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Wonder Women Entrepreneurs! This is the place to join conversations with thought leaders who amaze, astonish and inspire you. Listen each week as entrepreneur and host Kalika Yap explores the challenges, wisdom and breakthroughs of extraordinary people. (An Entrepreneurs’ Organization production)

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Nov 17, 2017

Melanie Wong, CEO of Premium Inc., is proud to have earned various awards including entrepreneur of the year, small business person of the year, top women’s business in Hawaii, and ranked in Hawaii’s top 200 businesses. Today on the EO Podcast, Melanie discusses the importance of continuing your education beyond the classroom and how a good company culture can save you in the worst of times. Tune-in to learn how Melanie handled a sudden end to her warehouse lease, two major floodings, wire thieves, and condescension from vendors and clients when entering a new market as a female entrepreneur.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:40 – Melanie is the CEO of Premium Inc.
  • 01:00 – Melanie’s background
  • 01:04 – Part of EO and YPO, moved from Hong Kong to Hawaii for High School
  • 1:50 – Her father lent another Hong Kong business owner a large sum of money, and he filed for bankruptcy
  • 02:20 – Her mother started Premium in Hawaii, her brother took over afterwards with no business background
  • 03:03 – Brother went back to Hong Kong to help father and she graduated college
  • 03:30 – She moved back to Hawaii in 1988 and her senior thesis was about the company
  • 04:00 – She applied her marketing and finance degree to real life when she took over Premium
  • 04:40 – Premium is one of the top 200 businesses in Hawaii and an Ernst and Young award winner
  • 05:00 – Awards give instant credibility; she didn’t care about prizes or awards in the past
  • 06:15 – Her banker nominated her for entrepreneur of the year, small business person of the year, top women business in Hawaii and Hawaii top 200 business, and when they won they started getting bigger clients and more exposure
  • 07:04 – Habits for success include continued learning
  • 07:20 – Chinese parents typically want a specialty
  • 08:00 – College was to “learn how to learn,” and she believes in using that learned skill
  • 08:20 – Encourages her employees, even the older ones, to continue learning and end the belief that their learning ended when they finished school
  • 08:45 – Went to University of Miami and Stanford University and learned that she needed a board of advisors and how to create one
  • 09:45 – Asked Andrew Sherman, a founder and legal counselor of EO, to be on her board
  • 10:05 – She is in Harvard YPO program (case-study based, peer reviewed)
  • 11:10 – She uses what she learns in the case studies to apply in her own business and shows her team members so they read it
  • 11:48 – The case studies that stand out most for her are the ones of companies with a strong culture
  • 12:30 – Something she admires about the culture is that the company requires a book report from employees before they get promoted
  • 13:20 – Favorite books: “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” and “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish and “Topgrading” by Bradford Smart
  • 13:45 – She has her executive team and middle management read the books
  • 13:50 - “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
  • 14:09 – “How do you put yourself through the worst times?”
  • 14:15 – In 2015 her warehouse landlord wouldn’t renew her lease and there was nowhere to move and her old warehouse was too small
  • 16:00 – She paid 2.5x the appraised value to buy the warehouse and put everything she owned on the line
  • 17:20 – After moving in, a sprinkler broke in her old warehouse flooding it and damaging a significant amount of property inside, wire thieves stole copper wire, and her warehouse was flooded a second time
  • 18:50 – Her weekly overtime hours were greater than the regular hours during that time
  • 19:03 – Melanie thanks her good company culture for getting through that tough time; everyone did what they had to do, put in 100%, and customers didn’t even notice a change in service
  • 19:53 – Her sales manager knows her well and would say Melanie is focused, knows what she wants, and is very transparent
  • 21:00 – She also thinks quickly, changes the subject, and multi-tasks, so her sales manager balances her out and helps keep others on track
  • 21:45 – She’s learning to be more patient and understanding
  • 22:00 – Challenges as a female entrepreneur: She understands many of her challenges were simply those of an entrepreneur and not having to do with being female or Asian
  • 22:22 – Recognizes some challenges have to do with being a woman, short, and speaking with an accent
  • 22:42 – She was challenged and scolded for wanting to enter the market of selling cleaning chemicals and did so anyway
  • 23:54 – Advice for other women entrepreneurs
  • 24:00 – Continue you education, increase your network to keep learning from others, and join a professional network like EO or YPO

3 Key Points:

  1. Always continue to learn – Learning shouldn’t stop when your schooling does.
  2. When faced with extreme challenges, do what you need to do and rely on your team for support.  
  3. Continue learning by expanding your networks, reading, and involving your staff in the learning process.

Resources Mentioned: