Jessica Lui is CEO of Global Professionals Practicum (GPP), a professional coaching firm dedicated to helping clients build influence in a competitive global environment, as well as a management consultant at Deloitte. She serves as a member of the UN International Youth Council, consulting on global humanitarian youth issues. Jessica has spoken at 20+ conferences including the United Nations General Assembly (New York), the World Business Dialogue (Berlin) and the World Economic Forum Global Shapers (San Francisco).
How did you get to where you are today?
To be successful: Know what you want to do. Find the right people to support you. Do what it takes to get there.
The first and most important part of the journey is defining what you want to do.
Ideally, this should be an intersection between what you are passionate about doing and what meets your definition of success.
There are many things I’m passionate about doing: helping GPP clients build their influence and personal networks, working as a UN Youth Ambassador to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or speaking to youth at Stanford about how to build their brand.
What stays consistent is how I define success: I believe that success is defined by the impact you create and the relationships you build. I measure success by the number of lives touched, impact created, and the number of friends I could call at 2 AM if I needed help.
The next step is finding the right people to support you on your journey.
Having a network is essential — a network is often the difference between success and failure; having opportunities or struggling to find them. Talk to experts for advice, make your pitches to investors, meet mentors who can help you get through tough patches, and network with fellow innovators.
Finally, do what it takes to get there.
Success takes a lot of hard work; there are many times when the journey to success can be difficult and daunting.
However, there are two important traits that I’ve noticed allow entrepreneurs to succeed when things get tough: the flexibility to adapt to change and the capacity to overcome failure.
You should always be committed to the goals that are driving you but stay flexible in your approach. Flexibility allows you to recognize opportunities and move in new — and sometimes unexpected — directions.
Flexibility is especially important when facing failure. Anything that is worth pursuing in life has a risk of failure. And it’s okay to fail. What defines your capacity to overcome failure is that you don’t allow the experience of failure to stop you from moving forward.
Failure has taught me perseverance and resistance to adversity to keep moving forward on difficult days. Without failure, I would never have been able to speak in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations, meet with CEOs of Fortune 500s, gain a front row seat to President Obama’s speech, or attend Fashion Week in New York. On the days when you face rejection, it’s important to have faith in your ideas and yourself to move beyond it.
Your ability to believe in yourself and your capacity to succeed is key to finding your path to success. Regardless of where you start or who you are, you have the capacity to shape the world.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
My toughest personal obstacle was building credibility, especially as a young entrepreneur — I was 22 when I founded GPP.
As an employee at a company, your credibility is largely tied to the reputation of the organization at which you work. This is why so many people want to work at prestigious firms. As a startup CEO, you don’t have that luxury (nor do you have the marketing budget).
Consequently, it’s up to you to build that credibility. Credibility is key to building traction — getting others to know about you company and what value you can offer. You could be the world’s most talented person or have the most incredible product, but you will fail if no one recognizes you or the value you offer.
Building a strong network of key influencers who could speak to my credibility and the credibility of the company, whether it was partnerships with media or expert advisors, was critical to developing the GPP brand in such a short period of time. As a result, GPP was recognized at President Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit within just a year of the company’s founding.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
On Staying Focused:
Staying focused can be challenging. It can often feel like there is a lot to do and nearly all of the tasks are urgent—but at the end of the week it still doesn’t feel like you’ve made progress towards your goals.
From a strategic perspective, the key to staying focused is to remember the big picture. What are the most important goals you want your team/your company to achieve in the next five years, the next year, and the next month? What activities are you currently working on that will make the biggest impact on moving towards those goals? Keep a pulse on the overall strategy of the company and to ensure your daily/weekly tasks are being prioritized accordingly as a team.
Once you know what the most important goals are, then you can ensure you focus on key priorities for the day – there may be a lot to do, but you’ll know what to work on first.
From a day to day perspective, the use of digital devices which can make all work seem urgent.
I always set aside time each day to be “offline” usually in the early morning, to maximize productivity and have a period of time to focus on strategic work. Consider whether or not it is truly urgent to respond right away: If you can take a meeting for a few hours without checking your phone; then you can definitely set aside “offline” hours for work.
Additionally, I always spend an hour per week to focus on strategic decision making without distractions.
On Staying Motivated:
Motivation is usually cyclical, where some days you’re feeling incredibly motivated and other days where you aren’t motivated at all. When I think of staying motivated, I’m always reminded of Zig Zaglar, a motivational speaker who quipped: “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing — that's why we recommend it daily.” Think about the activities that energize and inspire you, and make it a priority to invest time into them on a regular basis.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Build a network to support you.
Networking is like accelerant for a career—it can help you learn and provide you with opportunities that will allow you to advance faster than you could on your own.Nobody ever succeeds alone: you should never be too scared or too shy to look for people who can support or mentor you.
There are a lot of people who want to provide advice and encouragement to people who are trying to do the right thing, have great ideas, and are willing to reach out. If you reach out to your community, there are a lot of people available to help. Always be open to help and be ready to listen—there is something you can learn from everyone.
What advice do you have for another person who is looking to start a company while keeping their "day job"?
If you already have a day job then you need to outsource everything in your startup that you are not essential to. Ensure your team is empowered to make decisions without your presence. You’ll need a very clear picture of what your strategic priorities are and communicate it to your team – they should know the company’s key priorities as well as you do. Allow them to work as independently as possible. For example, you might say “If the problem can be solved with under a hundred dollars, then I trust you to resolve it without me; if will take more than that, feel free to give me a call to discuss the options.”
You’ll also need stamina— there is a greater physical element to it than most people think, just being able to grind it out. At the end of the day, mentally, emotionally, and physically, you have to be able to say “I got this”.
How do we get more women leaders?
Getting more female leaders is difficult because there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to increasing female leadership. There are multifaceted economic, social and environmental factors that are keeping women from leadership positions.
While most organizations recognize the benefit of diverse teams; female leadership is still under-represented in many fields—from STEM to politics. In order to increase female leadership, we need to invest in the leadership skills of girls alongside economic, social and environmental improvement. While leadership skills and female role models are important, we cannot close the gender gap without narrowing the social and economic gap too.
It’s important to note that gender equality isn’t just a women’s issue— men need to be a part of the solution in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for both genders.