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Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son’s Decision Making Framework

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Masayoshi Son says he first came up with this framework when he was 26 years old. And the 30 years of success is the proof of the validity of it. He continues to revise and improve on it. It is an lifetime pursue.

The formulation of his framework is base upon:

  1. Lanchester’s Law
  2. Sun Tzu’s Art of War
  3. Masayoshi Son’s original thinking

The framework has five pyramid levels, from top to bottom: Ideology, Vision, Strategy, Leader’s Competence, Tactics. Each level has then five attributes:

  • Ideology: Road, Sky, Terrain, Leader, Systematisation
  • Vision: Summit, Information, Strategy, Seven, Battle
  • Strategy: One, Wave, Offensive, Defensive, Group
  • Leader’s Competence: Knowledge, Trust, Benevolence, Courage, Strictness
  • Tactics: Wind, Woods, Fire, Mountain, Sea

Son says all his decisions can based on those 25 attributes.

Ideology

Road: Use information revolution to make people happy

This is Softbank’s universal mission. Everyone in the company has heard of it and is familiar with it. It was mentioned several times also during the 30 years plan talk.

Sky: The information Revolution

The sky is for timing. There are unique things to be alive under this sky at this particular time. He gives few example of some of the unique things happening during this time:

  • Information Big Bang
  • Microprocessors
  • Internet

No matter how great of a person you are, if you were born during the wrong timing, your opportunities are limited. The present people are extremely lucky to be living at this time and there is an unique and huge opportunity. Son reminds of the previous revolutions:

  • Agricultural Revolution
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Information Revolution

The Information revolution is likely to be by far the biggest one. They got so lucky to be here during this timing. The opportunity is here and it should be taken advantage of.

Terrain: Terrain advantage: the epicenter of the Internet is Asia.

  • In the past, the United States had 50% of the world’s internet,
  • In 2015, Asia will have 50% of world’s internet users.

In the past, you had to be in the US and had to speak English, simply because the users were there. All big internet companies have historically come out of the US.

But the times have changed, the internet is shifting to Asia. Softbank Group has already been making a presence in Asia for a decade, notably by making investments in China such as Alibaba, Renren, etc…

With both this godsend opportunity from the Sky(Timing), and Terrain advantage, there is now no reason why Softbank should not take full advantage of the opportunity.

Leader: In order to succeed, you need to gather great leaders.

Of course the CEO must be a great leader, but he/she must also have at least 10 leaders below him/her. Nothing can be done alone, Softbank needs to accumulate great leaders. Softbank, by looking and picking great ventures to invest in Asia, is also gathering another great leader to join the Softbank family.

*Son actually uses the word General, but I’m translating it as Leader.

Systematisation: Systematisation is needed for continuous innovation

With willpower or luck, you may be able to get one win. But you cannot expect that to continue forever.

In order to keep winning and keep generating innovation, you need to create a system where it will make it happen again and again. Some examples of the systems Softbank has already implemented include:

  • Accounting is divided by departments
  • Introduction of new business models

Without the systematisation, it will impossible to execute at a scale.

Vision

Summit: The scenery you see when you have climbed to the top of the mountain

This is vision. The leader must be able to vision that scenery at the top of the mountain. He must be able to choose which mountain to climb. By choosing the correct mountain, you have already won 50% of life’s battle. You must have a great convinction that the mountain is correct be able to have a good idea of what the scenery on the top of that mountain looks like before you climb it. The leaders without a vision are the worst ones of all.

The vision does not come out in a day or two, you must think about it everyday. The vision for his 30 year plan took a whole 1 year of intensive thinking, and input from many many people.

Information: research

“He did research on 40 businesses, and in the end, the pile of papers he had accumulated were 1 meter in hight”

When son graduated from university and came back to Japan, he wanted to start an enterprise. But it took him 1.5 years before he did it. During this period, he was researching and accumulating information. He had came up with 40 businesses. He would create a very thoughtful plan for one business, create the business plan, financials, competitor’s analysis, plan for 10 years, expected revenue etc. And he would think that his was the best business in the world. 2-3 weeks later, he would come up with another business, a business better than the one before. He would then redo the research and create the new plan. He repeated this 40 times, each time with a business better than the one before. And the last one of his business plans turned out into Softbank. He emphasizes the importance of information accumulations (research).

Strategy: Strategy is basically the implementation for the vision.

After the reasearch you may have 40 choices, strategy is when you decide to go with one of them and never look back. Strategy takes a vision into reality.

Seven: The on who fights a battle with 50% winning chance is a fool. The one who fights a battle with 90% winning chance has made his move too late.

The best generals only fight battles they know they are going to win. Son is regarded as an agressive risk-taker but in reality he is very careful. He never risks more than 30% of the business. Even if the business is to fail, he can close it down and the core business can still go on. You must be sure that your math is right.

The leader must close down, make a retreat when that must be done. It is one of the hardest things to do. This is even harder for the next generation of leadership because they will be critisized to be not as good as the previous generation. Needs extreme courage to close a business down, you’ll be criticised by all points of view. When a general has lost 30% of his troops, he should immedialy call for retreat, any other decision is foolish. Not understanding this concept will bring Softbank into ruins.

Fight: The are things that can be seen during the fight

Words are cheap. Execution is hard. There are always competitors. Things change during the fight. No matter how good is the vision, strategy or research, it is all useless if you don’t come down and do the actual execution. He mentions that all companies fought their way into their current position: Toyota, Honda, Ford, Rockefeller, Billl Gates, Steve Jobs. Vision = Execution. Execution = Vision. Why one must fight? In order to make the vision come true.

Strategy

One: Must be by far the number one

Must own the specific market. You only make long-term profits if own the market and are far ahead of number two. If you are ahead by only a littile, it will probably me only a matter of time before you lose all profits. This is even more true in the technology space. Only if you are number one, you will be able to build a platform and define the de facto standard. Examples of platform that he mentions are: Microsoft’s Windows, Intel’s CPU, Google, Amazon, Yahoo.

The company must have a #1 culture. You must always strive to become number one. A culture that starts to become comfortable of not being number one is a very negative culture, it’s very bad. Son says he has always been number one since elementary school. He just can’t sleep if he is not number one.

Wave: Do not go against wave

Don’t go agains the wave. Get the direction right. Which OS should you choose? Of course the one who will become most used. Do not choose a niche.

An enterpreneurs who succeeds in a niche is not a successful entrepreneur. The successful entrepreneur succeeds in the mainstream market, that might as well be an othodox way. Softbank does not invest on niche markets, it invests on markets that will become big in the future. There is no meaning in winning a small market. If you choose to pursue a niche market because you are afraid to fight in the main market, then you are a loser.

Offensive

  • Sales
  • Technology
  • M&A
  • Development of new businesses
  • etc. etc.

Must be good in multiple skills.

Defensive

  • Cash Flow
  • Cost reductions
  • Investment Relations
  • Close down a business
  • Compliance
  • Auditing
  • Media Reputation
  • etc. etc.

Many ventures today die because of financing. Softbank has a commitment to become zero debt financing in 4 years.

Group: Synergy 5000 companies.

Softbank Group will be compromised of 5000 companies. It will be a multi-brand, multi-business model. This may not be necessary if you want to survive for the next 30 years, but it is must have to survive for the next 300 years. Companies like Microsoft and Intel are struggling today as they have only a single brand.

Leader’s Competence

Knowledge

  • Critical Thinking
  • Global negotation
  • Presentation skills
  • Technology
  • Finance
  • Analytical Skills
  • etc etc.

The leader must posses multiple skills, and have a good banance of skills. Must be very proficient in one skill so that he can make most out of the specialistz. The leader does not rely on specilists, he/she makes best use of them.

Trust: Mutual voluntary cooperation

Trust and be trusted. Partnerships. If you lose trust, others will not work with you.

Benevolence: For the happiness of people

Recall the vision. For the happiness of people.

Courage

Courage to fight against a big opponent. Courage to shut down a business.

Strictness

Strict with self. Strict with others when necessary. If you truly believe in the vision and the good for everyone, you must become a demon at certain times.

Tactics

Son skips the following are they are already well covered in Sun’s Art of War and other literature. however Sea is a original from Son.

Sea

The fight has ended only when everything has been engulfed and remains only complete silence and peace. As the sea.

____________________________________________________

About the Author

This article was written by Hanyon Wu.

Callum Connects

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Renne Ballard, Owner of Renée Ballard Communications

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Renne Ballard runs a social media agency working with business women, helping them find their business’s voice.

What’s your story?
I began my career in PR/communications ten years ago in Australia, after arriving home from two years in Dubai. In Dubai I was working for Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant and flying around the world non-stop for two years. This really sparked my interest for how people communicate. I started out as a community manager for an online advertising company, then moved into the corporate world of outdoor advertising, managing internal and external PR and communications. After having a baby four years ago, I decided to leave the safety net of corporate, and stride out on my own. I now run a social media agency and I specialise in working with business women, helping to find their business’ voice so they can use social media to achieve their business goals.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love the open accessibility online provides. It’s free for businesses to get online and connect with their target audience. Twenty years ago, advertising and PR was insanely expensive and quite elitist, but through incredible platforms like Facebook or Twitter, any business can connect with who is looking for their product/solution. Social media is particularly effective for small businesses because they have the edge when it comes to authenticity and a clear voice.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m in Hong Kong because I’m a trailing spouse. I know it’s such a daggy term, but I love it, it makes me sound so dedicated to my husband! Alas, we came to Hong Kong for my husband’s work. He’s the Design Director of Asia for an international retail design agency. We’ve been here for almost two years and it’s been a huge learning curve in terms of business and culture. We love the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong and the fact that everything is open late – it suits me perfectly because I’m nocturnal.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
That’s easy, Hong Kong. It’s the perfect blend of start-ups and mothership-sized institutions. I love the small business side, watching the collaborations between workshare spaces with galleries, networking groups and foodies; it’s a hothouse of creative partnerships here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When you’re are feeling scared about your next step, lean in and feel the difference. Is it fear mixed with excitement? Or fear mixed with dread? Always go with the former and cut loose the latter.

Who inspires you?
I love Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo founder). She has created multiple empires and she never stops trying new business models and pushing her limits. It helps that I love shoes too.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I just turned 40 years old. At best, I’m probably halfway through my life. It makes me constantly question, “Am I where I want to be?”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have asked more questions to the people I looked up to, and listened less to the people telling me I won’t achieve my goals.

How do you unwind?
In this day and age, it’s scandalous to say, but I love sunbaking. At any chance, you’ll find me poolside, laying in the sun in a trance-like state.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Northern Danang in Vietnam. We were there at Christmas, at the foot of the mountains and it was beautiful. Heaps of wildlife and jungles and enough five star resorts that I was never parched once.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘The E Myth’ by Michael Gerber. It’s an oldie but a goodie because it succinctly outlines how to transition from a one person operation to a global business like McDonalds. Once you see how important systems and processes are, you can recognise shambolic companies a mile off.

Shameless plug for your business:
Renée Ballard Communications is a social media agency that works with business women who are ready to make social media work for them. We create effective, powerful social media strategies that are tailored to the people who will be breathing life into them. We hand on heart promise to never use annoying, marketing buzzwords and that we value laughter above everything else.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected] or www.reneeballard.com or +85296670115

Twitter handle?
@ballard_comms

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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