Mentoring at The Innovation Dojo (Part 1)

Mentoring at The Innovation Dojo (Part 1)

Robert Millar in a suitI’m now a startup mentor at the University Of New South Wales’ Innovation Dojo, a program in Sydney that prepares Australians to start up a business in Japan.

One of the founders of the program, Joshua Flannery, saw my recent Starting Your Own Business in Japan interview on the popular 2.5 Oyaji’s YouTube show here, and then followed up with me about potential collaboration.

I was thrilled to hear that my business skills and experience might be able to increase the success and reduce the risk for young Australians coming to Japan to launch a startup, just as I did decades ago.

Innovation Dojo is the nickname for the Japan Australia Entrepreneurship Initiative and, as shown on their website, is a new initiative that aims to connect Australian entrepreneurs with opportunities, potential partners and collaborators, investors and customers in Japan (and vice-versa.) They run events, seminars and training camps, provide a community platform and language support, and incubate startups that solve real world problems, while using lean startup methodology which I’ve been a big fan of for many years.

The result is something that I believe is very special, and I’m honored to be a part of the Innovation Dojo family. You can see my smiling mug in amongst the program’s 6 international mentors on the JAEI web page.

My role will be quite varied.

I’ll participate remotely in information nights at the university where I’ll introduce myself and explain why I’m part of the program.

During the actual program, I’ll dial in via Skype or similar to give short talks and conduct Q&A sessions on important topics for foreign entrepreneurs that are within my area of expertise.

There’ll be some sessions where the mentors who are physically in Sydney will roam around the lecture hall giving thoughts, opinions and insights and asking questions of the teams as those teams focus on the most urgent needs at the time. Teams will then be able to Skype call or live chat with me for advice on particular questions.

The plan is to fly the winning team from each program to Japan to meet potential partners, customers and possibly investors. As their “man on the ground” I’ll of course be able to create a significant advantage for any young startup who wishes to to avail my services here in Tokyo, from providing them a desk at my co-working space to assisting them to incorporate their businesses.

I also intend to fly to Sydney once a year to participate in events and give guest talks.

Again, I’m stoked to be an even stronger member of the startup community, and to extend my reach all the way back to my home country. After all, my main mission here in Tokyo is to help entrepreneurs to get started in Japan and then help them grow and develop, and so far I’ve been quite successful in doing that.

The Power of Switching from Text to Voice

The Power of Switching from Text to Voice

NOT Dragon Dictate!Ok, this would have to be my best productivity hack ever. Yes, ever.

The problem is that I never really learned to type properly – My typing technique is still very “hunt and peck”. The reason for this is because I always thought that dictation software to make the keyboard obsolete was just around the corner. In fact, some years ago I spent several hundred dollars on Dragon Dictate software, then owned by IBM, full of hopes that I could do away with my keyboard and spend my afternoons dictating emails to my computer. What a disappointment… Dragon Dictate was a real lemon, and could barely recognise even basic sentences… So I continued to hunt and peck on my keyboard, until last year.

Enter voice messages!

Voice messages replace chat

An example of a LINE chat
LINE in action

My business consulting and my health coaching clients know very well the power of voice messages. Because I bill them by the hour, one way to save them money is to mostly communicate with them via voice messages, which are quick and easy, rather than email, which is rather slow and time consuming. For this I ask them to use the super-simple LINE app on their phones, so that we can check in with each other briefly, as necessary, and maximise our time.

There are other useful communication apps for your phone, but only some of them facilitate voice messages along with textual messages.

Google Hangouts, for example, shows you when your recipient was last seen using the app, if they are online, and whether they are using their phone, tablet or computer, as well as how long ago they last messaged you. The app also has a very simple location share feature so that you & your recipient can find each other on a Goople map. But it doesn’t have a voice message feature.

Facebook Messenger shows you if your recipient has read your message or not, which is very helpful, and also allows voice messages, but only for 60 seconds at a time. This can be quite frustrating, and sometimes I find myself rambling along only to look down at my phone and see that the 60-second limit was reached a couple of minutes before…

I’ve tried a lot of communication apps for the phone, and LINE seems to be the best of them with most of the features that Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger has, but with unlimited voice messages. You just hold down the mic button, create your voice message for as long as you want, then release your finger to send the VM to your recipient. Very cool.

Voice messages replace Post-It notes

Netmemo in action
Netmemo in action

Another awesome productivity hack I’ve been using for years is sending voice messages to myself instead of typing or tapping out items on my to-do list or, god forbid, scribbling on Post-It notes.

But I’m not talking about fancy voice recognition software like Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana which try to understand your words and then transcribe them for you, often with inaccurate and hilarious results. I’m talking about capturing a short recording of your own voice as an MP3 file and then emailing that to you to listen to later and perhaps transcribe yourself.

I use Netmemo on my Android phone and Say it & Mail it on my iPad.

With Netmemo, I tap in the app to start it, I start speaking straight away because it automatically opens in record mode, then I hit the send button to send the voice clip to my own email inbox. Then later, when I have time, I listen to my list of voice clips and action any ones that I want to. This is great when I’m in a meeting with someone and I can just create and send myself a quick clip without breaking my own concentration or the flow of the conversation. Try doing that by pausing a meeting to pull out a notebook and scribble down notes, and watch how quickly the meeting stalls.

I can even set the software to email my Virtual Assistant in The Philippines, so that I can just grab my phone during a meeting and say something like, “Jon, please email me a list of all of the competitors for the Acme company ASAP”, and before the end of the meeting that list arrives in my email inbox. How cool is that!

Voice messages replace Contact forms

SpeakPipe in action on GinzaHub.com
SpeakPipe in action

People who visit GinzaHub.com or HealthfulHub.net can now leave voice messages for me instead of using a contact form to send me text messages. I’m using a plugin on those sites called SpeakPipe which appears as a “Send us a Voicemail” button at the right edge of the screen (if you are looking at this blog post in your browser, then you can see the “Send us a Voicemail” button over on the right. Go on, give it a try!)

[EDIT: Actually, this feature wasn’t very popular, so I disabled it.]

Not only can visitors leave me a VM with this, but I can also respond to them with a VM if I wish, all online and from any device.

So there you have it – my best productivity hack ever!

Text still has it’s place, and will never be made completely obsolete (for example, blog posts remain textual and are still more popular than podcasts) but for quick and easy communication with others, and even with yourself, nothing beats a voice message that’s simple to create and deliver.

Try one of the apps I’ve mentioned in this post for just a week and then let me know here if you agree.

Starting Your Own Business in Japan

Starting Your Own Business in Japan

On Saturday night I was interviewed on the popular 2.5 Oyaji’s YouTube show, which has an amazing combined subscriber total of 148,000 people. We discussed co-working spaces like Ginza Hub, my business consulting, my health coaching and even my martial arts. Just about all of the things I’m passionate about! It was really fun, and I look forward to the next chance to get in front of the camera with Hikosaemon and Victor again. Please check out the YouTube video below :

Interview with Helen Iwata of Sasuga! Communications

Interview with Helen Iwata

Robert Millar interviews Helen IwataI recently had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Iwata of Sasuga! Communications for this blog. Helen is our first ever monthly member at Ginza Hub, joining almost 2 years ago in August 2014, and she recently published a book in Japanese called 英語の仕事術 (Eigo no Shigotojutsu.) Over a cup of coffee, I asked Helen a few questions about her success as an entrepreneur, while Tia Haygood of TopTia Photography snapped a few shots for us.

RM – So Helen, let me start by asking you how you first got started in Business.

HI – I first came to Japan with the JET program, and worked there for my first 3 years. I then worked for 7 years with Nippon Steel Trading, and then for 10 years at McKinsey.  I decided to leave McKinsey in 2013, and the very next day I set up Sasuga! Communications to focus on what I really wanted to do: communication-skills training and translation.

RM – Where are you based and why?

HI – I decided to base myself at Ginza Hub because of the positive atmosphere here. I mean, there’s always high-speed WiFi, good coffee, and snacks from all of our various travels, but I love the sense of community here best.

RM – That’s great to hear! Ok, next tell me, how has the internet empowered your own business?

HI – Wow. That’s a long story! Well, first I thought that online business wasn’t appropriate for my line of business which is helping people to communicate with clarity and confidence in global business, but I’ve realised that actually there’s a lot of potential with it. One thing is that I can introduce basic techniques through online training, which then saves participants time in the classroom. But also, I can now do a lot with video! This means that people don’t have to travel or to be at the same location at the same time. So we can do things that are live, and then record them for viewing later.

RM – Ok, so the Net is supplementing your in-person training because you have a better reach with your recorded material.

HI – Yes, so it can be for the same people who attend my in-person workshops, plus a whole new set of people who can’t make it to my in-person workshops because they’re in a different location.

RM – Nice. Ok can you explain exactly what Sasuga! Communications is?

HI – Well, Sasuga! Communications’ mission is to help 2020 people create communication habits for success and happiness in global business by the year 2020. And the main areas that I work in are listening and questioning, giving presentations, participating in conference calls,  facilitating meetings and dealing with conflict. And I do this through both in-person and online group training and one-on-one coaching.

RM – Awesome USP there, Helen. And what are the main “features” of Sasuga! Communications?

HI – One thing that’s a big feature is that I’m the only one who conducts the training, so people who receive my training receive all of my background, career and experience. I’ve lived and worked in Japan for 25 years, and during that time I spent 7 years with Nippon Steel Trading understanding Japanese culture and communication practices, plus 10 years with McKinsey where I was Manager Of Client Communications and trained McKinsey consultants and clients in communication skills. So you get all that expertise and consistency, and of course my personality (laughs), which is very much focused on encouragement and building confidence. Another feature is that I adapt to my clients’ needs and change my approach depending on who I’m working with to bring out the best results for each individual.

RM – Interesting. So how can Sasuga! Communications enhance the world for businesses and individuals?

HI – Ok, imagine, if you will, having a meeting with someone and having them not distracted by technology but really listening to you. Imagine going to a seminar where the presenters are passionate and engaging. Imagine joining a conference call where everyone feels confident to contribute their ideas and gives space for others to speak too. Imagine attending a meeting with a clear goal and roles for all participants, with constructive debate, and clear results and next steps. Imagine being able to understand others’ perspectives and deal quickly and compassionately with conflict in the workplace – and even to embrace constructive differences of opinion. Sasuga! Communications can enhance the world for businesses and individuals by helping people to make these five ideals a reality, and these are the 5 chapters of my book!

RM – What interests you outside of your working day?

HI – I’m really enjoying yoga at the moment, as taught at Ginza Hub by Ashina Saiki of Yoga Buddhi. I find it really centers me, and also compliments my martial arts (ed. Helen is an Itosu-ryu Karate world champion.) I’m also really into my new garden! I recently bought a new apartment in Shinjuku, and love working on my little herb and veggie garden there. We even had some of the herbs I grew with dinner at home last night!

RM – Sounds wonderful!

HI – Yes, it is!

RM – Ok, what’s next for the entrepreneur Helen Iwata?

HI – I’m hugely excited about the recent launch of my mini online course, How to Avoid the 5 Biggest Presentation Mistakes. I think lots of people can benefit from this – not just for giving big presentations, but for speaking up in business meetings or giving sales pitches. And I have ideas for bigger and better online courses. I’m also fired up about the idea of launching a podcast

RM – The last question is, what type of music, films and artwork do you like?

HI – Music, I actually pretty much like anything – if it’s got a beat I’ll tap my foot to it! (laughs). I’m especially an 80s music girl. But I also listen to a lot more modern music because I have a teenage daughter. So yeah, I can listen to anything. In terms of films, I’m totally a romantic comedy kind of girl. “Love Actually” is my all-time favorite. And art… I actually like to draw things myself. I don’t do it much these days, but when I was a kid I used to do a lot of drawing. I don’t have a specific kind of art that I like, but I appreciate what people do. Oh, and one more if I can add in on art. One that I haven’t done yet, but is waiting on my bedside table to do, is sashiko, which is a kind of Japanese embroidery. A friend of mine is setting up her business, promoting sashiko to the world. It’s a very traditional Japanese art and it’s starting to get a little bit more known in the West, and she’s an expert in this area.

RM – Cool. Ok, well, that was the final question in our interview today, so thank you very much for your time, Helen. And all the best with your next big project!

HI – Thanks, Rob.

Robert Millar interviews Helen Iwata

Introducing our newest member, software development engineer Fredrik Simonsson

Introducing Fredrik Simonsson

Fredrik SimonssonIt’s with great pleasure that we introduce our newest Ginza Hub member, software development engineer Fredrik Simonsson.

Fredrik is a Scandinavian engineer who has worked with several major research & development companies in the mobile and semiconductor industry, like Nokia, Reneas, and Sony Mobile.

The company that he works for, Fingerprint Cards, is a high-tech, listed company which develops, produces and markets biometric technology that verifies a person’s identity via their unique fingerprint. The company’s sensors are present in some of the major flagship models on the market, like Google Nexus, Sony Xperia and Xiaomi mi5. Fredrik is the local technical support for Japanese customers in Japan.

He says, “I’m very excited to be part of a growing business in a vibrant community.”

Introducing our newest member, photographer Tia Haygood

Introducing Tia Haygood

Tia HaygoodIt’s with great pleasure that we introduce our newest Ginza Hub member, photographer Tia Haygood.

Tia is an American photographer born and raised in North Carolina who’s been living in Japan for over four years. Photography was an isolated hobby for Tia until she came to Japan and marvelled at its many treasures and cultures. Now TopTia Photography assists artists and businesses, both from Japan and from abroad, who are hoping to grow here and beyond. Tia’s goal is to provide excellent photos that promote brands and businesses to others in their respective professional fields.

We’re helping Tia with her mission by providing our conference & event room for her to use as a photographic studio.

Tia says, “I’m happy to be joining Ginza Hub and look forward to adding my services to this growing family.”

The Pivot (Part 1)

The Pivot (Part 1)

Business Coaching

For years I’ve been coaching people on the tools and strategies needed to succeed in business. And I’ve been pretty much doing it for free, but today that has to stop.

You see, over the past 15 years or so I’ve founded or bought, then built and sold, several successful offline and online businesses, such as Zeros And Ones Japan Limited and Qhub.com, so I know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t work for startups. And I think I’ve been pretty good about sharing what I’ve learned in an effort to help entrepreneurs find the successes I’ve enjoyed while avoiding the failures I’ve endured. But I’m increasingly finding that helping people out pro bono is eating into the time I should be spending on my customers who are paying me. That is, my Ginza Hub monthly members.

So, I’ll humbly and happily continue to offer my knowledge, experience and technical expertise to Ginza Hub members free of charge. Forever. But for non-Ginza Hub members, I’ll be charging an hourly rate for all in-person business consulting or Virtual Assistance.

Now, I don’t expect people to suddenly start throwing money at me, but I do expect some people to see the value of becoming a Ginza Hub member, and I also expect some others to see that I no longer work for free and kindly stop asking for free advice. There will, I hope, also be some who see that they will probably only get one shot at building a successful business, and invest in the expert guidance that Ginza Hub members currently enjoy.

In a way, this is a bit of a career pivot for me, because for the past couple of years I’ve been quite happy to mostly just be “the guy who makes the coffee” at GHub. Then again, this isn’t half as big as my other pivot that’s coming up later this month. So stay tuned for Part 2! 🙂

To see how I can help you build the kind of efficient, effective, profitable business that I’ve been building for years, check out my other post at the link here.

– Robert

P.S. Please also check out “The Pivot (Part 2)” at my sister site if you want to know why this post is Part 1 of 2.

More coffee!

More coffee!

Today we added a second coffee machine to Ginza Hub to double our output of caffeinated goodness for our members and visitors!

second coffee machine

This also means that if one coffee machine breaks down or otherwise goes offline, which occasionally happens, there is now another machine to back it up. So we’ve doubled our output and halved our risk of upsetting our coffee lovers.

Introducing our newest member, game programmer Mazyad Alabduljalil

Introducing Mazyad Alabduljalil

Mazyad AlabduljalilIt’s with great pleasure that we introduce our newest and youngest Ginza Hub member, game programmer Mazyad Alabduljalil.

After deciding to leave his home country of Kuwait 4 years ago, Maz worked in various cities around the world in software programming as an intern, a developer, a contractor, and also independently. He loves to experiment and try new things, and his latest project is a company called Level3, which he plans to start and build at Ginza Hub! He then aims to work on building casual games for the mobile industry, and slowly growing a team of professionals here in Tokyo.

We’ve already helped Maz get started by introducing him to our visa lawyer, Mr. Nishioka, and by translating for him so that there were no misunderstandings.

Maz says, “Exciting times, around exciting people, in a very exciting city!”