Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

AdChoices
Brian Wong, who entered university at the age of 14 and now runs his own startup, has learned how to take shortcuts and to present himself effectively to skeptical, older people. (ALotOfPeople/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Brian Wong, who entered university at the age of 14 and now runs his own startup, has learned how to take shortcuts and to present himself effectively to skeptical, older people. (ALotOfPeople/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

MONDAY MORNING MANAGER

Wunderkind Brian Wong’s cheat codes for business success Add to ...

Don’t call Brian Wong and ask to have a coffee. The young entrepreneur, who graduated from the University of British Columbia at the age of 18 and now runs the mobile-rewards company Kiip from San Francisco, gets two or three requests a day from people wanting to test ideas on him. He refuses them all, to help the other person as much as to protect his own time.

“Rather than spending time having coffee with me, spend the time producing,” he explains in an interview. “Everyone wants to get things validated or find a therapist. Instead, get in the habit of doing things.”

Mr. Wong, now 25, skipped four grades in primary and high school, entering university at 14, and has been equally in a hurry building his company, which now has more than 100 people.

He has learned how to take shortcuts and to present himself effectively to skeptical, older people.

In the video games he played growing up, there was always a cheat code to help get to a higher level. He has now offered his own version for young entrepreneurs and others: 71 quick lessons, gathered together in his book The Cheat Code.

Among them:

Piss people off.

Be direct, blunt and let your personality shine through. Too often, we tiptoe around sensitive issues or meetings. But he argues in business you gain more respect by getting right to the point.

This cheat can be more effective if you announce your intention beforehand: “No offence, but …” or, “you may not want to hear this, but …”

Even if you rile them, they have to react calmly or they seem like the idiot, since you warned them.

At the same time, you don’t want to needlessly irritate people; you are trying to build rapport. Donald Trump fails on that score. “While he gets to the point in a certain way, he then pisses people off by jabbing at them. Jabbing for the sake of jabbing is totally uncalled for. But if you are doing this to be efficient in communication, it’s warranted,” he says

Don’t ask – announce

Too often, we squander opportunities because we’re afraid to ask permission to pursue them.

Instead, announce your intention – don’t specifically ask permission – and just do it. It will seem considerate, yet at the same time confident and authoritative.

At an airport, he says, you can insert yourself near the front of a line-up by telling people you only have 20 minutes to make the flight and they will inevitably oblige.

Years ago, a research study showed any explanation, no matter how weak, allowed people to jump a queue at the office copier.

Get high-powered people’s phone numbers

At a conference, when you meet somebody new (and important) ask for their mobile number so you can connect with them during the event to set up a longer chat.

Then you can use that number, judiciously, over time.

Never learn the rules

The scariest person at a poker table is the person who doesn’t know the rules of the game as well as others and may do something unexpected.

That was Mr. Wong at the game of business initially, and it helped him because people couldn’t predict his moves.

Although in his book he glibly says “never learn the rules,” in the interview he tweaks it to: “Know enough about the rules and know when not to use them.”

Don’t try to win a humility contest

Humility is a widely praised virtue for leaders, but he says while you don’t want to be super cocky, you want a bold confidence.

“There’s a time to be humble and a time not to be humble,” he insists. Canadians tend to be overly humble. Moving to the United States, he found Americans good at thumping their chest – and we could borrow a bit of that attitude.

Take a splurge day

Since he doesn’t have time for long vacations, every month or two he takes a splurge day, unplugging from devices and heading to the beach, or hanging out in a favourite restaurant or even just sleeping all day.

Get a trademark haircut

Most famous people have some visual cue that helps them to stand out. Find one for yourself, as an element of personal branding, be it a distinctive haircut or special item of clothing.

His loud conversational voice has that effect with colleagues.

“It’s like going to Starbucks. You know what to expect. When people talk with me on the phone, they know to expect my loud voice,” he says.

It’s all part of the cheat code for business success.

Report Typo/Error

Follow us on Twitter: @Globe_Careers

Also on The Globe and Mail

The role of the board when developing corporate strategy (The Globe and Mail)

Next story

loading

Trending

loading

Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular