with artificial intelligence, big data machine learning? How do we automate? Why would take one trainer to do in one session or over a program a longer term program with their client? And how do we automate that deliver
actually personalized experience so that we can bring health and Wellness and Sustainable Fittness to the masses and really enable it to be scalable across all. That sounds amazing because you’re giving the customer ultimately what they want you giving it to them faster and you provide providing more data to be able to prove that what you’re providing really works. Which is which is ultimately all that people really want. They want something that they they know through proof has worked for other people and they want to fast. You know, that’s one thing that’s never going to change. People want they want everything and they want it faster. Yeah, well when we launch we will. We will definitely be seeing if that’s whether or not that’s true. Will be testing or launching our test product in the next few months. So very excited about it. Now that sounds amazing. I’m going to very much looking forward to its release. I think just just to sort of finish up here on that on that particular topic, you know something that I’ve done with businesses, as I’ve made a point of. I will I will build them and I’ll be very involved in the inception. In the initial stages in order to get the business up and running. But then what I typically do in order to free up my time to focus on growth opportunities, new business development on the innovation as I bring people in, who then manage what’s already being created to be those operators and in that frees up my time so I don’t get. I don’t continue ’cause otherwise you get bogged down in the micro actually running the business ’cause they’re always little headaches with the business. Always little things that need fixing and that allows you to keep your eye on those. Those next steps are on that innovation on that future growth. Can you share any final notes on on any sort of system you might use like that or anything of that might relate with you? I’m so I mean one of the things that similar to you in terms of I guess, building resilient teams and building teams that contribute different skill sets, which then enables me to operate at my best value added
scale. So that’s something that I continuously working on is very difficult to find good people. But once you do, you want to try to give them the best tools and resources to allow them to help you. And be at your best and do your best with that. Do you think it’s important to give them a route to career path with you in the future? Absolutely, and you may not know on day one what that would look like, but I think having ongoing conversations, mentoring sessions, regular feedback development, reviews, all of all of these assessment systems I think are very important and I think it’s also important to really listen to the feedback. And it’s not just necessarily what you want for the organization or what you want for the team, but it’s also in conjunction with what they are. Bigger goals are in and hopefully that you could be aligned. I think I think, uh, when I look at the majority of the people that have worked, worked for me over the years and I have, you know, a number of them now, which had been with me for about about five years. And when I, I think for actually the vast majority of them, they’re very relieved. If if someone has infrastructure and has something that can be provided that gives them that forward looking structure to be able to reach their objectives, and having having something they can sort of like. Plug into rather than having to go and have to try and figure it out. Figure it all out and build it for themselves so it gives them flexibility within, uh, within a corporate structure, but still with a bit of a guideline. I think it’s quite. It’s quite a powerful thing because not many companies really are providing that. Yeah, I think come as you said in terms of continuous. In terms of continuous learning, uhm, and you know, encouraging all of the leaders around the table
to be kind of role models for that. In some things can be systematized, uhm and can be scaled. Other things that come to mind to your original question around you know how to be, I guess more effective in my role is to recognize that I’m not alone. We’re not in this alone. We’re in this together, and so I often seek out. Opinions, guidance, advice, wisdom from other leaders in the industry, in different industries to get different perspectives. Uh, I like it when people challenge my perspective because I think it helps to identify the things I don’t know that I don’t know. Enter enter had the courage to embrace those kinds of conversations. I think it’s actually really refreshing and to cover some points that we were covering before. Because, you know, I think there’s a big difference between people who will. It will critique things or will will challenge things in order to reach a positive conclusion. I think it’s important to highlight how how different it is from people who just try and put the seed of doubt into something. Yeah, optimism is key and I think there’s a difference between optimism and positivity. I think optimism there is a flavor of realism in practicality. I don’t think it means you have to be happy all the time. You don’t have to smile and be happy. Pretend like you’re happy all the time I don’t think anyone is like that. It’s also not healthy, right? But optimism is that much longer term view and to come back to it, you know what you said you were saying earlier about conviction of having conviction and belief in what it is that you’re trying to achieve as a person in your career for your life within the team as a company? Well, I mean, there’s also something to be said for. Have you ever heard of the concept of burn the boats? No, I haven’t. So
the story goes and I’m probably misquoting this in many different shapes or forms, but I think it was around the 16th century that there was a. Captain of some ship somewhere in the world who went on some great conquest and he arrived at his destination and his men turned around him and he said, we can’t stay here. It won’t work. There are too many natives on the land which we were hostile. This isn’t going to work, we’re leaving, and he was overwhelmed by the negativity that was coming from his own men. So he very much wanted to stay and wanted to be successful on his conquest and what he set out to achieve. He bought the boats.
And in doing so left only one option. To make it work to succeed, and sometimes that that blind conviction that blind optimism. It’s incredibly powerful because no one always has the solution. You know, sometimes there is no perfect solution and sometimes you just have to go for, because sometimes a perfect plan to more isn’t as good as a basic plan today. And I know so many people in academic settings, for example, and you know they they will look at a plan because they come from the world of theory. The plan must be perfect and in the time frame they’ve taken to initiate that perfect plan. You know someone like myself who is a bit more of a shoot from the hip type of guy. I will have already gone through. 10 initiations of 10 different type of plans, where I’ve learned so much from real world data that I’m already so ahead through the way I’ve optimized based on real world figures so you can end up so ahead by sometimes not having a perfect plan, but just being willing to go for it. Yeah, 100% agree. Uh, just do it right. You just get it. You just have to get on with it and then learn from your mistakes and a lot of that love that believing you business comes from believing in yourself. Yeah, which is a continuous progress or continuous process. A continuous journey absolutely. And it’s all about. It’s all about. You know what they call in free diving. They call the Little Green Man and as the voice in your head is The Voice that tells you to doubt yourself or to believe in yourself.
Learn to new things today. The Little Green Man. OK, take take listen. Thank you very much for speaking with me today. I really appreciated it and it’s been lovely speaking with you. Likewise, Alex, thanks so much. It’s been great. Take it easy alright. Cheers bye bye.
This was another episode of the Alexander Johnson podcast. Make sure to subscribe for more business health, fittness and mindset.