Connect with Kan Huang: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kan-huang-b7054514/
Learn more about Social Wave at https://socialwave.com.au/
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Doing the work as a leader is simply not enough, you must market your leadership.
Want to know some tips and tricks on how to effectively market your leadership? Keep reading to find out.
Kan Huang is the Founder and Director of Social Wave, a demand generation agency focusing on brand building, generating leads, and growing revenue.
Before founding Social Wave, Kan was in the hospitality industry for 10 years. His first leadership position was as a front desk duty manager who was in charge of everything in the hotel in the absence of the senior management. He started at the front desk but eventually moved into events coordination, sales, marketing, and into a more executive management role.
How did Kan navigate multiple skills in all those different areas over the course of 10 years in hotels?
You have to be relatively good at a multitude of things. Kan says you can't just be specialized in one thing if you're handling dynamic and different roles. You also need to have emotional intelligence. As a leader, you need to be very in-tune with your team members. You have to understand what it is that makes them tick.
Being curious and driven in getting the results that you wanted also played a very important part in Kan's roles as he explored from a growth perspective and moved into multiple roles. You have to focus on getting your work done and be consistent in doing it really well.
Emotional intelligence is highly important not just for the leader but also for the team.
In the hospitality industry, you encounter very dynamic people in your team from all walks of life with personalities that can sometimes be very challenging. So you have to be very careful about understanding where they all come from. You have to understand what makes them tick and what you have to say in order to get what you want because sometimes, they tend to be ego-centric.
Kan always tells his team at Social Wave that you have to sell people their dream and help them get there no matter what it takes. However, people often don't lead with their dreams. You have to ask them questions and build some connection first for them to be comfortable enough sharing their dream with you.
You have to create a safe environment that would allow your people to say what they feel. Have an open-door policy and be out in the trenches with your team members. Respect earned through your actions as opposed to what you say performs much better.
Kan quit the hospitality industry after about 10 years. He then took a gap year where he traveled around Europe and Asia. During that time, he was also doing some freelancing, consulting, and marketing for some of his friends' and contacts' businesses.
Then the pandemic hit. So he had to go home and was welcomed with two options. It was either to go back to the hospitality industry that was completely decimated by COVID or to really assess and figure out what it is that he wanted to do.
It was at that point that the businesses he was working with got massive results through his marketing approach. During this process, they got additional clients and this ultimately led to starting the Social Wave. This happened in March 2020. The agency has gone from zero to seven figures now in just 18 months.
What leadership lessons did Kan learn in scaling his business from zero to seven figures in 18 months?
Kan says the biggest challenge with scaling their agency was how to get the most out of its people because they end up hitting a cap at some stage with each individual team member. Social Wave is a service-based business which means it's tethered by the time and the productivity of its people.
One of the leadership lessons he learned during the process was to invest a lot of internal training time and resources towards improving their people's time and productivity. As an example, Kan recently ran a several-hour training session on productivity and efficiency within the company.
Another leadership lesson he learned was to be visible in front of different audiences. You have to show up on podcasts to demonstrate leadership and subject matter expertise to what it is that your target audience needs to know about. And then in turn, as the company grows, and you're not worrying about keeping the lights on, you can invest a bit more on other important matters.
Kan says content creation is the main form of demonstrating your leadership and it starts with positioning and differentiation. You have to understand what it is that you have to say and why it is different from the market.
It's also important that you understand where the attention is shifting. For marketing, that could be the attention shifting towards tools like Tiktok, a short-form content. Everyone is now moving towards fast-growing platforms, like Tiktok. So you need to start creating content in it because if you don't, you're going to be left behind.
Make sure that your positioning and differentiation are different. Avoid the "sea of sameness" because you don't want to sound like everyone else.
How can the "sea of sameness" be avoided within an organization?
A lot of big companies sound the same. They all say the same things and they all use the same cliches. To be able to avoid the "sea of sameness" internally, as a leader, you have to be different and authentic to the point where you talk about what's obvious to the people. You also have to avoid cliches, particularly around communication, because most of the time, you're doing communication on a mass scale instead of one-to-one.
How should leaders look at audiences in their market versus in their organization?
Your audiences in the market and in your organization are two very different audiences in a lot of ways, but also very similar at the same time.
If you want to grow and scale your business, you're going to need other talented people who can help you with that internally. Think of them as some of the best people that you can have onboard as your intrapreneurs. They may not have the risk appetite to be able to go out and do that themselves but they're more than happy to have the safety net of a steady paying job, but be able to exercise that entrepreneurial spirit and the way that you do things within your company.
Now, externally, what's important is to understand that most people build a mission-based aspect of the business. If people are emotionally tethered to what it is that your company does, what your service or your product offers, then it's much easier to get buy-in to convert people into paying customers.
To do that, you have to communicate very clearly which goes back to your positioning and your differentiation. Make sure to be very specific and have something unique to say, as opposed to having that "sea of sameness".
How can you best position yourself as a leader for whatever role you want?
It's all through positioning, differentiation, and getting people emotionally tethered.
People have many mental models and blind spots that they all are making emotional decisions most of the time. That's why emotional intelligence is the number one soft skill when it comes to leaders. If your emotional intelligence is not strong, you've got a massive blind spot in your leadership.
Emotional intelligence is the key to understanding exactly what is happening in the business, how people feel, and what the culture is like. Some of the best businesses out there are those that have strong continuity with their people.
There's that classic adage people say that people don't quit companies, they quit their bosses. How do you look after your staff? How do you make them feel involved? How do you create a safe environment? If you can do those things really well, you're already halfway to actually creating a really successful business.
Social Wave had no churn in their team members at all. They've been able to have the same team from day one. And that's very important. It all goes back to the mission, the values, the positioning, and the differentiation.
Make your people feel like they're part of something bigger, and they're working with you towards that. You have to market your leadership all the time internally because they're only as bought in as the culture lives. As soon as your culture changes, the game changes.
Kan read the book called "How To Win Friends And Influence People" by Dale Carnegie and it changed the way he saw leadership. It can be applied across many different things but there was one takeaway he got out of that which was to lead in with compliments. Shower your people with compliments, before you actually give constructive criticism.
This helps with people growing and allows them to feel like they have a safe environment to be able to develop. This also helps them understand that mistakes do happen.
What is the best approach to start branding yourself on social media?
You have to be really consistent and prolific with your content creation in order to grow your brand on platforms like LinkedIn.
When people actually decide to want to work with you, or they want to join your organization, or maybe they want to engage in your products or services, the thing that they think about is not just that single piece of content, but it's that sum of all stuff that you've published and created over a long period of time.
It's the same for your employees. You can't just do one big motivational speech once a year and then expect that your employees are going to buy into that. You have to do this messaging consistently in order for the people to get that drilled into their heads and understand what it is that you do.
You have to consistently do that because you just don't know when people will click with it, maybe you'll say things a little bit differently and people just resonate with that better, even though it's the same message.
Testing, experimenting, and trying lots of things but being consistent is going to be the best place to start. And do not worry too much about perfection.
Any type of marketing requires a long time frame to accumulate useful data.
You need to actually build relationships and trust over a long period of time because that consistency is what ultimately ends up yielding you the returns. If you gave up in the first few months, then you've already lost that opportunity. Being slow and steady wins the race and that's going to get you there eventually.
Social Wave works with B2B service-based companies, particularly around SaaS. If you want to reach out to Kan, his email is [email protected]. You can also visit their website, socialwave.com.au.
You can book in time for a free initial consultation to understand what your situation is and see whether or not you're a good fit. They're based in Australia but they serve clients worldwide.