by Willis Wee, Penn-Olson.com
Last night, together with a group of tech friends in Singapore, I attended a meet-up session with Arvind Rajan, the APAC Head at LinkedIn.
It was a casual session, and also a way for Rajan to understand the technology (and political) scene in Singapore and Asia. Rajan briefly shared a little about LinkedIn’s history and how he ended up in Asia. The rest of the session was totally casual, no scoops (unfortunately), and no hard-sell PR bullshit (thumbs-up go out to the folks at Edelman for an event well done).
When politics was the topic on the table I was mostly listening quietly, but I got a little more active when tech and entrepreneurship became the talking point. I was very glad that Arvind was open to share his experience as an entrepreneur.
He started his journey as an entrepreneur at age 22 dealing with electric cars, and eventually his company was acquired. He also founded Grassroots, an interactive public affairs firm that develops marketing and influencer programs for Fortune 500 companies. It was eventually acquired by Edelman.
I was surprised to discover that LinkedIn is the first major corporation he has ever worked at. He explained that he took on LinkedIn’s APAC role because he enjoys working in a start-up-like environment. And now that LinkedIn Singapore is hiring, the company is busy building a team and taking on exciting new challenges.
For fellow entrepreneurs, I noted the tips that I heard from Arvind’s discussion and have summarized them below:
1. Be fair, not tough.
I shared with Arvind that in my previous company people respected me but at the same time were scared of me. I played the “slave driver” role while my partner was the connector and the person to go to when there were problems. I explained that it is difficult to balance being tough and being a friend. Arvind’s advice was to be fair. Employees need to know that decisions are made out of logical business reasons and have nothing personal against them.
2. Set targets, monitor.
Whenever a new employee joins the team, it is important to communicate the goal. What do you want a new member to achieve in the next 30 to 45 days? Communicate that to him. He will have a better view of what is expected. It sounds like no-brainer but it’s something that a lot of companies aren’t doing.
3. Hire fast, fire faster.
Hiring fast is tough. But firing fast is tougher. Often, entrepreneurs and managers have a gut feeling if someone isn’t working well within a team. But we often ignore and dismiss this gut feeling which only drags the problem further. If someone isn’t working well, communicate with him the gap between your goal and what he is currently achieving. If needed, dismiss him straight if the goal wasn’t met. Of course, tip number one applies. Arvind emphasized the need to treat employees with respect, even when firing. Check out this article from TechCrunch too.
4. Build value, not for acquisition.
A lot of start-ups are built with the aim to be acquired. But Arvind said that acquisition is just one out of many exit options. There are just too many variables like competition and market need that would affect the chance of being acquired. In other words, getting acquired isn’t something that can be controlled. He said that start-ups should first build value and make the company profitable. With the foundation established, there are many options available like IPO, expansion and even acquiring other businesses.