In recent years, females have become more successful, progressive and ambitious in the workforce. There are also many cases of start-ups which are successful and blossoming in Hong Kong. Carman Chan, founder and managing partner at Click Ventures, is one of the best examples of a female success story, and also a veteran in business. She shares valuable experience and tips for both female entrepreneurs and start-up enthusiasts.
Due to traditional perspectives, women tend to have a “second shift” at home (housework). Did this ever affect you? Are there any ways to promote women in the field of business and technology?
There is an increase in the number of start-up enthusiasts. As mentioned before about the “second shift”, it indeed hindered the development of the female workforce. The house chores and participation in a start-up campaign would be overwhelming. However, Hong Kong’s habit of hiring maids is pivotal in relieving the workload for females. Other than that, we need to develop a lot of different methods for females to handle the work – life balance. There are many hardships that a maid could not solve. A strong support network with many female entrepreneurs’ is extremely important. In Finland, I met a friend who also experienced such a dilemma. She just gave birth to a baby, yet she needed to go abroad for a business trip. She needed a nanny to go on a trip with her and the baby. In the end, her support group managed to refer her a maid, whom ultimately took care of the baby throughout the entire trip. Support groups are also useful in giving daily tips, such as giving advice for childcare support, or applying software tools to manage the household activities.
There is an unconscious bias throughout the working sector, which makes it more difficult for females to step up in their career. For example, I saw a documentary on the plane about a female CEO changed her name to a male name, and found that she had more media exposure than before. Also, there is a research by Dana Kanz about female founders getting different questions from investors compared to male founders. Investors asks male entrepreneurs about their opportunities and their strategies in growth. Meanwhile, female entrepreneurs are approached with a more defensive manner, with most questions revolving around how they plan to defend their business. This contrast leads to different level of business opportunities, as a defensive conversation would result in less chances of funding.
However, I believe that females have the mentality to work things around. For example, some females now would make a counter gesture – When they are approached by a defensive conversation, they would first explain how they plan to defend their business, then make a counter argument for growing strategies, thus leading to an intuitive conversation with potential investors. This is actually more effective in acquiring attention from different types of investors.
So, are you saying that women actually have more of an advantage in the business field?
I believe females have certain qualities and subconscious training that allow them to have the ability to turn harsh situations to their advantage. Firstly, females are often raised with an ability to multitask, which is essential for all kinds of business. For example, boys in Hong Kong are not usually required to do housework. They are only required to study or participate in outdoor activities. Girls however, are often expected to help with house chores and to study hard simultaneously. This leads to an increase of female’s mental strength and a boost in a wider variety of skill sets. This is extremely beneficial in terms of being a successful entrepreneur. A wide range of skills is required to become successful, including counselling colleagues, managing finances, maintaining an organized structure in completing tasks etc.…
Secondly, females can be more sensitive towards emotional intelligence which is beneficial for teamwork and communication. Studies show that a founding team is more successful if they have both genders in the group, as females tend to be more patient and caring, which blends well in a team. This also leads to an advantage in social ability, as females tend to bond easily with each other, and thus find it relatively easier to build a network.
Finally, the unconscious bias of females creates a relatively harsher environment for female entrepreneurs. Yet, the impediments and challenges became a competitive training module. Females now tend to possess the mental strength, multi-tasking skills and a suitable personality for building networks and relationships.
Click Venture invested into companies such as MOGUL, a digital hub for Women and Sogal Ventures, female-led millennial venture capital firm that supports global female community and entrepreneurs.
Throughout your years in the business world, what is the most valuable experience or lesson you remember that helps to define who you are?
First and foremost, I learnt to let my colleagues or subordinates run free instead of being a “helicopter mom” in the company. This could further unleash my colleague’s potential and create an innovative working environment. A balance must be established, with the right amount of supervision and monitoring, combined with the freedom of innovation. Moreover, I learnt that ownership plays a crucial role in the process. Founders really care if they own the idea, and this caring is the ultimate drive towards long-term development.
Spending quality one-on-one time with the team and getting to know them individually would help to develop a positive company culture and allow you to manage a crisis situation when it arises.
Let’s turn our attention towards the public. As a successful serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, what would be your advice to the startup founders for managing a company? What are the key success factors for running a company?
Learning new tools and software are vital. A new era has begun, digital tools are now the key to success. Founders can share technology with each other, thus building networks and learning new tools along the way. These digital tools can help the company, increase your digital knowledge and creates a more satisfactorily and convenient working environment for their employees. In contrast with large corporates, SMEs have a greater advantage in adopting digital tools and maximizing their uses, as the company size is relatively smaller in comparison, and communication within the company is less complicated. Therefore, SMEs can use these apps to their advantage and make up for their lack of manpower.
Could you share some of your observations about the successful trails?
According to my observations, a founder’s drive is very important. A drive could result to the founder giving up easily or not. Also, does the founder know evaluation? Does he have the ability to fine tune his own business model? Moreover, knowledge and skills are very important as well. Last but not least, the ability to learn is an important trait for a founder. This could trigger the founder to review his own business model, through learning from other people’s business model instead of focusing on the flaws. Therefore, how the founder learns from the world around him is the most important trait.
FastLane has provided a range of professional services to start-ups and entrepreneurs since 2013. What would you suggest a professional accounting firm like FastLane can do to build the start-up ecosystem in HK and the region?
FastLane can continue to offer education to the ecosystem and to share the knowledge through training and open source materials which is very much needed for big or small companies.