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Fascinating entrepreneur’s tale of bridging East and West

This is the fascinating story of how an ambitious young woman went from studying neurosurgery to dominating the cultural consultancy world in a few short years.

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A quickly obvious contrast

When you first meet Monica Moffitt, you can’t miss her smile, it is brilliant and sincere, and it lights up any room, so when this tall, young, African American gal shakes your hand and hands you a business card, the contradiction that is Moffitt becomes immediately evident, as her Texan smile contrasts the Chinese characters all over her card. She’s used to the curiosity, and I could tell she almost enjoyed it when I looked up from her card to her face. I was immediately fascinated.

Moffitt is the founder of Tianfen Consulting, a cultural consultancy which separates itself from other consultancies by being more than just an HR branch for Western companies trying to branch out into the East and vice versa, no, the team handles general management, human resources, marketing and general business, emphasizing the nuance of the human to human business interactions.

Her company helps small to medium businesses into the Asian and American markets, and helps them to understand everything from how to hold a meetings, professional protocol, and entry routes. Moffitt is one of perhaps 100 people in America that works in an extremely tiny specialized niche, helping high net worth individuals in Asia to take advantage of the EB-5 visa for immigrant investors which is a method of obtaining a green card for investing at least $1,000,000 in America, creating at least 10 jobs.

What most Americans don’t know about the Chinese

Moffitt says that there are two primary traits of the Chinese people that most Americans are not aware of. First, she says that they really do understand American culture, and the majority will speak English to you on the street, and will often ask you your thoughts on current American politics.

She notes they are the “friendliest people on the planet,” which she says confidently, having traveled all around the globe, visiting nearly every continent. “It’s like southern hospitality times one thousand. If you are lost and ask someone on the street where to go, even if they’re late for work, they will physically walk you there themselves.”

When she lived in China for the first time and told people she was from Texas, she said with a chuckle that they always ask two things – “do you like Bush, and do you know Yao Ming?”

Moffitt confessed that like most Americans, when she first visited China, she had a preconceived notion that she would be a giant and would be the only black person, but she was surprised to find that she didn’t stand out the way she had feared, as there is quite a large African population in China, which is where people often assumed she was from.

From business analyst to entrepreneur

If you’re not already intrigued by Moffitt, there’s more – her background reads like an Aaron Sorkin movie about an Ivy Leaguer who followed her dreams. Her mother was fascinated with Japanese art, and gave Moffitt a Japanese middle name, so her affinity for Asian cultures started at an early age. Although she consults on all Eastern nations, she speaks most frequently about China, and she narrowed down her affinity when her best friend dared her in high school to dump Latin classes and take Chinese, to which she said, “I will if you will.” Her friend dropped it, but Moffit just kept going with her studies.

After graduating from a prestigious private school in Dallas, Moffitt sought to be a neurosurgeon and “save the world,” adding “that was always the plan.” She went off to Vanderbilt and began studying to become a neurosurgeon, but she continued pursuing her Eastern Asian studies. When she flirted with the idea of dropping neurosurgery, her father was conflicted, and her mother encouraged her to follow her heart.

So she finished Vanderbilt with a BA in East Asian Studies and Chinese, moved to China, and at age 21 began teaching at a University where the students were all a year or two older than her. Due to a family illness, Moffitt moved back to Texas and took what she intended to be a short term job before she left for China once again, but she spent six years excelling at an international IT firm as a business analyst for global software. Her mentor at the IT firm mentioned to her that the company offered tuition reimbursement, so Moffitt enthusiastically asked if she could get her PhD in Chinese Literature, but was met with a stern “no,” so she settled for pursuing her MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Moffitt discovered that UTD had a very specific program, International Management, which differs from the standard International Business programs, in that it focused on the people side of the business, and human organization development. She finally found a way to combine her psychology and neurosurgery background (the human side) with her cultural and language studies (the cultural side) in the form of a MBA (the business side) to specialize in marketing and consumer behavior across international boundaries.

With her MBA in hand, Moffitt left the corporate world and launched her consulting firm, and as she handles Eastern nations, and one of her partners handles Latin America, the firm has an impressive global footprint, all because of a high school dare and an offer for tuition reimbursement.

Business Entrepreneur

Streamline your collaboration and lighten your workload with Lyght

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Ventive is releasing a new collaboration tool that basically combines all your collaboration tools into one.

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Text "A vision brought to Lyght" on a bright background with lightbulb and people in collaboration.

Ventive is a custom software development agency based in Boise, Idaho. Launched in 2014, the startup combines design and engineering to build digital products that will help businesses grow. The company has worked with big names like Aston Martin, Cisco (Broadsoft), HP, Simplot, and Coleman Homes. It has even made the Inc. 5000 List for 3 years in a row. And, as with any business, it faces the same hurdles all small and big companies face: Finding the right tool to help take an idea and turn it into a reality.

In a blog post, Ventive Product Manager Jeff Wheadon wrote that the company has used a variety of tools like JIRA, Toggl, Trello, and Slack to streamline and collaborate on projects. Soon they realized there was not a single tool solution that could help them “go above and beyond for their clients”. So, Ventive decided it was “time to shine a new Lyght on team collaboration” by creating their own tool.

Lyght is an all-inclusive team collaboration tool that removes wasted time used to switch between different communication and management applications. It is designed to Make Work Simple. Make Work Flow.

In the tool, you can create a story for any project you want to build. These stories are designed for a smooth workflow, and you can collaborate with your team in each one. Conversation threads are visible in every story in real-time so everything is organized together. Tasks can be assigned by due dates and time budgets. You can even allocate a certain number of hours to a specific project so you can “determine bottlenecks in your team”.

You can also review the team’s time logs to gain insights on performance. A personalized dashboard lets you see recent activity and time spent across projects. Boards easily display the current state of each assignment. And, Backlogs let you organize and prioritize stories from your custom workflow.

Although Lyght started as an internal management tool for Ventive, the company isn’t just keeping the software for itself.

“After doing some additional market research, we found that there are many other companies across different industries looking for a similar tool that is lightweight and easy to use, yet robust enough to work with their own business processes,” wrote Jeff.

Since its creation, Lyght has gone through 3 iterations. Currently, the company is offering a private beta to entrepreneurs and teams. It plans on implementing the feedback it receives so the tool can “change and flow with the needs of the industry.” According to a Facebook post, Ventive is preparing for a public release of the software later this year.

Lyght brings together task management, collaboration, chat, and time tracking into a single solution. And, if you’d like to give it a try, you can schedule a demo on the company’s website.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to effectively share negative thoughts with your business partner

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You and your business partner(s) are in a close relationship, and just like a marriage, negative emotions may play a role in the relationship.

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You and your business partner are in a relationship. Your business was born when you shared a common vision of the future and became giddy from the prospect of all you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Now, you spend much of the day doing things together in collaboration. The stakes are high; there are obstacles to overcome, decisions to make together, deadlines to meet, and all the stresses of running a business.

It’s no wonder a business partnership can often be just as complicated and emotional as a romantic relationship. If you are struggling with your business partner, you might find helpful advice in resources originally targeted towards troubled couples.

Relationship expert Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein has explored how to share “toxic thoughts” with your partner. In a linked article, Bernstein describes toxic thoughts as distortions of the truth that cause us to overemphasize the negative attributes of our partner.

Some examples of toxic thoughts include blaming your partner for larger problems that aren’t really their fault, inaccurately assuming your partners intentions, or resenting your partner for not intuiting your needs, even if you haven’t expressed them. The defining characteristic of these toxic thoughts is that, although they may be based in the truth, they are generally exaggerations of reality, reflecting our own stresses and insecurities.

Just as much as in a love relationship, these toxic thoughts could easily strain a business partnership. If you find yourself having toxic thoughts about your business partner, you will need to decide whether to hold your tongue, or have a potentially difficult conversation. Even when we remain quiet about our frustrations, they are easily felt in the awkward atmosphere of interpersonal tension and passive aggressive slights that results.

Dr. Bernstein points out that being honest about your toxic thoughts with your partner can help increase understanding and intimacy. It also gives your partner a chance to share their toxic thoughts with you, so you’d better be ready to take what you dish out. It might be hard to talk about our frustrations with each other so candidly, but it might also be the most straightforward way to resolve them.

Then again, Bernstein points out, some people prefer to work through their toxic thoughts alone. By his own definition, toxic thoughts are unfair exaggerations of and assumptions about our partner’s behavior. If you find yourself jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, or blaming your partner for imagined catastrophes, perhaps you’d better take a few minutes to calm down and consider whether or not it’s worth picking a fight about. Then again, if you’re self-aware enough to realize that you are exaggerating the truth, you can probably also tease out the real roots of any tension you’ve been experiencing with your business partner.

If you are going to get personal, shoulder your own emotional baggage and try to approach your partner with equal parts honesty and diplomacy. Avoid insults, stay optimistic, and focus on solutions. State your own feelings and ask questions, rather than airing your assumptions about their intentions or behaviors. Keep your toxic thoughts to yourself, and work towards adjusting the behaviors that are making you feel negatively towards each other. Your business might depend on it.

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Business Entrepreneur

Zen, please: Demand for mental health services surges during pandemic

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for many on a mental front. How has COVID-19 changed the mental health landscape?

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Man leaning against tree, affected by mental health.

As the pandemic stretches on, it continues to affect everything from jobs to plastic bags, but one major shift has come with mental health. According to the National Council for Mental Health, while demand for mental health services is up 52%, the capacity of mental health organizations have actually diminished. So…what does this mean?

Mental health startups get a boost

From tele-health to mindfulness apps, venture capital investments for mental health startups have already surpassed what was earned in 2019. And it makes sense; as more people are isolated for long stretches of time, there has become a greater demand for digital mental wellness services.

With COVID-19 predicted to spike again in the coming months, combined with shorter spans of daylight and less welcoming weather, the desire for these sorts of businesses isn’t likely to fade. If you have an idea for a neat app or website to help with mental well-being in some way, now is prime time to release it.

Companies increase mental health options

As the pandemic rages on, many companies have started to partner with mental health solutions for their employees. For instance, Starbucks has started offering free therapy sessions to employees through the mental wellness provider Lyra, and Zoom began to offer mental health seminars.

Of course, while smaller companies might not have the means to provide specific therapy, many companies have gotten creative with how they’re looking out for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. From providing virtual meditation sessions, to increasing self-managed leave, to connecting employees through book clubs or happy hours, there are a variety of ways that any company can help employees manage their psyche during these difficult times.

Resources are more accessible

Although therapy and similar apps do cost money (many apps include a monthly fee for the services provided), there are plenty of low cost alternatives available for those having a hard time. For example, many sites are offering free trials to services. There are also plenty of free or low-cost apps available to help you do anything from track your moods to manage your breathing. Or check out YouTube for videos to help with yoga or meditation.

While these resources are not a replacement for medication or talk therapy, they can help mediate some of the increased strain on our mental state that many of us are feeling right now.

In case of an emergency, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by phone call or chat 24 hours a day. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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