How to build a successful corporate accelerator & why we should do it during pandemic

Before 2010, the “corporate accelerator” term did not exist; however, eight years later, over 120 corporate accelerators had been run by my corporations. Some corporate accelerators have been very successful such as the Disney Accelerator, whose 2014 batch of startups were all able to either raise additional funding (up to a total of 104 million USD) or were acquired post-program. 

Therefore, many entrepreneurs are curious about what a corporate accelerator is and how to run it successfully. As a mentor/entrepreneur, I do my best to explain based on my experience and research.

 

Why do we need to run a corporate accelerator?

 

Before diving deeper into the corporate accelerator’s concept, let’s ask yourself why you should incorporate it into your company, especially amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. Apparently, the COVID-19 outbreak stands as a test of business’s resilience towards shocks as well as uncertainty. Despite the negative impacts resulting from the outbreak, it does give us an opportunity to slow down for genuine reflection, and reevaluation of our system in the most objective ways. Hardly do we have enough time to recognize our drawbacks and be willing to improvise or learn novel things in the pre-pandemic period. Thus, this is an ideal time for us to focus on ourselves, our businesses and our lifelong pursuit of knowledge. “Fire proves gold, adversity proves men” – only in difficulty do our creativity fully unleash its potential. Rather than merely plan A, lockdown situations require businesses to come up with diverse alternatives, thinking differently then acting flexibly. No more hesitation, the COVID-19 ignites within us the reasons to adopt corporate accelerators for corporates’ better sustainability and innovation process. 

 

Concerning broader terms, corporate accelerators assist startups/corporates A.C.E speed and technology leverage in the long run:

  • A stands for  Accelerating key strategic projects innovatively
  • C  stands for Constructing internal capabilities for innovation in new situations
  • E stands for Experimental playground within organization’s framework and Entrepreneurial mindset

Given future benefits and promising capacities, the corporate accelerator program proves to be an answer to address the COVID-19 related dilemmas along with an open door to prolific development not only in the future but also in the present.

 

What is Accelerator?

For clarification, the term “Accelerator” is divided into two categories: Startups Accelerator and Corporate Accelerator. As defined by Hathaway (2016), Startups Accelerator is regarded as a cohort-based program with the primary purpose of supporting startups in accelerating their development and growth. Once engaged in the program, startups are offered with a package of benefits including mentorship, education, office space, networking , and access to full resources facilitating their growth. 

Figure 1: The Y-Combinator ( Deloitte Digital 2015)

 

On the other hand, the corporate accelerator focuses on acceleration programs sponsored by established firms, which initiates outside-in open innovation. Those initiatives seek to facilitate firms’ access to startups’ innovative ideas and mindsets (Chesbrough 2003; Weiblen and Chesbrough 2015). There also exists a difference between the objectives of two accelerator’s type. While the startup accelerator aims towards learning and experiences for potential startups leaders, corporate accelerators speed up commercialization of startup’s innovation. Therefore, the common traits of these accelerator programs differ in several aspects as shown in the comparison table:

 

Startups Accelerator  Corporate Accelerator
Application Competitive application process An open competitive application process 
Selection Focus on founding TEAMS Select a group of startups
Period Time-bound support
Operation Cohort or classes of Startups (not rolling acceptance) Significant investment ($25,000 on average) and small equity stake and end with demo day

 

Case study of Corporate Accelerator:

 

Orange ((Mahmoud-Jouini, Duvert & Esquirol 2018):

 

Considered as one of the world’s leading telecommunication operators, Orange holds a large stake in the Africa-Middle East region. Its R&D center is mainly located in France, along with eight others around the globe. In just three years, Orange has operated 12 corporate accelerators in 12 countries and worked with 227 startups, with an average of 5 or 6 startups per cohort. These substantial efforts lead to 26 partnerships accompanied with prolific sources of innovation. 

 

Before activating the program, Orange has set a clear objective in its direction which creates connections with each startup for product/service development or even solutions as value generation for Orange. Nevertheless, two main hindrances in accomplishing the set goal are startups attraction and access insurance to compulsory internal resources. Overall, the key main challenge can be solidified as differentiation achievement while keeping costs under control and minimizing disruptions to the corporate routines that generate current revenues.

 

Soon after problem identification, solutions are proposed to overcome these challenges. To stir the interests in startups, Orange has to committedly develop a specific process to serve relationship management between the corporation and the startups. In response to the shortage of resources, a differentiated value proposition is designed depended on the corporation’s specific resources and assets. Both attributes earn Orange the capabilities to leverage the firm’s resources at either local or global scale. 

 

IKEA (Stackpole 2021)): 

 

In the case of IKEA, one of the world’s most renowned retail brands, the change of digitalisation encounters the “challenge of remaining fundamentally the same company while doing almost everything differently” as stated by Barbara Martin Coppola, CDO at IKEA Retail (Stackpole 2021). Thanks to digital transformation, the ecommerce levels witnessed triple upsurge within 3 years. To turn IKEA’s stores into fulfilment centers, changes are compulsory for the goods flow, the supply mechanisms and the floorpans. IKEA takes digital transformation far beyond its technological usage, instead, Digital should be embedded in every aspect of IKEA, from making decisions to  managing the company. Equipped with digitalisation, IKEA proves better flexibility in time frame, effective data utilization and resilience towards COVID-19 pandemic’s uncertainties.

 

Relevance also stands as a need for IKEA as they try hard to evolve with the ever-changing needs of our customers. The process comprises assessing customers’ needs and adaption, adjusting business models which require considerable effort from many layers of the company. Significant increase in the strategy’s scope has been experienced due to the realization of comprehensive digital incorporation into everything. Despite the drastic modifications, IKEA’s DNA remains intact as the goal is solely “reinventing IKEA for the future”. Acknowledgement  of human-centric technology and culture appreciation allow IKEA to solve the equity and trust issues in the digital environment, especially for a company to be invited to people’s homes

How to build a successful corporate accelerator?

Every great success comes with careful preparation; thus it is a must for accelerators to be clear and well-prepared in the first place. Usually, 3-month-period presents as a sufficient amount of time for preparation with the following suggestions:

 

  •  Strategy agenda and Program Design

 

As mentioned in the case of Orange, Value proposition can be regarded as a tool attracting top Startups to participate in the program. The 4 most common compelling reasons are equity-free funding, industry-focused mentors, corporate resources, and customer base. From there, criterias or standards must be formed which take into consideration the type of industry, company maturity, valid customer profiles and class size. For instance, Johnson and Johnson’s (J&J) network of accelerators creates a global footprint to work with innovators across the industry. Their goal is “empowering innovators across a broad healthcare spectrum including pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer, and health tech sectors to create and accelerate the delivery of life-saving, life-enhancing health and wellness solutions to patients around the world.” This broad approach includes a series of venture accelerators and co-working incubation spaces designed to generate market intelligence.

 

At this stage, strategizers play an essential role in visionary and mission formation. They are the ones who help align the vision with the company’s current conditions, core values as well as objectives. Not only do they have to be well-aware of unexpected changes, but they also guard the company’s initiatives from antibodies or any arising problems. With a strong foundation and clear directions, the program will be closer to its success.

 

 

  • Clear challenges and Team formation

 

 

Application process should be well regulated with specific purposes and concrete agendas. First, the firm has to consider which type of application they desire to use: open public, internal or nomination together with constructing application questions and selection framework. Optimization of the selection process is recommended with 3Ns: Now – New – Next. Undeniably, it is exhaustively difficult to opt out the most appropriate startups among the sea. Therefore, your firm can rely on 3Ns for more concrete determination:

 

 

  • The Now – Startups that provide the service that we already provide, but in an innovative way (it’s better, cheaper, more efficient, or faster). 
  • The New – Startups that provide an additional service to what we already offer, such as additional features on a product. 
  • The Next – Companies that are leapfrogging business models and technologies, coming sometimes out of nowhere, and, in some cases, competing with or trying to replace.

 

 

Scouts would be the perfect human resource for your accelerator program. Any unknown problem or new problem discovery can be navigated by those people for future adjustments and improvement before launching officially. By human needs and behavior observation, insights together with logical evaluation are generated. Therefore, urgent dilemmas or any shortages in operation will be decisively recognized and prioritized to solve. More or less, your corporate accelerator program has its quality ensured with qualified team intakes and organizers.

Figure 3: Team selection (Bogaert 2019) 

 

  • Launching

 

 

Once you complete the 2 steps above, you are ready and fully equipped to activate your program. Depending on the different phases of the accelerator program, the curriculum and specific topics are emphasized. For better visualization, we will construct the program in accordance with timeline as figure below:

Figure 2: Curriculum Table (Founder Institute 2020)

 

This stage requires both designers and entrepreneurs in order to bring the program’s success. Designer characteristics must be found not only in the startups team but also from mentor sides. Among startups, they have to be proactive as experimenters who validate initial assumptions through prototypes and testing. Mentors are responsible for supporting the teams at this stage to avoid any misconceptions or distortions in evaluation. Another feature that must be possessed is catalysts – the ones who check on the availability of internal support and readiness of the platform. Concerning entrepreneurs, mentors earn more responsibilities in this context. Bringing people together to penetrate the concept into the market stands as primary duty at this stage. Nevertheless, the teams need to invest their energy in marketing the products/services to customers, connect and educate them to new segments, proving the commercialization of new inventions in pre-existed market environments. Without these efforts, hardly do the products/services prolong their development in the competitive market. 

 

In short, a corporate accelerator program may appear to consume lots of dedication and commitment not only from the team’s side but also the mentors’ aspects. Irrespective of the complicated process, the main and most crucial agenda is to help filter out the most applicable and optima business models to turn risks into opportunities. Consequently, the startups or corporates earn themselves growth capacities and sustainability in the future. Most importantly, restructuring and building core strengths permits corporations to stay resilient amidst headwinds. 

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Reference:

 

5 CRITICAL QUESTIONS HELP STARTUP FOUNDERS CHOOSE THE MOST PROFITABLE AND SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL

To create a successful startup, the idea itself is not enough. Even the best idea will fade out by time. As reported by Bill Gross – an American investor, fund manager, and philanthropist, there are five elements which decide the success of the company: idea, team, business model, funding and timing. 

What is a business model? 

Michael Lewis – an American author and financial journalist has defined the term Business model as “All it really meant was how you planned to make money”. For example, the “business model” for Microsoft was to sell software for 120 bucks a pop that cost fifty cents to manufacture … The business model of most Internet companies was to attract huge crowds of people to a Web site, and then sell others the chance to advertise products to the crowds. It was still not clear that the model made sense.” 

The answer for these 5 crucial questions may help you get a better direction for you to turn the idea into helpful products for the customer, while creating profitable and sustainable business. 

1. Define target market

Before you kick start your business, it is necessary for you to challenge your assumption about your idea. This is the chance for you to test whether or not your idea is viable. Conducting market research is needed to examine if there are some needs of the customers that can satisfy your products or services. 

2. Make a list of your competitor 

The analysis is crucial to understand the competition extends beyond the existing rivals and will detect the risk of entering the market. In agreement with Michael E. Porter – an American academic known for his theories on economics, business strategy, and social causes, there are 5 forces that shape the industry competition: Threat of New Entrants, Bargaining Power of Buyers, Bargaining Power of Suppliers, Threat of Substitute Products or Services and Rivalry among existing Competitors. Awareness of the competition in the industry helps startups stake out a position which is more profitable and less vulnerable to attack.

3. Identify your ideal customers 

In order to build a solid foundation for your startup, it is necessary to identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing strategy accordingly. Thinking about who exactly you want to serve based on their demographic, psychological behavior, interests, their challenges and life-time goals. Once you have a clear customer profile, it is easier for you to define a suitable way to approach them. 


4. Visualize your revenue stream 

Exploring the possibility of the source of your revenue. Is there any different way for you to sell products? It is dangerous if your revenue stream only comes from one source. Creating the revenue stream helps you identify various sources from which business can earn money from in the long term.

5. Clarify the value that you bring to the market

You cannot serve what you do not have. That is the reason why you should be clear about the benefits of your product or service that add value to your customers life. You can think of how much value your products or services offer for the customers in their life. 

Customers are the lifeblood of every business, understanding their wants and needs will help you allocate effort and resources to satisfy them. 

If you are struggling with identifying the business model, here are some examples for you to have a look. 

 

  • Product/Service Model (Hook & Bait)

This model can be explained simply as creating whatever products or services and selling it through marketing channels. This model when executed correctly may give you a huge and sustainable return on your investment. 

The advantage of this business model is the flexibility because you have the freedom to design your product and then sell them as a physical or digital version.
However, the main drawback comes from the product creation process itself, it takes time, money and resources to build up this model. 

  • Ad-based model  

This business model requires you to have a large customer base or audience which means they have customer information about their habit, interest and behavior. These ad-base startups gain profit from advertising services that they offer for the company such as Facebook. 

 

  • Subscription-Based Model


    Instead of offering the products or services as one-off purchases, this business model can recurring revenue in forms of period (monthly, annual or life-time) payments. One of the prime examples for this business model is Netflix. Netflix provides customers with a high quality filming service to keep them continuously renew their subscription. 

 

  • On-demand


    This business model comes from the need for instant gratification in the world dominated by technological advancement. Customers can easily have all the information and purchase products within their fingerprints. 

Some of the great examples for this new business model are Grab and Airbnb. 

You can see that they offer customer on-demand which is very convenient by applying new technology in business operation activities. 

  • Maket Place 

The Market place business model provides a platform where buyers and sellers can engage with each other to make transactions. The market place company will handle their transaction and ensure personal security. They earn profits as commission for every transaction. 

The two most well-known examples for this type of business are eBay & Alibaba. 

  • Freemium


    This business model is a good way to approach the need of free products for the customers, while having some certain features for premium users only. Freemium startups allow customers to experience their products without any risk and then make a payment if they want to use more functions. 

Vimeo is an example of this business model. Vimeo allows you to make video freely, however they limit the amount of data which you can upload weekly. They provide 4 different payment plans to explain features usages such as: password protection, collaboration,… 

  • The Ecosystem 

Those who reach to the stage of a giant build their own ecosystem to support their customer better and create wider impact like Google, Amazon or Apple…

In conclusion, choosing which business model to adopt takes time and effort because it is the process. All you can do is to analyse and research carefully before making a decision. Hopefully this information may give you some hints for you to create a business model which helps you turn your idea into profit in a sustainable way.

Why did I start my own company?

Thinking of starting a company? Need an extra push? These reasons are a reminder why we got in the startup game in the beginning

Star Wars FINAL

One point that makes us humans is curiosity. We want to know more and more about the lives of our friends and about their job.

That is why people always ask me the question, “Why did you start your own business?”.

There are so many reasons why one person starts a business. So many, in fact that think it’s useful share my own reasons as well.

To enjoy freedom

It was such a beautiful feeling when I realised the benefits of working for myself and enjoying the freedom I gain from designing my own prosperity. I have total power to choose  when I will work, with whom I will work and what I should focus on.

There is no more inappropriate orders from superiors who lack tact when delivering an order.

To have a story to tell

I really love this reason.

Whenever I meet people, and tell them I run my own business, they always want to know more about what what I do. They ask how I do it and how it’s going.

I am proud to tell them my own story’s chapters as I am the one who determines how the journey will end. (When working for a corporation, the feeling of working for others makes us spout only facts — making for a less exciting story.

With the right attitude, networking can be enriching. 

Life of an entrepreneur is full of exciting moments — and I especially enjoy the networking part.

We love to meet each other, share stories, and learn from each other’s experiences. The number of people I have met over the past two years working in the startup community increases significantly as many founders need others to lean on, to survive, and to talk about the challenges known only to them.

Lessons from others are never useless if you listen and learn from them carefully thanks during a networking event.

Obtain new skills

Do be successful, I must self-learn an enormous amount of new skills.

From sales, digital marketing to accounting…. I get motivated to learn everything I can reach. It is essential to boosting sales of my product, running the team, maintaining service and balancing myself personally.

Everyday to me is filled with new opportunities to challenge myself, be creative and learn something new.

The great thing about owning a small business is I rarely experience the same day twice. Work for a corporation is not conducive to this kind of learning, in which procedure is quite clear and workload is assigned according to the job.

Why was I was forced to learn new skills? Without them, I would not survive.  But, the positive side-effect is these skills will be invaluable assets for me throughout life.

Create jobs

There is nothing that can describe how happy I am knowing I am creating jobs for others and responsible for their success.

My ideas — used to be considered stupid — are now providing the youth with opportunities to earn a living and fulfill their own dreams.

Get Things Done – Faster. 

Most large companies are too big and bulky to be proactive. Employees have to wait the approval from many levels of management and can often make a small problem messy.

I would rather solve the problem myself and be held responsible for the consequences.

And last but not least, one of the biggest differences in owning your own company as opposed to working for someone else is the sense of pride you establish in building something of your own.

I truly feel this sense of satisfaction when I see my business running well.

Keep an eye out for the Vietnam startup ecosystem and its potential for growth

Vietnamese attitudes towards technology and its potential are very positive

Expansion beyond big cities

Vietnam has been the fastest-growing middle class in Southeast Asia in recent years. However, the development is noticeable: the number of startups has increased — four times from 400 in 2012 to 1,800 in 2015, and nearly 3,000 in 2017. And it is also expanding geographically, with new provincial pockets of affluence beyond the important and traditional centers of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi Capital.

One bright example apart from Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi is Danang where there have been many startups and events in 2017. DNES is an Danang – based incubator that helps startups from the early to growth stage and has accelerated over 30 founders in 4 batches since 2016.

On June 2017, the Law on Technology Transfer was revised to promote technological advances and the commercialization of technologies such as AI, IoT, Edtech, O2O, E-commerce, FinTech, and AgriTech.

On March 6th, 2018, a VIP luncheon meeting themed Blockchain & E-Governance: A Gathering at Intersection of Investment, Innovation and Policy was held by the co-operation between Infinity Blockchain Labs and Vietnam Blockchain Club, aiming to provide an open discussion about blockchain among top educators, entrepreneurs and investors.

Mr. Dung Ta VIET (Tạ Việt Dũng), Chief of the State Agency of Technology Innovation, gave a short opening remark on the main theme of the event — Blockchain & E-Governance. He stated that for the past few years, the Vietnamese Government has been strongly supportive of the adoption and application of new technologies in the manufacturing industry as well as other socio-economic fields. Specifically, this could be proven by the fact that the Vietnamese Government has been preparing a legal framework. Moreover, on July 1, 2018, the revised Law on Technology Transfer comes into effect, and this will create easier access to new foreign technology for Vietnamese corporations, because there will be greater assistance from the government in importing these technologies including blockchain. The method used to approach blockchain technology varies from one nation to another and among different fields.

Global Attention

Moreover, Vietnamese startups have many big opportunities to meet with global partners from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, US, Israel, Finland, Singapore and other countries to exchange knowledge on AI, IoT, Edtech, O2O, E-commerce, FinTech, and AgriTech. These are all areas of considerable opportunities for many industries.

Shinhan Bank Vietnam (Shinhan Bank) — one of the leading banks of South Korea, has officially taken over the retail banking segment of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in Vietnam (ANZ Vietnam) to expand its payment services by utilising ANZ’s resources. Moreover, we also invested in Fintech application, Shinhan Future’s lab Vietnam to accelerate the startup in Vietnam and Korean.

Start Up Campus in Pangyo Techno Valley, Korea held the Asia Startup Network, a conference that provides a platform for connecting startup accelerators, startups, venture capitals, and young entrepreneurs to present and further discuss their findings on the startup ecosystems in Asia.

In its inaugural year 2017, the conference focused on sharing trends and successful cases in Korea, China, Malaysia, India, Singapore, Philippines, and Vietnam. They were planning to hold conference annually to build the Asia international network and synergies together. I was honored to be there and tie the partnership to set up Asia Startup Network.

The Israel Embassy is actively partnering with many partners to bring Vietnamese startups to Israel to learn and grow as well as enabling Israeli startups to connect with and explore Vietnam market.

Lead the Change is a competition for young startup entrepreneurs from 18 to 25 to have a chance to challenge their ideas, learn skills, find right partner and get funded initiated by UEH Connected community.

Highlights of 2017

  • Many startup funds are established such as ESP Capital, Innovatube, VIISA and 500 Startups Vietnam.
  • SpeedUP 2017 is the fund which founded by Ho Chi Minh City Department of Science and Technology has 11.75 billion VND (520,525 USD) invested in 14 startups in Vietnam at a minimum of 350 million VND (15,505 USD) to a maximum of 1,282 billion VND (56,792 USD).
  • Tiki was founded in 2010 received 54.5 million USD (series C) from China’s JD.com and Korea’s STIC Investment.
  • The SEA Group (formerly Garena) from Singapore paid 64 million USD to acquire 82% Foody’s stakes.
  • Vntrip, a Vietnamese online travel agency has raised 10 million USD (Series B) from Hendale Capital.
  • KyberNetwork was co-founded by a Vietnamese and launched its ICO on September, 2017 taking in 200,000 Ethereum, which was valued nearly 56 million USD at that time.
  • The launch of reality television show named Shark Tank Vietnam

Why do we need to pay attention to Vietnam market?

Vietnam has 96 million people, 67% of which are Internet users, 57% are active social media users and 73% are individual mobile phone users. The annual growth rate in Vietnam is breathtaking –the percentage of Internet users increases by 28% (or 14 million people) and 20% for active social users, according to a Kepios report. This indicates great opportunities for new product ranges focusing on this consumer segment.

The success of innovations, unfortunately, depends on the go-to market stage rather than the product itself. It is also important to pay attention to the longer-term consumer needs, and catering to these needs will present economic, social and cultural opportunities and challenges for Vietnam notably not only in basic commodities or real estate but also in healthcare, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

Moreover, Vietnamese attitudes towards technology is very positive and with great potential, 61% of Vietnamese people believe that new technologies offer more opportunities than risks and 63% prefer to complete task digitally whenever possible.

I was invited to be the speaker and judge at APEC SME O2O 2018 in Brunei and nominated one Vietnam startup tictag — One-tap-for-all NFC ecosystem to go with me to compete with 14 other startups in the APEC region. Finally, the Vietnamese startup went on to win the competition. Even more interestingly, one of my mentees edu2review.com in Vietnam received funding from an investor called Nest Tech from Singapore. This is also amazing and proved that Vietnam market is extremely potential and worth keeping an eye on.

Network building is one of the most important skills in today’s business environment

We are heading into “the Era of Connection”, “the Era 4.0”. If you want to become fully integrated into the global community, you should not take your network building skills slightly, as it is one of the top 5 most important skills in the future, according to “The Future of Jobs” report conducted by World Economic Forum in 2017.

The art of building strong relationships and how to expand your social circles have always been of concern to many of those in UEH Connected community (which has approximately 6,000 members from various backgrounds with different nationalities).

Coming from a poor countryside with low social status, no identity, no business relationship and not being able to study abroad nor at an international university, I have been fortunate to meet, to connect and work with numerous leaders and business people from all over the world. Moreover, I am trusted by foreign business communities in Vietnam such as the French, the American and the Australian.

Partners from Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and the Philippines usually get in touch with me when they want to participate in trade promotion programs or need an insight consultancy when they wish to expand their business in Vietnam via private channels.

There were many times I received questions, texts and emails asking me how I built my own network. To be honest, my secret is very simple – I have built it with my sincerity.

This is my very first sharing with our community about the topic “How to Build Your Network”, on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of YSEALI – Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, at which I am taking part in as a former member.

What is network?

These days, a majority of young people think of it as a list of Facebook friend list with many popular names in it, and they pride themselves on having lots of name cards that were taken from social and networking events.

For me, a network means that I have a person who:

  • Is ready to be there for me with just one call away.
  • Always have faith in me, even though the outside world has it back turn to me.
  • Think of me when they have any chance to.
  • And most importantly, think of me when they are at a dead-end in their own lives.

Put it simply, “building a network” is turning a complete stranger into an acquaintance, then a friend, then a close friend and we trust, think of each other when we feel like sharing ideas.

How to build your network when you are still an anonymous?

Many people only care about the relationships they have in the outside world, while forget about their family having a strong bond with other family members should be claimed as their top priority. If you cannot even get close with your family, how could you create a strong network with the strangers out there?

Back to the main question, nothing can be successful without well preparation.

When sending a friend request on a social networking site, do you explain why you want to connect with that person?

Before attending a social event, do you look up to the people you want to get in touch with?

Before approaching a person, have you got any idea about who they are, what they like, what interests them, how about their profession and the field they specialize in?

Anyone of us wants to be cared about, to be remembered, and in order to be treated so, we should treat others like that first.

But in random cases, is there any formula that helps us to connect with others more easily?

Most expect to learn some tricks (or you can call them “tips”) to impress people in the under 30 seconds at the first meeting, or how to get to know many people in one occasion, or how to start an intriguing conversation with a stranger.

However, bear in mind that these tips may provide you with some unexpected side effects, making you appear boring to people. But why is that?

Everyone has their own unique personality, their own interests, and therefore if you approach all of them in the same way, you are creating a dead-end to yourself.

Your sincerity, combined with careful-preparation, good observation, sophistication and ingenuity in communication make a recipe for success in connecting with people.

How do you develop your network?

There are 5 key words you need to keep in mind:

1. Conversation

There is no relationship that can grow strong without conversations. These come as simply as a “how was your day?” phone call, hand-written cards on special occasions, or even the emails/texts you send one another telling about things in your lives.

2. Asking each other

Being human, we have the tendency to be listened and to be respected. If you want someone to like you, you should first respect them and be willing to listen to their ideas.

3. Support / help

Before “take”, learn how to “give”. Showing up and providing help at the right time mean so much more than thousands of words of cliché promises. Just enough attention and just enough subtleness make up the ingredients for this recipe.

I have a friend, who started his career as an employee at a quite well-known company. Back then, he saw that his boss was almost always late for work, yet would always leave early for home – which was strange and unusual compared to his calm and professional working manner. A while later, my friend figured out that the boss had two little kids and it was his job to take them to school every day. Being a kind person who adores kids, my friend offered to help his boss, taking over the duty. After 5 or 6 times turning down the offer, the boss finally accepted it.

As for my friend, he did great as a baby-sitter and was never late for work, despite having to wake up an hour earlier and traveling a few extra kilometers every morning. However, thanks to doing that, he got closer to his boss, and therefore learn more from him, such as how to organize his life better. Moreover, the boss sometimes gave my friend books about how to improve his professional skills.

After a few months, his company carried out a big project. Having considered carefully, the boss decided to let my friend take the lead in the project. Although my friend’s ability might not be as good as other colleagues’, he earned himself a big plus in terms of observation skills, problem solving skills, and his ability to work with people.

As you can see, if you build your network with sincerity, you will always get back what you deserve – love and trust from people around you.

4. Create value

Why do you want to connect with someone? Because of benefits! Whether it is tangible or not, it is certain that once a relationship is formed, it is because the parties involved see their benefits in it. Identifying your and other people’s value help you understand who should stay inside your “network circle”, and do not forget to added create value to your relationships.

After 75 years of research and four continuous generations of scientists, those at Harvard University have finally found out the most important thing that brings about happiness in one’s life.

“It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters,” said Robert Waldinger, an American psychiatrist and a Professor at Harvard Medical School.

5. Keep promises

Keeping promises is an important factor in building your own personal brand. Keeping promises helps creating trust – the thing that people in the modern society usually lack of, and might hesitate to give one another for the fear that people will betray them. In some worse cases, people take promises with their family members lightly, thinking that “they will understand”.

Five years ago, when my network was yet to be strong, I did not have as many global relationships as well as trade promotion projects as I do today. But thanks to keeping one promise, my career path has changed completely.

There was a Vietnamese French coming back to Vietnam with the hope to help build bridges and schools in the poor countryside of Southwest of Vietnam. The man wanted to find someone who could assist him in sorting out the paper work in order to establish a non-profit organization in Vietnam. At that time, I was studying law, and was confident with my ability to get the work done easily and therefore I made a promise to help him. I was happy that I was doing something helpful for villagers in the region as well. Nonetheless, things did not go as I expected, as it turned out it would take me approximately tenfold the amount of money I had anticipated, and almost a year to get all of the necessary paper work done.

I had to face two hard choices: (1) Keeping my word, using my own money to get things done or (2) Breaking my promise.

I went with the former. I stayed at the Department of Planning and Investment for around a week, asking from one to another for a less costly way. And it worked. I did find out a way that was much cheaper and faster to get all the work done.

After 6 months, I eventually finished my task, and it was also the time when the name “Cong-Thang HUYNH” became valued in the French community. 8 out of every 10 French people coming to Vietnam get in touch and agree to do business with me.

After a long time, I have gained myself a lesson “Planting too many seeds yet spending no time on taking good care of them is like ending their lives”

My article on e27 tech magazine: https://goo.gl/5UM5aL