On 20th October 2015, I was blessed and lucky for the privilege to participate in a mentorship session with Lazada Singapore CEO, Martell Hardenberg.
It was a nice mentorship session, with about 16 participants including myself, and Martell was very, very approachable, down to earth, and actually very relatable.
What made him so relatable was a few things that I picked up that he shared as he introduced himself:
- he knew that he wasn't cut out to be a corporate executive or employee when he first started working – he knew that he knew he was going to be an employee (ME: this is important to me because I too feel the same way – I love entrepreneurship)
- he started from scratch. Even though people nowadays know him as a CEO of Lazada Singapore – he started his own business from scratch, which was acquired. Then he joined Rocket Internet who posted him to Vietnam to start Lazada Vietnam from scratch, which he did – armed with a laptop and a desk. After that was successful, he was sent to Indonesia, where he spent two years to build up Lazada Indonesia from scratch as Ops – armed with a laptop and a desk. And only after that he was sent to Singapore as Lazada CEO, again, armed with laptop and desk – from scratch. All this makes him very admirable and relatable – he has worked hard to get to where he is today.
The session went on as a he introducing himself >> describing Lazada and his experiences >> round of questions >> round of answers, and from the round of answers, I find myself taking a lot of notes which I'd like to share with you:
- To succeed, you need to have immense focus. Focus on selling what people is buying. Focus on the numbers and statistics of what are people buying, and who are buying, and keep driving goals.
- There is a need to understand the local market. By being local, you have access to information that global businesses do not understand, so you will have an information edge.
- The importance of quality control – without quality, there is no point selling, because it'd just fizzle out when people realize or know the quality suck. So focus on super high quality.
- Make stuff cool. When stuff are cool, it is less of a barrier for people to try and accept.
- Spend A LOT OF TIME selecting the right people – do not skimp on this – the right people will grow the business the right way, and tremendously. The best is to look for people that are entrepreneurial, hungry with a good attitude.
- Give your people the opportunity to try, grow and learn. Give them the chance to make mistakes and grow.
- You have to have a few mentors, and you try to learn from their best skills, techniques and experience; and also learn from their weaknesses and mistakes.
- More importantly, you need to let the customers tell you what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong – this way, you'll understand your local market.
- To rise up the ranks in any corporate structures, one needs to have clear communications with the senior management combined with deep analytical mindset (this was in response to a question asked about how to get a promotion into the senior management category)
- Engaging partners and customers proactively and openly. I think this is back to item 2 and 8, about understanding your local market.
- And to not be afraid to make mistakes BECAUSE mistakes are not life threatening – in fact, they facilitate learning, growth and are often reversible.
- If you want to embark on entrepreneurship, do not to do too much research and study – take 3 key metrics, launch and refine from there. Time is of the essence.
- One thing that specially impacted me was that he emphasised the need for an open door policy, and how he creates an hour every week called “Coffee With CEO”, where anyone can swing by and chat with him about anything at all under the sky – the access to him was important. I launched this almost immediately, and I've been getting responses like this:
Sounds like a great idea!
Though it may be too early to comment, but 3 positive comments have sprung up – see what happens.
That's my takeaway during that session with Martell Hardenberg, CEO of Lazada Singapore – really appreciate the initiative by NTUC and LinkedIn to coordinate and plan for such an event – thank you and looking forward to learning, networking and implementing more cool stuff like this =D