Andy Ann (CEO & Founder of NDN Group) came in to share with our cohort some of the insights and tips he’s learned from his entrepreneurial journey.
He’s had a rollercoaster ride, which started shortly after he quit his job at Ogilvy & Mather in 2001. Since then, he’s truly lived the definition of being a “serial entrepreneur”.
Over the last 16 years, Andy’s built and exited multiple businesses (along with several failures, too), which began with his first venture in the events industry in Lan Kwai Fong.
After being in the events industry for a couple of years, he recognized an opportunity and spotted the potential of building a digital advertising platform. This led him to build Hot Media in 2004, which is now used across lifestyle locations in Hong Kong such as Karaoke bars, McDonald's, coffee shops, and gyms.
As technology developed over the years, so did the complexity of his advertising platforms. Andy launched other startups in the same industry including Hotmob in 2007, which was a pioneer in the mobile marketing sector, as it offered a mobile advertising marketplace for both advertisers and publishers.
Klarity is his latest venture, which is a data-driven solution for enterprises that transforms big data from social media into reliable and actionable social intelligence.
After hearing his story, here are some of the main takeaways.
1. Allocate Time To Improve Yourself
One of the first tips he shared with us was that being a successful entrepreneur isn’t just about improving your business knowledge and skills. But, you have to focus on improving yourself, too. By allocating time in your schedule to focus on personal development.
It’s critically important for entrepreneurs to understand themselves, especially when it comes to mentally dealing with the inevitable ups and downs during the rollercoaster ride of launching a startup.
“You can truly hit rock bottom, but you can also feel the biggest highs. Unlike being in the corporate world, where the ups and downs of having a job are less severe.”
Because of this, Andy spends three months of every year, just focusing on improving himself. He uses this time to take courses, read books, and talk with mentors.
If your business isn’t growing, ask yourself, is it because you’re not growing either? Your business can only improve to the level of your personal growth.
Failure, at some point, is a guarantee if you’re an entrepreneur. You have to take risks. But instead of fearing failure, you need to embrace it and learn the important lessons it provides.
2. Outwork Your Competition
Andy never forgets what his late Grandad told him...
“We all have 24 hours a day. It’s fair game how you use it!”
Andy truly lives his life using this wisdom. He creates extra time in his schedule by working Saturdays and Sundays, which, he says, “Gives me three extra months per year advantage over my competitors who just work Monday to Friday.”
A tip he shared was to spend weekends developing business connections and closing deals, as you get more time and space to build better relationships. While on weekdays, he focuses his efforts on his team and employees to help build the businesses.
3. Utilize A Startup's Advantage Of Being Able To Move Fast
During the launch of Hot Media, Andy was negotiating a deal with McDonald’s to place advertising screens in their restaurants. PCCW was his competitor, and at the time, was offering a similar service. But, what enabled Andy to beat them to the deal, was his ability to move fast and immediately optimize his service to closely fit with McDonald’s requirements.
Large corporates can’t naturally move as fast as startups. The decision-making processes are much, much slower. It took PCCW three months to implement the changes which Andy could make instantly.
4. Be Creative To Close Deals
When negotiating deals and acquiring new clients, Andy stressed the importance of being creative.
Andy advised, “All companies are looking for value, especially large corporates. Don’t just focus on the pricing.”
While negotiating a deal with Sony to purchase TV units to be used for display advertising, Andy knew it wasn’t viable to pay the large upfront fee which they were quoting. Instead of giving up, he improvised, and explored how he could offer Sony extra value instead of money.
As a trade-off for reducing the upfront fee, Andy proposed to add extra value by offering them free advertising space on the advertising network he was building. And it worked. He was able to reduce his upfront costs by over 75%.
5. Take A Hit In Immediate Income For Long Term Recurring Revenue
An example he shared of this was during the launch of Hot Mob. Unlike most of his competitors, who were just focused at the time on building apps, Andy spotted the potential of building a Mobile Ad Network.
To acquire clients and the Ad space, he offered to build their apps for 50% cheaper than his competitors, but, with the condition that they would be their exclusive advertising partner.
Because of these exclusive contracts he managed to secure, the large overseas Ad Networks couldn’t compete with him, as he’d already tied up all the best inventory, which consequently allowed him to dominate the market.
He knew that business wasn’t just about generating short-term income. But, what’s more important is building long-term partnerships with clients who can provide you recurring revenue.
That’s how you build a sustainable business.