When Preparation Meets Opportunity
The success or failure of an entrepreneurial venture is often reflective of the skills and talents of the senior management. In many cases, these skills are drawn from an entrepreneurs Epast experiences in order to drive successful organizational results, and that is certainly the case for Brian Nelson, President & CEO of ValueCommerce, a global provider of innovative, high quality Internet business solutions, who shared his insight and experiences at the November 1, 2005 EA-Tokyo seminar.
'The Plan E- guideposts to success
The 38-year-old American’s management experience and leadership abilities have helped build ValueCommerce into one of the leading Internet sales and marketing companies in Japan. Through his results-oriented operational philosophy, team building skills, motivation-based communications and clear direction, Nelson has been able to harness the tremendous strength of a diverse and highly talented team who are focused on executing an aggressive vision and strategy for the future.
Nelson gained his experience and skills through his operational, sales, consulting, marketing, and senior management positions, which he has held since coming to Japan for the second time in 1990. This experience has proven invaluable ever since he began executing his responsibilities as CEO of ValueCommerce in March 2001. Nelson joined ValueCommerce in January 2000 as the COO from the consulting industry, where he had a highly successful career with "The Gallup Organization" in Japan. Prior to Gallup, Nelson worked in Business Development with a subsidiary of Japan's largest and most profitable non-life insurer, Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., and previously began his experience in Japan as a sales associate for Ashisuto, Japan's first full service computer software corporation.
Nelson focused his seminar on his entrepreneurial background. He spoke about ‘The Plan. E “The plan is where you take the time to write down your life goals and timeframes for completing each goal, which will prove invaluable when you are making decisions going forward, Ehe explained. "And it is very important that you put whatever you are going to do on paper, so that you can commit to it, and also so that you can review it from time-to-time. E
He said that he has done well in business because he has a lot of drive to want to be successful and follow through on his plan. “When you have that drive to be successful, what is it made up of? For everyone in this room it will be wanting to build something, wanting to do something interesting, wanting to build something with other people; and all these aspects of working with others and building something successful is what has culminated into me being able to stand here today and share some of the key factors for finding success in business, as an entrepreneur. E
You are never too young to start
Nelson’s contact with the entrepreneurial world started early. As a 1st grade student, he participated in a young entrepreneur group to create business ideas, and actually start a real company. The community helped the children brainstorm "business plans," which in Nelson’s case was a business that sold lemonade and made sandwiches. Despite not a lot of money being made, participants learned key entrepreneurial concepts, including ways to start a business, and choosing appropriate exit strategies.
He then went out to earn money, like many of us do, with part time work. And despite moving around many times due to his parent's job, he regularly found ways to make money. He once caught fish to supply to a local Chinese restaurant in Northern California. He also juggled for money; and as a 12-year-old, serviced typewriters for cash in Hawaii. This is how he got his start with learning about business and how to negotiate. "I'm always working with people, talking and meeting people. It helps with business opportunities even today," he said.
Nelson also pointed out that, “it is important to learn about how companies work, including the financial aspects of business. EIn order to teach himself about finance and stock when he was a young teenager, he took about US$1,000 saved up from his jobs, and decided to learn about the stock market by actually buying stock and talking with stock brokers (using a custodian account). "You don't need a fortune to learn about the stock market. It's important in business to learn since you are buying stock to establish your own company. Getting that experience outside of what you normally do can be one of the most beneficial things to starting your company," he said.
Planning leads to opportunity
Have clear career goals and assess how close you are to attaining them, and adapt accordingly. Nelson wanted to master the Japanese language so he made the decision to live in Osaka straight out of university, as Osaka provided a location where he was less likely to use English. In addition, he decided early on that he had to find out how Japanese companies really work, and how decisions are made. "Who do you talk to in a Japanese company to make a decision?" was one of his questions. His first employer in Japan was, "very westernized compared to what I was looking for." Knowing that his goal was to gain a better understanding of how Japanese companies operate, he was ready to move on after 2 years of service to Tokyo to work for a subsidiary of the Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance Company "It was good experience for what I wanted," he said.
Be efficient with your time
When he looks back at this experience starting a business in Japan, he suggests entrepreneurs utilize their time appropriately. Highlighting a lesson from his own experience, he said, "go get an accountant first, as you should not waste your time with the legal “set-up Eof a company. Pay them the same amount or more that you would pay to do it yourself. When I took my own advice in the future, it took the accountants two weeks to do what I had done in two and a half months."
Invest in the people around you
• Establish relationships based on trust.
“Do what you say you will do, and allow people to learn and grow by delegating large portions of the work that needs to be done. Many entrepreneurs do not delegate as much as they should."
• Build up a strong network of contacts.
Nelson said that, "building up a wide breadth of information and contacts allows you to be able to do the things you want to do, and rely on a larger group of people to help build your organization." By May 2000, only four months after starting, ValueCommerce and Nelson had contracted with many Fortune 500 and Japanese companies to become customers.
Starting and running a business as opposed to having partners.
"Building a business is a struggle. It's like building a family."
• You need to think about building trust with new employees.
• Have clear goals. And communicate these goals to all staff so that the organization remains focused at all times.
• Do not try and accomplish everything by yourself, work in teams, which allows you to work with people that have a wide range of skill sets.
Balancing family and work
After joining ValueCommerce, Nelson put in extremely long hours - "basically twenty four seven." He thinks constant communication has been key in achieving a successful career and close family relationship. His sons call him every day at work unless there are shareholder or board meetings. In addition, he does a variety of things with them. He said he prefers activities "to engage the brain." His sons play chess and he introduces them to marketing, finance and legal issues of doing business by applying concepts made popular by financier, Robert Kiyosaki in “Cashflow Quadrant: Rich Dad's Guide to Financial Freedom E
In closing, Nelson made the following points:
* Make sure you are extremely focused on reaching your goals.
* Work with a lot of people. He strongly believes that "entrepreneurship is not about being a one man band."
* Teach others, give something back.
ValueCommerce, currently the number one affiliate marketing company in Japan by network size and sales volume, generated more than JPY 100 billion in sales for their customers in 2004 and has approximately 1,000 eCommerce Merchant customers. On a daily basis, ValueCommerce serve on average 400 million advertisements across this network. In April 2005, ValueCommerce finalized a strategic capital alliance with internet portal Yahoo! Japan. Yahoo! Japan acquired a 49.7% share of ValueCommerce and both companies will form a close co-operative working relationship.
Text: Natasha Thompson and Jonathon Walsh
Natasha Thompson is an experienced English Instructor who is eager to report on current business ideas and market trends in Japan.
Jonathon Walsh is a professional Editor, Writer and Director of Business Grow, an innovative company specializing in providing a wide range of high quality Editorial Content and Advertising services
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