10/1/13: Marc Hoffman, Entrepreneur and Business Strategist
10/29/13: Dr. Gi-Wook Shin, Professor of Sociology at Stanford University
3/17/14: Subir Chowdhury, Chairman & CEO of ASI Consulting Group LLC
4/30/14: Kathleen Stephens, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
The Center for Asian Business welcomed entrepreneur and business strategist Marc Hoffman on October 1st as part of the Y.B. Min Lecture Series. He presented a fascinating lecture titled "The Enablers to Succeed for Asian Companies in the U.S. Market." In the presentation, Hoffman discussed Japanese and Korean automobile companies and their initial struggle to capture meaningful sales before gaining expected profits in the United States.
He started off by highlighting what factors drive the American buyer – nationalism, quality, innovation & style, technology, value, low cost, brand power, fears & stereotypes and speed. Hoffman said that U.S. consumers typically don’t care where the product came from, but they will buy American if a product is superior. He said Americans have short memories, but usually make buying decisions based on substance. Above all, the level of quality is the most important factor for consumers.
In today’s fast-spaced world, Hoffman said it’s critical for products to get to the market ahead of the competition. This “speed” based approach is the system that’s driving Asian auto manufacturing in the U.S. As a result, Asian auto companies have opened operations in the U.S. for greater efficiency and quicker output.
Hoffman is a growth-oriented senior executive specializing in venture capital startups and business turnarounds for private equity funded companies. As CEO at Glacier Bay, he led the launch and growth of the company’s product ‘ClimaCab’ to a top market position in less than two years. During this same period, Glacier Bay was recognized as one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 500 North American growth companies in 2009.
Hoffman has been a recognized pioneer amongst U.S. companies, implementing ‘World Class’ business improvement initiatives in a wide range of industries including aerospace, automotive and medical. In 2014, his company, Innovus Power, will introduce a high efficiency electric power generator which will allow its customers to save 25 percent in operating costs over all other generators in the market today. Hoffman graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Material Science Engineering.
The Center for Asian Business welcomed Dr. Gi-Wook Shin, Professor of Sociology at Stanford, on October 29th for a special lecture titled "Can North Korea Change? Myths and Realities." His lecture addressed the current state of North Korean society, Kim Jong-un's regime and the country's relations with the U.S. and its Asian neighbors. In addition, he provided the audience with his views on whether regime change in North Korea is plausible and whether the country will ever abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Dr. Shin started off his presentation by asking the audience “What is North Korea?” What are the most common perceptions toward North Korea, officially called the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea? A few are Communist, Dynastic, Nationalist and Militaristic.
Dr. Shin went on to discuss the relationship between North and South Korea and the struggles for national representation that still exist. He showed anti-Communist propaganda as examples. At the end of his lecture, Dr. Shin proposed the question of whether unification is feasible between these two very different countries. Only about half of South Koreans think unification is necessary.
Regarding the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, Dr. Shin said that anti-Americanism serves as an important base of North Korean ideology. They use the “nuclear card” to attain a normalized relationship with the U.S. for the sake of security and economy. Above all, North Korea knows that it won’t be easy to overcome the U.S.’s long-held lack of trust in North Korea.
Dr. Shin is a professor of sociology and director of Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. His research concentrates on social movements, nationalism, development and international relations. In addition to his research, Dr. Shin has published many books which have become so popular that many of them have been translated and distributed to Korean audiences. Dr. Shin received his B.A. from Yonsei University in Korea. He attended the University of Washington, Seattle to obtain his Master's and Ph.D. degrees. Prior to becoming a professor and research director at Stanford, Dr. Shin taught at the University of Iowa and UCLA.
What is quality? Is functioning properly at 99 percent considered quality? Not necessarily, says Subir Chowdhury, a world authority in quality leadership, strategy and methods. Ninety-nine percent could still mean 5,000 incorrect surgeries or 100,000 automobile recalls.
“Quality is so important, so critical,” says Chowdhury, chairman and CEO of ASI Consulting Group LLC. “We need quality more than anything else.”
Hailed by The New York Times as a ‘leading quality expert’ and by Businessweek as ‘The Quality Prophet’, Chowdhury shared his wisdom with LMU students at a very special lecture presented by the Center for Asian Business. In his inspiring talk, he gave real-life examples from his experience working with global multinationals from all types of industries in East Asia, particularly in Korea. He also shared why quality should be each individual's responsibility and why leading a quality life is critical to professional and personal success.
Chowdhury told a touching story from his childhood which taught him the importance of having a quality mindset. When he was around six years old, his grandfather would hold up money in one hand and a pen in the other and ask him "Which would you rather have?" Chowdhury would always reach for the money, but his grandfather told him to never go after the money. "Always go after the pen and the money will follow because the pen is constantly innovating."
Three Key Steps to Leading a Quality Life
Chowdhury presented three key steps to leading a quality life:
1. Listen: The best leaders are the best listeners. Don’t interrupt – observe and understand. It is absolutely essential to test a product in the target market. Listen to the voice of the customer and understand what their needs are. A customer has three needs: basic, performance and excitement needs. A cell phone can look really cool with lots of features, but if calls keep getting dropped then it’s worthless. “The U.S. is first at coming up with excitement needs but forgets the basic needs,” says Chowdhury. “If Americans can master basic needs, no other country can beat us.”
2. Enrich: Whatever you did yesterday, do one thing better today. If you practice this, you will be a much better leader. As humans, we can improve in so many different directions. Try to enrich other people’s lives. This is an example of practicing quality. If you want to truly make a difference, don’t fake it. Give 110 percent.
3. Optimize: “Unlike Asians, Americans believe perfection isn’t possible.” Subir says the ultimate goal is to make customers forget about quality altogether, because if a product is perfect, the issue of quality never comes up. There’s a misconception that improving quality costs a lot but that’s simply not true. Quality has to be built into the strategy of an organization’s culture. Incorporate quality in the early stages of launching a company and mix it into the design early on. Be passionate, embrace failures and be honest.
Chowdhury has worked with many organizations including Chrysler, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Kia Motors, Hyundai and Samsung. He is the author of over a dozen books, including the international bestseller “The Power of Six Sigma” and “The Ice Cream Maker.”
In a special lecture titled "The U.S.-Korea Alliance at 60 Years: Looking Back, Looking Forward," Ambassador Stephens will draw on her nearly 40 years of experience in Korea and her diplomatic career to place the U.S.-Korea relationship in historical context and discuss the issues that will define it in the 21st century, including relations in the region, North Korea, and global issues such as addressing climate change and promoting sustainable economic growth.
Ambassador Stephens is a Koret Fellow and Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Center for Asia and Pacific Research, where she teaches and speaks on issues related to the U.S. and Asia. Ambassador Stephens served as a U.S. career diplomat from 1978-2013, achieving the personal rank of Career Minister. She was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 2008 to 2011. A few of her earlier foreign assignments included consular and public affairs officer in Guangzhou, China, chief of the internal political unit in Seoul, and principal officer of the U.S. Consulate in Busan, Korea.
Ambassador Stephens’ awards include the Korean government’s Sejong Cultural Prize and the Korea-America Friendship Association Prize, the YWCA’s Women’s Leadership “Special Prize” Award, and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea. Ambassador Stephens is the author of “Reflections of an American Ambassador to Korea.”