Report from Seoul, Korea

Stanton Chase is now recognized as one of the Top Ten Global retained executive search firms.  To keep us there, and better able to serve our clients, we have two global partner meetings annually. We meet in teams to discuss industry trends, practice-group market dynamics, meet other search consultants in our fields. We invite expert speakers, and learn best practices from each other.

Our office team in Seoul, South Korea, put in much preparation over the last 6 months to get ready for partners from over 30 countries to visit, meet, and learn. We worked on industry and functional practice areas by day, and socialized and experienced Seoul by night. Our local office introduced us to many restaurants, theaters, and venues.

My wife and I added a day on each side of the 4-day meeting, and visited Seoul’s many, hilly, yet manicured parks. I enjoyed morning runs along the Han River, and through their beautifully maintained city. We also were fortunate enough to tour the DMZ, and the new 123-story Seoul Sky office tower, the 4th tallest building in the world. We navigated their efficient train/bus/subway system, and sample many kimchis.

Teamwork, comradery, learning, and building trust. It was a busy, productive, and enjoyable trip to Seoul, one of the most modern cities of the world.

Top Ten Technology Predictions for 2017

From G.P. Bullhound, Dealmakers in Technology.

If you are like me, you enjoy reading predictions from prognosticators.  Recently I was impressed with a presentation of such predictions by Alec Dafferner, Partner, and his team at GP Bullhound, global technology investment bankers.

G.P. Bullhound should know, as they do more investment banking deals in the technology space than any other banker in the world.  They also are research intensive, so they are constantly doing their homework on the marketplace.  Their 2016 predictions fared well, so I was keen on hearing their predictions for 2017. 

Here are the headlines from their top predictions.  (Click here to view the report)  How strongly do you agree? Are you willing to invest in these trends? Is your business benefiting from one of these emerging trends today?

Here you go:

1.  The next generation of Artificial Intelligence. Heavy investment in 2016…here to stay.  Both consumers and businesses begin to adopt cutting-edge AI for real-world applications. Disruptive AI developers raised $500m last year. More to come in 2017. AI-Powered Virtual Personal Assistants (“VPA”) will increase in sophistication (think Siri, Cortana, and Alexa).


2.  Cordless Content: Anywhere and Everywhere. Millennials move away from cable networks…TV industry disruption continues.  Networks will respond with new services for mobile consumers. Mobile continues to dominate headlines and investments.  Over-the-Top (OTT) services include fast broadband, large premium content, multiple device access, all at attractive pricing.  Scramble for content, delivery, and consumers.


3.  E-Sport Takes Center Stage. E-Sports is the fastest growing component of the entertainment industry, will hit $1B in revenue in 2017, with over 250 million fans.  More viewers for 2015 League of Legends Final than for game 7 of the 2016 NBA Final. 50% growth rate of industry.


4.  The Dawn of VR/AR content. VR/AR hardware has outpaced content.  Software will become available for the newest platform.  Head mounted gear taking off…sold 16.5 mm headsets in 2016. Wireless headsets next push.  Content to catch up due to heavy investments by media giants.  Augment reality boasts Pokemon Go’s 500 million downloads…peaks at 50mm users in one day.


5.  Driverless Cars…still require Human Direction. Heavy investment recently in this dream, creating more customized cars thanks to Google, Baidu, Apple, and Uber.  Samsung paid $8B for Harman, testament to interest by electronics firms to be part of future “connected” automobile.   More investment this year. Fully autonomous cars have a long way to go before widespread adoption.


6.  Fintech: Shifting Tectonic Plates. Traditional Financial Institutions will fight back this year, as “Banks 2.0” continue to steal their business. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending platforms intend to create an optimal lending process.  Widespread adoption of blockchain technology is unlikely to happen in 2017


7.  Social Media Transformation. Though Western players dominate in technical innovation, Asian players excel at user retention and monetization.  Executive recruitment and M&A transactions will focus on the converging of these two forces in Social Media in 2017.


8.  SaaS Software Reigning Supreme. With $61B worth of M&A in the rear view mirror, both PE firms and Tech giants are looking to buy more SaaS companies in 2017.  EU companies may present the best economics and valuations for purchasers.


9.  TECH IPOs are set for take off. As Asian markets heat up, particularly in China, and U.S. Unicorns looking to IPO in 2017, combined with modest increases in IPOs in Europe, 2017 should be a strong year for TECH IPOs.   China wants to bring in more foreign capital, and increase valuations for their tech companies.


10.  Year of the European Decacorn. With U.S. Unicorns all the buzz, keep your eyes on the European behemoths, the E.U. Decacorns.  These private firms are more capital efficient, have more rational valuations, enjoy greater financial stability, and are most likely to see a significant increase in value in 2017.


Note: Alec Dafferner has made the full report available on his web site:

More on Alec:


Effective business leadership means more plain talking…and less “RCRS.”

Sometimes effective business leadership means more plain talking…and less “RCRS.”  Communications challenges getting under your skin?  Then take a pointer from the CEO of Mylan’s refreshingly direct letter to the public, linked below, in today’s WSJ (A11: Dear EpiPen Customers…).  This CEO won me over.

Ladies take note…the CEO I’m applauding turns out is also a lady, Ms. Heather Bresch.

Ms. Bresch offers a clear explanation for how pharmaceutical products are priced in America, and how Mylan prices its EpiPen for Americans seeking a quick cure for allergic reactions to peanut allergies and bee stings.   Open, transparent, communications taking responsibility and sharing motivations builds trust.  Would you agree she accomplishes this in this letter?    Will your next letter get you to the CEO’s seat…or keep you there? to log into the article if you have a WSJ subscription.

(NOTE: if you cannot access her letter online, ask me for the full version.)

Ms Heather Bresch

SVB Annual Wine Report Reflects Need for Investment in Good People

WineReport1Silicon Valley Bank released its annual State of the Wine Industry Report 2016 this week with a live Webcast featuring a panel of wine industry experts.  The presentation highlighted key operating trends that wineries might expect in 2016 which again highlighted the Direct-To-Consumer (DtC) segment, which has significantly grown in importance for wineries over the last 15 years.

Paul Mabray, founder of VinTank and expert in wine business development, commented that investment in people will continue to be a critical factor in a winery’s success in the current economic environment.  Rob McMillan of SVB also emphasized the importance of having good people representing your wine brand.  With other competitive advantages including complex distribution decisions and price-pinching competition, it has been underscored that hiring and retaining the right people for your winery remains one of the most important keys to success in the coming year and beyond.

Visit SVB’s website for more information or view the full report here:

State of Industry – Wine Report – 2016

“The Man Who Thinks He Can”

For those of you working on your goals or resolutions, and wanting inspiration or direction to connect your wishes with your actions and results, read this timeless poem I chose for my CEO Club.

Wishing you Faith, Achievement, and Satisfaction in your life in 2016… and beyond.

Thinking of the famous poem written by Walter D. Wintle, a poet who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. Excellent read as we enter a new year and set our goals. May this shared poem stimulate your success!

“The Man Who Thinks He Can”

Reaching for the StarsIf you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you cannot,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will–
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins

– Walter D. Wintle

The Art of Customer Service

Business Edge Presentation.Zendesk 11.3.2015_Page_03Dominican University of California hosts monthly Business Edge Briefing events that bring industry experts to share their wisdom. On November 3rd, they hosted Sary Stefanki, Director of Global Customer Success at Zendesk, a leader in web-based customer service solutions. Students, faculty and community members joined in to hear about “The Art of Customer Service” and learn helpful tips. The challenge of today, as Stefanki noted, is that whether a customer has good or bad experiences, they will share them with others; however, bad experiences have a habit of being expressed more.

Technology transformed how people interact with one another. In a way, it has formed customer service with one click. Instant communication, personalized service and transparent operations are now familiar characteristic of customer service. Technology has also made consumers’ expectations that much harder to predict.

Improving customer retention and increasing the lifetime value of your product are essential to keep a company’s effortless ally – a customer’s loyalty.

Top drivers of customer disloyalty involve more than one person contact, repeating information, perceived effort and being transferred. The goal of your product is to give effortless customer experience and at the core of it are:

  • Minimize channel switching;
  • Maximize next issue avoidance;
  • Equip their agents to engineer experiences; and
  • Empower their own employees.

Business decisions made based on support usage data and internal analysis have been shown to improve customer satisfaction. A common tool, journey mapping, can help us understand why or why not customers are satisfied and how much effort they are putting in to resolve a bad experience.

According to Stefanki, here are 7 ways to build lasting relationships:

  1. Don’t overestimate your importance in the customer’s life
  2. Consider the entire customer experience
  3. Recognize the right relationships and adapt
  4. Be something actual humans can relate to
  5. Be transparent
  6. Empower your people to do what’s best
  7. Put a face to your customers

Out thanks go out to Sary Stefanki and Zendesk for sharing these valuable insights with us.

Zendesk provides a customer service platform designed to bring organizations and their customers closer together. With more than 60,000 customer accounts, Zendesk is used by organizations in 140 countries to provide support in more than 40 languages. Founded in 2007 and headquartered in San Francisco, Zendesk has operations in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. Learn more at

Business Edge Briefings are a series of panel discussions especially for organizational leaders and business owners. Discussions are designed to highlight cutting-edge strategies and techniques for businesses to be resilient and competitive in domestic and global business environments. Hosted by the Institute for Leadership (ILS) of the Barowsky School of Business and in partnership with the North Bay Leadership Council and Stanton Chase, the Briefings seek to ignite innovation, inspire creativity and ultimately increase profits and productivity.​ Learn more at the Business Edge Briefings website.

Leadership Lessons from the BBQ Grill

This past Tuesday, we hosted our annual Summer BBQ at our home and invited members of the CEO Club of Marin, COO Forum, and special friends of Stanton Chase.

As I checked the meat and fish on the grill, anticipating the arrival of my first guests, the last thing on my mind was leadership theory or stories.  In fact, don’t we often grill to get away from it all? Maybe have a beer, or cabernet, and focus on something besides work? By the end of the evening, I was overwhelmed by the sense of leadership, relationship, community, and team building.

I wrote about some of the things what I learned, you can read about it here:

Photos from the Party: