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Interview With A Professional | Gary Lim, Consultant, Entrepreneur, and Author

By Mark O'Meara - Delbarton and Fred Chang - The Pingry School

What makes the best business? Can every good idea come to fruition? We spoke with Gary Lim, author and entrepreneur to learn more about what it takes to stand out – and not just in business.Gary Lim has had his fair share of experience in the business world. Having held executive roles in several Fortune 500 companies, such as Hewlett-Packard Company and XEROX, Gary spent a considerable amount of time in Silicon Valley living and breathing the start-up air. His product line responsibilities ranged from $20 million to over $300 million throughout his career, no doubt putting him at the level of “highly qualified” when he speaks from his experience. He has started several of his own businesses, and currently is the President of Aurarius LLC, a consulting and coaching firm. To add to his already superior resume, he is a best-selling author and professional speaker to encourage others to walk down the path of business with the resources he’s acquired over his career.I personally met Mr. Lim for the first time at my high-school’s annual “finance café”, an assembly totally dedicated to the general topic of business and finance. Having gone to Pingry for 6 years before, I was amazed at Mr. Lim’s energy and thought-provoking presentation. He presented his “Top 10 Aha! Moments of Entrepreneurship” to the entire Upper School of approximately 600 students. Having connected with Mr. Lim, I vouched for him to come to the NextGenVest Global Ambassadors Summit in New York City at Grand Central Tech. At the conference, he gave his presentation on the IDEAL business, which many of the student ambassadors found very interesting, as it not only related to business, but its meaning also extended to personal branding. Mark O'Meara and I interviewed him afterwards:

What does IDEAL stand for?

I – InitiativeD – DifferentiationE – EconomicsA – AdvantageL – Loyalty

How does IDEAL relate to business and people? 

Well, one thing you may hear me say very often is that: great ideas are abundant; great execution is rare. I’d rather have a C product with an A team, rather than an A product and a C team. People tell me all the time, “I’ve got this really great idea – it’ll be the new big thing”. Well that’s great and all, but where’s the business plan? What are you going to do about it? They usually respond, “I don’t know, it’s a great idea, it’ll carry itself”. That’s where great ideas fail. Everyone thinks they can conjure up a good idea and become successful – but they don’t have Initiative. That’s the first step to a good business. People need to get out there and execute.This doesn’t only apply to businesses, however. I know that everyone at this conference might not want to start their own company one day – it’s only a tiny percent of the workforce that does that. IDEAL can relate to everyone on a personal level. Think about when you’re applying for a job, or applying anywhere for that matter. You need to show initiative, you need to differentiate yourself, you need to have a solid background, you need to have that advantage, and you need to prove your loyalty. I’m sure many of you are applying to colleges soon, and that’s exactly what you have to do.

Is there a striking characteristic that makes you skeptical of an applicant or makes you see them as overambitious?

Well, their past work history can certainly show clues. The best way to learn about an applicant is to have a conversation and asses them there. Are they excited? Are they talking about monetary return? What’s in it for them? I need to find out what their foci are. I need to go on a journey with them, and see where they’re headed. Some applicants talk all about “Me”. They say, “I want this” or “I want that”. How does that look to me? I’m the one paying them; they should be telling me how they can help me. I don’t want to hire someone who uses this job as a stepping stone to other jobs – that’s where applicants need to prove Loyalty.

Which of the five letters is most commonly absent in people with potential?

Definitely, Differentiation and Advantage are most often absent. The pack lists their stuff. They let the manager figure out why they’re good. You, as the applicant, have to connect the dots. Make it easier for the resume reader – you can’t assume we can figure out by ourselves why you’re different. Tell us why you’re different.

When does initiative overstep boundaries? Is it bad to ask questions?

Obviously, you shouldn’t go around doing your own thing and telling me after the fact that you did it. That can really overstep the boundaries. I want self-sufficient workers who can take initiative to do work, but they should tell me what they’re planning to do first – at least get my approval. On the other hand, I shouldn’t be babysitting every worker and telling them what to do every second of the day. I should be giving you feedback and support, but not all the answers. So, there’s a balance in initiative. You can’t be running your own show, but neither should your manager be running your show.Certainly, there’s the stigma that new hires don’t want to seem “stupid” by asking too many questions. Ideally, I want them to ask questions if they don’t know how to do something. I understand that. They’re new – it’s reasonable to ask for help. The only time it would be bad to ask questions would be if I already answered it before. I’ve had situations where a worker asked me a question on Tuesday and on Friday ask me the same question, but reworded. Other than that, I’d rather have a new hire ask and get their job done right, rather than don’t ask and get it done wrong.

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