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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.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Business Entrepreneur

Why CloudApp needs to be in your business toolkit

(EDITORIAL) CloudApp is simple yet powerful for any sized business, keeping your productivity at an all-time high.

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cloudapp

Are you fed up of screenshotting something and taking the time to drag it into a Slack window to share with an employee for them to ask you what you meant by this. Well, so was I. Working remotely occasionally has its blunders when it comes to communication, the struggles of explaining what you meant without the need to meet via a video call or jump over to another person’s desk can sometimes be a tricky situation to be in.

This is the same for in-office situations too. There’s been plenty of times in an office where I’ve had to break my own workflow or someone else’s to head over to their desk to visually explain something. A potentially useful period of time.

A few weeks ago, this pretty much came to a stop. After receiving two emails during a week in October with two types of link attachments, I was curious what they were. Clicking into these links, I got a visual demonstration of what the person was speaking about. I was so impressed. From a screen demo of a website to how something worked and what buttons to click to get a desired outcome. I was blown off my feet.

Simple as it was, the app is called CloudApp. Both available on Windows and Mac, CloudApp’s primary goal was allowing users to capture these moments like a screenshot or a screen record to help explain the thing in front of you, with little worries. The magic didn’t stop there, once I started playing with CloudApp, I recorded a short demo of a site bug/issue that we had and instantly I heard a “ping”. The recording was captured and ready in a paste-able link.

Within seconds, I sent over the visual demonstration. Dead simple, hugely effective.

By the end of the working day, I had visually explained 98% of things in Slack conversations, emails, mobile texts and even to those I was sitting near. It was a crazy addition to my Mac and productivity across my day and it didn’t stop there.

CloudApp also did a host of beneficial things like allow you to annotate images or screenshots, create GIFs, upload files and even record webcam videos too to support your screenshots.

I would recommend CloudApp to everyone. I was so impressed with their toolkit.

The freemium account is great too. You get unlimited screenshots and annotation with 15s of GIF and screen record creation, which was so reasonable for someone getting started. There are additional pricing options too. CloudApp is available for Mac and Windows and is well worth installing to take full advantage of visually explaining things to friends, colleagues, and those struggling to get a drift of what you are trying to talk about.

Download CloudApp for Mac and Windows.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to determine your freelance rates based on data, not your gut

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Setting freelancer rates can be quite the tricky business. This tool does arms you with the data you need to grow your business

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freelance rates

The bulk of my professional career has been spent as a freelancer. The designation of “freelancer” has taken me on an interesting path that allowed for projects and opportunities I didn’t even know existed.

While I’m grateful for each and every opportunity, I now look back on some of these experiences and realize that I was vastly underpaid. For the most part, this is my fault as someone paying for a service is looking for the lowest possible rate and I never bothered to bargain out of fear of losing the role.

It was even at a point where I dreaded being asked my hourly rate because I didn’t know what the norm was. There was always a fear of charging too much and getting dropped for someone cheaper, or charging too little and looking inexperienced.

We recently talked about knowing your worth and how we freelancers often under charge for our services. Luckily, as this career path becomes more and more popular, there are now more resources devoted to helping us know what to charge.

Such a resource comes in the form of Freelance Rates Explorer. Created by Bonsai, this online tool gives users the ability explore rates from 40,000 freelancers worldwide.

“There are many sites like Glassdoor that offer salary data comparisons for full time employees,” said the tool’s developers. “However, there isn’t a site like this dedicated to provide insights on freelancers rates. We had this data, so we built the Rate Explorer to make it easy for freelancers to compare their rates in the largest publicly available rates database on the Internet.”

In order to find the standard rate for their field, users will input their role (either development or design), their skills (full stack, front-end, back-end, DevOps, iOS, and Android), experience (in years), and location. The Rate Explorer then generates a bar graph based on the answers and will show the most common hourly rates based on the number of freelancers and the rates range.

Bonsai also offers proposals, contracts, time tracking, invoicing and payments, and reporting. All of this is designed for freelancers.

As for the Rates Explorer, seeing the numbers calculated right in front of you may make you realize that you’re vastly underselling yourself. This tool can be especially beneficial to use now as we go into a new year and may be updating contracts.

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs: You’re unemployable in your own company, must define your role

(ENTREPRENEURS) Once you’ve built a successful business, it’s time to reexamine your role and determine where you fit in best.

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google tracking career-listing-jargon-man-desk job hunt entrepreneurs

In my experience, most entrepreneurs are “accidental entrepreneurs.” They happened to be good at something, or they had a unique one-time opportunity to provide a product or service to the market. Then years later, they wake up one day and realize that they’re running a big business.

As an entrepreneur, one of the unintended consequences of building a business is that you become essentially unemployable within your own organization. After living the life of freedom, flexibility and responsibility of being a business owner, it’s difficult to go back to a “nine-to-five” job. This is why many entrepreneurs don’t enjoy staying with their businesses after they’ve sold to other organizations. Within months, they are frustrated that they’re no longer in control and the new owners are (in their opinion) making poor choices.

I see many situations where entrepreneurs are bad employees in their own organization. In fact, they may be the worst team members in the organization by having inconsistent schedules or poor communication skills and/or by inserting themselves into areas that aren’t useful. They can also have too much freedom and flexibility. And while most entrepreneurs insist on clearly defined roles, expectations and goals for all of their employees, they don’t always take the time to define their own roles, expectations and goals.

So why do entrepreneurs become bad employees?

I believe that it’s because they don’t have someone holding them accountable. Think about it: Who do they report to? They’re the owners. Part of the definition of “owner” is being accountable for everything but not accountable to anyone. Having a board of directors, a peer group or a business coach can provide some accountability for them, but another solution is to clarify their roles in the company and then abide by those definitions.

If you find yourself “unemployable” in your business, it’s time to define your role. It starts with outlining your main focus. Do you concentrate more on day-to-day execution or strategic, long-term decisions? Do you consider yourself an owner-operator or an investor?

Most entrepreneurs start as an owner-operator and put in countless hours of sweat equity doing whatever needs to be done to build the business. But over time they reinvest earnings in the business and hire a management team so they can step back and take on a more strategic role. Sometimes it’s not clear when the entrepreneur makes that transition, which can lead to challenges for the entire team.

Focus: Strategic Overview

If your main role is in dealing with long-term, strategic decisions, then it’s important for you to communicate that to the team. Clearly delegate tactical roles and responsibilities to the leadership team.

I’ve seen many instances where owners do more harm than good by haphazardly injecting themselves into tactical decisions that should be handled by the leadership team. Instead of jumping in when they see something they disagree with, I encourage owners to actively “coach” their leadership team to be better leaders. The approach of micromanaging every decision of others will frustrate everyone and lead to an underperforming organization.

I have one client that decided his role was to build strategic relationships and work on a new service offering. He was confident that his leadership team could handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Over time he discovered that being in the office every day was actually a distraction for him and his team. So, he moved his office out of the building.

To maintain his ownership responsibilities to the company, he scheduled one afternoon a week to physically be in the office. Team members knew they could schedule time with him during that weekly window when he temporarily set up office space in a conference room. Not having a permanent office in the building also sent a message to the team that he was not responsible for day-to-day decisions. Sometimes not having an office in the building is better than the team seeing the owner’s office empty on a regular basis.

Focus: Day-to-Day Execution

If you decide that your role is in the day-to-day execution of the business, then clearly define your role in the same way you would define any other team member role. Are you in charge of marketing? Sales? Finance? Operations? Technology? R&D? Or, some combination of multiple roles? Take the time to outline your responsibilities and communicate them to the team.

Just as you define your role, also define what you are NOT going to do and who is responsible for those areas. After all, sectioning off some tactical work does not abdicate you from long-term decision-making. You must set aside time to make the long-term, strategic decisions of the company.

Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous to those that haven’t done it, but ultimately, the owner is accountable for everything that happens in their organization. It can be quite sobering. And while some entrepreneurs have a delusional belief that they can do everything in a company, it’s not a path to long-term success.

All entrepreneurs have to decide what their role should be in their organization – even if it means that they’re contributing to their “unemployable” status.

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