Sang Yook

The old management adage “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is probably more apropos in today’s workplace than ever before. At a time when customers, board members, partners and other key stakeholders expect and demand quantifiable results, senior leaders are required to set measurable goals that aim high but, at the same time, are executable because they are backed by realistic, understandable strategies and tactics.

Although goal setting for most organizations is an ongoing process, the start of the new year — and for many, the start of the budgeting cycle — presents most organizations with a key opportunity to take a step back, examine what has worked and recalibrate the areas that need adjustment.

Transcend the boardroom

One of the key tenets in CorFire’s planning process is to think of goal setting as a team sport. In other words, involve key members of the organization to brainstorm and set long-term, short-term and immediate goals.

While one person within a department may have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that these goals are met, securing buy-in from multiple team members helps create an atmosphere in which people are informed, engaged and passionate about doing their respective part to make sure goals are achieved.

More recently, this beyond-the-boardroom approach at CorFire has expanded to include partners and customers. While not specifically asking for their specific ideas on what our company’s goals should be, CorFire wants partners and customers to be an integral part of our broader community and, as such, to participate in ongoing discussions about what we are doing right and areas in which we can improve.

This feedback helps us set goals that are meaningful to internal and external audiences. It also leads to stronger connections across vertical markets, thus helping the company achieve success.

 Execute the plan

Once a clear plan is in place, organizations may want to aim big while starting small. A “begin with the basics” approach is often better from a strategic standpoint than a full-blown launch.

For example, when our customers are executing a mobile payment rollout, we recommend they start with basic technology with which their customers are familiar. In some cases, we recommend that these customers start out at a few locations, rather than many, to see what needs resetting.

Another key for setting measurable goals is to expect and plan for potential obstacles. Organizations may overlook this step or forego it because of concerns that it could show their goals are too lofty and thus set them back a few steps. In reality, this broader, realistic view of goal setting and execution gives everybody in the organization the latitude to view bumps in the road as navigable rather than insurmountable roadblocks.

Lastly, we look forward to a year in which we set and meet goals, but, as important, we celebrate these goals. For CorFire, this ongoing recognition of meeting goals in this exciting time in the mobile commerce arena will help us continue moving the needle in our space and give us the desire to set the bar higher in subsequent years. ?

Sang Yook is chief strategy officer of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA. You can reach him at (770) 670-4700.

The U.S. Army briefly used the slogan “An Army of One” for its recruiting efforts. While I can’t speak to its effectiveness, I’d argue that the slogan goes against the principles for building and growing a global organization.

There’s a Korean proverb that states, “A kitchen knife can’t carve its own handle.” To me, this means that even the strongest leaders often need help from others. For a growing global corporation, strong collaboration is even more critical. In my role as chief strategy officer, I need to work with employees at every level to garner insights into areas where I may not have the experience they do. This provides a different perspective and builds a more positive environment in which everyone feels and acts like a true stakeholder.

For my last article of the year, I’d like to focus on the most critical component for corporations looking to grow globally: teamwork. This year’s Summer Olympics provided a lot of metaphors for the business world, including the importance of building strong teams. The daily life lessons include overcoming obstacles and how to find success, even in loss.

While CorFire understands the importance of individualism and innovation, the team approach is, for us, a better workplace model as it strengthens inventiveness and provides employees with access to a wider array of insights and ideas that help move our business forward.

But it can be challenging to build functional teams across geographic locations or offices. Sometimes this is because of real issues such as time differences or language barriers. In other instances, however, employees may simply not see the value of working closely with a peer with whom they don’t have frequent interaction.

Promote process

To get employees on board, management needs to communicate the value of building well-designed teams. The goal of establishing a team approach within a corporation goes beyond creating good will among co-workers. Although a positive environment is one upside, it is not realistic or practical to believe everyone will get along equally and that a workplace will be free of disagreements.

The ultimate goal is to build better products and deliver better service than your competitors. To do this, successful organizations take a pragmatic approach to building teams by looking at employees’ skill sets, personalities, and strengths and weaknesses. By building processes around the teamwork philosophy, a company factors the broader organization into decisions such as hiring and restructuring.

I liken this process to a sports team’s recruiting decisions. The smart teams look to complement their core players in skill sets and personalities. In some cases, talent trumps all, but team chemistry and the ability of a player to work within the system need to be weighed heavily.

Get personal

As companies become more global, they may want to implement personality tests or behavioral assessments as part of their hiring and team-structuring processes. There are a variety of tests available, and many do not require a lot of financial or time investment from the company, its employees or its prospective hires.

These assessments do more than ensure that organizations hire the right people; they also help companies build efficient teams in which the people mesh well and build on each other’s strengths.

Keep doors open

While an open-door policy may not be practical every working hour in every organization, the overarching philosophy is a good strategy for companies as they grow and build teams.

By encouraging communication and feedback, employees can share issues that need to be addressed before they boil up and become a serious problem. Even better, employees can discuss their views on what is working well within the organization so management can do more of it.

Work hard, play hard

I don’t think CorFire employees will be walking over hot coals any time soon as a way to build stronger teams or individual confidence. However, we strive to provide an environment where employees can have fun inside and outside the office.

Activities are not always formal. They include signing up a group of employees to attend a business or association luncheon. More formal “fun” activities such as employee cookouts are another way to help employees learn more about each other in a stress-free environment.

Look at the dynamics of your company to determine what optional activities will generate excitement in your workplace and enable your organization to “be all it can be.” <<

Sang Yook is chief strategy officer of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA. You can reach him at (770) 670-4700.

Innovative, progressive companies are reworking the infamous line from the movie “Wall Street” from “Greed is good” to “Global is great.” In fact, over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in companies opening offices in Singapore as easily as Seattle or hanging up a shingle in Philadelphia in addition to Frankfurt.

CorFire, like a lot of companies, is increasingly aware of the new reality of the global workforce. This understanding has served as the foundation for our hiring practices, the partnerships we form and the customer base we seek. While global vision and focus are central tenets of our culture, we still realize the need to put processes in place to ensure that this global vision is understood and executed throughout each level of the organization.

Do the math

Historically, when opening or expanding a business, most executives have looked at the immediate revenue opportunities. Depending on the nature of the business, these numbers are often based on an isolated and limited view of the prospective buyer — businesses usually look for revenue opportunities in their city, state or region of the country.

In today’s global environment, executives need to analyze the market with a wider lens. Even companies that have a global presence may need to widen their focus to take advantage of economic growth in overlooked countries.

For example, Brazil has become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Technology providers are having success launching services like biometrics in African nations to support banking initiatives.

Hire without borders

Gone are the days when companies placed a help-wanted ad in a newspaper to find qualified local talent. Critical knowledge workers may live in your company’s hometown or thousands of miles away. While there are benefits to having workers centrally located, companies have to look outside the geographical box when it comes to hiring. In fact, human resources needs to have carte blanche to base hiring decisions on talent and fit rather than geography.

If it makes sense, organizations may want to develop global human resources teams, even if small, rather than hiring exclusively from headquarters. This may help the company create the best and most attractive global compensation and performance packages to attract and retain the level of talent needed to build across borders.

While hiring across borders is critical at all levels of an organization, companies need to ensure that top leaders within the company reflect the diversity of the employee and customer base. This diversity at the top shows that the company truly understands the importance of globalization. This type of culture is far more attractive to candidates interested in working for a company focused in international growth.

Doesn’t fit? Force it

Companies often face reluctance when implementing processes and policies. Although most employees understand the value of global teams and building global workforces, to do it successfully takes effort from all levels.

Often it’s easier to work with Dan down the hall than Simon in Sydney. There’s the challenge of time differences and the reality that global teams don’t share the same context in their work or personal lives. Unfortunately, this does not create an absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder environment, but rather one in which unfamiliarity breeds contempt.

With that as a backdrop, companies need to look for real, practical ways to make international teams interact regularly. Face-to-face meetings are good but often impractical, both logistically and financially. But thanks to technology, including webcams, people can easily, inexpensively interact monthly or weekly.

Slow and steady

While these steps will help organizations move toward global profitability, companies must set realistic time frames and expectations for international growth.

There are no cookie-cutter approaches to global success. Your roadmap doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. But with the right people, priorities and processes in place, you will be well on your way to tapping the enormous revenue potential that lies outside your time zone.

Finally, remember that working across borders is a new process for many people. There may be bumps in the road, as there are with most evolutionary changes in business. Communicating the company’s vision around globalization will help teams understand that there is no retreating. Progressive companies are building and crossing bridges as a way to grow and thrive in today’s changing global economy.

Sang Yook is chief strategy officer of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA. You can reach him at (770) 670-4700.

Sports is often about individual accomplishments, from the marathon runner who crosses the finish line to the 2010 Wimbledon player who “stood” triumphant after surviving an 11-hour tennis match that spanned three days.

Yet, many people, me included, often look to team sports as a metaphor for the components that make a successful business. From solid communication skills to chemistry, teamwork is central to business success, whether one is starting a two-person technology company in a Silicon Valley garage or building a North American start-up from a major South Korean conglomerate.

In my experience, especially as a senior leader at CorFire, I’d argue that teamwork is even more essential in the second scenario. In growing our established South Korean brand into a well-known global player in the mobile commerce arena, CorFire’s senior leadership quickly understood that we wanted and needed the entire team to create a cohesive unit in which individuality is accepted but self-interest is not. Moreover, each team member would have a starting spot in making the company a winner in its space.

Mobile-ize your team

While the U.S. and European markets are generating buzz about the massive move to mobile commerce, South Koreans have been living the mobile lifestyle for years. Interestingly, a teamwork approach, where there are closer relationships between the cell phone companies and the government, has created an environment where the South Korean players in the ecosystem work together to deliver the solutions that make mobile commerce adoption a reality.

With the South Korean mobile commerce business model as an example, CorFire recognized the important role that solid internal teamwork would play in guiding our success. To build a global team at CorFire, we looked internationally at the various companies, from Sears to Samsung to General Electric to Google, that had successfully expanded their reach and built their brands on a national scale.

Build a solid structure

Certainly, these successful global companies, especially in the technology arena, can attribute much of their success to innovation, research and development. Yet, many of the leaders from within these organizations would also point to their organizational structure — i.e., their team — as playing an important role in their growth.

From these examples, we crystallized the broader ideas into strategies and tactics that made sense for our organization and our aspirational goal of bringing the mobile lifestyle to North America.

Keep doors open

We started with an open-door/open-communication approach that encouraged employees at all levels to speak freely to senior leadership. While some fear that open-door policies provide an easy venue through which to complain, we see our employees as our creativity channel, and we want to make sure they have the access to share their ideas for making our company, products and brand better.

Additionally, CorFire looked for individuals who could leverage their expertise across the organization. Our goal was to build a fluid, flexible team where individuals would be knowledgeable about the entire company, from sales to product development. This cross-functional structure allows for interaction between everyone within the organization and connects the team at a deeper level.

Stimulate and galvanize

Finally, we also expect and encourage employees throughout CorFire to look for ways to energize and inspire the broader team. This is done through a variety of informal processes and settings such as open discussion in company meetings and formal processes such as employee peer review.

South Korea is well known for its work ethic. In fact, a 2008 story in a well-known U.S. daily newspaper quoted figures by the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that showed that South Korean workers averaged 2,357 hours on the job in 2006, compared to American workers who averaged around 1,800 hours that year. While those numbers are several years old, I’d surmise that they are holding true to form.

However, despite the rigorous work schedule, the South Korean workplace centers on teamwork, relationships and trust.

My idea for building a global workplace at CorFire did not include replacing a typical North American business culture (to the extent there is one) with a more traditional South Korean one. The beauty and excitement in building a global company is that we, as a team, have a blank canvas. We have the ability to take the best of both worlds to build a culture that is excited and energized about achieving our mission and being the bellwether for the new global brand.

Sang Yook is chief strategy officer of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA. You can reach him at (770) 670-4700.

From South Korea to the Soviet Union and the United States to the United Kingdom, organizations around the world are looking to grow through global expansion. In fact, in most industries, the term “business without borders” is already a reality. By working in technology for more than two decades, I have experienced this move to a global economy for the past several years as tech companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, have long realized the revenue potential of expanding outside of the U.S.

However, more recently, I have had the opportunity to play a central role in building a global corporation. As a native South Korean, I had lived and worked in that country for most of my life. Several years ago, I found myself serving as CEO for a software company that was expanding outside of South Korea to the U.S. With that experience under my belt, in 2010, I helped $1.4 billion South Korean giant SK C&C strategize a plan for the global growth of its mobile commerce technology. I became CEO of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA, with the understanding that I would open its North American headquarters.

I was excited about bringing the mobile commerce lifestyle to its full potential in the United States — technology that South Koreans have embraced for nearly 10 years. However, I was equally enthusiastic about building a truly global company — one that would sell its technology platform around the world and partner with companies regardless of geography. I also understood that building and managing a global work force brought a unique set of challenges, or in business-speak, “opportunities.”

Think globally, act locally

While this phrase is often used to refer to environmental issues, the term’s essence was central to the decision-making process around building CorFire’s global operations. As CEO, I needed to create a vision for our work place and culture. To be successful on the business side, we would need to bring the best practices from South Korea. However, we also would need to establish a local presence and integrate new ideas and cultural nuances, from the U.S. or other countries, into the environment.

In order to do this, I was keenly aware that I’d need to surround myself (and listen to) other people who had experience in managing global workplaces. Together, we could identify the guiding principles for our new company, brainstorm recruiting strategies, set the corporate tone and, in sum, determine who we wanted to be when we “grew up.”

Communicate, communicate, communicate

It is no coincidence that successful companies typically have strong, effective communicators at the helm. Effective communication is even more critical for new companies and ones that are bringing diverse cultures together. For executive teams that are building diverse workplaces, it is critical to examine various communication styles and develop ones that work within the framework of the organization.

For example, there are many South Korean workplace practices that are similar to those in a U.S. office environment. Yet, there are South Korean business customs that U.S. workers haven’t accepted or even experienced. In setting the tone for our company culture, I drew on the value management system of SK, which is based on respecting the dignity and creativity of each employee. I also kept an open mind to other communications methods that worked best for the entire team — regardless of my comfort level or familiarity with them. In the end, we landed on a philosophy where employees are encouraged to talk openly and often and where divergent opinions are heard and respected.

More is more

The business of yesteryear was one where many ideas became synthesized into one. The world’s most successful companies have tossed that approach for one in which more ideas, more strategic thinking and more tactics to solutions are examined, accepted, and executed as they make sense. In a global company, the tenet of open-mindedness is especially critical. While fundamental processes to conducting business must be in place, there also needs to be the willingness to keep the door open for new ways to work, build teams and cultivate innovation.

To build a successful and innovative global company we need more diversity than ever, and we are not going to achieve that within the confines of a rigid, inexpressive workplace culture. Differences in culture and business backgrounds are good and, in fact, are a valuable asset. The richness and varying experiences of our new team is helping us deliver the passion that will, in turn, create the profits and help us be the global company we want to be when we grow up.

Sang Yook is the CEO of CorFire, the mobile commerce business unit of SK C&C USA. You can reach him at (770) 670-4700.