George Chao // Ep 24 // Grit, Perseverance and Ownership

Welcome to Episode 24 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have George Chao on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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George Chao is the Founder and CEO of Uniworld Omniport and is an expert in consumer product development and direct to consumer DTC e-commerce. George founded his first e-commerce brand BBO Poker Tables in 2006 and is the leader in the poker and home gaming niche and later started Omniport Consulting in 2014 to help brands and companies create scalable products and sell more effectively to customers through e-commerce. In his career, George has developed products with and for many prominent brands spanning a wide range of product disciplines.

George is the product of UC, Irvine (Economics BA) and the Executive Leadership Program at Stanford School of Business and enjoys boxing and mountain biking in his free time. Enjoy an in depth discussion about how to make and sell physical products, and the challenges of building healthy and scalable company culture

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Transcript

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan. 

And my name is Maggie 

And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.

We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, Everyone welcome to the Asian Hustle Network Podcast. My name is Maggie

Bryan: (00:00:28) My name is Bryan

 

Maggie: (00:00:23) and today we have a very special guest with us. His name is George Chao and George is the founder and CEO of Uniworld on Newport and is an expert in consumer product development and direct to consumer e-commerce. George founded his first e-commerce brand BBO poker tables in 2006. And is the leader in the poker and home gaming niche and later started Omnipod consulting in 2014, to help brands and companies create scalable products and sell more effectively to customers through e-commerce in his career George has developed products with, and for many prominent brands spanning a wide range of product disciplines.

George, welcome to the show.

Bryan: (00:01:10) Yeah George, welcome to the show. Definitely want to throw out that George and I are actually in the same fraternity back in undergrad. Super happy to have a former alumni that’s so successful in the show.

George: (00:01:25) You know, without, without that connection, I don’t think I’d be in the Asian Hustle Network because, you know, funny story Um, when I think the pretty early in the infancy of AHN I started getting some, uh, fraternity buddies pinging me, I think it was like a Mark Weber and Mark Chen. Um, it’s like Join this AHN thing, join this thing and you know, I’m busy. It’s another Facebook thing that popped up. Like, what the hell is this? I ain’t got time for this, but they’re like, Oh, LTDs, uh, running it, you know, or fraternity. And I was like, just like, you know, most Asians go, Oh God, I got a connection to, you know, the, the founders then it was, it was all love after that.   

Bryan: (00:02:07) Super happy to, to have net through the group and, you know, figure out that our alumna’s are doing so, so well, you know,

Maggie: (00:02:13) yeah, so let’s jump right into it. George, can you tell us a little bit about your background, you know, where you grew up, where you were born, what your family situation was like, you know were they a very traditional Asian family or where they, you know, laid back, tell us more?

George: (00:02:27) Well, uh, thank you for that and, um, yeah, absolutely. Um, so I was born in Taiwan, uh, and I was there until I was, uh, eight years old, which is like first grade.

Um, so my Chinese although I won’t get lost is not like really super awesome. Right. But, um, my, both my grandparents, my mom’s side, my dad’s side were from, um, the, uh, the KMT naturalists. Um, Uh, government coming over from China during the Cultural Revolution. Uh, so, you know, I grew up in Taiwan and, um, when I was eight, we moved to my, my dad moved us to California so, uh, when we came here, we went to, um, you know, w we, we landed a Daly City. Which was, you know, still pretty Asian. So who was all right. Um, you know, back in Taiwan, I was, I was just, uh, a young kid running around friends, carefree, you know, the Asian, Asian culture just, you know, run around on life was good.

It was fun. But once I got to, um, California, Daly City are right cause it’s, it’s, there’s a lot of agents are still kind of. You know, fit in, but, um, in sixth grade, um, my parents, my dad decided to move us to Antioch, California, which is predominantly more, more white, um, at that time in the mid-nineties. And that was when I first got a, a unique, um, Yeah know sort of sense of what the US is like. Right. You get, you get a lot of, a little racism, a little, you know, um, which I thought was super strange. Right. Because, um, growing up in Taiwan, we’ll adjust the kid running around as it was awesome. Right. But, um, you go to school here and it’s kind of like, well, I don’t know, being super nice is like the right.

Like way here, you, you sorta have to be like a little tougher here, right. Or else they’re just gonna, you know, sorta try to bully you and try to sort of power move these things like that. So I distinctly remember in seventh grade, you know, like enough was enough. I was like, you know what? I don’t, I don’t think being nice is sort of the way.

To get by here as an immigrant, you know? Um, so one day I just, I made up in my mind, you know, I had enough, right. There was, I remember very vividly there’s this kid, his name is Craig. He was like, you know, one of the biggest bullies there. And my intent for that day I’ve had enough. Right? I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go. I’m gonna punch Craig right in his face. That was literally what I said when I went to school that day. And it was pretty funny. I went up to the school yard and, um, I was, I was looking for Craig, right. And before I found Craig, another kid, right. That was also sort of, you know, bully, like ran I ran into him first. Right. And I was like, Hey, where’s Craig. And he, he said something really racist. It was, you know, like childhood, uh, stuff, right? Like play playground stuff. He’s like, you know, I don’t know, but you know, why don’t you get out of here before I shoved some chopsticks up your ass or something like that? Right. It was like seventh grade. Right. So now immediately my focus is I don’t, I don’t remember Craig anymore. Right. So I turned around and I hit this guy. I would just remember him, his shoes just flying off. Right. And it was a big thing in the school. I just had enough. Right? Like, that’s kind of what I learned from, you know, Cal the US it’s a different, different world.

Right. So enough is enough. Um, it, what was really funny about that story is actually after word got around, you know, that this happened, Craig comes up at the end of the day and it was like, Hey, um, Do you want to be friends? Cause I heard what happened. I don’t want none of that. Right. So that was the first, you know, why I bring that up is, cause that’s sort of, to me as an immigrant, that’s sort of the vivid memory of what, how you have to be sort of in the US as you go about your, um, you know, your business and, and, and how, if you want to make something of yourself, you do have to be firm. Right. So enough is enough. Um, it, what was really funny about that story is actually after word got around, you know, that this happened, Craig comes up at the end of the day and it was like, Hey, um, Do you want to be friends? Cause I heard what happened. I don’t want none of that. Right. So that was the first, you know, why I bring that up is, cause that’s sort of, to me as an immigrant, that’s sort of the vivid memory of what, how you have to be sort of in the U S as you go about your, um, you know, your business and, and, and how, if you want to make something of yourself, you do have to be firm.

You do have to be strong and there has to be that line that you go, Hey, Right. So that was sort of childhood growing up. I played a lot of baseball. Um, I went to UC Irvine, which is where we were in the same fraternity. Um, although it’s a couple years older than you. Um, after that, um, I lived, I spent some time in China, um, and that’s where I really. Saw a couple of things. Um, international sourcing and manufacturing was just going over there. It was 2004, 2005. Right. So everything was starting to get made in Asia. And also, um, e-commerce was just starting to come up. Right. So that was like eBay. eBay was like starting to sell cars. Um, that was a big deal.

Amazon still sold books, or that was a thing right before Amazon was Amazon. So. Really, it was really intriguing to me that, um, well, what if I really learned these two things that were emerging, which scalable international is manufacturing and also e-commerce right. Those are two things of value and it just interested me.

So that’s where I started focusing and honing, um, Understanding around. Right. So after that I came home 2006, um, started my first company, um, built out up to a couple million dollars a year. Um, just the eCommerce side. It’s been, it’s been multimillion dollars for, um, quite some years now. Um, and, but in 2016, 17, um, I realized that I didn’t have all of the, uh, fire power that I need to, to make it to the next level issues in terms of building the culture that I wanted. Right. So, because of, uh, several reasons, I think we’ll probably get into that a little bit more on the podcast, but, um, I went back to school, um, went through the Stanford executive leadership program, uh, which is an amazing sort of one year, uh, program.

Um, after you’ve, you’ve sort of cut your teeth, uh, in entrepreneurship to really understand how to build that bottom up leadership and, and what, um, organizational culture and, and how to do all that. You know, organizational building. Right. So that really sort of catapulted my understanding of what it is that I wanted to do and house to achieve that. Um, and, um, yeah, that kind of brings us up to today. And somewhere along the line, I started a consulting company, helping people make products, um, and, and sell more things via e-commerce. So. I’m a little ADD. So I like to chase shiny things, right. So I like to solve problems, shiny things. So I’m kind of all over the place in terms of what I do, but the general, I guess, um, you know, similarities and everything that I do is just, it’s cool, fun, interesting products made, you know, if you can think it, we want to make it.

Bryan: (00:09:43) Yeah, definitely. That’s, that’s a really great story to you, especially about your childhood and being strong and firm. I can totally relate to a story. It was, well, I mean, how a lot of incidents where people just picked on me and I said, one day, this is enough. Like I’m just going to stand up for myself and be a stronger person. And I understand exactly what you mean by having it’s where it influenced my adult life as well. I tend to like, not be pushed around often, especially in the business world, I will push you around because of your age, your ethnicity, your size, any, any of that kid until I size you up, you know, and you’d have to stay firm. Especially someone like Maggie teaches is very firm.

Maggie: (00:10:24) Same. Yeah. I could attest to that too. I was bullied too. And you know, that was due to my size. And at this certain day, like, No, that you’ve had enough and you’re just fed up. And I think that trickles down to a lot of your presence mentality, and you know, how you shape yourself to be so good job for you for standing up and, you know, incredibly inspired by that.

Bryan: (00:10:44) Going back to your story too, like that’s amazing foresight, you know, most of you back in college, don’t look at how the world works. They look at what’s present now and you look at it like, okay, what’s fun for me right now. Like, can I go to nightclub? And I drink more. It don’t start looking. At the world, like you did, like you, you saw these emerging trends.

You’re like, Oh wow, they’re great. But the key differences, you didn’t let them; you didn’t just put it in the background. Like most people you thought about it. And then you took action. You overcome analysis paralysis, especially being so young. And an Asian fraternity too, like that, that’s amazing. How’d you overcome that analysis paralysis and one day you woke up and were like, Hey guys, I’m gonna start this ecommerce business and let’s do it.

Maggie: (00:11:28) and how did your parents react to that? Because I know, you know, you went to UC Irvine and they probably thought you were going to go through this plan to get a job or, or something like that, you know? So what was their reaction and how did you come over? Oh, overcome analysis.

George: (00:11:46) and, um, background, I come from three generations of entrepreneurs, so they weren’t, they weren’t so surprised. Right? So my, my grandfather, um, had a successful business in Taiwan in terms of our military radar, uh, because of his military background. And, um, my dad is a through, through an entrepreneur. So I was actually really bored at UC Irvine because I could not wait to go and do. Whatever it is that that I wanted to do. Right. The, I was a, I was just a C student. I just, whatever it took just to kind of get by partied a lot, had a lot of fun, but I knew that, Hey, once the chains were off, yo it’s it’s game on. Right. So I was lucky enough to spend a year after college in Beijing. And that was like 2005. Right. And that was just in Beijing, was the fricking Wild West. It was bananas, right? 

The rooming renminbi was exchange. It was eight to one. So for one us dollar, you had eight renminbi dollars. And at that point, if you had a US passport, you could not get arrested. Shit. You not are, you literally could do whatever you want. You’ll waive that passport and they go, Whoa. Right. So, but the result of that was everybody that was in Beijing at that time. This was three years before the Olympics. Right? So like, it was the wild West and everybody was entrepreneurial. Everybody was looking for that angle. They just didn’t know what it was going to be, but it was going to be something huge. You could, you could sense it, right. It was so much energy then. Right. And luckily enough, I’m always one of those people that like, I naturally have a problem solving mind. Right. So, and if I, if I latch onto a problem that you go, Hey, this is a complicated problem. I bet you can’t solve it. Then, then my comp competitive streak kind of kicks in and then, you know, I go, Oh, I bet you, I can. So, you know, I’ll think about a nonstop, you know, four weeks until I give you four different ways to solve it and go. Tata. Right. So in Beijing, that was what was going on at the time. It was, um, uh, scalable outsourcing or scalable manufacturing and it was e-commerce. Right. So those are two big enough problems to sink my teeth into. And, and when, you know, we, we identify to me and my group of friends, you know, start identifying, Hey, this is kind of where the thing is going. I could not stop thinking about that for like weeks on end. Right. And that just sort of like lit that pilot flight that, you know, basically everything snowballed out of. Yeah and Maggie, one more thing to go back to your original point about bullying. I think there’s one thing that is very important, um, that I’ve sorta, and it’s not my saying, but it’s, it’s, you know, you want to be kind, but you don’t want to be nice right. In terms of strength, right. Like nice as a pushover kind is, is, you know, you’re, you’re strong and your like, Right. So you want to be that’s that’s my motto. I want to be kind, right. I’m not an asshole right. At, by any means, but you’re not going to push me around, right?

Bryan: (00:14:58) Yeah, absolutely. 

 

Maggie: (00:14:59) Love that mindset.

Bryan: (00:15:03) you’re going back to like, like that’s pretty great that, you know, you had came from three generation the entrepreneurs. It’s awesome to hear, you know, a lot of people. Especially with my parents. I have to overcome a lot of barriers. I told them that I’m going to leave my job and I, why, why I was unhappy. And they’re like, what’s that?

Maggie: (00:15:21) A lot of them are like, what’s entrepreneurship. You know, a lot of parents, they don’t know what that is. And they a lot of them immigrated here so that we could find a stable job. So I’m really happy to hear, you know, you came from an entrepreneurial background, your family did as well. So, you know, you already had that foundation where you have support from your parents. So, you know, going into e-commerce would love to know, you know, what are some mistakes that you did. That now looking back, you could tell yourself, Hey, like I wish I knew this, but

Bryan: (00:15:53) to talk through your entire journey, like when you started, how you raised money, how you made money, how you’re hiring your first employee.

Maggie: (00:15:59) Yeah. Some of the hurdles and mistakes that you did that, you know, our listeners could learn from in e-commerce.

 

George: (00:16:06) Um, great question. And this is, this is a pretty, pretty fun one. It’s a lot of like, you know, being an eCommerce 14 years, there’s tons of stories. Right. Um, and we’ve been lucky enough to sort of conquer a niche, which is the poker table niche, which is a very odd niche, but, um, thoroughly enjoyable and much fun going through it. So I started the company with, um, once I, once I realized these are the two things that I wanted to do, uh, so I’m still in China. These are two things I want to do. And the next week I’m talking with my buddies, we had just finished drinking the night before we’re partying a lot at that time. Like we were in the club, maybe like four times a week, something crazy. So afterwards we were like, e-commerce what do we, what did we do? You can literally do anything. Right. And we were like, well, you know, how about furniture? Oh man, that’s heavy to do you know? How about paint ball? How about bicycles? Like literally, there’s just like a list of interesting things to do. And finally, I was like, Hey, yo, I play a lot of poker in college and my buddy was like, I like poker. Yeah. Let’s, let’s go do that. Right. So it was the, sort of the height of the poker boom. Back in 2005, we wanted to do something fun. So I came home once we. Sort of honed in on what it is that we wanted to do. I came home. I was like, Hey, I think my time here is done. I’m going home on to start this company. Um, I checked my bank account. I got $2,000 in cash and I’m 24 years old. I come home and I connected with, um, a factory in China, um, buying, you know, poker chips and small accessories, whatever I can buy. You know, if I had to go through a handful of factories to find one that would even entertain a $2,000 PO company money. I don’t know. Due diligence, I don’t know contracts. I’m like, yo, you going to sell me stuff? I got money. Right. So I hit almost the money and stuff comes in and out at this point, I don’t know, really like. You know, I know I want to get into e-commerce, but I’m not sure I don’t program. I don’t code, you know, it’s like, okay, eBay, maybe it’s Craigslist. Right. Just to get started. I would start at the, um, the San Jose swap me to sell poker chips. Right. But the first lesson I got is all right, you better learn some quality control because all the inventory, the chips that they sold me that like the stickers on it, right. For the denominations, the stickers, I think they just sent me some, like. Like fucked up inventory that they had. Right. Every chip, both sides, the stickers would fall off. Right. So I’m like, I gotta do this. I gotta do two things, sell it to you. And I’d be like, yo, Bryan, hold on one second, turn it off. I can glue these things on a set. Right. So, uh, as humble as you can imagine is sort of how, how we started. Um, we started then going, Hey, you know, selling these small accessories, um, You know, really is difficult because there’s a lot of competition. The barrier to inventoryis pretty low, right. So I was looking around and I was like, you know what? Um, poker tables is interesting because at that time there was two types of poker tables in the market. It was either super baller, uh, handmade in, uh, the US like five, 10, 10,000 bucks per table. Or there was like cheap Chinese import poker tables, right. For like 200 bucks. And there was this just a huge void and it’s, it was obvious like, dude, why is nobody doing this? Right. Nobody was doing it because it’s fucking hard. Right. It’s not easy because once you start getting into, um, sort of freight logistics, right. And operations at the OPEX of, of, uh, doing freight poker tables, it’s very difficult. Right to try to do it at any sort of scale. Right. So I finally get enough money from, you know, selling little things and I put, I go all in on some poker tables, right. So I go, I find another factory. I don’t know them. Right. I shoot over 10,000 bucks. That’s like everything that I made. Right. And I wait 60 days now; imagine I had just all the money I’ve made. I. Threw it back in. And I went in on new products with a new factory that I don’t know. Let me ask you this. What are the chances that things are fucked up here?

Bryan: (00:20:37) Everything

 

George: (00:20:43) a hundred percent. Right?

 

Maggie: (00:20:45) So you give all your $2,000, to the factory you didn’t even know of.

George: (00:20:51) right? So, so I wait 60 days, I’m like, I’m like so excited and the day comes, the trailer comes and tows this 20 foot container. And we drop it. I remember it was 7:00 PM. It was already dark as me and my uncle. Right. He was just around and I didn’t realize that unloading a 25 and unloading a 20 foot container full of Poker tables is not easy. Right. Moving shit around. I was so excited. We finally got to the end. I opened the box. And it was trash. It was so trash. Right. So I was so upset. I was like, I was furious. I was like, Oh shit. My company is, is over before it even started. Oh, shit and I was pissed and I went and I went to my dad and I was like, Oh my God, I’m going to call him right now. And I’m going to, I’m just going to, I’m going to curse him out and I’m going to just, you know, and my dad’s very calming presence. Right? He’s very logical person. So am I, he goes, yeah, you can do that. I’m not gonna get your money back or you can buy a ticket and you can go there and you can teach them how to make what you want. Right. So this is 2007. Um, so next week I was in Ningbo China. Right? So I walk off the plane and I see this little, like little pudgy, you know, like Asian business owner coming in young dude, young dude couldn’t have been, you know, couldn’t have been 30 years old. Right. But I was like running up to me. He’s like George, he was like, Tate holds out his hand. Right. And I grabbed his hand. I just crushed it. I literally just, you just send me that container of shit. I grabbed him, get in the car. Right. And I spent a week at the factory redesigning every component of it, because what I learned was. Right. Yes. They make it in China or in China, they make a thing. Cause they know that it’ll make money and it looks like a thing. Right. Unless you actually go in and do the due diligence and make the product your own. Right. You could never depend on somebody and their iteration, their idea of it. Right, right. And go, Whoa. Yeah, that’s going to be good. There’s a hundred percent chance that I was going to say. Right. So. In 2007 BBO poker tables became the first company to have, um, Products that were designed correctly, but leveraging scalability. And then as we started developing economy, um, kind of grew market share, um, and we started figuring out the operational excellence component of it, which is how to get freight products across the US quickly. Then we added customizations. We added dining tops that you can hide your poker table. It turns into a dining table, right? So all these different things allowed us to then start getting that momentum and getting that distribution. And now today, um, this little brand, um, with all those crazy stories is the official, uh, poker table brand of the world, a world poker tour, the golden state warriors. Um, we’ve been at sort of every black tie event that, um, you can imagine. And if, if you play, if you see a poker table in a home, that’s not in a casino, there’s a great chance that I sold it to you. Um, and that’s sort of the first company, right. And from now on, but the problem with poker, it’s a very small market. So now you have to talk about, well, what’s sort of next, right? And the next step is really home gaming and the timing couldn’t be better because everyone’s stuck at home. Right? Well, what’s, what your option to, to be on Instagram and scrolling all day, or, or do you figure out a way where you can actually connect with your family, with your friends, with your kids right now that second proposition sounds pretty good. Right? So that’s where we’re kind of going in that the home gaming space, right. Because we’ve already done what we can in the poker space. Now it’s like kind of growing the product development.

 

Bryan: (00:25:20) Definitely. And I love that story too, that you just told it. It’s basically business fundamentals is like, you never assume anything. You know, you can never, ever assume that business soon, you lose a lot of money. It doesn’t matter if you’re, you know, in poker or myself in real estate in the contract is going to do it. Right. I come there. I’m like, All right. As well. I wasn’t imagining.

 

George: (00:25:42) Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Why didn’t we come up with the same idea.

Bryan: (00:25:46) Okay. You just put the back titles tiles in there, you go there and say, wait a minute, why is it like laid out for us? Honestly, he said at Berkeley stuff like that, you’re like, Oh no, you have to tear all out. And you’re like, redo it. And it costs you a hell of money.

 

George: (00:25:59) Yeah. You know what that is? That is, and I tell my team this a lot, especially my management team. It’s um, it’s head in hands out. Right. So you don’t want to do it, but you gotta have your head in and you got to know what’s going on on every single piece, but you can’t do it. Cause if you do it, which what actually happens is you, you take, you know, somebody’s opportunity of learning away. So you couldn’t do a forum, but you need to know what the hell is going on.

 

Bryan: (00:26:23) Definitely. And your dad also get really, really good advice too, you know? Yeah. How you just cursed them out. It’s very unconstructive. You went there and became constructive. You know, you spent some time there and really got it down to the core and got it. Right. And that story really, really reminds me of like Nike and how they started and shoot on

 

Tania: (00:26:41) is a great, great book.  

 

Bryan: (00:26:43) Very similar. How. It feels like, yeah. Put us mortars in Japan. And he came back and it was like, not the type of shoes I thought  it was going to be. So I flew to Japan and taught them like how to make shoes the way Nike makes it. And I really reminds me of your story too.

 

George: (00:26:58) it’s like the difference is that their, their market scope is like a trillion dollars of mine is X. You know mine tiny.

 

Maggie: (00:27:06) you took matters into your own hands. And, you know, you’re the advice that your dad gave you. It goes such a long way, you know? And I’d also like to point out that, you know, when the idea came up about you going into poker chips and poker tables, it was just a mirror like. I like poker. I like, I like playing poker, you know, I think a lot of people get caught up. Like, what is my passion? What am I in love with? What am I really knowledgeable or skilled about? Right. And people get tripped up about that because they’re like, I need to be really skilled at a certain industry in order for me to succeed in it. Right. But you just, you and your partner just pretty much that I like poker and that there’s an opportunity right there. Right. When you open those doors for yourself, you don’t need to be skilled at a certain industry. Right. There’s like. E-commerce drop shipping. You don’t need to know every single fact about that particular product, but you kind of, you know, made that opportunity for you.

 

Bryan: (00:27:57) You have to like what you work on. To be honest, it can be about anything, you know, as long as you ask it for, you’re gonna find ways to like, make it work and yeah. For example, very off topic, but you know, people who like to eat, so they make videos of themselves eating and move along, you know, very simple, just like that habit. And it’s something that we just have to proceed. It’s something that you don’t mind doing every day and make a business out of it. 

 

George: (00:28:21) Absolutely. And, you know, when I say we it’s, um, I use always refer to the team that I, I sort of work with. Um, you know, I do much prefer not to have like business partners. I like to be able to like do or die based on my own decisions. Right. The accountability component of it. And I think, um, you know, the, at the end of the day, it’s, it’s really about creating value its value creation. Right. And, um, yes, you might love a thing, but if you’re not focused on how can I bring value to whatever exchange or whatever situation that I’m doing right. Then you’re going to be like, sort of chasing this thing that’s hard to find, but if you just go, Hey, I bring value into any, um, you know, Exchange or any transaction or anything that I do now, now that’s where success finds you rise the opposite way, right?

 

Bryan: (00:29:18) Yeah. It just goes back to like, it’s funny how, when you want something to work and you want it bad enough, the universe sort of just helps you. Get to that goal. It just self-constant. You just start seeing options. She’s like, wait a minute. If I talked to this person, if I connect with this person, if I learned this and that this will get me my goal. And that’s crazy how the universe works, you know? So a lot of your real estate journey, like how you met a lot of people that sort of just help nudge you in the right direction and just help you accomplish your goals.

George: (00:29:44) Yeah, I, I absolutely, um, I think, you know, in my, in my entrepreneurship journey, when I was, when I went into it, when I was 24, I was this kid that I wanted to prove something. I was a single person trying to prove a thing along the way you pick up, uh, you know, a team. Right. And I think I was, um, a little bit too young to understand. Sort of how to lead that correctly. Cause I mean, you, when you first start, you start paying because the people up on my Craigslist and, you know, whatever, just people that like help to get a thing done. He needs somebody in the warehouse, art boom, plug that plug up. But at some point, and for me it was like just out like 10, 10 people, right. It became. The transition became from me trying to prove that I can do this e-commerce thing into, Oh shit. I need to start being a leader now. Now what does that mean? Because that’s a complete different skillset than that. You try to do a thing like well, yeah, right. And it’s like that’s I think for people starting out, um, I think the best advice I can give them is like, Hey, there’s going to be a transition. If you do a successfully and you start to see a millions come through and you start needing to scale up, you’re going to run into culture problems, right. Unless you know exactly how to align and set the culture of your team that I needed to go through at thirty two, uh, the company was, are already a couple million dollars a year and I was, my consulting business was taken off. Like I personally could generate, you know, I can tell you exactly how much I can generate as a human being by myself doing that top-down business model is 5 million bucks. Its 5 million bucks a year. Right and that’s it. And you’ll have a nervous breakdown. Right. And because everybody’s asking you for a thing and that is just like, not capable of scaling. Right? So when I was 32, I was like, I really looked in the mirror. I was like, man, I really don’t like what I’m walking into every day. So I had, you know, 10, 12 employees at that time I’m walking into work and I’m just not, I’m not feeling it. I’m like, man, I kinda, I kinda hate what I built and I’m like, I’m not sure. If I have the right tools and skillset for this. And that’s when, um, I joined, um, a CEO peer group. Right. So, so this, this is super important, right? So I I’m part of this ditch. They’re the largest CEO peer group, um, in the world. Right. And all of a sudden now imagine this I’m like 31, 32 years old, and now I’m surrounded in a group of 20 CEOs, minimum company size 5 million up to quarter billion dollar companies. These dudes are, and gals are much older, much more seasoned. Now I got to like Lauren from these people. I have to get my thoughts back validated by these dudes are just like, what are you? What are you, why. Right. And just like peering into and ripping what you think is right apart. Right. And then after that, I, um, did the, uh, Stanford, uh, executive graduate, uh, program. And only through that, did I start understanding what sort of bottom up like leadership was? Right. And actually I had to, I had to nuke my entire company. I had to strategic. I had to come up with. Hey guys, here’s, here’s the blueprint. Here’s the goal. Here’s how we’re going to operate. Here’s our organizational design, um, you know, game plan on how we’re going to run our company. And the crazy thing is when you implement, uh, you know, systems that, that promote accountability, what happens is the non-accountable people they’re really allergic to that. Right? So two things will happen. They’ll either quit. Or if things start getting very uncomfortable for them that, you know, they’ll, they’ll end up leaving by themselves, which both options is fine. Right. It’s all good. Right. So then I staffed and, and started aligning, um, the culture towards what we want, which is, um, trust and accountability within our groups, having our corporate goals, um, correct our mission, our vision, right? Where are we going? The inherent, why, why are we here? Right. And then having the corporate goals, the sub goals, the personal goals, tied to performance, right. Building that sort of structure took a lot to learn. And now with that, I’ve never been more proud or happier to walk into my organization because the team is aligned. Right. They care. Right. And they, they keep each other accountable. So no longer is everybody answering to me. Right. As a fact, matter of fact, I’m like I’m knocking on their door. Hey, can I help you with anything? Like, can I do something I’m like, I’m kind of bored. Let me do a thing right there get out of here, everything you touch, you know, screws up, somehow, stop touching stuff. We got this. Okay. So that’s, that’s sort of what I learned is really important from

Bryan: (00:35:12) Yeah I’m getting a lot of good nuggets, too. It’s coming back to your awareness, really. Like I think most successful people that we have in the podcast so far has a really high sense of awareness. Like they’re really aware of their actions. What makes them unhappy and. You know, credit to you, right? You took action again, and you hear is like, hey, this is not working. I’m feeling really unhappy. How can I make this better? Because when you read a lot of books and talk to a lot of different mentors that we just have a level behind, just leave on foot, leave for our new venture, you know, just leave the company completely without fixing it. Whereas you have the courage to go in there and you’re like, okay, I’m going to blow up the infrastructure to make sure that it’s going to be well-run the culture is a lot better. And that takes a lot of courage, man. Cause essentially you’re balling your business model.

Maggie: (00:36:01) Yeah. And on top of that, you know, I think a lot of entrepreneurs or business owners; they are reluctant to admit that they need help within their company. You know, it’s like its shows like a sense of weakness. If you go seek for help. In order to, you know, improve your CEO capabilities, but you actually seek for help, you know, and you are able to acknowledge like, okay, I know there’s a problem within my company. I know that the culture is not there. And for you to go out to the CEO pair group and for you to, you know, recognize them, okay, these are the problems and I need help with this. And that, that was able to translate to your knowledge of like how you can communicate better with your,  your employees, you know, and I’m very curious. So after the CEO peer group, and after you know, Stanford, did you have to let anyone go yourself or did it, did it just naturally happen? And all of the non-accountable people just left naturally.

George: (00:36:51) It’s, it’s you definitely, um, It’s a little bit of both. Right? So when you, when you let them know that, hey, we’re, this company is going to be built around accountability, right? Like I said, immediately, the people that are allergic to that will fall off. I have people leave within a week. A drop in that org design, right. That was accumulate accumulation of, you know, sort of the focus on, on, in, in Stanford and all this. Like, this is how I want it done, uh, in terms of keeping it accountable immediately within a week, like three people dropped and then you’ll see people try to hang on. But if you just keep focusing on those points, trust and accountability, um, they sort of, they sort of take care of themselves for you. Right. So most important thing is like, alright, have your performance metrics, have them, have them make sure that they know what their goals are trying to do. And then back in with accountability, they’ll tell you they shouldn’t be here or not. Right. Because it gets hot. It gets hot. If you’re not accountable and you’re missing your marks, it gets real hot and normal people don’t want to be there.

Bryan: (00:38:02) Definitely. And I, I can totally relate to the team building aspect of things and being a leader, especially a CEO, especially a founder too cause you feel like you’re obligated hands into every single department. But in actuality, you’re doing more harm because outside your expertise, we may or may not know about marketing finances and you know, like business models that we’re unfamiliar with our running part is that when you’re running a successful company, a great culture it’s built on trust. Really and without that trust, you’re not going to get any accountability out of your team, or you’re not going to live up there to their fullest potential because you don’t trust them or ironic thing. It’s like when you trust them, you do less work to the point where you’re as a founder and CEO you feel hella guilty. Cause you’re like not doing anything. Well, that’s ironic thing because now it’s like, okay, if you do that, you’re no longer micro managing. And they were allowing people to flourish in their creativity, but at the same time, you’re building in a way where it’s really scalable. And it’s up to you as a founder and CEO, to keep these people aligned to your vision, what people,

George: (00:39:13) people love that people want to be able to have that ownership right. If you don’t give it to them, like you’re really just stifling their growth and that’s like not a good leader. Yeah, that kind of goes back to what we talked about. Head in, hands out, right. You better know what the hell is going on. You can’t just go yo autopilot, you know, without understanding exactly what’s going on, but not get in the way of them running. Cause that’s really,

Bryan: (00:39:40) yeah. 100% agree with that statement too, because you bring in a lot of smart people. Most of the time they have so much energy. That literally they’re just shooting in different directions. It’s hard to like, get her a lot with our guys. Shoot that  energy in one direction, please.

George: (00:39:56) Yeah. That’s leadership work is around sort of your, your mission and what your corporate goals. Like. A lot of my time is spent around crafting goals and the aligned vision of where we’re going. That’s really it. Right. And then the team do the thing and you just support them. Right. Whatever it is that they need to try to give to him as long as it’s a good idea, right. Not a blank check, but as long as it makes sense, like you support them, then that’s bottom up leadership. I do have to drop a one, a book that I think would help. A lot of people listen to this. So we actually work off of the, uh, Patrick Lencioni, five dysfunctions of a team model, right? It’s a, it’s a really quick read, less than 200 pages. They, he wrote it in the format of a story. So it’s super interesting to read. And there’s this model at the end that will help guaranteed any team reach their results, right? It’s a triangle. The bottom is trust, right? You must have trust and they all build on top of each other. You must have the last thing in order to get to the next thing or else you just go back. It goes, trust. It goes healthy, right. To be actually be able to like argue a point without getting mad at each other. And you can’t do that without trust. Right? Once you have that. Then you guys have to be able to commit to what the goal is as a team, right? If you can’t do that, right. If you don’t have healthy conflict, you can’t do that. Right. Then you drop back down after commitment is accountability. If you can drive everybody into accountability, right and everybody’s pulling the same direction, the last is results. And the cool thing about results is you actually don’t have to work for results. If you knock out the first four, you automatically gets results, right. It’s a really simple framework that people understand. And once they understand they go, Oh shit. And everyone’s talking the same language, right. Then they can self-assess. And then that’s where peer accountability starts. Right. And then now you can drive that message cause they have a framework.

Bryan: (00:42:00) I agree. And you feel the energy too, and things are going right. And you’re like, yeah, this is a great positive flow things that go really well. And you start. And that way, when that happens, you as a leader typically become more innovative. Yeah. Wow. Like things are moving really straight maybe as you take a more complex project.

Maggie: (00:42:18) Yeah. And you have the time and the flexibility to think about how we can scale. Right. There’s no one is, is, is finally like no one is actually coming to you for all the, all the answers. And they’re communicating with you.

Bryan: (00:42:30) The nitty gritties of the day just weighs you down and distracts you from a different vision. That same time, just full disclosure for everyone listening, being CEO is not easy to get to a level, or you can trust people to do their work and innovate and take care of the little departments extremely difficult. And it’s not like a onetime thing where it’s like, Oh yeah; the department’s working and will probably last for a couple of months before it burns again.

George: (00:42:55) you’re absolutely right. It’s a constant, constant like evolution. Right? Cause you leave it alone for a second. And it’s gonna, you know, it’ll start like losing steam, right. That’s why, that’s why a bottom up leader is constantly, always just adding fuel to that and supporting right. To make sure everybody’s like on point, right? So you gotta be on your game.

Bryan: (00:43:17) This is a full time gig, even on the weekends as well. You just there eating dinner, watching TV, like. Dang, this department’s starting to fall apart again.

George: (00:43:26) I got, I got one day to do that. That’s Saturday, Sunday, Sunday, at least a half a day, preparing for the week work week. Right. But I mean, it is what it is, right? Like if you eat, breathe, live, like you’re absolutely right. You’re going to have to commit to this thing 110%. Right. You’ve got to look for it. This is your baby. Right. And this is what it is.

Maggie: (00:43:46) Yeah. And speaking of evolution, you know, we’ve been going through so many changes with our social climate and COVID, I’m very curious, you know, I, I know there should be a lot of people, you know, purchasing poker table is just, you know, creating those relationships with their family members and stuff. How have you seen your company and the culture in your company changed since COVID has happened? Cause I’m sure, you know, there’s a lot of fear. With an employees and just people in general business owners in general. And so have you had to really up the game in your leadership skills and, you know, has the company culture changed in any way since COVID has started?

George: (00:44:23) that’s a great question. And before I jump into that, I’m talking about organization development. I do have to give you guys a huge shout out just for Asian Hustle Network. I saw it from the infancy. And what it’s doing and you guys, I see that you guys are also growing and maturing and evolving as leaders. What do you do with these tens of thousands of people that are waiting for this thing that they all gravitate towards? Right. So I, I know that that’s no easy task, so much prompts, love to you guys for, for building this thing out. Cause it’s eally cool to watch from the sidelines. Right. So in regards to your question, um, during COVID, um, it’s, it’s pretty interesting because usually this is our slow season. People are out vacationing and doing stuff. So in terms of sales, it’s actually, um, sort of, we’re seeing increased numbers. Not that it’s, it’s a good thing. It’s just the thing, right? Other, other industries, you have hard hit industries and you also have a winter’s coming out of this thing, industry, for example, is like freaking bananas right now. Right. Um, one of our, um, consulting clients, uh, they, they are going to three X, their revenue. Um, they’re, they’re pretty large by company down in Southern California. Um, and their sales literally just went absolutely off. They can’t keep anything in stock, apparently Shimano right now that makes the components they’re back ordered into 2021. Like just no bikes available period in the US, right? So there’s a winners and losers shaken out of this thing, but, um, in terms of what we had to do, uh, what I had to do in terms of adjusting, um, you know, it was really, you had to, you had to move quickly on, on how to manage and organize your, uh, organization when everybody is virtual and works from home. Right. So immediately we went to work. We created our virtual commandments, which is how we show up. Right. An agreed upon set of how we show up as a group. Um, because I want to give you, you know, I’m going to give you the freedom and the, you know, to work from home. I don’t wanna, I don’t want to micromanage you, but what are some of the things that we agree on as a group, right around accountability, around visibility, around trust, right. And they came up with that as a group. I just facilitate. A lot of my work now is just facilitating them to pull the answers that they agree on. Right. Because it’s not a top down thing. It’s it’s what do we all agree on? And if this aligns to our values. Okay, cool. Right. Everybody is that it that’s the agreement that we go from there. Right. So after making that virtual commandment of how to work from home really been much issue, we haven’t seen productivity drop. Um, we have a small crew here in the warehouse, still fulfilling stuff there. They’re doing their six feet and they’re, you know, it’s a big warehouse. So it’s, it’s not that many people in there is fine, but the ecommerce team they’re all remote and it’s all. Good. Everyone’s healthy. Everyone’s just staying as safe. And, you know, we’re, we’re actually just working really hard because right now there are a lot of opportunities out there in this home gaming space.

Maggie: (00:47:46) Right. Yeah. It’s amazing. Well, that’s all; it all goes back to your leadership skills, so.

Bryan: (00:47:51) and people are just embracing the new normal, you know, I think given the pandemic situation. There’s going to be a lot of demographic changes because people are figuring out that productivity doesn’t mean that you have to be in the office. Yeah, absolutely. For all of us to like, sort of readjust too

George: (00:48:09) Right. So, I mean, at the beginning of it, I think there’s still a shaken out. What the new office like standard office layout is going to be right. It used to be open, open space with, you know, uh, community seating. That’s now got to change. And do you keep, you know, the same amount of square footage or do you downsize, like, there are a lot of like considerations and questions that, uh, business leaders have to figure out right now, but I kinda love it cause we were sort of going in this direction anyway, my dream was to build a eCommerce company where, um, You know, you, you had more flexibility. Right. Um, so this just kind of, you know, facilitate it a little bit faster. I think all it doesn’t matter what you do right now. You better have a direct to consumer eCommerce strategy in place like yesterday. Right? Those are the people that are going to survive. People that are still trying to figure out, you know, like. The old way of pre COVID way of doing business. I think you’re just hanging on and it’s a matter of time.

Bryan: (00:49:14) Yeah. You have to readjust different times, especially during this time where it really forces everyone, not just entrepreneurs. Re think their life, a lot of people are in our thinking. Should I continue to stay in a big city? Because now the remote remote work is normal normalized pre scene. Like, do I have to stay somewhere super expensive or. How do you always constantly have to think about how we’re gonna pivot to different times? It, because every single downturn is always up upswing and positive pivot that you can always make. And if you’re starting one way, you’re going to fail and that’s just not during a downturn. It’s like nything, you know, when you’re facing disruption, what do you do? You pivot.

George: (00:49:55) so, you know, that’s a great, that’s a great segue to something that I do. I do want to throw out there for, uh, that might be of some value for the listeners. So, you know, before you pivot and before you know how to pivot, um, I think it’s very important, uh, for companies. Um, it doesn’t matter what size to understand sort of your core value discipline. You got to really understand what you do extremely well. Right. And then you can leverage that as an advantage. Right? So generally there are three like core value disciplines, right? It’s either you are customer intimate, right. So you’re very customer facing, um, or you’re operationally excellent. Right. That would be something like an Amazon. That would be something like, um, you know, like  Amazon or you would be, um, the third one would be innovative innovation driven. Right? So you would be like a Tesla, right? Right. That’s how you create your value. Right. You have to understand? Cause not every company can do everything well, right. So I’ll just give a quick shout out. So my girlfriend runs up plant business pearls, plants.com. If you want some cool plants, plants.com, what she does. Um, but what she does is for every order, she’ll write a handwritten note, right. Which is like fricking bananas. Some of the plants are like, you know, not, not too expensive. They’re like five bucks. I’m like, you’re gonna spend five. You know, you’re gonna spend time write a note for a $5 plant. She’s like, that’s what I do. That’s customer intimate. Right, right now operationally excellent. Is like, I can get the thing to you the next day. That’s Amazon prime right. That’s that’s doing things like just super-efficient, better than your competitors, right? And innovation driven is you always come out with the new shit. Right. So if you’re talking about adjusting to COVID you and the secret here is this right? So your core value discipline, you only have to be really amazing at one of those three things you pick one, is it innovation is a customer intimacy or is an op opex right? Pick one, be the best at that. And the, you just need to be average on a second. That’s it? Right. Nobody can do three things well, it’s impossible. Right? So you do one thing really well. And you do the other thing above average. And the third thing you just kind of like, eh, you know, right. But you that’s how companies, so if you know what your core value discipline is, then you can now understand art. What are, what are the moves that I have post COVID and how do I leverage that? And you will be in a position where to capitalize because there’s going to be a lot of companies going out of business right. So the more that, you know, where you stand and where your value is, that’s going to keep you in the best position, like coming out of this thing.

Bryan: (00:52:54) I couldn’t agree more that statement we’re so aligned with that side.

Maggie: (00:52:57) Yeah. And so, you know, what is, what’s one advice you can give to an aspiring entrepreneur? We have a lot of entrepreneurs and AHN who are in ecommerce. And so, you know, I’m really curious, what’s one advice you can give to an aspiring entrepreneur. Um, it can just be in general or it can be an eCommerce.

George: (00:53:16) No, I’ll, I’ll, you know, this is great. So in general, both applies, right? So the, the mental, the mental game of being an entrepreneur, I think, I think that is something that only people who have gone through it understand this emotional roller coaster. Right. And, um, This, this format was first taught, taught to me by Cameron Harold. He was the COO of a 1800 got junk. One of the amazing speakers, right. That you’re gonna run into Google, but he came up with dislike thing where it’s the mo the entrepreneur’s rollercoaster. Right. So at the bottom, Right. You have uninformed optimism. That is the sky is all blue. I came up with this idea. It’s going to be fucking amazing. I’m going to make a billion dollars. This is going to be awesome. And then you work, work, work, work, work, work, work, right. At some point, some issues are gonna come up that you didn’t anticipate. All right. And you will sideline the shit out of you. Right? And then now you’re uninformed optimism turns into informed pessimism. You’re like, Oh shit, no; it didn’t work out the way that I thought, holy shit. Right. And then you’re going to start crashing. And at the very bottom of that crash is a point called the crisis of meaning. You’re like, Holy shit, what did I do? Right. And at crisis of meaning, you have to, you have two directions. You can go, you can either crash and burn, keep going this way or you’ll figure it out. Right with a peer group or whatever, talk to your friend, you figure it out, you realign. And then now it starts going back up and now it becomes informed optimism, right? So this is, this loop happens for an over and within this loop, it can, there can be a rollercoaster within a roller coaster. Right. Like, this is how, what you gotta be. Um, you’re going to be in for informed uninformed optimism, informed pessimism crisis of meaning and informed, uh, optimism. Right? If you know this. You actually know how to make decisions when you feel that way, when you feel like Holy shit, it’s helpless. Shit’s crazy. You better not make any large decisions. Like just chill the fuck out, go on a vacation, go hide under your desk, whatever. Right. But don’t be making a decision on the converse side of that. If you, if you like uninformed optimism, you better not be signing leases. You better not be taken out lines of credit. Right. Cause what you’re, you’re thinking, isn’t it. What it is. Right. So just know that there’s this roller coaster and it just repeats over and over. So that’s why, like, you know, entrepreneurship is so sort of manic and so, so bipolar one day you’re like, Oh my God, King of the world and then the next day you’re like curled up in a ball on the floor, right? Like literally curled up in a little ball on the floor, then I call your bullshit. You’re not, you’re not, you’re not for real. 

Maggie: (00:56:28) Yeah. Very sound advice. All right, George, it was amazing learning about your story, hearing about your own entrepreneurial journey, um, for listeners, you know, in order for them to learn more about you, how can they reach out to you? How can they find out more about you online?

George: (00:53:16) you know what, I’m just gonna throw it out there. You can just email me direct at, uh, george@bbopokertables.com. You can find me on LinkedIn. Um, you know, I’m here to answer any questions, um, and what I’d like to here’s a little selfish, what I’d like anybody that is interested in sort of ecommerce or any of the topics that we talked about today. Shoot me a line. If there’s something that we can do together, um, you know, I’m always looking for great talent, right? Um, that’s probably the only thing that I want to, I want to plug. Um, but I’m here. Shoot me, shoot me a message. I’ll do my best to reply.

Bryan: (00:57:21) Awesome. Yeah. Thank you for being on the show.

Maggie: (00:57:25) Thank you so much.

George: (00:57:26) This is fun. Absolutely and hopefully we’ll be able to sneak a drink in or get a Korean, Korean restaurant

Bryan: (00:57:38) All right, thank you George. 

George: (00:57:39) go guys. Cheers.

 

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