Monday, November 5, 2012

The big deal about Johnnycupcakes

Being safe in your business is a sure way to mediocrity and perhaps even bankruptcy. The big deal about Johnny cupcakes is not because they are making millions selling t-shirts, it's because they turned reason upside down to create a following. And that means doing things that are unexpected and beyond logic (selling t-shirts in stores that look and smells like a bakery?) because they can.

They probably did not require a business case to put a Ninja turtle trading card along with the t-shirt.

Be different, be bold and make a big deal.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Single minded benefit

I have been consulting with a fellow student with a startup on the topic of marketing and branding, and it reminded me of the realities of making the decision to target a specific segment and delivering a single minded benefit. Why is it so difficult?

1. Companies feel that if you target one segment, you are leaving money on the table
2. Business cases do not take into consideration the positive effect on other segments if you are single minded in your message
3. Companies feel that it is less risky to broadly target a $1 bn market than to specifically target a $100 million market

But what is the reality?

1. If you target more than 1 segment, you are confusing the customer
2. Business cases should not be the end all be all
3. It is more risky if you are ambiguous. If you are broad and general, you don't stand for anything.

Stop compromising and pick a segment your product or service can best deliver the benefit! You may then find out that your final plan may in reality impact more than 1segment!!! Actually I am positive that will happen. A crisp clear message appeals to many more than you think.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Prepare for effectiveness

Every meeting that is planned requires what? Planning! The more number of people you have in the meeting, the more time it takes to prepare for effectiveness. A face to face may require jotting down some notes and questions, perhaps thinking how to phrase them to elicit the required information. But once you get into larger numbers... Think about how much preparation went into a keynote by Steve Jobs or perhaps a convention for housands of people by Tony Robbins in order to be absolutely effective!

How much time have you put in to preparation lately? Are you being effective?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Understanding dynamics

One of the key differentiators of the IMD education is the focus on group dynamics and awareness on multiple levels. This has indeed made quite a positive impact on my life and has brought a routine of reflection both personally and professionally. But what does it all mean? The trick is to go from understanding to action. I believe this takes a certain amount of risk taking when confronting dynamics whether in a one to one or a group setting. And to reduce the risk, trust needs to exist, and hence relationship building is that much more important.

1. Strengthen relationship
2. Recognize dynamics
3. Confrontation

From the experiences last year, this is easier said then done. We need to care enough to go through these steps. So the question is: when do we care and when do we not? and when should we care and when should we not?

Monday, July 16, 2012

GEM #7

Made to Stick is an insightful read and offers up simple rules to follow when you want an idea to "stick" with your audience. As someone that pays attention to getting the most out of presentations, I strongly advocate the ideas that follow. Use it in a presentation, use it when you want to make a sale, hell, use it whenever you wish to! Perhaps you will spread a viral idea in your next party...

GEM #7 - Made to Stick
The 6 rules of sticky messages:

1. Simple
Find the core of your message and share it

2. Unexpected
Surprise the audience by breaking a pattern and hold their attention by creating a mystery

3. Concreteness
Make any abstraction concrete and real, provide a context and involve people into the story

4. Credible
Help people believe through real demonstrations. Use examples that far exceeds the bar of your audience "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere".

5. Emotional
Make people care by catering to that one person. Appeal to the self interest and identity of your audience.

6. Stories
There are 3 key plots: challenge, connection, creativity

Made to stick is for anyone who cares whether their messages will be remembered... YOU DO!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


One of the principles of a sticky story is being "Concrete" and I think it is an understated principle. From the book "Made to Stick", there are six basic principles that are discussed and I think they can add a tremendous lot to the presentations we give, the ideas we try to impart and the messages we try to convey to motivate, excite and mobilize.

Concrete to me means just that. Tangible, physical and very clear. This can apply to anything and everything. When a goal is put in front of you to, let's say "add value to people" or "improve lives", how does that change the way we do things? It doesn't! It doesn't help anyone to do anything different, in fact it confuses and cause people to avoid what needs to be done. What is Concrete? I will attempt to put some audacious concrete visions out there...

What if:

Coca Cola - "We aim to deliver ZERO waste to the environment, extending happiness to mother earth"
eBay - "We will help to create 1 million ebay shop millionaires"
Yahoo - "We will be the most comprehensive video platform on mobile devices"
J&J - "We will allow physicians to deliver therapy without radiation"

Just like individuals, there are so many options to pursue greatness. The challenge is, after looking at all the available information on hand, to dare to pick a path and put it in concrete terms so that the organization harnesses all its power to achieve the goal.

Does it inspire?
Does it help me to make decisions?
Does it drive action?

I know I made this very simple, but YES, YES and YES.

Monday, April 23, 2012

nikoi island

I have finally put together a video on our 4-day trip to nikoi island off the coast of Singapore. It is a place to relax, recharge and basically do nothing but endulge in some peace and quiet. The private island boasts 14 houses, which, kudos to the owners, manage to give a sense of organic simplicity and luxury at the same time. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, so much so that we may even return!

Nikoi Island - 2012 from Howie Chan on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Staying the course

After the MBA, you start to get back into the "real" world. What does that really mean? It really means that our convictions will constantly be tested and we will face the temptation to go back to our old self before the IMD experience. But hopefully with the training of being more self aware, we can deflect un-inspiring encounters and detect our natural inclination to avoid discomfort.

Stay the course, fellow MBAs and know that we must change the world, inspire the people we come in contact with and have as much fun as we can.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I have been working for Philips in the Netherlands for 3 weeks.
We live on the 3rd floor in an apartment in the center of Eindhoven.
In 3 days, we finally get our brand new bicycles!
It is probably going to take 3 weeks for us to receive our things that are still waiting for our city registration.
3 days ago, we were at the Eindhoven city hall registering as a resident.

We are still in a state of transition, although things are getting better by the day. Hopefully this week will be a productive one in terms of getting settled, but it will still take a few before we finally get our things and have simple pleasures such as a couch! I am actually really looking forward to getting our kitchen ware and cooking again. It has been tough eating out and cooking with our one pan and one pot. I promise I will update with pictures and videos soon!

In the mean time, check out 3 silly tilt shift pictures of our past adventures.

Machu Picchu 2010 
Positano 2011

Colosseum 2011

Monday, January 30, 2012

Last MBA Journal Entry...

Here it is! My last contribution to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. I must say, they are really easy to work with and the since the IMD timelines are different from traditional business schools, I also enjoy some flexibility in submissions. Thanks again for the opportunity, it has been tough at times to crank out an entry, but fun nevertheless. Enjoy!

Last Entry

Transition period

Between graduation and starting my new gig is a time to relax and spend some time with the family. Alison and I were lucky to ham it up with Grandma Millie, our old neighbor Sonja, Uncle Steve, Aunt Ruth and of course Toby and Dorothy. And on the Asia side, we spent time with my niece and nephew, cousins from Ipoh and Kuantan, and my parents.

Our belongings were finally moved from the Roseville residence and on its way to the Netherlands last Friday. We are next! Wish us luck as we will aim to step foot into our new country sometime in February!

At the MIA with Grandma!

Christmas time with the family

At the BOH tea plantation, Cameron Highlands with Mum, Dad and Ipoh crew

Aunty Alison with Nephew Jo Jo

Some relaxing time at NIKOI island (more to come on this!)