Feb. 8, 2022

Building Community and a Thriving Entrepreneurial Ecosystem with Tien Wong | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

Building Community and a Thriving Entrepreneurial Ecosystem with Tien Wong | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Tien Wong. Tien is the Chairman and CEO of Opus8 - private investment and strategic advisory firm. He is also Chairman of Lore Systems, an IT services company, Chairman of tech 2000, Inc., an Edtech company. Tien Wong is also the founder and host of the Big idea CONNECTprenuer Forum, a community of over 7,000 founders, CEOs, angels, and VCs.


Tien Wong is a successful entrepreneur who has founded many firms, served on the boards of numerous organizations and established a community that supports and encourages other entrepreneurs to succeed.


Some highlights:

- Tien Wong, on his early entrepreneurial experience and lessons learned from a failed start-up

- The driving force behind Tien Wong’s involvement in many different initiatives and organizations

- Tien Wong on the origin story of CONNECTpreneur 

- Tien Wong on elevating entrepreneurial activity in the Greater Washington DC DMV region.

- The most critical factors for entrepreneurial success  


Mentioned:

Justin Kan

Wayne Gretzky


Connect with Tien Wong:

Tien Wong on LinkedIn

Tien Wong @ Opus8


Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

MahanTavakoli.com


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 

PartneringLeadership.com



Transcript

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Tien Wong. Tien is a Technology Entrepreneur, CEO, and angel investor. He is Chairman and CEO of Opus8. Which is a private investment and strategic advisory firm. He is also chairman of Lore Systems, an IT services company, Chairman of tech 2000, inc., and Edtech company. And that's just a few of the organizations Tien is involved with. He is also one of the best community builders I've ever come across. He is Founder and Host of the Big idea CONNECTprenuer Forum, which is a community of over 7,000 founders, CEOs, angels, VCs. They do events half-day forums that get hundreds of attendees featuring VIP guests and speakers.

Tien is an Entrepreneur who has had much success launching his own companies, serving on boards of many other organizations. And also creating the kind of environment that nurtures other entrepreneurs and brings them to success. That's why I really have enjoyed getting to know Tien better over the past few years, having seen as impact on the community and really enjoyed this conversation. I'm sure you will too. I also love hearing from you. Keep your comments coming mahantavakoli.com There's a microphone icon on partneringleadership.com. You can leave voice messages for me there. Don't forget to follow the podcast conversations on Tuesdays, with magnificent change-makers from the greater Washington DC DMV region, like Tien Wong, and then on Thursdays with brilliant global thought leaders. Those of you that enjoy these episodes on apple, make sure to leave a rating and review when you get a chance. Same thing with Spotify, which recently launch its own rating system, you can leave a rating there too. Now here's my conversation with Tien Wong. 

 

Tien Wong my friend, welcome to partnering leadership. I am thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Tien Wong: 
Thanks Mahan. I really appreciate you having me on.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Tien you have done incredible things with so many different organizations, establishing a robust community in this region. And I can't wait to get to those, but before we do would love to know whereabouts you grew up and how your upbringing impacted the kind of person you've become.

Tien Wong: 
Sure. Of I'm born in New Jersey, so I'm a Jersey boy, Giants fan, Nets fan, Knicks and Rangers. My parents were immigrants. So they, all my grandparents are from China and my dad actually grew up in China and he went to Hong Kong in 1949. My mom grew up in Malaysia. They both came to the US to go to school. They met, got married decided to stay. My dad is an entrepreneur. He is an engineer. He was working at Bendix, but then he decided to pursue the entrepreneurial track, started a restaurant. And then that grew to two and eventually three restaurants that he own. And I was basically, the oldest of four kids and I was in restaurant early working , at a very young age. To stay out of trouble, that was in Ocean County in New Jersey.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
It must have been an interesting transition for your dad as an engineer, to not only become an entrepreneur, but start restaurants, which have always been pretty tough businesses.

Tien Wong: 
Very tough business. I think, I never discussed it with him, but we were at first, the only Chinese restaurant in our town. And then there was another one that came, but at the time in the sixties, And seventies there weren't tons and tons of Chinese restaurants where we grew up. He had good service, great food and not a lot of competition. He did pretty well, even though the restaurant business is brutally tough.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
How was it for you growing up in the New Jersey town that you said , your father's was the first Chinese restaurant in town?

Tien Wong: 
There were two Chinese families. One had the dry cleaner and we had the restaurant. That's basically your traditional sixties, Chinese immigrant those two business lines. My parents did a good job of not making us feel particularly self-conscious or different. I didn't really think of myself as different. We were very active in the Catholic church. My parents, devout Catholics, we were in church every Sunday. We were involved with the church quite a bit. If anything, I identify more as Catholic. Even though we were the only, maybe one or two Asian families in the whole church, but I didn't think of myself as different. I grew up in a very ethnically diverse city. There was small city there were a lot of African-Americans And a lot of Puerto Rican's. A ton of Jews, so we had Orthodox Jews. We had hasidics we had reform and conservative. So it was very diverse place where we grew up. A lot of Polish, Americans, Italian, and Irish. It was a real mixing bowl. So I didn't feel really different.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Then why did you decide to go to Dartmouth and study government your dad had started his restaurants as an entrepreneur. You had worked at his restaurants. Why go pursue studying government?

Tien Wong: 
I didn't. Traditional Chinese family. They want their to be doctors or lawyers, mostly preferably a doctor. And I had an older cousin who three years older than me. He went to Harvard and then Harvard med. I went to Dartmouth hoping to be doctor. And then after about a year, I realized while I love the sciences. I really was interested in political theory more. So I basically became a government major. that's the story behind that. I don't think my family was very thrilled. When came home and said, Hey! I'm not pre-med anymore. But later on, I did try to make up for it by going to Georgetown Law for a very short amount of time before dropping out. But kind of did that as a way to make up for the fact that I didn't fulfill my, family's dream of being a doctor.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
At that point Tian, I wonder what were you aspiring to do and become. You've had a lot of great entrepreneurial successes. What did you aspire to do when you were in college?

Tien Wong: 
I think I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And back in, 84 back then you didn't do entrepreneurship as a career. You either went to wall street or you worked for an ad agency, or you worked for a consulting company. My dad was an entrepreneur. My mother is an entrepreneur. Her father was a great entrepreneur. All I knew was entrepreneurship. I was in the family business at a young age. My dad didn't work nine to five in the bank or anything like that. I didn't know any different. I knew that I wanted to control my own destiny. I really wanted to be independent and not have to depend on anybody. When I was in college I knew I would do something entrepreneurial, my first job out of school was to join one of my best friends in a venture that he had started. He graduated a year ahead of me. And I just joined him and it was a startup, it didn't work out. I got some valuable lessons. But I didn't want to go through the traditional corporate recruiter. I didn't want to go to grad school right away, which is what a lot of my classmates did. So I just struck out on my own and said, yeah, I'm going to just do this entrepreneurial thing. And of course, a lot of my buddies in college, right? What are you doing? Now, today it's kind of cool, cool to go work for a startup, but back then I'm talking 37 years ago, it was not cool.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
It's for the people that couldn't get the jobs that the IBM's of the world or to consulting firms. They would end up starting their own businesses. Now it's seen because of some Silicon Valley successes. As something, a lot of people aspire to even in college, but it was very different.

Tien Wong: 
It was totally, completely different. That was basically two generations ago.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
You started with your best friend's startup and that failed. Why did it fail Tien and what did he take out of that experience?

 

Tien Wong: 
It was a great idea. It was the men of the Ivy league calendar. We've got these professional models. They graduated from Ivy league schools that were working for these agencies in New York city. We were at the time living in New York city. And, we had a great product and I think, we focus so much on the product. We did not focus on distribution and sales and that crushed us, burn through a ton of money and just didn't work out. The lesson I learned there is that sales is everything. It's really important to sell it and you see the great companies like Microsoft or some of the great telecommunications companies. They focus on sales, even if they don't have the best product they're just selling. That's the key lesson for me that I've taken from there.


Mahan Tavakoli:
 
And, you've used that in a lot of different startups. You've had at one point you had a business that you built up to 2200 employees. That's a pretty large business that you were running. What was that experience like for you Tien.

Tien Wong: 
Well, there were so many stages. It was a 12 year journey. basically three guys in a garage 50,000 in credit card debt each. Sort of, traditional entrepreneurial story. So every step along the way. We had a milestone or, we landed a big customer or we grew, or , we added a second facility and we got capital from the outside. Every time we did something. That was sort of like, watershed event. We just kind of looked at each other and said, wow, this is great, but we always stayed humble. We knew, if this thing gets too big, we're just going to have to hire a professional manager to run the business. It didn't turn out that way, we got up to about 80 million run rate revenue. One of the largest CRM call center companies in the US privately held. And it just turned out that we were able to step up along the way something, you hear a lot of stories about founders who keep make the transition to running a business. And I'm sure we would've hit that wall at some point, but guys like Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. they're freaks. They're able to start a business from scratch and run a That's multi-billion dollar enterprise. Not many stories like that Elon Musk, I guess we count for that. There are several, but it's very hard to do. And it was a challenge every day, basically. It was exhilarating on some days, it was stressful most days it was incredibly rewarding. And it was a great experience.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Tien, what helped you be able to make those transitions? Because except those freaks of nature that you mentioned that built billion dollar companies and are able to stay as CEOs. It is a significant jump going from, three people in a garage to a 2200 person employee company. How were you able to grow into the role as the organization grew?

Tien Wong: 
It's the first time I've ever been asked that question, but if I had to answer it. I would say I was born very lucky. I was born with the continual improvement gene. With that comes, the I'm never satisfied gene. Because I'm always looking to get better and better and what my company and my ventures is to get better and better. Incrementally every day, I think that helped a lot because with that, you keep a learning mentality. You're always open to new ideas, you're open to innovation. And having that genetic composition is really beneficial. If you're an entrepreneur, you don't get satisfied. You don't win the game and think you're on top of the hill. You win the game and you realize he got a lot more to do. And you've got to get a lot better and you look at the great champions of our time. Tiger Woods is Michael Phelps, you know, they're always looking to get better. It makes sense to me, people like that they're not made, they're really born to have that ability to get in a pool. Get out on the range, just work your butt off to become the best in the world at something. I think that's the real reason is that I have that genetic DNA it's something you're just born with, it's not like anything you had learned, I'm sure if I didn't have it. I would have had to exit my company. As in that, as a CEO a lot earlier, I would've had to hire a professional CEO.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
You've continued growing and that is something unique Tien because in many instances, what I find is people reach a stage of life where they feel like they know it all. They don't need to grow as much, they don't need to learn. You've continually learned and have been growing. How were you able to maintain any connection with the family when you had to work so hard as an entrepreneur?

Tien Wong: 
To your point about knowing it all. the more I learned, the more I learned that I don't know as much as I thought I had learned and that I know it's funny. it's like a lot of scientists think like that the more they know the more they realize there's more that they don't know. it's hard, man. It is so hard. I don't know if there's such a thing as work-life balance. Honestly, I know the younger set that are listening to this podcast are going to hate that. Cause there's this push towards work-life balance and that you can have it all. I think the reality is if you want to build something special, you have to sacrifice something. Whether it's your health or your family or your friendships. For me, it was my health and my friendships, I think it's very, very hard to do it all. Your company is basically all consuming at all times and your clients are all consuming at all times. And I don't know if there's any other way to do it. Maybe an old dinosaur baby boomer type that can't see how you can have it all. But I'm not being negative or pessimistic, I'm just trying to be realistic. I know what it took to build the business, and it's hard to do that and have a great family life and have a great health and everything else. I think, our travel schedules were crazy. So that's hard, but when you have three young kids, that's the main driver behind my spilling the company. It wasn't cause I was tired. I was only 40 years old, but I had three young kids at home and I wanted to spend more time with them.

 Mahan Tavakoli: 
It took some sacrifices on your front and at the same time you had to prioritize work and family. what I find Tien is that what you just said does not make for great clickbait. The great clickbait is you can have it all and because that's what people want to hear. Sometimes they don't want to hear that you have to make real sacrifices. At least in some aspect of life, because there are other people that are competing and are making those sacrifices to be able to achieve their business goals.

 Tien Wong: 
Hundred percent. I think that it's sort of like, there's no real magic bullet. There's no real replacement for hard work. People are saying, I'm not going work as hard. I'm gonna work smarter. Well, that's great. You need to work hard and work smart. It's not like either or, it's both. And there's a lot of people that work hard that, find it super difficult to build a business because they didn't work smart. But, you'll see the successful ones do both. They work hard and they work smart. I don't see many people who work smart and don't work hard, build something special. I just haven't seen that very often. Those guys are true unicorns, if they're able to do that.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
Tien, when I look at all the things that you've been involved with and you continue to be involved with that, whether is as CEO of Opus8, investment advisory firm, you started back in 2002 as chair of Lore Systems started in 2008 founder of CONNECTpreneur, which we'll talk about later 2012, chairman of Lumious. I can take the rest of the podcast. Just talking about the many different organizations that you have founded. You're still the chair of the many organizations, your involved with CIT TEDCO, Conscious Venture Lab. The first question that comes to my mind before talking about some of those is, what drives Tien? Because you are doing a heck of a lot. I can't imagine how many hours of sleep you get a night, if any, what drives you? What do you want to achieve with all of these different initiatives that you're involved with?

Tien Wong: 
That's a great question. I think I'm driven towards excellence. I really believe in excellence of any kind of musical artistic, athletic, business and people. That's sort of a generic driver that I have It's not, I'm not driven by size. I'm not driven by a market, sheer growth. I'm really driven by best business in my sector, than the biggest all day long. And I think that I'm just driven towards excellence. So some of the organizations I'm involved in, I want to have a community be excellent. want to have the entrepreneurial technology and investment communities do better. And if I can play a small part in that, I'm driven to do that. At Georgetown, I'm an entrepreneur resident's been there for like 11 years or more. Again, I wanna help out, I wanna contribute the way I can. I think that's probably what drives me. I have a passion for helping people, a passion for excellence. I love solving problems, so that's why I like business. I love working with the clients. I love looking at difficult challenges and coming up with strategic ideas and solutions to fix them internally and externally. So that's what drives me on the business side. And I like new things. I like new technology and innovation. A lot of the businesses I get involved in as an investor or an advisor is they're doing really cool things and I'm trying to improve the human condition. Maybe it's a bunch of stuff that I, gravitate towards.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 
There's an element of excellence and an element of improving the human condition. When you look at all of your different involvements. Do you see any commonality or any strings? Because I'm sure someone as busy as you gets lots of opportunities and lots of offers to be involved. How do you choose what you want to be involved with and what you want to contribute to Tien?

Tien Wong: 
The organization I'm involved in the common element they have is I usually have a friend involved or they asked me to do something. I was involved with the Maryland Venture Fund because the governor called me I was involved in different organizations because I have a friend on the board or a friend dragged me into it, kind of, it's not like I had strategic vision and said, I'm going to join this board. And this board, this board. It was more like people are asking me to join the board. And of course I say no very often because time is valuable and if I do something, I gotta, do it all the way. I don't want to do it you know, half ass. But I think that's the commonality is that I was asked by a friend and I was sold on the vision of the organization or the goals, and I thought I could help, like, same thing with Georgetown, with Jeffery. And I was at Maryland for like eight or nine years as an entrepreneur resident there. I took one year off and then Jeff called me in, he was just building up his entrepreneurship initiative. You know what I do, I do miss working with professors and students and the community. I love the university environment. So yes, count me in and I've been in for quite some time CIT, I think it's going on 13 years. Yeah. I like to also stick around, if I like something, I stick with it.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
There are a couple of elements you stay consistent. And for everyone listening to the podcast the lesson learned in this one is if you want Tien to do something, find a friend to guilt Tien in getting involved. That's the best way of getting your involvement, but you also Tien are magnificent at the connections and community building. Which I think is a super power into this future decade that we're going into. I think community really matters for a whole host of reasons. What initially got you interested in community and then eventually starting the CONNECTpreneur.

 

Tien Wong: 
Again, it was a very organic thing. It wasn't like something that I had planned out that, oh, I'm going to build this community of entrepreneurs and investors. It was CONNECTpreneur, which is the world's largest monthly pitch event. And we've had 25,000 people attend our 68 events over the last 10 years, something like that. We started very humbly and small. We just have like 140 people at the tower club. It was an idea to bring a lot of my friends together that I've co-invested with or companies I was involved with. They would present, I had some speakers, mostly all buddies of mine, and then we had people there and it was just a way to, mash up sort of like-minded entrepreneurial, innovative optimistic thinkers. Get them in a room for half a day and just celebrate entrepreneurship, make deals, make connections. A lot of these guys didn't know each other. And I was also promoting a couple of companies I'd invested in, It was a great kind of selfish thing. I had no idea it would grow into this huge brand of its own and it's been good for my personal brand and we have built a great community. It's now post COVID, but it's a global community now. 3000 investors, something like almost 800 presenting companies. It's a thousand entrepreneurs that are presented. these are people we take care of. You know, we have a slack channel for them. We do masterclasses. We treat them like customers, even though they're not like quote unquote customers. And it's still a labor of love. It's not a hugely profit-making venture. It's more top of funnel for other things that we're doing that we're involved in, that we're investing in. But the main core goal of it is to provide a venue and a vehicle for community, for entrepreneurs to be with each other. It's very lonely at the top. There aren't a lot of resources out there. We do have great organizations in DC. I'm sure we have a lot of great organizations, Maryland tech council, obviously. You have the Northern Virginia tech council and , other organizations that are wonderful. But I think, what they're all missing is they don't have place to put capital together with these entrepreneurs. And that's the difference that we do, we actually have tremendous connectivity to capital. I think we're one of the largest investor networks in the world over 3000 accredited high net worth, private investors and angels, family offices that are a part of our community. So we want to conduit to help our investors find great companies to invest in and help our companies have great investors to invest in them. I wish I could say we intentionally intentionality, we were going to focus on building this awesome community. No it was very organic, somebody said, After a few years of doing an in Virginia, why don't you come over to Montgomery County? So we went over to Montgomery County, then we went up to Baltimore and then with COVID we went virtual on a monthly basis. I think we'll probably expand, we'll be more intentional about our growth. We hired a full-time community manager, who's wonderful. And we'll probably have more treat it more like a business with a grand strategy and vision. You'll see us do some big things. I think over the next five years.

 Mahan Tavakoli: 
You have done big things and it will continue. The podcast has lots of listeners across the country and across the globe. And for many people Tien, it would be a surprise that there is such a robust entrepreneurial climate in the greater Washington DC region. At the same time, Steve Case also talks about the fact, the rise of the rest how Silicon Valley, Boston and New York get the primary funding and have a lot of entrepreneurial activity. What do you think it will take for greater entrepreneurial activity in this region, there is a robust community that you have been building and supporting. What does it take to elevate the activity that we see this community and this region.

Tien Wong: 
Think to elevate, we probably need more capital coming in, more saying it's super angels and family offices. And VC's, you're seeing that with COVID. People we're doing deals on zoom. They're doing their due diligence on zoom used to be, you had to be within a two, three hour drive or the company that a VC would invest in. Now you have VC's from around the world, investing in Washington through zoom. So if that continues, that will be a great thing, and I think more role models. You see more role models of IPO's more role models of exited entrepreneurs that are putting money in time, back in. To the community you saw that's, that was a big benefit that Silicon valley had. You have these multiple time entrepreneurs who stay in the market, they don't retire and run off into the sunset. They stay involved as a mentor, as an investor board member. And as we see more and more of the Steve Cases of the world doing that here in the DC region, it's going to only get better.

 

Mahan Tavakoli:
As you said the entire community being supportive of it. As the entrepreneurs are looking for guidance, looking for support, looking for funding. You have been both an advisor too, and have had your own entrepreneurial ventures. When entrepreneurs ask for your advice, what do you say are the most critical factors for entrepreneurial success Tien?

Tien Wong: 
Number one is grit. Number two is grit. Number three is grit. They gotta be able to take a punch. They gotta be able to get knocked down And, get back up. They have to love getting punched out and they need that I know it sounds a little bit crazy or sick, but the best entrepreneurs are oftentimes more survivors than winners. They survived. They were able to survive they hung in there. They hung in there, and hung in there. And through ups and downs, they hung in there and then they wound up succeeding because they were just so persistent. It is totally all about grit, I think just like the best boxers are not necessarily the ones that punch the hardest. They're the ones that can take the punch. Muhammad Ali was known for his speed, but really he was world-class at taking a lot of punishment. He was able to withstand amazing punishment. That's why he was great. But you read about his speed, he was both, but entrepreneurship is just like that, you're going to get knocked down every day or every other day and you have to accept it and more than accept that you have to learn from it and stay positive and move on.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
And one of the things you've done, including with CONNECTpreneur going into virtual is that you've not only taken the punch of COVID you've become better, as a result of it. As you look at whether it's organizations and the perspective on future of work Tien, there are a lot of different thoughts with respect to what that future near term. We're not talking 10, 15 years from now will look like for businesses whether they're entrepreneurial and others. What are some of your thoughts and perspectives on that future of work.

Tien Wong: 
I think virtual is here to stay. I don't know what percentage it will be. Certainly those who don't need to be in an office under one roof will probably benefit by staying virtual and employers that want to retain their employees, giving them that flexibility. There's certain jobs that require physical presence. Those are jobs that will eventually wind up going back to face to face. You see the great companies in Silicon Valley, they used to believe that programmers need to be under one roof because of the water cooler stuff and the collisions and interactions that they have with each other. They can share ideas to build a better product. I do think there's some truth to that. But , it's hard to manage a team of programmers remotely and we've tried to do it. I think we've had mixed success at it. Much better to have everybody together. So I don't know what's going to happen with the coders and programmers, software engineering industry. But generally I think It just depends. It depends on the job function itself and it depends on the how forward thinking the company wants to be. I mean, old school companies are definitely going to want people to go back into the office. They're going to lose people for sure. And you've heard about the great resignation and you've heard about gen Z gen Y, they want the ability to walk the dog in the middle of the day and hang out with their kids, which I totally respect. And I'm all for that. But I mean, employers really have some tough decisions to make.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
It's really hard for a lot of my clients Tien and people I've conversations with, they really don't have a clear vision of where things are going to go. It's to a certain extent guesswork and trying to dial the knob a little bit to the right, a little bit to the left, without real clarity of where things will settle.

Tien Wong:
A hundred percent. I think people are still trying to figure it out. And until this whole pandemic is truly under control. I, don't know where it's going to shake out. You've seen reports of companies pushing off their, must come back to work policy two, three months. They've done it repeatedly, I don't know how long that'll continue. But at some point, if companies are successful, their customers are happy. They're making money and people are still remote. There's a strong argument for continuing with that.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
I also believe part of what is minimized is the fact that all the employees and all the people have also changed as a result of these past couple of years. It's not as if the individuals are really ready to go back to the way things were, if the companies want. So that causes a lot of challenges. Tien, you are coaching a lot of entrepreneurs. You have a lot of your own companies. If you were to look back and give young Tien some advice coming out of Dartmouth working for his best friend's company. What advice would you give for that young Tien to be able to be as successful? If not more so than you've been.

Tien Wong: 
I think life is short. That's the most important thing when you're 22, 23 years old, you think you're on top of the world. You're invincible. You're going to live forever. But the fact is life is short. So Because life is short, the true commodity in life is time. That's the most valuable commodity we have. And which means don't waste your time doing something you don't love. Like if you only like something or hate it, get out, get out right away and focus on something that you really love. Or if you don't know what you love, then just try a bunch of things until you find something that you do love and then go a hundred percent all in on that. And then you'll figure out a career in that space somehow some way. That would be my main thing is, life is short. The other thing I would say is your network is your net worth. So it was very important to build a network, not just wide but deep also. Why? Because the network is the one thing that cannot really be hacked. It cannot be automated and off shore. You can off shore everything. You can move out all the world's intelligence onto one Google search bar, so knowledge is no longer the competitive advantage your strength and depth of your net worth is definitely a competitive advantage and it's portable and it's permanent and it grows organically. I would just say that build your network with sincerity and authenticity and spend a lot of time doing it. You spend time in the gym, you spend time brushing your teeth, same thing in business. It's the equivalent of going to the gym. If you do it every day for 20 years, you'll be incredibly amazing. And if you skimp on it, then you windup hurting yourself career-wise.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
The beautiful thing about you Tien is that as I've seen you in the community, you do that sincerely yourself. These are not necessarily words of advice you have for others, it's what you do. And how you lead your own life and how you've been able to connect so many different organizations in this region and establish groups like CONNECTpreneur, which allow for a certain level of that community and some of those establishment of networks for people to take advantage of.

Tien Wong: 
Thanks for that, I really appreciate it. And you're an expert at this as well, you understand. For sure, it's really great for young people to pursue that or, to think in those terms and get a head start, a financial advisor might tell a young person. Hey, put some money in the bank every month, put a few hundred bucks or 500 bucks because compound interest. And that is exactly what the network is, it's compound interest. It will just compound geometrically. Yeah, very powerful.

Mahan Tavakoli
I'm also a big believer in it. Tien are there any leadership practices or resources you typically find yourself recommending whether for entrepreneurs or leadership in general?

Tien Wong: 
Well, yeah, I'm a believer and were reading a lot. There are certain blogs out there that are fantastic. And I'm not going to recommend like, like one specific blog, because I think different people have different needs at a particular point in their career or in their life. I found that with me when I was younger, I really liked this particular author. When I got older, I didn't like that person I had other needs. I wanted, I think you've just got to do a ton of reading there's a lot of niche bloggers out there. They're fantastic. And there's also the stuff that you normally read. the Harvard business reviews and the wall street journal. The economist will give you some good general information. But I try to do a lot of study on my own, I didn't get an MBA. So, I had to learn on my own. Also just talking to a lot of other peers and CEOs about some of the challenges that they're facing or having a greater advisory board. Whether it's a company advisory board or a personal advisory board you want to have a group of people that are on your team that are, selflessly helping you with think through problems and issues.

Tien Wong
And. YouTube is a great resource as well. And I think eventually TikTok will be, I do see some great, I'm not kidding you. There are some amazing guys on TikTok that are providing great instruction. Justin Kan is one for sure. I think most of the people that are familiar with technology know Justin but it's good for golf, it's good for tennis tips. And YouTube is really a great resource. And but I think that really, it's just such a tough question to answer generically because while Peter Drucker might be great for you at this particular time, maybe John Maxwell would be better at this time. Or maybe Tony Robins will be better at a different time, but you know, there are 25 to 30 pretty well-known authors in the space. And I didn't even think just kind of, be a generalist and figure out who you like, who really resonates with you right now? Where are you in your career? Are you at the beginning? Are you in the middle? Are you sort of at the C level and then kind of go from there.

Mahan Tavakoli: 
And I think the most important point that you also made earlier Tien is that there is a need for constant learning and looking at opportunities with a growth mindset to continually learn and grow. One of the challenges I have with whether some leaders that I coach or some of the ones that I interact with is that they have been so overwhelmed that they say, I don't really have time to read. I don't have time to learn, and I think one of the biggest mistakes with the pace of change being as fast as it is. As Emmas Heart talks about the exponential changes we're going to experience because of a whole host of different factors. It requires us as leaders to pick up our pace of learning. Whether our preferred mode is on TikTok or YouTube or reading hardcover books is not as much to the point as constantly having that obsession. With learning and growing. 

Tien Wong:
Hundred percent could not agree with you more. Those who don't have time to learn will become extinct pretty quickly. They will become extinct. In the most obvious case, you have a software engineer. If they're not up on their certifications, they will become extinct medical doctors. They have to stay current, the pace of change as you mentioned, is is amazing. And if a doctor doesn't stay up to speed, they will become irrelevant relatively quickly. It depends on where you are in your career. If you're older, maybe your lilbit change is less important to you because you're going to retire soon. But if you're younger and starting out yes, with all the artificial intelligence coming out, you could probably be obsolete by technology within 10 years or 15 years. You never know, so you do want to go skate to where the puck is as Wayne Gretzky is to say.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 
You have continued to skate to where the puck is Tien and you have continued creating a community and opportunities for others to skate to where the puck is most especially, in the greater Washington DC region. So I appreciate you taking some time to share some of your background, your experience and what excites you. Tien Wong.

Tien Wong: 
Thanks Mahan. It's a real honor to be on this podcast. Or remember when you watched it I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed many of your episodes and congratulations on the continued growth of the podcast and for all you do for the community as well. Thank you so much for your leadership. We really appreciate it.