Real techies paintball in tutus

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we’re chatting with Vivian Lim, CEO of Beaze, a platform that provides continuous lead flow for service providers. She discusses tactics on succeeding as a visible minority, a mother and an entrepreneur in technology.

Vivian Lim, Co-Founder & CEO of Beaze

So, Why Beaze?

I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurs and their courage to strike out on their own. I enjoy building solutions that help people save time on the things they loath, so they can spend more time with the people they love. Time is the one commodity you can’t buy, so it’s essential to spend it wisely. 

Ever since I was little, my parents instilled in me the importance of controlling my destiny. Building your own company is one way of doing that. I want to be a significant part of helping others succeed if and when they decide to head down that path. An idea is only as useful as the team that executes that idea. Having paid my dues on my journey through tech, I sincerely appreciate all the intricate details accomplished by the front-line making incredible things work. Smart people are everywhere, but those who can find creative solutions and compromises in a business landscape full of obstacles are the hardest to find and retain. Beaze aspires to make this search both easy and enjoyable. 

How did you break into B2B?

I spent most of my career in enterprise, including at Microsoft and AWS. However, my last stint at Google in brand advertising was the most intriguing space I had ever seen in my career.  I had the privilege of working with Fortune 100 companies and travelled the world to see what it takes to establish and maintain a brand presence. 

That’s when it hit me. If you knew that BILLIONS of dollars spent annually on advertising came from 2% of the world’s companies and that each of them spent millions every month on ads, do you honestly think any small business owner could successfully compete? I have so many friends and acquaintances who were small business owners and struggled with bootstrapping sales. While all of them were brilliant at their specialties, they weren’t necessarily as well versed in sales, marketing and advertising. Some went belly up within a few months from lack of market presence, and it was a crushing moment for them, both financially and emotionally. I never want anyone to feel that kind of failure.

What’s your philosophy?

Those who can should. Don’t let anything stop you.

I plan and prioritize religiously. It’s important to know why you’re doing something and what the payout will be. If it’s not going to produce a big return, maybe it’s not worth doing. To get primed each day, I wake up at 5:30am and go for a jog. It’s so much easier to get stuff done in the quiet moments of the morning before the rest of the world catches up; it’s my meditation.

Tell us about how you give back and why that’s so important?

I support 22q research at UC Davis. In 2015, I lost my son to Tetrology of Fallot and DiGeorge syndrome, both rare diseases caused by a congenital heart defect from erroneous deletions on the 22nd chromosome.  I donate every year in memory of my son and all families who have been affected by 22q11.2 deletions. I was elated to hear about Jimmy Kimmel’s son who had received a successful surgical intervention. Unfortunately, my youngest daughter also has a heart defect, albeit a less severe one, and I’m thankful every day that she’s doing well. 

Dr. Tony J. Simon and the UC team are clinically addressing children’s social interactions with these disorders. In past donation years, I’ve asked them to consider gene injection therapy in utero to prevent kids from being born with the deletions entirely. I might need to wait a few years before they can embark on such a challenge.

What does success look like to you?

Enabling every family to live comfortably. Both of my parents came from lower working-class backgrounds. My parents paid for two grandparents and five siblings to emigrate to the US and raised three daughters. I consider myself very fortunate to have had parents willing to sacrifice so much so we could have such opportunity. Today, my family includes the folks at Beaze. As a team, we celebrate milestones together because enabling sales for every small business owner is merely hard work. So, to keep things interesting this past November, we went skydiving. This quarter, we’re thinking of going paintballing while wearing tutus and bee wings. It’s a COVID-friendly activity with social distancing built-in.

#battlefairy | Photo credit: Jacob Miller

What words of wisdom can you share?

1. Dream big. Every great accomplishment started as a seemingly impossible dream. 

2. Persevere. Everything can and will go wrong. Life is not fair and that’s ok. Two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward.  

3. Prove them wrong. The best payback is to live an amazing life.

Who inspires you?

There are so many great examples out there, like Anne Wojcicki from 23andMe; she’s a genomics pioneer! Among other accomplishments, her team helped to develop safer, less invasive prenatal sequencing that do not pose risks to developing fetuses. Then, there are upstarts like Elon Musk. I love how he simply doesn’t recognize commonly defined limits, and his punny humor slays me every time. 

What’s it like being a woman in technology?

It’s hard being a woman and a visible minority in technology. At conferences, I’m often mistaken as the help. The world continues to judge women of color more harshly, so it’s critical to over-prepare for everything to the Nth degree. People tend to see us as less competent than our male peers who might be at the same or lower competence level. The hardest criticism comes from other moms who think working moms favor careers over kids. 

Every working woman out in the world is an ambassador for every little girl wanting a shot at success. We have to bring our A++ game (because, you know, A is an Asian F :P). I look forward to the day half of all CEOs are working moms, and everyone considers this normal. 

What’s it like being a working parent?

It’s all about balance and multitasking. In French, we say “au fur et à mesure”. I trim the proverbial fat whenever possible and do the things that give me the most satisfaction. Presenting in a boardroom and attending my kids’ end-of-year performance are not mutually exclusive. My daughters need to know that they can have both a career and a family. I’m thankfully home a lot more these days and not just because of COVID. I help the kids with homework in between video conferences with clients. We’re all more confident and happy when we’re together. 

When all is said and done, what do you hope for Beaze to achieve?

I’d love for Beaze to enable more IPOs than any other company on earth. Bill Gates, I’m coming for you.

Those who don’t jump will never fly

3-minute read

“Beaze: Meet the Team” is a series on the team building out Beaze, a platform that provides continuous lead generation for service providers. Today, we’re chatting with Peter Alexandre, our Director of Business Development, on how to succeed while busting bias.

Peter Alexandre, Director of Business Development. Photo Credit: Beaze
Peter Alexandre, dual Gold Medalist for Long Jump and High Jump in the 1996 Canadian Championship. Photo Credit: Beaze

So, Why Beaze?

As a Haïtian, I, like many others, face a world full of inequality and prejudice. When people think of my country, they think of it as a dangerous, impoverished nation. They don’t see a country that once produced 80% of France’s external income, nor do they see a society that raised the first successful slave rebellion against Napoléon, leading to its independence. They don’t see people ready and willing to do what’s necessary to succeed.

I believe in a world where more people excel based on their potential and capabilities and have equal access to opportunity. I want to be part of a company that democratizes wealth generation.

The average annual household income in Haïti is roughly $450 USD PER YEAR (or $1.23 per day) or the cost of an iPad. A Haïti-based web developer could easily earn that in a week creating an online storefront for a mom and pop chocolate boutique in Belgium; that shop would be simultaneously getting an incredible discount compared to the average market price for web development based Europe, usually around $5-10K USD. The positive impact of this change could be life-changing for all.

Peter Alexandre, Director of Business Development at Beaze. Photo Credit: Beaze

What’s your philosophy when it comes to tech?

We need to focus on helping each other. Technology is simply a tool to leverage the amount of partnership you can maintain while still being helpful to one another; it helps us automate away the repetitive tasks that drain our motivation and resources. Technology doesn’t replace our inherent human impulse to want to connect. We get so much more done when we collaborate, and vendors can be an essential part of a business’s success.

How should businesses go about choosing vendors?

Find an ethical vendor who asks and answers the right questions. As best said by Albert Einstein, “If I only had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Solutions can be amazingly inexpensive and straightforward when you’ve got the right measures of success and an open mind on how to get there.

Back when virtual machines (VMs) like Docker weren’t yet the norm, I remember saving a client ~$1M. A government agency considered buying a new license to replace their current server as its hardware was aging out and took over a week to recover when it failed. I realized VMware could virtualize away this old mainframe and proceeded to exceed all expectations. It was faster than the old system, no longer dependent on obsolete hardware and even recovered in a manner of minutes. 

If this client had engaged a less honorable vendor, they might have just given the client what they wanted at face value resulting in a $1M+ billable. Instead, I gave them a long-term solution that shockingly cost them only $10K total (1% of the original cost) and that had future scalability in mind. It’s better to play the long game and earn customer trust.

Beaze intrinsically enables customers to ask the right questions from an almost endless supply of subject-matter experts. Customers can then receive more relevant and competitively valued bids in record time. 

What’s your secret to closing deals and partnerships?

Remember that customers are human, regardless of the way you interact with them. You must fulfill their emotional needs more than anything else; this means eliminating stressors (like those caused by bias, selection and repetition), then focusing on a solution in terms that they appreciate and understand. 

Beaze does this by driving the entire negotiation towards achieving a specific end goal quickly and efficiently based on merit, not aesthetics. 

How can someone deliver if they’re dealing with bias as a visible minority? 

Perform extraordinarily well. That way, people will forget about any preconceived stereotype and instead associate you with overshadowing success. While it doesn’t feel fair to be constantly held to such a high standard, it’s the situation we’ve inherited. 

Once, I had a particular sales goal at Cisco to achieve. While most of my non-minority peers would have been happy with attaining $250K in sales within a year (well within their target quota), I went the extra mile to reach $2.5M single-handedly. The entire business group was stunned because they never expected me to succeed because of my appearance. I never want my kids to think that mediocrity is ok.

In sports, success is driven by beating the records of our predecessors. Winning the Canadian Championship in track and field gave me a great sense of accomplishment and appreciation for world-class talent; it established the foundation of character necessary for me to push myself when competing alongside international business leaders. 

Customers expect a lot from their partners, and they should. You need the best talent to get ahead. Beaze allows everyone to succeed based on what vendors can do for you right now, and it evens out the playing field, so everyone gets a fair chance.

How does being a parent affect your work? 

Kids get straight to the point; they don’t carry the same baggage as adults and don’t have a filter. It’s a constant reminder to eliminate the noise and to focus on what’s important right now. 

Kids also very adaptable. My daughters’ ability and willingness to learn makes me realize that I can always go further and do more for my community.

Tell us about how you give back and why that’s so important?

I mentor several kids from different countries including Brazil and Haïti. I give them guidance on technology career paths so they can fast track their careers. It’s so rewarding to help propel them forward; I wish I had options like this when I was just getting started.

When all is said and done, what do you hope for Beaze to achieve?

I want people to be valued for their skills rather than their origin or appearance.

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care

3-minute read

“Confessions of CEOs” is a series on how business owners are changing the service landscape. Today, we are chatting with Paul O’Beirne, CEO of Orca HR Solutions, a firm that helps companies build great teams and leaders. He shares his secrets (still used by leaders like Satya Nadella) on how empathy drives success.

Paul O’Beirne, Founder of Orca HR Solutions | Photo Credit: Orca HR Solutions. Beaze, an HR vendor procurement marketplace
Paul O’Beirne, Founder of Orca HR Solutions | Photo Credit: Orca HR Solutions

Why Orca HR Solutions?

We’re passionate about improving organization productivity, especially when the business landscape is changing dramatically, whether it’s due to organic growth or drastic changes due to the impact of COVID. We support organizations to fully appreciate their individual team members as whole persons, including their work and home lives. Our research-backed methodology deepens our clients’ understanding of human behavior and its impact on workplace culture and performance. Improving empathy is critical to effective and impactful leadership because employees need to feel that their employers care. To learn empathy, you first have to be open to learning about yourself. By giving teams a better self-awareness of areas, including emotional intelligence, we help them communicate more effectively and grow more successfully.

Our team comprises former leaders from Microsoft, Amazon, Space Between and Trover (acquired by Expedia). We’ve gone through the same types of challenges as our customers and bring best-of-breed practices surrounding behavioural insight to hundreds of leaders and team members. These empathic insights have improved productivity to thousands of people within their organizations. We pride ourselves on driving acuity, actualization and awesomeness for our clients.

My 25-year Microsoft career started in Ireland during its startup phase as the HR Manager, which I grew from 11 people to 1600. I later transferred to the US to support Microsoft’s senior leaders, including Satya Nadella (then GM of Business Solutions Development), Bob Herbold (former Chief Operating Officer), Craig Mundie (former Chief Technology Officer), Orlando Ayala (former President of Sales), initially with global accountability for 5000 people across 16 different divisions. I realized many people and organizations often don’t know what they don’t know, such as how demonstrable caring can positively and hugely impact employee engagement.  Simply raising awareness of possibilities that could lay ahead for them could help them be more effective than they ever thought possible. Exposure to these experiences motivated and prepared me for the work we do today.

Wouldn’t a long-running career at Microsoft be considered a reasonably elite endeavor, not accessible or applicable to most firms?

Perhaps, but I didn’t start there. I’ve worked in a pretty humbling variety of roles, including hospitality, retail, farming, and industrial. I can remember as a child of 7 the excitement and pride of spending my weekends delivering milk and bread across the community. Throughout high school and college, I supported myself by picking grapes in the vineyards of France, washing dishes on a cruise ship in Germany and cleaning hospitals in Chicago. 

These experiences exposed me to people from all walks of life; they made me realize how important every role is to the success of an organization. It honed my skills of building relationships, developing a strong work ethic and empathy for others that serve our clients well.

What is the most common mistake most companies make when it comes to HR?

Selecting the right talent. Honestly, selection starts well before the interview. In our global knowledge economy, the only real source of competitive advantage lies in recruiting and developing the best talent. As the famous management author Jim Collins notes, “Leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who’. They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.

We help our clients get people in the “right seats.” The first step is to align the key stakeholders on the roles, key competencies, motivators, responsibilities and expected outcomes of the job. Only then do we evaluate the candidate against the requirements of the role and company culture. This approach reduces the cost for the company by reducing the amount of time to hire and decreasing the cost of turnover due to poor role fit.  Using the assessments as part of the on-boarding process also can help leaders have a great empathic understanding of a new team member’s strengths, opportunities and preferred behaviors.

What lessons have you since learned in HR that you wish you had learned sooner in your career? 

1. Create the conditions for people to discover and own the solution (rather than telling people what to do). It’s better to teach people how to fish than fishing for them; this can be done through empathetic listening, powerful questions, creating a shared reality and alignment on accountability.

2. Be more mindful. Just a few easy tweaks can help your team stay focused on objectives, execute better and celebrate notable achievements, not to mention breed positivity. For example, I like to recap each Friday by reflecting on what my “key wins” were for that week and what my main priorities are for the coming week. Before each meeting, our team participates in a short 1-2 minute mindfulness breathing exercise. After the meeting, we do a gratitude check-out. 

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Vulnerability is the root of authentic social connection. Many of us who are high achievers are reluctant to ask for help and can see it as a weakness if we do. Recognizing your weaknesses and bringing in complementary skills will help accelerate your business. Once identified, it’s easier to determine the next milestone in your continuing development.

Who are your biggest fans?

Our clients. We’ve had the privilege of supporting the folks at Nordstrom, Avalara, Aptio, Premera, and even larger firms like Microsoft and Micron Technologies. Most of our growth has come from organic referrals and partners. Because of the impact of our engagements and assessments on the effectiveness of leadership and increased productivity of teams, we’ve received numerous referrals from both internal and external clients.

How do you give back to the community?

Two organizations I have been personally involved with are Neural Education (NE) and the American Cancer Society (ACS). 

NE brings brain-based teaching into schools, and I currently serve on their Board of Directors, helping them build their business.  NE is about using a neural lens to positively affect our education deficiencies. We accomplish this by giving teachers tools and practices that align with how the brain works according to scientific research which affects how children learn.

When the founder, Kieran O’Mahony, and I met, we immediately found a common passion. Kieran and his entire life’s work have been developing these brain-based educational programs. NE is focused on preparing teachers to bring these empathic principles into the classroom. We have been holding many workshops in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We’ve impacted 40,000 teachers and 1 million students across the US. The plan is to take the initiative globally. Recently, we’ve started working with schools in Africa and India. 

ACS initiatives are dear to my heart. I lost my mother to cancer and have many friends who are survivors. A colleague had asked if I would serve as a Pink Ambassador and I couldn’t have been more delighted or honored to help. I dressed in pink for a whole month to raise awareness. We were able to collect $4000 and a few laughs. The members of ACS are an incredibly caring group who have great empathy for people and their families who have been impacted by Cancer. 

Paul O'Beirne as Pink Ambassador | Photo Credit: Orca HR Solutions. Beaze, an HR vendor procurement marketplace.
Paul O’Beirne as Pink Ambassador | Photo Credit: Orca HR Solutions

When all is said and done, what do you hope to accomplish with Orca HR Solutions?

We want to enable everyone to create their most desirable, impactful future.

Orca HR Solutions is a preferred partner on Beaze.