Recently I’ve started saying that it is becoming impossible to explain well what I do: I’ve become a #slashie, or possibly a serial entrepreneur. The three (major) things that are demanding my attention these last few months are very diverse, and from a distance seem to be unconnected.
But, the good news: the more I work on these different things, the clearer it is that they are in fact connected.
Asia + Sustainability + Business
Soon, it will be four years of running MACHI Asia & Sustainability Consulting: the consultancy that I write this blog for, where I (irregularly) share insights on responsible business conduct in Asia and write about my personal challenges of being an independent entrepreneur. MACHI is about creating that ideal match between business in Asia with responsible and sustainable business practices. This could be as diverse as the question of how Dutch companies can work with Chinese suppliers (which was the focus of an earlier Shanghai-based project). But also working towards creating more awareness of fair fashion in The Hague, a week that highlighted brands and entrepreneurs that are front runners in this field and continuing a discussion on what challenges the industry is faced with. Fashion – or rather the textile & garments industry – is a huge industry for Asia. To me, this is one area where the professional connects to the personal.
Solo vs Team. Or: Asia + Business (+ CSR?) in education
One of the things that I have been trying to solve during that time is finding ways to work on my own less. I’ve realized that I enjoy working with others much more than working on my own: working with people gives me energy and brings out much more of my creativity and ideas than when I am on my own. This dilemma was partly solved this September, when I took a job at the Rotterdam Business School with the staff of the bachelor degree Trade Management for Asia.
The degree combines many of the topics I have been working on in my career so far: international business and Asia. In this part-time position, I teach on topics such as cross cultural management and Japanese, I coach students on developing their import enterprises and I’m adding CSR in Asia into my portfolio of activities in Rotterdam as well.
Students & Entrepreneurship
But diving deeper into the realm of entrepreneurship has been enticing: developing a new product (or service as a product) and setting up a business – with potential to scale – from scratch with a group of motivated people. In September I was on stage at the Ondernemersplein in The Hague, presenting a newly developed concept, FlexStagiair, in the final stage of a local business contest. And, we won!
The core of this concept is to provide young people with a better professional perspective and give them more confidence in their future in a quickly changing economy and labour market. It came out of a call for ideas to solve social issues in The Hague, and we intend to stay close to this core as a social enterprise. This means that we are currently busy establishing and developing this new business, a pretty exciting new adventure!
Multitasking & Balance
Suddenly, my work in 2016 has become a mix of activities revolving around entrepreneurship, doing business in Asia, responsible/social/sustainable business practices and working with students. Each of these activities has a certain main focus but all of them together… I’m discovering that the combination actually works.
This week, when speaking to a group of students at the Rotterdam Business School about CSR in Asia, I called it ‘multitasking through my week’, only half jokingly.
Keeping the balance between activities in such a way i) that the work I do is effective and high-quality, ii) that this work energizes me and keeps me happy, and not to forget, iii) pays the bills is challenging. Yet, at the same time, the current roller coaster is also pretty exciting to be on.
Looking forward to what 2017 will bring (after a bit of a break over the holidays, at least)!