Scaling The Future: Allen Lau's Latest Contribution to INC

Wattpad Co-founder and CEO Allen Lau is one of the newest contributors to INC.com, a leading site for business news, ideas, and inspiration.

His Column, Scaling the Future, will examine the challenges startups face in the innovation economy. It will also outline advice for entrepreneurs rooted in real world experience. An excerpt of his first column is enjoyable below and in full here

At a fast-growing company, it's easy to find yourself thrust into a managerial role without a fully developed skill set. It's the reason so many new managers struggle to find their footing in leadership roles that frequently evolve.

4 Common Pitfalls For New Managers (and how to avoid them)

As a CEO with more than 20 years of managing people under my belt, I've made more than a few mistakes. I've also witnessed a multitude of new managers make some of their own. If you're new to managing a person or a team, you should avoid these four common mistakes.

1. You Think "Manager" Means Most Productive Individual Contributor

I first started managing people when I was 26. Before I turned 30, my team had grown to 30 developers. On paper, I was fantastically successful. In reality, I should have fired myself.

Why? I didn't realize that I had been given a new job, manager. To be an awesome manager I thought I had to produce more code than any other member of my team. This management style created more problems than it solved, but it wasn't until years later that I realized this.

These days I understand that a manager's focus should be to ensure a team works on the right things effectively. You'll avoid a lot of chaos when you adopt this focus.

Instead of trying to have all the answers or produce the most results, direct your team toward the result you're after with efficiency and care. In a way, you help (not teach or demand) others to fish while you steer the boat towards the richest waters. A strong manager leads a high-performance team in the right direction.

2. You Accept a Managerial Role For The Wrong Reasons

Facebook's VP of product design shared a great post that goes further into the unintuitive things you learn as a new manager. She points out that most companies position management as the only route for career advancement, thereby creating a chase towards the role for the wrong reasons.

If developing a team and genuinely caring about their performance doesn't sound appealing, you may want to focus on strengthening your skills as an individual contributor (IC).

That said, you can try management out before deciding. In my early career, I was a manager for a few years but switched back to an IC because I missed coding. With the pressure of leading a team off my shoulders, I could hone my technical skills (as well as develop my people skills).

Once you've tried both sides, think about what you want from your career. How can you find balance while you develop your hard and soft skills? Don't get caught taking on a role you're not passionate about. Too many people already take on this complex challenge for the wrong reasons.

Read Allen Lau's Full Post on INC
 

Scaling The Future: Allen Lau Contributes Insights to INC

Wattpad Co-founder and CEO Allen Lau is one of the newest contributors to INC.com, a leading site for business news, ideas, and inspiration.

His Column, Scaling the Future, will examine the challenges startups face in the innovation economy. It will also outline advice for entrepreneurs rooted in real world experience. An excerpt of his first column is enjoyable below and in full here

Clone Wars: What Facebook and Snapchat Can Teach You About Disruption

The media is obsessed with Facebook’s rollout of Snapchat-like features, and what they mean for the two companies. It’s easy to see why - competition creates drama, and drama commands attention.

Facebook Vs. Google+. Periscope Vs. Meerkat. Foursquare Vs. Gowalla. Each major advancement in technology brings a wave of disruption that can level any playing field.

Every business is a target for disruption. Right now, someone’s coding a product or service that may fundamentally change the way you do business.

In my decades of experience in the tech industry, I’ve come away with a better understanding of why businesses go after each other, and what it takes to survive as either the champion or contender.

Underdog Contenders Steal The Title With:  

Belief

In the early years of Wattpad, my co-founder Ivan Yuen and I only made enough ad revenue a month to buy a single cup of coffee. Most entrepreneurs might have cut their losses and walked away, but a deeply-rooted belief in our company vision kept us in the game.

We believed our product would revolutionize how people discover, share, and connect through stories. Meaningful companies are built upon a strong, timeless vision.

Speed

If a problem exists in the market that your product or service can solve, don’t expect it to exist forever. Competition in business is time sensitive. In almost all cases, there is an extremely small window of opportunity to win.

Google solved the problem of search and became the portal to the internet. Snapchat pioneered ephemeral visual communication, then moved quickly to capture the market. Speed is one of the best assets for a growing company. Make decisions quickly and execute with purpose.

Ambition

In 1993, I left an unexciting job at IBM to join a startup called Delrina. When I joined the company, it had just over 100 employees. Two years later, the company employed over 700 people and was acquired by Symantec.

Riding that rocket-ship was a life changing experience. There I learned to be ambitious enough to aim for global scale and fearless enough to take on the toughest competitors. If you build an amazing product for a global market, the sky's the limit. Aim high and find excitement in the prospect of building a world-class company.

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Scaling the Future: Allen Lau's Advice for Writing Professional Email

Wattpad Co-founder and CEO Allen Lau is one of the newest contributors to INC.com, a leading site for business news, ideas, and inspiration.

His Column, Scaling the Future, will examine the challenges startups face in the innovation economy. It will also outline advice for entrepreneurs rooted in real world experience. An excerpt of his third column is enjoyable below and in full here

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Writing a professional email that results in a clear action is truly an artform. This may sound harsh, but no one is obligated to respond to an unsolicited email.

Time is a valuable resource and surveys show that the average American employee can spend upwards of six hours a day in their inbox! If that's the average, you can imagine what it's like for senior executives. Many view Inbox zero as a unicorn-like myth.

I'm not unlike the average American--I receive and send a flood of emails. While writing, I always keep this 3-point checklist in mind. It increases the odds of a response every single time.

  1. Ensure they open your email
  2. Ensure they've read and understood your email
  3. Ensure they respond

Keep them in mind and you can reach people on every rung of the corporate ladder. If you want to take your emailing writing a step further, consider these tips:

Leverage Your Professional Network for An Attention Grabbing Email Introduction

A great way to get your email opened is by way of introduction. As someone who's grown a massive social network, I can attest to the value of social proof. An introduction from someone connected to the person you want to reach will instantly increase your credibility and thereby your odds of an email reply.

At minimum, you should be able to authentically reference the name of a project or person your contact can recognize. If your email doesn't command attention, it risks falling to the bottom of an infinite inbox.

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Scaling the Future: Allen Lau on Why Diversity in the Workforce Can Be Your Major Advantage

Wattpad Co-founder and CEO Allen Lau is one of the newest contributors to INC.com, a leading site for business news, ideas, and inspiration.

His Column, Scaling the Future, will examine the challenges startups face in the innovation economy. It will also outline advice for entrepreneurs rooted in real world experience. An excerpt of his second column is enjoyable below and in full here

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Over a decade ago, I made the business decision to build a startup in Toronto, a city where more than half of residents are born outside of Canada.

It was the best business decision I've ever made.

The startup ecosystem in Canada is booming thanks in part to the country's focus on advocating values of openness, diversity, and inclusion. Since day one, diversity helped create rapid growth for our products in global markets. Here's why:

Global Perspective Spurs Global Growth

Your company's growth depends on momentum. To grow exponentially, you'll need to enter global markets sooner or later.

In the early days of our business, my co-founder Ivan and I searched for a way to kick start our audience growth. It was painfully slow until we made the decision to support additional languages on our app. The decision was a game changer, but it came with new challenges.

We couldn't read and understand the stories being shared on our site, and we had no context. Was it offending or inflammatory material? If the content was safe, how could we best serve users in these new international markets? At that point, we had no clue because we didn't have the knowledge or cultural insight. Luckily, we had worked with people who lived in these countries who could provide the insight we needed to strengthen our product.

Diversity isn't a vanity metric. It's valuable for any business looking to scale globally. The majority of Wattpad employees can speak a second or third language. Many are immigrants or first-generation Canadians with priceless global perspective that keeps our products viable in every market we enter.

Today, half of Wattpad's traffic is international. Our app supports over 50 languages and we have users in nearly every country of the world. Simple language skills only got us so far, global perspective is what makes us a strong international player.

An Inclusive Environment Encourages High Performance

Harvey Mudd College raised their graduating female science majors by 30 percent through approachable language, inspiring initiatives, and projects providing real-world experience. They're the perfect example of what can happen when you make the extra effort to create an environment that's accessible and inclusive.

When you welcome people with different backgrounds and allow them opportunities to shine, your workplace becomes an environment where people want to prove themselves.

At a major technology conference, CES, this reporter was shocked to find that VR designers had never considered why clunky headsets could be unappealing to women. To avoid costly redesigns and public backlash, the people you plan to serve need to have a seat at the table.

At Wattpad, we ensure our hiring efforts reflect the diversity of Toronto. In addition, half of our staff are female, and half of our leadership team are visible minorities.

This gives everyone in the company the feeling that they can aspire to grow here regardless of their gender, sexuality, or background. It's a powerful motivator for ambitious people looking to get ahead.

Read Allen Lau's Full Post on INC

Scaling The Future: Allen Lau to Contribute Insights to INC

Wattpad Co-founder and CEO Allen Lau is one of the newest contributors to INC.com, a leading site for business news, ideas, and inspiration.

His Column, Scaling the Future, will examine the challenges startups face in the innovation economy. It will also outline advice for entrepreneurs rooted in real world experience. An excerpt of his first column is enjoyable below and in full here

Tips for Startup Money Management

This post is brought to you by Wattpad Co-Founder and CEO Allen Lau. 

Thanks to Hollywood, most people think of waterslides and all-you-can-eat snackbars when they picture startup life. While it's true that startups are a fun and engaging place to work, there are many examples that debunk the myth of startup extravagance.

The world's most innovative and successful companies are built on tough decisions, smart spending, and diligent commitments to financial targets, not ping-pong tables.

Why? Warren Buffett says it best: "If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need."

How Amazon and Microsoft Leveraged Resourcefulness

Experienced business leaders know the importance of having extra funds during stagnant economic conditions. Through operational efficiency, you can gain independence from funding environments that bubble and bust while you overtake competitors who spend themselves toward bankruptcy.

Microsoft's infamous shrimp and weenies memo and Amazon's "door desks" tell the same story. We're saving now so that we can make the right investments later.

Here's an example from my own life: when Wattpad's co-founder Ivan Yuen and I travel together, we share rooms at lower cost hotels with free-wifi. It's an inexpensive way for us to get more face time and save money on travel costs--a win-win.

Investing our money and time wisely is so important to us that we've defined 'Resourcefulness' as a company-wide value: You do more with less, and only spend time on things that matter -- this breeds sufficiency and invention. And if you have questions, you ask.

If you make resourcefulness an organizational focus, effective money management creates savings that can be reinvested into your company to create faster growth. Entrepreneurs should lead by example and cut costs where they can.

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