Recent Changes and Lessons

I haven't posted anything for a while, and since things have changed quite a bit since the last time I babbled on this blog, I'd write something to share some updates and things I've learned.

Yes the rumor is true - we are slowing down our venture investments and are looking to diversify our portfolio, despite the return we're making which is great given the fact that we only have a couple of investments at the moment. Most angel investment firms can't make strategic shifts easily (or as they say, "pivot") but since Chi Fan Group is my family's investment arm, I have the flexibility to do whatever I see fit as long as I'm doing it in the best interest of my shareholders. Multiple factors drove this decision - the uncertain global economy, lack of inexpensive deals, etc. - but the most critical one is that I simply don't have the time to do due diligence on every single startup that come to my attention. Previously, we had a lack of deals and once we established a steady stream of deals and filled our pipeline, we realized we didn't have the time to check every one out. And the recent arrival of baby Isaac just took away whatever is left of my free time.   

As I've told my friend, I could've bought a Lamborghini but I didn't. I took the money and built this company because I find more joy and satisfaction in investing in and building profitable businesses than showing off supercars (I wouldn't mind owning a car company though). The decision process that we've built has worked quite well for us so far, and I've thankful for all the hard work the team has put in. I believe we apply this decision model to other asset types in search for better yields in the face of global economic uncertainty.

I thought I'd also share two lessons that I've learned recently as a CEO, investor, and father:

Leadership is an art form.

There are tons of business books out there that advocates for one-size-fits-all models of leadership: Adaptive leadership, servant leadership, etc. You all know what I'm talking about. I've been an ardent subscriber to many of these theories, but I've realized that leadership is an art form and these models of leadership are simply different "styles of art" that are effective only when mixed and customized for specific situations. Let me give you an example. We talk a lot about servant leadership and how we should serve our teammates. That's true. But when your key employee comes up to you and ask for a 60% raise, I'm not quite sure how servant leadership - or any theory if at all - applies. I realized I must establish credibility and command respect first and foremost. Just like the captain of a ship. But then if I imitate the command-and-control military leadership style, I risk killing creativity and encouraging group think. In other words, it's my job to balance different needs and develop a leadership style that works in my situation.

Productivity and multitasking is a myth.

I was once a consultant at Deloitte, and as a professional, I was relentless in finding ways and tools that helped me boost productivity. I read numerous books and articles that outlined ways to maximize personal productivity and time management. However, lately I realized that the people at the top don't work 100 hour work weeks. They play golf. They go to the gym. They take vacations. Take my father for example. He works hard but I wouldn't call him the most productive worker. Yet he makes a gazillion more money than I do. So my conclusion is that the key is not to maximize efficiency or productivity. The key is to identify the right thing to do, do it with the right people, do it right, and advertise the outcome. Repeat. You've also got to find the rhythm of work that fits you. Don't just worship any productivity master you come across. I know how to put tasks into the Urgent-Important quadrants but I almost never followed it. Perhaps it's just me, but I've learned that if I focus on one thing, I'll do it really well and that's usually where my success comes from. Besides, the more competent and diligent your team is, the less you have to worry and the more you can focus on the things that are really important (strategic).

I'm not a frequent writer as you can tell but I hope you'll find these lessons valuable.