Tips From The Top: One On One With Hao Lam

I spoke to Hao Lam, CEO of Best in Class Education Center, about his journey and best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Hao: I was illiterate when I was young. I learned English when I was 20.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Hao: I failed so many times in business in my life. For example, I invested in a restaurant business before and failed miserably. I was one of the silent investors and I watched the company grow to four restaurants without a support system, and the whole thing collapsed; all of the restaurants had to close. The lesson that I learned from this failure is that you can never scale up a business without a solid system and a great team.

I also used to manage and own a mortgage company with a couple of partners. At peak, we had over 60 loan officers and staff members at the company. We had to close the entire business and let go of everyone after the financial crisis in 2009. Again, I had to learn the hard way that overscaling a business without a solid foundation, a dream team, and a backup plan for when things go wrong is a recipe for failure.

Adam: In your experience, what are defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Hao: 1) They are committed and passionate. 2) They are able to inspire others by setting a good example and handling difficult situations with a positive approach. 3) They are able to communicate their vision to the team and deliver to them the strategy to achieve the goal.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Hao: 1) Never be afraid of failure and always give 100% to what you do. Failure is your ladder to success. 2) Surround yourself with like-minded people, and learn and share experiences with each other. 3) Be laser-focused on your goals and keep yourself disciplined on the way to success. Find an accountability partner, if needed.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Hao: One of my mentors, Warren Rustand, told me that I need to have one hour of “think time” every day. I am not able to do this daily but I spend 2 to 4 hours each week alone thinking. I think about my past and future, my family, my health, my community, my business, etc. I read my affirmation, review my vision and dream big.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Hao: Share one’s experience and mentor others.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Hao: I love to read books. I make sure I read or listen to at least 2 books a month. Reading is powerful especially to our minds. It increases attention span, focus and concentration. Our brain changes and develops in amazing ways when we read. It gives us endless knowledge, information, and lessons while keeping our minds active. I also love watching movies and playing badminton.

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Hao: In 2018, I published my first book, From Bad to Worse to Best in Class: A Refugee’s Success Story. This is a story of romance, hardship, endurance, family, and entrepreneurship. I am also a motivational speaker. I travel extensively and I speak at business groups, colleges, schools and community organizations.

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