Admittedly I spend too much time on my computer and not enough time talking to people. I always feel that I have so much work to do, and in addition to that I try, but I’m not really a people person. I’m more comfortable talking to people that I really know, or sitting in front of my computer doing work. This behavior however has become a liability for me, especially because I am a small business owner and a foreigner living in China. I’m the CEO of my company so I need to maintain a professional distance from most of my staff, and I’m in a district in Shenzhen, China where there are hardly any foreigners, so unless I talk to one of my friends, I can actually go days without actually speaking English to someone that is a native English speaker.
I realized that this was a liability when I started the new venture because I realized that the only people that I could really depend upon for advice were a few people in my company and my fraternity brother’s from university. In the past 6 years I have been working so hard in toiling in my company, that I have neglected creating a strong professional network. This obviously takes years to develop and I can’t expect immediate results, but I thought I would at least try.
I joined an Internet startup network in Shenzhen and went to a few startup events in Hong Kong. I still feel a bit torn about doing these sort of events, because I feel that it is taking valuable time away from my work, but I also realize that networking is a healthy and important thing to do, and takes time like most things to really start having tangible benefits.
I have also started to go out of my way to have discussions with anyone that is interested in discussing The/Studio because I have found it extremely helpful to get feedback from others. In addition to their feedback I learn even more about the business as I explain the concept, because when you are forced to explain something to someone else you will find flaws in your concept.
Today I had a Skype call with the son of the President of The/Studio. His son is only 16 years old and is a sophomore in high school, so I wasn’t really expecting much useful feedback from him. After the call I realized that our conversation was more productive than some calls that I have had with guys twice his age. Most of my friend’s are around the same age as me, have a similar level of education, and to some extent at least think somewhat similar to the way I think. However, this kid brought up some points that nobody else had touched on. I also found it interesting how integral Twitter was to his social life.
I tried and I just can’t get into Twitter, and most of my friend’s feel the same way. However, Twitter is a very meaningful part of his life. He works at a high end clothing store and is paid on commission and he told me that he get’s his customer’s Twitter information so that he can Tweet to them when there are sales in their store, thus boosting his commissions. Pretty clever. He also explained to me that Twitter enhances certain activities for him such as watching the Superbowl or the Grammy’s because he can enjoy the event together with his friend’s comments about the event. A very bizarre concept to me, but to him its very relevant and entertaining. He also explained to me that it is socially acceptable to ask a girl for her Twitter handle, and in some cases is more appropriate than asking for a phone number. Geez, I guess I’m getting old, because I have never thought to ask the opposite sex for their Twitter information.
I told him that I had a problem with Twitter because it limits you to 140 characters, but he said that kids in his generation have been working with minimal characters for years, and they find it easy to communicate in that way. All of the people I have been talking to keep saying Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, integration but according to this kid he felt Twitter was more relevant to his life. It made me realize that I should at least be taking Twitter as seriously as Facebook.
My Dad always taught me that “you can learn something valuable from anyone” and he is right about that. I’m increasingly starting to understand the value of talking to people from different perspectives, and starting to learn that its just as valuable as sitting in front of my computer.