“The best opportunities to grow can come from economic downturns – and this one is no different.”
Recently I had the honor of chatting with John Lee, CEO of Anewgo, a successful software development company that serves the home building industry across North America.
Following a career in tech in Silicon Valley, John started his company Rendering House in 2001 with a vision to marry his 2 passions – tech and real estate.
Fast forward to today, and Rendering House has worked with thousands of builders, developers, architects, marketing agencies and realtors to create renderings, interactive apps, and virtual tours.
It was in the middle of the recession – a time when the economic downturn was forcing most companies to downsize and lay off employees – that John knew it was the right time to pivot and reinvent the company and its future. Thus, Anewgo was born.
Enjoy these highlights of our podcast together – I know you’ll find John’s nuggets of wisdom particularly relevant in these times…
Change is a Constant in the Homebuilding Industry
John and I agreed on some simple truths I bet you’ll relate to:
“This industry is in our blood.” and “Change is the way…”
The Great Recession introduced an opportunity to rethink how John would do business going forward:
Instead of hunkering down and laying off in 2011, he started a brand-new company and brought his team along the way.
Isn’t it amazing how our biggest changes often start in the worst times of our economy?
An Economic Downturn = Opportunity to Pivot
When an economic downturn comes (and they always do), John sees market share opportunities.
Consumers change when things are tough, not when times are good, he reminds us. It’s the psychology of human nature that is the biggest part of what makes John Lee’s tech company successful. Humans master the tech – and mastering the tech improves lives.
Tough times call for a re-assessment of passion, vision and direction. “To soar, you need to be grounded,” advises John.
Yet he shares, “It wasn’t all fun and games and easy for me. My biggest success was also my biggest failure.” How many of us can relate to that, right?
What’s Your Definition of Success?
The son of Taiwanese immigrants, John shares, “In the Taiwanese community, you didn’t really make it until you were a doctor. I thought I was a role model; I was doing well in school on that path, but then became exposed to business and fell in love. Unfortunately, the switch to business from med school made me feel that I was a let-down in my Taiwanese community.”
The pressures John faced were tough, and he became a black sheep.
Still, he followed his passion and not only made it a success, but also paved the way for others in his community to do the same.
He became a role model to those in his family and friend circles.
Overcoming your fears and adversity is how John defines success.
Through the Highs & Lows, an Intense Drive to Keep Going
What kept John going? “Confidence in my employees,” he says. “I had to create a diversity of people – analytical left-brain people and graphic artists and marketing right-brain people. It takes a lot of effort to bring the 2 sides together. But I saw it as an advantage and necessary for success – it’s like nuclear fusion.”
He gives an analogy of a see-saw, where each side is far apart from the other so that when one falls, the other one flies high. When one flies high, the other side drops. “Instead of being at extreme ends of the see-saw throwing the other side way up or down, I was constantly pulling them closer together by being the fulcrum in the center to lessen the extremities.”
“It’s the diversity of opinions that is really what makes us work,” acknowledges John.
He emphasizes the importance of finding role models:
“Show by example the successes to allow them to see how it can work and also achieve great things together. Inspiring them to be willing to be open and a part of the vision is key.”
A chameleon-like ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances has served John well:
“Like a springboard, you have to go down before you go up. I went from my fancy high rise office to working from my garage and working in my clients’ offices after hours. Now, we have over 3000 clients across North America.”
Today, he is always working to find ways that allow his mentees to soar to new heights, while also keeping them grounded as they pursue their own ambitions. His powerful motto in an inspiration for all of us:
“Yearn to learn, learn to earn, earn to return to those who yearn”.
Evolution to a Revolution: A Mantra for Transformation
Our world is experiencing an evolution right now – there is no better time to harness opportunities that others may overlook.
When you go through the process of evolving yourself, you naturally evolve those around you, the group, the industry, and the community. Think: “Evolution to a revolution”.
If you look back to see what you achieved, it’s always a lot. John isn’t saying to throw everything away from the past, but rather, “You may take a new approach to get there. Take advantage of the new things available to you that you may not have known about before.”
Wise words from an entrepreneur who answers “Innovative” to the question: “How do you want to be known?” To that, he adds, “An entrepreneur who loves what he does and makes it better for the industry and those in it.”
Remember to stay inspired: “To get from 0-1 is a big deal. Just cross the threshold to 1 and that is already a huge accomplishment,” says John.
Wherever you’re at, know this: When we are on our own, we are impaired. He emphasizes the importance of finding a role model, about seeking out the opposite to help hold you accountable.
“Don’t create a goldfish bowl. Pair up with someone outside the sandbox to see things differently. They can really question the “why” and the “how” so much better and offer different perspectives.”
Personal development leads to career development, which leads to business development.
“My business is not based on a great idea of mine. Other people have invested in their skills to make themselves a player in our game. Each person individually has to bring what they have to make this a success,” he explained.
Closing Words of Wisdom: 3 Key Questions to Ask
Recognize what you, as the leader, bring and don’t get caught up in the ego that you are the only one to be able to take it to the next level. Let others do what they do well in order to serve the business best.
Ask these 3 questions:
- What can you do?
- What should you do?
- What should you NOT do?
Wisdom is being able to recognize what things you are not the best at doing. Practicality is humbling (don’t we know it!). The evolution of business requires its’ leaders to evolve. A mentor or coach will help you look in the mirror and visualize what you don’t see yourself.
John Lee is a success story and a constant Work in Progress to watch. He has made hard decisions, stuck to his passions and saw adversity and an economic downturn as opportunities for success for both himself and the future of his company.
Wherever you are in your journey, I am here to support you! Our Leadership Development Program can help you grow by leaps and bounds, paving the road ahead for success.