Finding the Right People For Your Team (Examples and Case Studies) & Dealing With Conflict with Thomas Pun

Michael MicheliniCorporate, HR and Legal, Podcast0 Comments

For this week’s show, we have Thomas Pun who is really a smart guy and he gives us good insights and recommendations about people management. We talk a little bit of spice with some Asia culture and storytelling. So get your notebooks ready and let’s dive in.

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Intro Thomas

    Known each other in the HK startup community for quite some time.

  • Team building as a skill

    I think business owners, one of the most important things would be to get the right people, right?

  • Cross borders, cross cultures

    We are a cross-border podcast here, and you’re in HK – so would you say team building and recruiting across borders is a different approach, or can the same skills be used?

  • Founding team recruiting

    We have all experienced a startup event, such as Startup Weekend and other hackathons where a team is formed in a few hours and something is grinded over a few days and pitched. But a real founding team takes more time, would you say?

  • First hires in a startup

    Many say the first few hires in a new company are critical, how has your experience been?

  • Agreements and contracts with founding teams, early employees

    I know, we should talk to a lawyer , and it is a case by case thing, but what is some general tips

  • Hire slow, fire fast

    It will take a lot of effort to let someone go. Morale is affected.

  • Examples

    I think it would be fun to talk about how teams are formed, both your own first person experience with founding team formation, as well as scaling up to employees and also the hard times of a team dissolving.

  • What you are up to these days

    What are you working on now Thomas

  • How can people connect?

    Thank you so much for sharing!

People / Companies / Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Notes (no links)
Company culture = who you hire, who you promote (behavior), and who you fire.
First 10-20 people you hire defines company culture (experience, culture, education)
Important first hires, willing to learn, consider themselves a generalist (open to try new things)

Episode Length 54:16

Thank you so much Thomas for the amazing insights. It’s really amazing stuff, Thomas is really good at dealing with people.

Download Options

Listen in on Youtube

Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Episode 320 Global From Asia. Finally got a microphone and we’re talking about people management, a little bit of spice with some Asia culture and some storytelling. So let’s tune in today. Welcome to the Global From Asia podcast, where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down, into straight up actionable advice.

[00:00:27] And now your host, Michael Michelini. Okay, everybody. Thank you so much for choosing to download and listen to Global From Asia stream or whatever. I mean, this does go into audio only format, but this week’s show is audio only. We do try and get us on YouTube and other channels as well. And it’s in, wechat, it’s all over the place.

[00:00:48] At least we try to get it everywhere. Sometimes it gets banned or deleted or violations for whatever reason, but we get it as many places as we can. And you might notice maybe my sound is a little bit different. I’m back on this microphone. I finally sucked it up, my wife finally let me buy a new microphone.

[00:01:05] I got a couple sitting in Manila, still in ARC’s apartment. Still recovering from this Covid, the nightmare that we’re all, I guess it’s not over for, uh, anyways, but, getting a microphone, a new microphone costs more in China. I can’t believe that. Things cost more here than in the U S and they’re made here at least for now.

[00:01:26] All right. This week’s show, we got Thomas Pun, you know, he’s, he’s a really good guy. He’s, I’ve met him in the community in Hong Kong for like eight years now. And he’s been on my list for a while to get on and we finally make it happen. And it’s been really cool to hear about people management. So

[00:01:49] And yeah, he actually kind of coaches me a little bit. I mean, it’s kind of, one of the benefits of doing these shows is I get to pick topics and talk to really smart people. And I, I read, I started reading a book. I can’t say I finished it, but he recommended a book and I’ve started to read it and you know, if you guys like the blahblahblah session after the interview, I don’t want to take up too much of this intro.

[00:02:11] I want to get right to Thomas, but, uh, I will share some of my own reflections of, you know, what I’ve learned with management of teams. I’ll be honest. I’ve never managed a team in the U S and the West. I’ve only managed teams in, in China, Philippines and Asia. So maybe that’s also a difference. So we, we kinda talked about in the interview and I’ll talk about that after if you’re interested.

[00:02:34] And Thomas is a really smart guy, and he’s been in the valley, been in Hong Kong, he’s got really good insights and recommendations. So get your notebooks ready. Let’s dive into interview Thomas Pun. Thank you GFAVIP members. I know you’re listening cause you gave me a feedback and it’s really cool. And we had an amazing Lazada workshop last week and we’re doing these live workshops.

[00:02:57] Actually, some of the members don’t want to come on the podcast to share about their business because maybe they don’t feel like they’re ready or they don’t want to be so public about it, but they don’t mind to share it to the members. And that’s what it’s really about. That’s the big difference of if you’re being a paid fee, GFAVIP versus an awesome listener.

[00:03:14] Or supporter of a show, you know, if you are paying, which is very much appreciated, and you’re also engaging with me and others, the community, we have private calls, forums, and we keep giving more and more benefits to those people in that, in that circle, Thank you. Okay. Thank you. Thank you everybody for tuning in.

[00:03:32] So on a Global From Asia podcast, we’re in for a treat. We have with us, Thomas Pun. He’s a serial entrepreneur. I would say, you know, I, I’ve met him. We met at the startup community many, many years ago in Hong Kong. And, uh, you know, we’ve both been through a lot and have different, you know, experiences.

[00:03:53] And, uh, thank you so much for coming on the show, Thomas. Really appreciat it. Well, thank you for having me, Mike. Yeah. So, um, yeah, I mean, I remember, I think I had met you when he had come back from San Francisco to Hong Kong. I don’t know when that was maybe eight years ago or so I think it’s been quite a long time since we’ve been chatting in the community.

[00:04:20] Do you want to give us a brief introduction of, of yourself to the listeners? Sure. So I I’m well trained as an engineer. I served my time in the Valley and moved back around, I moved backed around the Pacific. So I’ve been near the Valley a couple of times. I’ve been back to Hong Kong, kind of back and forth.

[00:04:43] And every time I kind of feel like it’s done, I’m not going to move. Never say never, but it’s insane. Now I’m like now, here in Hong Kong for the last actually eight years now almost and I’ve been, I’ve been working with startups. I love, I love working with passionate founders and get paid for it.

[00:05:05] I also kind of, you know, starting, try to start something myself right now, so I’m exploring different ideas. Awesome. Awesome. Yeah, I know. So. So I’m really happy to have you on a show and there’s so much, we have so much experience, so much we could talk about what I thought the topic would be, find the right people for your team is I think what the title of the show will be. Sometimes I’ll see until after the interview is finished, but it’s about people, right?

[00:05:30] Whether it’s a business partner, co-founder or whether it’s, especially employees, but even, no matter what the people, you know, I think the team is the most important thing, right? That is what, of course, every time, technology or they talk about customers. But for me, I’ve been really focusing on team. I don’t, I mean, I don’t know what you would say about that, that I really think team is basic fundamental of how are you going to be up there?

[00:06:00] A lot of things, you can really do it yourself. Right. So you’re definitely gonna need help when you’re going to need to work with people. You know, there’s a thing about, you know, product market fit. If you find something that the market we didn’t want, I, we’re seeing that with our team, you cannot even get a product out.

[00:06:17] You really need to have that team. Right. And team building. And so calling that team and what can we build, people, it’s not natural. And usually you don’t, it was never really formally taught. A lot of people can learn it by making mistakes and some of these mistakes will be pretty costly. So I definitely think team building is a good excuse to have.

[00:06:39] Agreed agreed. And I think it really is, is at the top. I mean, I’ve listened to a lot of these, you know, I don’t want to, I don’t know some YouTube videos and stuff, some other, you know, speeches I’ve seen in sessions, I think no matter what you’re always going to be fine. I think as a, as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, your job, I think is always about people and.

[00:07:01] You know, one of the acronyms I like to use for CEO is of course it means chief executive officer, but I call it, I learned it somewhere, a customer, employee, and owner or shareholder, you know, I think, you know, the executives, the partners there, they represent people and they build a culture and they attract the people, whether it’s a customer or an employee or an investor.

[00:07:24] So, you know, it’s definitely a skill, I guess, is also. I think a lot of times it relies a lot on the CEO role rather than maybe the, the tech partner or the, you know, the, the more, engineer type person. You know, I think the people, that skill is usually reliant on the main, president CEO. Is that something you would say or.

[00:07:54] Yeah, I think that’s the one. Everyone must be team. They probably serve the purpose. Right. And you know how to get all this presumably the good, smart, talented people to do things that at the time could look illogical. Right. And that certainly takes a lot of leadership, and leadership is also a very important factor on how you build a team, right?

[00:08:17] How you, the team, how you set the culture. So I think this is all related. This, the, the leader doesn’t always have to be the CEO, I think, I think CEO may pick up certain, very important aspects of running a business, and there are other people that you may want to hire that has a strong leadership. Right.

[00:08:37] I helped the CEO to kind of push me forward as well. Okay. Awesome. And I think the other dynamic with, with our audience and our community and is the goal, cross culture, cross border? You know, I think, I don’t know. I mean, I I’ve spent time in the Valley. I just visited briefly there, but I think one of the challenges I would say in Asia is all these, I mean, maybe it’s a strength, but I think it’s also.

[00:09:07] A challenge is, so many cultures, you know, and it makes it a much more, I don’t know, I would say delicate, like I’ve definitely adapted over the years by being in Asia. Like I have to be more, I guess that should be in the US too, but I feel like in the U S you don’t have to be sensitive about culture or even maybe I hope I’m not offended.

[00:09:30] I’m an American. So I think it’s okay to say, but you know, that’s where Americans are, these aggressive, direct people. And we, when I’m in the US and I deal with in the U S I don’t have to like be sensitive or, or, but when I’m in mainland China, when I’m in Asia, I have to feel like I have to be more 

[00:09:47] Cautious. I feel at least personally, but you know, I, I don’t know how you feel about that, but I feel like, you know, cross culture, especially in Asia, it’s just more of an art. I feel, I don’t know. I’d love feedback there.

[00:10:07] Hiring in general if they are hiring great talent specifically is, it’s hard, no matter where you are. I do think each region, you know, Asia, North America, Europe, they all have different challenges. You know, culture being one, like you said, you know how you actually, you know, you see that’s normal or, you know, professional be different in different, um, different region.

[00:10:36] But I think in general, it also depends on the vertical, you know, it’s just a tag, it’s just this soul stripping and this just business stripping. It really depends on the talent that you’re looking for, but I think the fundamentals are the same, you know, the. If you want to hire well, you really need to be systematic. You really need to be thoughtful about your process.

[00:10:57] And I think different regions they will have different talents that are more abundant, there’s different forexample, you know, I think Valley of course, you know, take advantage to say, you know, there are a lot of tech founders, they’re part of talent, design talent, but at the same time, as you feel that is easy to hire because these people are better, right.

[00:11:19] They have some things more like more significant things. Right. They shift things that you may have heard of, but at the same time, they are also more competition. Right. They’re all, you know, big company there. So, you know, it’s. It’s all, always a balance, right? You have at least a strong talent or company that hire this talent that attract this talent, but at the same time, you also have more competition.

[00:11:46] Hey, um, and in Hong Kong for example, I think tech is definitely not great. I think that’s, you know, the, the junior and the mid levels are abundant, and there are a lot of great people there at that level. But for me, the senior people, you don’t necessarily get those.  But in Hong Kong for example. They probably have, um, and a lot of strong profile of sales, of, you know, BD type of work, um, you know, getting things off the ground, um, you know, hustler.

[00:12:21] Think, so I think different regions, they have strengths and weaknesses, for sure. Yeah. Yes. Uh, uh, I, I liked it. No vertical. I didn’t really ever take that into account. And for me, I don’t know, even know if you knew, but I spent almost five years on Wall Street. I worked on very internal desk trading floor.

[00:12:41] Deuche bank? Um, on wall streets. Uh, it wasn’t on the actual New York stock scale, but I was on it. How buildings over in, uh, in the bank’s own internal floor. And I was the, I was like the least aggressive person I was getting like, you know, it was a rough, it was rough, you know, it was, I, they told me it’s changed now with the whole financial that was before the financial crisis and everything, but, you know, it was rough, you know?

[00:13:10] Yes, that’s true. Cause when I came out to Asia, almost like there was a little bit of buffer between that, but yeah, I was shocked cause I had to be so sensitive. If I say something, somebody I hired or I work with or a partner or a factory, like they would be very offended and they were very sensitive. I feel, you know, and I guess even, and I was like, man, I’m.

[00:13:30] I am like the least like aggressive person

[00:13:36] person in my environment. And I don’t even think, I had to keep toning down and I’m still work even now. I still, I still work on that because it feels like in Asia, like if I say, you know, a lot of our team now is in the Philippines or I’ve had people in Mainland China and, uh, you know, in Hong Kong or other places, but my style is.

[00:13:58] I think the American style is like direct. Like this is a mistake, fix it. You know, I don’t really say, I don’t want to say it’s your fault. I’m not trying to say it’s your fault, but this is a mistake. And most likely it was you. I don’t really care, but can you fix it? But I remember in China I would go to somebody’s desk and I said, this is not working like this website.

[00:14:17] You know, we did a lot of website stuff. So we are somewhat technical, fresh grads, you know, technical people. So I guess that’s another point, like you said, they were mostly technical, but they were the first deny, deny everything. No, it’s not my fault. I didn’t do that. I’m like, I mean, that’s not really the primary purpose of me saying that this is broken.

[00:14:38] I just want it fixed. But I’m not going to get, you know, but then you also can’t say it in front of their other staff, you can’t lose face in China, right? Like you can’t go to somebody’s desk and say, this is a mistake because they’re going to deny it because it’s in the culture of. The culture is like denial.

[00:14:57] I don’t know. I just, I don’t want to offend anyway. I feel like that’s like the that’s like, what I’ve learned is denial. So you gotta call them into a room and you gotta like, kind of indirectly say, this is not working. What can we do? And then don’t even, I feel like I’ve been gotten so indirect in my work in China.

[00:15:16] can’t be direct because if I’m direct, it’s like offensive or. You know, uh, or they’re going to close up or defensive or deny. So I’ve gotten of kind of growing the skill to be indirect. Indirect is like around the option, not directly at the issue, it’s like, I’m going, I think that’s, that’s the way it is too.

[00:15:36] You’re like going around an issue, like you’re circling it rather than directly going at the issue, which is, it’s hard I’m still learning. Just wanted to clarify that, but it’s true about the vertical. I never thought of that. Cause I kind of did go from wall street, see tech in a way or a little bit sourcing in tech and commerce. Interesting point.

[00:15:59] Yeah. I can definitely feel your pain and I think what you brought up is a really good point about, you know, the working environment and soccer culture, uh, in a certain industry or certain company. And they attracted some people, right. And, and certain people will do better. Like they stick around more because we kind of fit what is needed in that environment.

[00:16:25] And at the same time, you know, your experience about if you’re, then there’s a lot of questions, giving feedback. If people are not very receptive. And I think it doesn’t always just happen in like China, Philippines, I think a lot of times it kind of comes down to how that person was brought up, you know, how were they, were they open minded?

[00:16:48] Were they in an environment where they can take mistakes? Right? Maybe the whole life, they can make mistakes. Almost like if I make mistake, I’m going to fail my parents. So, so these people become very defensive. Right. And I think, you know, having the open mind, which is, I think it’s very hard to, to actually strike a balance.

[00:17:13] I think this is something that, you know, if you’re lucky, you are able to work with someone, especially with like say you were able to see this in action from the period or from the year. Right. How they, you know, look at this in a more objective way, you know, think about, Oh, you know? Yeah. Maybe, maybe there’s something is there.

[00:17:32] How about we, we work together, you know, we solve it right. Rather than just denial and the first, you know, first shot. It’s, it’s tough. I have a, I have a book that I want to mention to you about, about managing, it’s called radical candor. I’ll send the link to you later. Okay. Here, we’re going to add it to the show notes.

[00:17:53] Yeah. But, uh, yeah, I mean, it was really, I dunno, it was really rough for me when I it’s still rough, honestly, but, uh, I mean, uh, when I first came into to, you know, Asia market, China market, you know, Philippines, and I just really learned to not be too aggressive, like not to be too direct and I still do it to this day.

[00:18:11] I like, I have to hold back. I have to hold back. I’m like, I’m upset. Or a mistake was made, you know, in the US you just, he was very open about your emotion. You’re just very open and you’re just direct and open. And I feel like here you, that’s what I think I’ll really would say. That’s one of the main reasons, my opinion, why Westerners fail in China or Asia is because they come in and they’re very aggressive.

[00:18:39] I don’t know maybe I’m wrong, but I, I don’t know. I’m kind of a tangent here, but I do think, I do think I’ve really adapted to that because my last point to this, this, this pop top just point is even my like, assistant, like Jojo she told me, so what I started to do was just, I took the blame, I would just say, okay, maybe it was my fault.

[00:19:01] You know, I would just keep saying like, I’m not going to. Go in as blame game. Like I made a mistake or maybe it’s something I wasn’t clear about. I didn’t say it. I didn’t instruct you clearly enough. So I was just taking the blame, but then she told me that’s bad. Because that makes you look weak and you,

[00:19:20] you are not capable as a leader, or you’re not capable as a, as a business person. You’re always making these mistakes. So she says that that was bad. Cause that’s what, that’s how I adapted. I’m like, you know, they’re all being defensive, so I’ll just be the guy that’s like. It’s only, you know, saying some, maybe it was maybe it was my mistake that you may dismiss that this happens because, but then she says that, you know, looking weak.

[00:19:42] So by you taking it, it’s like, you can’t wait like one way or the other. Okay. I just remember that. Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. I do think that, you know, the culture, how these people caught up, had a lot to do with it. Um, and second, I feel I. You know, let’s, let’s just try to be more open minded on this way.

[00:20:04] Maybe, maybe these people don’t fit style and maybe, maybe you need to find people that have the same shit fabulous. Part of the, you know, on the topic of hiring on, on identifying what’s important to you. You know, the people, what kind of attributes that they should have to be on your team. Right. True.

[00:20:28] True. That’s a good point. So are you usually, before you start to hire people a lot times you find like a, you know, we call it co founder in the tech world and startup world, but I guess for today’s audiences, a little bit less tech, but maybe we call it business partners or the core team, which is even more critical than hiring.

[00:20:49] and I have on my show notes, you know, I think we’ve gone through a lot of obviously so many startup events, you know, there’s even a, I was even helping facilitate some startup weekends in China for some years. And there was even some negative feedback cause they say, you know, other people say, Oh, these startup events, these hackathons, Oh yeah, let me just start a week, start up the weekend.

[00:21:10] Let me just find a cofounder on a Friday night, you know, raising my hand and picking the right person. And I’m going to, you know, Obviously the team is like we had kind of agreed on is one of the most important things, right. People, it’s something that takes a long time, right? Like, uh, any, any. Any insights or tips, like how do, how does someone finally, you know, of course there’s your hometown friend, your, your college friend there’s, you know, people, you mean the community?

[00:21:38] I don’t know. I mean, it’s, it’s so, so challenging. Like, do you have any insights or, or shortcuts or tips for, I don’t think there was really a super bullet, um, and it kind of works. Uh, everyone, everyone has this own way, given the context and given the network, but yeah. I agree that you probably don’t want to.

[00:22:00] So come marry someone they got on these tables, right. With all this startup weekend and hackathon. I think those are, they served the purpose, which is, I think, you know, getting people to think about extra bills and something maybe, you know, to allow these people. They actually never feel something that.

[00:22:16] Initiated by themselves instead of getting told by the boss, for example. Right. So I think they have their purpose. I think it’s also fun activities do something. But if you, when you’re talking about the, you know, building a business, um, and it’s something that you always say, you know, you want, I want to do this with people that you would go to the wall with, right?

[00:22:37] You would trust that person that, you know, you wouldn’t leave the baby with them. So . Trust and what’s back takes time, right? Oh, I look in your profile. You look good. Oh, you have them discuss and let’s get together. Um, even though someone could be technically strong, you know, in whatever aspect that is, you still people, right?

[00:23:04] You still want to assess that relationship that you have to nurture. You have to respect. You have to build that trust. Um, and those six times. And how can you kind of do that? Um, a lot of time, it’s like you said, childhood friends or people that you met for while, um, even though we may not be able to working with them, but at least you hang out with them, you get to see them a different side.

[00:23:26] Right. You get to see them outside. There was not, I wouldn’t say contentious, but you know, like a working problem and where they put on a different face. Right. Um, it guess it seemed more overall of course, you know, the past. I think the bad people, um, that you can start something where someone that you have worked with, right.

[00:23:45] Or you have, you know, someone that you work with them very closely. So personally referral, you know, it matters a lot. I at least you have another data point. Oh, okay. Well, Hey, I liked how much works. I know how Mike think about things, right. I know, kind of what Mike values. And if my thing’s out there, there’s an, hey it’s great.

[00:24:08] You know, there’s definitely some merit to it. Um, instead of just kind of random expand upon it, if you like really interviewing people. Right. Of course they had the fat cells, right. Try to tell you things again, this is interview skills, right? They try to tell you things that they think that you would want to hear.

[00:24:27] Right. And it’s your job as an interviewer too. We didn’t get down to the wine. We just get them to, you know, why certain things happened and what they did and all that. Um, but yeah, it’s like finding, finding the real team, especially if you like finding teams, if you haven’t really done a lot. Or what’s worse and what’s more challenging is that we need to find someone that you never, a type of person that you never worked with.

[00:24:52] Right. You’re not a tech person and now you need a technician. Yeah. They need a sales person. Right. Um, then, then a lot of times. You know, if you don’t talk to enough people, if we don’t do enough research, you also, because you don’t know, right. Like the gap of yours or what’s fast compared to what’s easy.

[00:25:16] So listen, it’s, you know, give me that, online. Right. And, and that is where some of the, kind of that higher level right. Sometimes was very capable. It just like, it doesn’t work out, doesn’t fit in this environment. So, so yeah. Tip, why are you, how you think important thing is really about doing your work?

[00:25:38] Yeah. You know, I’m talking to people, I ask people, this is one thing that I always do when I need to hire and go that I’d never hired before I go look at my network, find out all the people that have the job or have hired those people and talk to them, you know, ask them what’s what do you think? What should I [00:26:00] look for?

[00:26:01] Uh, what you, what is the view on, you know, a gray X. Over just a good X, right? What’s the view. And I think if you talk to enough people, then you start to see patterns. Right. Got it. Yeah. That’s interesting. Cause it’s been on my list is like, how do you hire for a position you don’t either know or you haven’t hired for it before?

[00:26:21] Um, it is just good to talk to people in your network. That’s a good one. Yeah. Um, you know, I, I don’t know if you know my style or not, but I, I kinda like sometimes just share my mistakes here. So like, but the other one it’s sometimes a cofounder is, do you want to work with sometimes your friends? Um, well, there’s some issues with, you know, there’s positives, of course there’s really good trust, but sometimes the negatives might be too similar to you that might have the same skillset as you, um, And the worst is, you know, there’s obviously some friendships lost because of a business business, you know?

[00:26:57] So there’s some risks. There is some risks. Yeah, there’s a saying that don’t, don’t, don’t start this with your best friend or your partner, right? Your spouse kind of thing. Another idea. I like, I can’t say I’ve really done it. I can’t think I’ve done it in a venture, but seeing somebody who’s doing something already that you want to do, or you’re doing, and almost like a merger of your two businesses becomes one, you know, It might not be really a technical cofounder, but a lot of times, sometimes I seen this work.

[00:27:33] Two different people doing actually, I’ve seen, I don’t want to name names because you know, but even in the startup community, in Hong Kong, I’ve seen it, they’ve had their own startups and then they realized note or friend or somebody in the community is doing a similar startup. And I’ve seen, uh, I think two or three times it’s happening.

[00:27:50] They merge and they become one startup. I’ve seen that. Um, and it seems to have worked, uh, cause then that’s the best cause they’re executing already. Right? They’re they’re they’re doing so they’re doing it already and you know, that’s, that’s a, that’s an ideal one. Yeah. Yeah. Well merger, well, M&A, merger and acquisition are very tricky.

[00:28:12] Um, and, and even though like key things are running, um, if two things are very kind of equal, right? Um, then, then it’s actually worse. I think if one side is doing a lot better and kind of absorb the other team, you know, I think, I think there’s, there’s a bigger direction, right? There’s a bigger momentum to go certain way by their first, like both are similar.

[00:28:36] What happened is, I think there’s probably. Probably going to be a lot more so for conflicts, right. Comes a value. And then somehow they do things and yeah, I wish I I’m just, I don’t, uh, maybe after recording, I can tell you this example one, but that’s very early stage. They were very early stage and they were both talking to me because it was in, uh, it was in, in this space.

[00:29:02] They were both talking to me and I don’t want to take too much credit, but they do credit me a lot for, um, some insights I gave them. I don’t think, I don’t think they, I met them both separately before they, uh, Join forces. And then they joined forces. I’m not going to take the credit, but they do credit me for some of the amazing early stage feedback.

[00:29:23] I haven’t, I shouldn’t be coming. I don’t have any interest in their company, but, uh, I just remember they joined forces, but they were both pretty early stage. It was very early stage. Yes. It was so early that, uh, I don’t know if there was too much. Okay. One was Nicole and one was business. So lucky and work and yeah.

[00:29:45] Just shy to say the name. I don’t know if I should do that, but, um, well let’s, let’s move forward. Um, so that was some insights on founders and partners, which is so tricky, you know, and they say it’s even more, uh, they say it’s even more intimate than old marriage. I don’t know. I think marriage is still more intimate, but it is at that level.

[00:30:06] Right. You know, you’re. You’re um, you’re being, you know, very, you know, closely working and sharing your, your, um, ups and your downs and your business. Um, but hires is also very important, especially the first hires. Um, what would you say, you know, you know, there’s so many questions about the first hires, you know, there’s questions I could think of like, who sh I guess it depends on the company and what they need, but you know, at first kind of hire as they maybe just I’ll leave it open ended for what you say or think about this.

[00:30:37] Right. The first two fires, I think I would say probably 10 going to say up to 20, um, these people really help you find your culture. Um, and you know, company culture, you know, culture is injury abstract, but I find that a really good way to kind of. Uh, kind of crystallize it. And I heard this, um, somewhere from, from my mentors is company.

[00:31:05] Culture is really about who we hire, who you promote and who you fire. So these people in the beginning, you know, that they kind of set the tone basically, right. If they do well. And if it’s you and your partner, or kind of the general consensus. Almost certain behavior, right? That’d becomes culture, right? That’s how, you know, the culture get the fine.

[00:31:32] If so, are there things that they don’t do? Well, I don’t work with the rest of the team that become, you know, you may have let the twisting goal, right. By the way, firing is also very important, which I think a lot of people not doing is like hiring the firing, letting people go. Yeah, nobody likes firing. I don’t think why me there are some but most don’t.

[00:31:55] Yeah. Um, so I think like, like, like I said, right, a culture is defined by these first 10 and 20 people that you bring on board. And the hiring process in general, I think is also the first step that someone interact with your culture. Right. So your process also optimize or kind of biased towards people that you like, right.

[00:32:21] And you can attract those people. So it’s kind of like a loop, right? It’s like the more you use, you’re kind of getting more and more. So, um, you know, having diversity is important. I think for the first few hires, you get a different perspective of things. Um, Not when I say diversity, it doesn’t necessarily mean just like gender, races.

[00:32:43] And that also say experience, right. Um, how, you know, like if a one of your team went to the same school, go through the same thing, working in the same company. Um, I mean, not be very helpful, for example. And now the thing that I find search hires. Um, that, that you really want to look for. Uh, one of the important attribute is that right.

[00:33:12] They were really willing to learn. And they treat themselves, they think of themselves, consider themselves as a genuine, uh, they, they, they, they don’t mind getting the hands dirty. They don’t mind learning, picking up new skills to get certain things done. They don’t like, okay, well I’m not gonna touch that.

[00:33:30] Right. This is what I do. And this is all I want to do. Um, I only want to get better at dance and I don’t care about the other choir. No off the system or that the pessimists I, and those don’t usually work well, especially in the early stage of business, that’s so much changes that are happening. Um, you know, you gonna have to eat correctly and all that, and I love this up and down.

[00:33:52] So I think those, uh, attributes are really important for the first few hires. Yeah, this is great. I thank you so much for sharing. Um, Yeah, I like that. That’s really good. I mean, I like all of that. Um, I, I wonder, I guess, you know, there’s so many ways cause this, you know, I go raise is more on the, less on the tech startup, more on the general.

[00:34:17] Um, You know, trading commerce kind of, uh, industries. So I don’t, I guess in those there’s not much equity pool, but Aesop and or employee stock options, but I guess, you know, they should also want some vested interests. I mean, do you see that? I guess you see that in startups, right. But is that, you know, you, they’re almost like a partner in your company.

[00:34:40] I’m reading actually a book right now, Noah. Kagan’s how I lost $170 million. Have you ever heard of that? He was a, an early employee at Facebook. And, uh, he, uh, he got laid off and, uh, he said, so he lost his options. So he says he lost over 70 million. Yeah. I’m still in the middle of the book, but I know the guy he’s a, he’s a, he’s a really amazing guy.

[00:35:09] So he wrote, he started AppSumo we started two other ventures after. Um, but, uh, yeah. So he’s talking about this early stages of Facebook, where they have the party house, you know, like no reason before 11:00 AM, you know, they were up. All night with pizza, beer and coding. Yeah. You know, like, yeah. Okay. Oh, and break, move, fast break things to kind of environments, which was cool.

[00:35:33] He says, which I would think is cool. Um, but yeah, I could imagine early stages of a company are very important. You know, I think you probably get asked this a lot too, and it’s always so common. Like what kind of contracts agreements, you know, I guess we gotta just say talk and I know you’ve got to say talk to a lawyer, but is there any kind of hat there tips, you know, for, you know, an early stage company, you know, e-commerce or tech startup, you know, actually in Asia, I feel like so complicated.

[00:36:03] You know, your home phone companies, you know, people in China, people in Southeast Asia, like, of course the U S you know, it’s just. I don’t know if you have any, I can give some tips too, but I don’t know if you have hug, you know, how do you, uh, how do you usually apply? Yes, yes. Um, as well. Um, but some of the more general ones, I would think that they, a lot of good templates up there, probably.

[00:36:25] So he could probably find one that, um, and I think the important thing about this is you definitely want to get the IP right. In order. Yeah. Um, you know, a lot of it is to be honest and not very easily enforceable, but at least you kind of bring it up and, you know, make sure that these people wear off.

[00:36:49] And if you do take outside funding, um, that’s also something that’s very important to the potential investors. Um, second part you mentioned about equity.  Um, Well, this is also another cultural thing that I noticed is that in nothing in the Bay area where this equity thing of pretty common, right. People would be willing to take that away and say, okay, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll be okay.

[00:37:14] Getting compensated by the equity with so, you know, a lot of pay or way below market pay. Right. But in Asia that may not always be the case. They don’t even value your equity. I don’t want your equity. Don’t give it to me. Just, you know, give me more cash. Um, so that’s tricky, but if you do find people that like, um, and value your equity, then you definitely want to have the popper.

[00:37:42] Equity agreement in place. And one of the biggest term that you definitely should have on there, it’s called passing schedule. So you basically kind of earn your share, right? So I don’t know. Okay. It’s a month, but we kind of have to earn it every month. Right. And it’s always clipping. Um, this is a one year clip.

[00:38:02] Um, it’s kind of like a probation type of thing, but it’s really, you know, to, to protect the company. If what’s in there, we find out it’s not working or any, for whatever reason, you’re not taking any part of the equity. Cause you haven’t read it in fast enough in the company contributing nothing, a company make a difference.

[00:38:20] Okay. So those two, those two, I think are the biggest thing. Yeah, my point, I think, I think these two are things that are not hard. She’s sick afterwards. I think there are things I, you know, get taxed you’re, you know, and maybe insurance and all that, you know, worst case you. You, you pay extra for the fine or whatever.

[00:38:44] Um, but those are the things that you can easily fix, but you know, if you don’t have IQ raise and someone laughed and you know, you, you, you’re getting talked about, you know, acquisition or whatever way investment, if you don’t have those, it’s getting to be tricky, especially also pressing schedule. Yeah.

[00:39:01] Yeah. Basically I, I agree. And I can link in the show notes. Uh, I have, I hate to say, you know, it’s so hard to label, but, uh, I don’t know where I even got one, but I have a blog post with the MOU. So I called them. I had learned about MOU so long ago, man, like somebody me a long time ago. And then I looked it up and I’m like, what does this mean?

[00:39:22] It basically says, it’s just basically, it’s a paper that says two people or two parts or all those parties listed on the agreement are agreeing to these terms. So is it very general agreements? That’s like, I’ve learned in what I got into when I was first, may I have somebody, many, we all have so many stories, but I went to Europe.

[00:39:44] I got a, I got an, a, for a, we’re doing like a SEO tool in China. And, uh, he flew us out there in 2009. With the MOU. And then he says, well, once we get, get it’s serious enough, then we can have the lawyers and make the shareholder agreements and make all these more formal contracts. So, so I’ve been kind of relying on these MOU for a lot of my ventures.

[00:40:04] And, um, it basically has the IP right in there saying like anything that’s contributed during this time, while you’re a part of this is owned by this company or this entity. Yeah. Usually, if it has any kind of equity in it, it has a cliff and invest schedule. Like where’s the next couple of days to a spreadsheet, you know, from the dates so that it, cause I think the agreements, you know, just like anything it makes honestly it’s helped me keep my friendships because.

[00:40:34] I have friends that I work with, like we all do. And then life changes there either don’t like to do it anymore, or they found something else that they want to do more. You know what I mean? And by having a simple agreement, At least there’s a rule. At least there’s something that’s signed that has something that’s a rule book.

[00:40:55] So at least is clear on both sides that this is what’s supposed to happen. If this person no longer is able or willing to contribute anymore, you know, and then that. But of course it’s, you know, it’s tough to being forced these, but I still think it helps to have these, um, so I’ll link to a simple MOU and then, um, well, yeah, I think there’s even more and more of these like internet, lawyer company, so you’d get agreements, but, uh, yeah, I think like you said, the most important is IP.

[00:41:21] Uh, and then the sec, second is definitely, we don’t give away all the equity. They want to, you know, people sometimes contest that with me and I say, well, if I leave, I don’t. I don’t get it either. You know what I mean? Like everybody. So, um, so it’s on both sides, you know? So, uh, um, but that really protects because especially a tech company, early stage startup, if one of the founders leaves, it’s just like really.

[00:41:48] Get a hit the company I’ve heard usually even with big bolts, high national public companies, when like a high level executive leaves, the stock usually stock on, even as public stock goes down usually a little bit, at least, you know? So, uh, yeah, I mean, um, people need to realize that, um, what is it it’s been really fascinating, Thomas and, uh, thanks again, really for, for sharing these, uh, I think, you know, I think these are what these are the kinds of talks that people.

[00:42:17] You know, finding the right team and dealing with it and we can go on forever, honestly, but, but, um, is there any last parts you want to kind of like, you know, share or, or tips? Uh, I guess before we wrap up, um, think we didn’t really get to talk about this, but I think we, one thing about, you know, team building, um, the two thing I think, um, important.

[00:42:45] I actually to could cause made it one, fire fast and take your time to find it right person. Um, you know, don’t, don’t do this like, Oh, I need to get this done. I’m going to just wing this ABC and people. Aren’t it’s going to take you of more effort, a lot more hassle to let someone go. Okay. And it’s not just about that.

[00:43:13] You know, action, but it’s also, it hurts the team morale, you know, it’s it’s like you said, right. Kind of, I only say show me a weak side if I was like, yeah, it doesn’t, um, competency the team sometimes, you know, if you’ve that a lot. Um, and they would think, Oh, why are you betting on me? Are you going to just let me go like that?

[00:43:37] So, um, but if you do see someone. Um, that is not pulling their weight or just not working out with the team. Right. Sometimes again, they can be great talents. I always think that talent, everyone has his own cottage and other times things on Wako, it’s not just about the teammates, right. It could be their problem.

[00:43:58] And what the culture, that these people are really pre-formed. Uh, within. So, so, you know, if you do identify someone as in work, um, there’s another process. Trying to think about how to let someone go properly professionally. Yeah. But yeah. So, but you should do that fast, right? Once you identify that, definitely worse.

[00:44:21] This a good one to also wrap up, which is the main topics today. Um, and, um, also having an employee handbook, you know, obviously this discussion, this is like a whole course, a whole, you know, chart, never ending, but, you know, by having policies in place, you know, so that way, and there’s no questions, you know, or at least less questions about, about everything.

[00:44:44] Um, I made like a checklist for, for that too, the team, um, for onboarding and off boarding. Um, yeah, it does. It does is for sure. But honestly, the last other point of that is I’ve had people on the team think me when I fire somebody  they’re like final. When will you need that? You know? Yeah. A lot of, a lot of kind of business owner partner, they always worry about letting someone go.

[00:45:13] But what they didn’t realize is that, you know, on the team, they want you to do it. Or maybe even test you. Some wants you to stay at foot. Yeah. Yeah, they won’t. Yeah. That’s not picking on the Asia introvert, but you know, especially in, well, especially if they don’t feel like it’s their right to tell you as a person that’s doing bad or this person should go.

[00:45:34] I mean, it is kind of a big, the thing to say anyway, but I’ve had people thank me after. More than once. Yeah. Yup. And then I find the culture for sure. Cause then the others will see, Oh, this person was, you know, not performing. And this is what, like you said, I like, I like, I, yeah. I like I learned a lot today, so, um, yeah, really.

[00:45:54] Thank you, Thomas. Is there any, any, what would you like us to, you know, link on the show notes or help people find, you know, blogs or social or anything? Uh, websites for us to, uh, find more. Uh, yeah, I sent to you, um, I I’m on Twitter and that’s the most active, Thomas Pun, uh, your audience. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out if you need help.

[00:46:18] Okay, great. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. All right. Thank you. Bye. Do you enjoy the show? Do you enjoy how we keep up all this content? You know, I can’t, I wish I could say I did this all myself. We have amazing team members, management tools, systems, processes, man, just a handbook alone. We spent so many years making all of these processes and we’ve been helping other people with their podcast.

[00:46:41] Actually, we’re just signing on somebody else to do their podcast. And we do tons of blogs. We do some videos and others with our amazing team here at content. And is a little mini site. We put together for that. You can check it out, see different packages. If you want to work with us and our amazing team, check it out and it supports the show.

[00:47:00] Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Thomas. I mean, really, like I said, Nancy, I get to, you know, get really amazing inputs. Uh, I guess it’s one of benefits for grinding out these interviews 320 shows now, plus e-commerce gladiator plus some other podcasts I’ve done over the years. So I hope you enjoyed that, Thomas really thank you for sharing and check, check out what he’s doing.

[00:47:24] It’s really amazing stuff. And, uh, you know, he’s, we’re really good at dealing with people and I learned. And like I said, in the intro, if you made it blah-blah-blah session in, today’s talk right now, I will share, you know, I never said I was doing it right, but I didn’t interview you. Might’ve heard me talking about.

[00:47:43] You know, being maybe too direct or I used to, you know, I got called shadow on wall street. I was called quiet and fast, you know, and then I go into Asia and I try to manage like some sourcing e-commerce operations in Shenzhen in 2007 and eight. When I, you know, after being beat up on Wall Street, I thought I was pretty.

[00:48:03] You know, easy going, but in, in Asia I was scary and direct. Maybe it’s just also, I’m a foreigner, you know, and language and culture barriers, but it was a struggle. Many years still is, you know, I have a cross border marriage, my wife, you know, I have to still, you know, I guess maybe any marriage is tricky, but I don’t know how to say it, but I’ve, I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but like I said, an interview, I.

[00:48:29] Kind of gotten much more passive and I’m not as direct and not as aggressive. I don’t think I’ll ever was really aggressive, but now I really try to be so indirect and talking around topics, which maybe doesn’t fit this book or Western management. But I do think, you know, Asia business, China business is a bit different from the West and, but it was true.

[00:48:52] Like I said, an interview like then some, my assistant Jojo told me I’m being too weak now because I, I would never like. Say someone else made a mistake. I would always kind of say, Oh, maybe I wasn’t clear enough. Maybe, maybe it wasn’t a, you know, it was always never that person’s fault. So it kind of backfired on me, but reading this book, you know, rapid or.

[00:49:15] Radical candor. It’s kind of hard to remember radical candor. Uh, you know, I got it off Amazon and I’ve been reading it’s, it’s actually the interviews. It was only a week ago, so I couldn’t get through it as big book in the week before the, uh, the show came online, but I did get through a chunk of it. And I watched the YouTube video he talked about and I, uh, ran a blog post about it.

[00:49:37] The idea is, and I’m still gonna finish it. But the idea so far is. Not being an hole, but not being like, so passive, aggressive or indirect. I don’t know if, I don’t know if I really fat filth did that. I was, but they said to basically give guidance and feedback to your team. So they know if they’re making a mistake or not.

[00:49:59] And they actually, they like that rather than it being indirect. And it’s also when you fire somebody and they didn’t even know they were making mistakes and then suddenly they get fired. They get angry. That’s really so far what I’ve gotten out of the book. Um, and there’s four quadrants. Basically. The idea is you can be a hole, which, you know, some people say like big successful CEOs are a-holes because they just directly say what they want.

[00:50:22] They don’t care if they hurt your feelings. And they just I’ve actually blogged about this on my personal blog a long time ago, but you know, there’s the, a-hole a quadrant rat. Radical candor is. What they say is ideal. It’s being direct, but actually caring about the person, not just saying you’re wrong, this is wrong, you know, not being, um, but actually.

[00:50:43] you know, thinking about how the other person’s going to feel with it is feedback, but still giving them the feedback, not holding back on the feedback and any other quadrants is you’re not really giving them the feedback don’t want to hurt their feelings, but then it kinda hurts the whole company because everybody starts being not doing good.

[00:51:00] And it feels like you’re not caring. And, uh, that’s, that’s the other, other quadrants. I hope I’m right. Of course. Read the book yourself. Um, and then there was. There was the other one, which is, I’m kind of like passive aggressive, where you fake act like you care, but you don’t really care. And you’re just kind of manipulating people.

[00:51:21] So I think those are the four different quadrants and they say it’s very common for the one. Maybe I, you maybe, maybe Thomas is meeting. I was doing in the, in the China offices. You’re not really being directed at him. You’re you’re, you’re kind of trying to be nice to them. So you don’t give them this feedback.

[00:51:36] Uh, cause you don’t want to hurt their feelings. Um, I think that’s what it was. Maybe saying how it fits in this book. Maybe that’s true in Asia. I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t matter where in a world, even in the book, they’re saying this works in China, they talked about it in some tech company in Beijing that had used this and some executive uses really successfully.

[00:51:56] Um, but I do agree, like when you tell somebody. They’re doing something wrong, but you care about the person and you balance caring and being, um, a good manager, but also giving good feedback is what I’ve learned from this book. And it’s still not done with it and even say, look, I, and tape it on a wall. I mean, they do talk a lot about this being in person office though.

[00:52:21] That’s one thing so far, the book seems like everybody’s in the same office and it’s like meetings and, you know, water cooler talk. So we’re all online. So it is a little bit different. My, I think it’s true. You got to give feedback to your team. You can’t hold back on the feedback to her, not hurt their feelings and not to make you feel like you’re.

[00:52:42] Bad. You have to, if you care about someone, actually, I, I just finished teaching my kids. You know, I still teaching my kids, uh, in the afternoons. If you just don’t give them feedback about how to improve, they’re not going to improve. Right. How can somebody improve if they don’t know where to improve or that they’re not doing well?

[00:52:59] So that’s basically what I got, and this is a blah blah, blah session. So I don’t know. I hope you helped. And, uh, Thomas, thank you again for sharing. Definitely check out the show notes. We have a, you know, his photo and some other links at Cause it’s all about people.

[00:53:16] Right. Thanks again for listening. And I hope this helps you with your perspective of dealing with people, because whether you’re an Amazon seller or whether you’re, you know, running a startup or whether your traditional business you’re dealing with people. I mean, I, even if it’s freelancers, like, you know, even if it’s a.

[00:53:37] Not in what you would think are, uh, you know, dealing with people. You’re dealing with people all the time. I mean, even I don’t, I kind of like talking to this microphone, I, I maybe don’t like to deal with people so much honestly, but we do no matter what, and the better you are at it, the better your business will be.

[00:53:57] Thank you again. And, uh, see you next week. We got some great interviews lined up already. Thank you to get more info about running an international business. Please visit our website at That’s Also be sure to subscribe to our iTunes feed. Thanks for tuning in.

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