Brian Nelson’s tips for entrepreneurial success
by Natasha Thompson and Jonathon Walsh
The success or failure of an entrepreneurial venture is often reflective of the skills and talents of the senior management. In many cases, these skills are drawn from an entrepreneur’s past experiences in order to drive successful organizational results, and that is certainly the case for Brian Nelson, President and CEO of ValueCommerce, a global provider of innovative, high quality internet business solutions, who shared his insight and experiences at the Nov. 1, EA-Tokyo seminar.
Guideposts to success
Over ten years of experience in sales, consulting, marketing, and senior management proved invaluable to Nelson since becoming CEO of ValueCommerce in March 2001. Nelson joined ValueCommerce in January from The Gallup Organization in Japan. Prior to Gallup, Nelson worked in business development with a subsidiary of Japan’s largest and most profitable non-life insurer, Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., and previously began his experience in Japan as a sales associate for Ashisuto, Japan’s first full service computer software corporation.
Nelson focused his seminar on his entrepreneurial background and spoke about ‘The Plan.’ “The plan is where you take the time to write down your life goals and timeframes for completing each goal, which will prove invaluable when you are making decisions going forward.”
You are never too young to start
Nelson’s contact with the entrepreneurial world started early. As a first grade student, he participated in a young entrepreneur group, creating a business that sold lemonade and made sandwiches. As a young teenager, Nelson used $1,000 that he had saved from part-time jobs to gain first-hand experience buying stocks and talking with stockbrokers, using a custodian account. “It’s important in business to learn [about the stock market] since you [will be] buying stock to establish your own company. Getting that experience outside of what you normally do can be one of the most beneficial things to starting your company,” he said.
Planning leads to opportunity
Have clear career goals and assess how close you are to attaining them, while adapting them accordingly.
Nelson wanted to master the Japanese language, so he made the decision to live in Osaka straight out of university, as Osaka provided a location where he was less likely to use English. In addition, he decided early on that he had to find out how Japanese companies really work, and how decisions are made. “Whom do you talk to in a Japanese company to make a decision?” was one of his questions. To this end, he chose to move on to Tokyo to work for a subsidiary of the Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance Company “It was good experience for what I wanted,” he said.
Be efficient with your time
When he looks back at this experience starting a business in Japan, he suggests entrepreneurs utilize their time appropriately. “Get an accountant first, as you should not waste your time with the legal ‘set-up’ of a company. It took the accountants two weeks to do what I had done in two and a half months.”
Invest in the people around you
Establish relationships based on trust. “Do what you say you will do, and allow people to learn and grow by delegating large portions of the work that needs to be done. Many entrepreneurs do not delegate as much as they should.”
Build up a strong network of contacts. Nelson said that, “building up a wide breadth of information and contacts allows you to be able to do the things you want to do, and rely on a larger group of people to help build your organization.” By May 2000, only four months after starting, ValueCommerce and Nelson had contracted with many Fortune 500 and Japanese companies to become customers.
Balancing family and work
Nelson thinks constant communication has been key in achieving a successful career and close family relationship. His sons call him every day at work unless there are shareholder or board meetings. In addition, he does a variety of things with them. He said he prefers activities “to engage the brain.” His sons play chess and he introduces them to marketing, finance, and legal issues of doing business by applying concepts made popular by financier, Robert Kiyosaki in Cashflow Quadrant: Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom.
ValueCommerce, currently the number one affiliate marketing company in Japan by network size and sales volume, generated more than ¥100 billion in sales for their customers in 2004 and has approximately 1,000 eCommerce Merchant customers. On a daily basis, ValueCommerce serve on average 400 million advertisements across this network. In April 2005, ValueCommerce finalized a strategic capital alliance with internet portal Yahoo! Japan. Yahoo! Japan acquired a 49.7 percent share of ValueCommerce and both companies will form a close cooperative working relationship.