Teddy Liaw on Creating a Vision for Your Network
CEO & Founder
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In this episode, Teddy Liaw, CEO of NexRep, LLC, joins host Alana Muller to share his tips on visualizing the impact of your network and leaving a memorable legacy. Tune in to hear how Teddy surrounds himself with a network that inspires him and helps him grow. “We are the average of our five closest friends, so we should be surrounding ourselves with people that level us up and challenge us. I try to spend time with only people that two other people I trust have vetted.”
Alana Muller: Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire, and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode. Well, hello and welcome to another episode of Enterprise.ing Podcast. Delighted to have you all here today. And I'm especially excited to welcome today's guest Teddy Liaw, is the CEO of NexRep. Growing the company under his leadership into one of the largest virtual at home marketplaces in the industry. Teddy, welcome to Enterprise.ing.
Teddy Liaw: Alana, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited.
Alana Muller: I'm so excited to have you. Tell our listeners more about NexRep.
Teddy Liaw: Yeah, so we're a marketplace that has thousands of people coast to coast, also in Alaska and Hawaii. A lot of these folks are stay at home moms. They're in Topeka, Toledo, Tampa, any rural part of America that starts with a T. Just kidding, really anywhere. And these people essentially come onto our platform and engage our marketplace and they do customer service. So we work with clients such as Priceline, and Teladoc, and Glossier, and just really tons and tons of household name brands that people know of. And a lot of these stay at home moms, disabled folks, veterans, or anybody else who wants to work from home can come onto the platform and they could provide customer service experiences for all these amazing companies and all these amazing brands.
So it's been really cool. We also do a lot of work in the nonprofit space. And in the last couple years with COVID at home work has been kind of cool. And we were able to provide over 50 work opportunities for 50,000 work opportunities for folks. So we feel happy that we were able to do our part while keeping people safe in their homes and getting work opportunities without all the craziness.
Alana Muller: So amazing. And the fact that people have been able to have jobs as you described from home, that's something that we're hearing so much more about, over and over again about sort of the change in the workplace and that so many people want the opportunity to stay home. And you're providing it in a way that is meaningful and profitable for them. So Bravo. That's so cool. So cool.
Teddy Liaw: Yeah, it's been awesome. I think that one of the key things is the age of dad or husband goes to the office, woman stays home and does nothing but raise kids is so obsolete, that mindset. And the idea also that people have to flock to a major city like New York or one of the West Coast cities like LA or San Francisco is also completely absurd. And what that's doing is it used to suck the talent out of middle America to the coast, high cost of living, not enough pay to pay for that one bedroom, 1000 square foot place in San Francisco. You had to make a quarter million dollars to do that.
So yeah, you were making more, but it wasn't sustainable. And I think we always said that in our company, which is, we need to find a way to keep people where they grew up, where they want to be, close to their parents, close to their family. And we think it's actually a great mission to help people keep their nuclear families intact while fueling the labor market in middle America. We cannot have a situation where people flock to the coast.
Alana Muller: Well, and I mean, you're sort of addressing multiple questions at once. I mean, you're talking about sort of the economic impact, the mental and social, emotional wellbeing of people. It's just such a great way to give people meaning and purpose and a way to make a living while still being with their families, in the areas that they love, geographically, et cetera, et cetera. So what a great thing. And we often hear, just as you're describing, we hear about kind of this brain drain that takes place in smaller cities, not just rural communities, but even suburban and urban communities, but smaller cities where there doesn't feel like there's enough opportunity for people.
And so what you're providing is a way for them to actually do that in place where they are. So great solution. And in fact, it makes me think more about relationships as you're describing it, family relationships, close friend groups. And so I'd love to hear a little bit more from you about the value you place on your own relationship base and how you actively manage your network. I take it that networking is one of the ways that you've been able to grow this business.
Teddy Liaw: Yeah. Relationships are everything. There's obviously a saying that we are all familiar with, which is that we are the average of our five closest friends and these people hold us accountable, they challenge us. And we need to make sure that we up level ourselves constantly and challenge ourselves. I think everybody should have and find mentors that they look up to. And looking up to people is a very powerful thing. And it's not to put anybody on a pedestal and say that they're perfect. Nobody is perfect. And we shouldn't believe that people are saints. That's an impossible attainment, but it's important to say, wow, I really like how that person runs a meeting. I love how that person public speaks. I love how that person really is so strategic. I love how that person is great at relationships or just is caring to the waiter.
And that's one of the things that's really important is just finding ways to admire people and, but realize that they are still a human being at the same time. The other thing that I always think about with relationships is it's so easy to meet sometimes the wrong people. Right. And keeping that five average rule is, as you expand that out beyond that. For me, I try to, especially moving from California to Nevada, I was brand new. I really didn't know much of anybody. I was able to re-engage with some folks from high school and also some people from college, but people, some of these people that I now see a lot are people I haven't seen in 20 plus years. But I have kind of a rule that I tried to live by, which is I try to spend time with only people that two other people I trust have vetted.
So I would be like “Gabby, what do you think about this person?” And “Alana, what do you think about this person?” And quite frankly, that has helped me stay focused on making sure that the relationships that I do meet, I could spend four hours on a golf course with, or I could spend three hours at a dinner with, and I know it's going to be fruitful and impactful with people that are like-minded. So there's a lot of different rules that I set for myself, but you are so right. In every part of my life relationships have been there to save me, to help me and to make sure that I am who I am today.
Alana Muller: Okay. I have to tell you, I love this idea that having the, sort of the “Good Housekeeping seal of approval” from two trusted colleagues, contacts, friends, family, whoever it is, people in your life, having kind of that seal of approval. That's a really cool concept. And I suspect that for you, what that means is not only are you able to, you have some common relationships, so you probably have some common ground. And so even if you've never had a full conversation with the new individual, you have a starting place from which to launch that conversation.
Teddy Liaw: And I just, I really believe also, I call it the home rule. It's like, oh, I'm friends with this person and that person is like, well, have you been to their home? Have they been to your home? That's really hard in COVID, right, because we've been trying to keep people safe, but generally outside of COVID and during normal to times, that's one of the ultimate barometers. Has somebody invited you to their home? And if yes, then yeah, you're probably important to them. And if, no, then maybe you're not as close as you think you are. So I call it the home rule for friendships and relationships as well. Anyway, I'm full of these rules that I just, you set these out, you live by them and.
Alana Muller: I love it. We might need like Teddy's 10 rules for,
Teddy Liaw: Yeah.
Alana Muller: Engaging in relationships. Very neat. Well, okay. So I want to continue down this line and you talked about mentors or people who you trust and admire. Can you tell us about an interaction with one person that resulted in a breakthrough for you either personally or professionally?
Teddy Liaw: Yeah, I would say that somebody that I worked with was a previous client of mine at another company and really for the vast majority of our relationship, I would say 80 to 90% of our phone calls and conversations have been about personal things, not about the work. So 10 to 20%, maybe about work, 80 to 90% about children, about children and going to colleges. And for the vast majority of our relationship in the beginning, it was because she was from the UK, moved to America, married an American businessman, had two amazing kids. And we talked about private school and SATs and APs for the kids. And she had no idea. And I used to always joke and I'm like, and she would obviously go through about relearning geometry and all these other things.
And I'm like the one thing you haven't learned is American history. It's probably funny to learn about our version of the Revolutionary War and to learn about us and what we did to the red coats. And I would make fun of her being British. But we bonded over that. We bonded over children, we bonded over meaningful things. And I took academics very seriously. Went to an academic magnet school in high school, went to UC Berkeley and took my academics very seriously. And it was just a, I was a resource to her and she was my client. When I left that company and was CEO of my current company, she was one of my first clients. And she said, look, Teddy, anything you need I'm here.
And literally at points would say, Teddy, I know you took a pay cut to do this. Do you need money for a down payment? Can I help you with like, that's... I spent Fathers Day with them. I went to their children's eighth grade graduation. I've done holidays with these people. And that's an example where it was a breakthrough relationship where when I needed them, they helped me. And when they've needed me, I have helped them. And you just ways to do that for each other. And the revenue comes, the money comes but that's not the motivation at all. It's finding good people that you could help.
Alana Muller: Well, and you're talking about authentic relationships. I mean, I am known for preaching about the fact that I think that it's for in my life, at least it's impossible to separate the personal from the professional. I'm the same person whether I'm at home, at work, or in the community. And I hope that the people I interact with are much the same way. And I say that without judgment. It's just that those are the kinds of people I choose to hang out with. And what you just described is exactly that, that this was a client sort of with that title client.
And yet, this is an important personal friend, somebody who is personally meaningful to you, and clearly she felt the same way. She feels the same way. That you've been able to welcome one another into your lives, not just for transactional purposes, the transactions come just as you described, the money will come. And not to be so blind as to say that if you build it, they will come. I know that that's not exactly right, but that if you're providing a product or service that people count on, rely on, need, and you're an authentic person, you can build a meaningful relationship that bridges both the personal and professional.
Teddy Liaw: Absolutely. We are social animals and what you just said, summarize a lot of things. That's why I got the two person rule, which is, we would love to believe everybody is just like us and giving, and caring, and legit, but they're not. And there are easy ways to make sure that they're vetted. And then the ones you do settle on, then you really invest. You go all the way with those friendships, right? Because it's impossible to be friends with 1000 people. And the process of life is to make sure you're surrounded by great people and you invest into those. And then yes, I do believe good things happen organically on their own.
Alana Muller: Yeah. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I want to shift gears just a little bit on you. You're such a visionary thinker. And in fact, that's what you're known for. Can you share some thoughts about how you encourage other people to set a vision for their relationship base or for their networks? How do you encourage other people to think sort of in a visionary way about surrounding themselves, in fact, with people who are meaningful in their lives?
Teddy Liaw: Yeah. I mean, we have to break down the word “vision” before we use the word “visionary.” And vision is a sight. Vision is a sight. It is a picture. It is an image. That is a visionary. Now visionaries oftentimes get that title because they see a version of reality that other people don't see and visionaries then share that vision, what they see with other people. That's why we use the word visionary, but it comes from the root of sight. So to have a vision for how you're going to be in a relationship it's really about like, thinking about who you want to be like, actually not writing, it's not a list, but it's picturing when you go to a room, do people come to you or do they go away from you? When you go to a birthday party, do people want to talk to you or not?
Do you see yourself as somebody that people trust? Do you actually get annoyed when people call you for advice or do you embrace that? These components, the day to day living of how you go through life, is actually the foundation to the vision. Honestly, if you go to a social setting and you just want to grab your drink, you want to eat your hors d'oeuvres and you want to be left alone. Okay, that's your vision. If you get annoyed and you find yourself not enjoying conversation with people, then that's part of a vision. On the flip side, if you can picture yourself getting phone calls from young people, and you could kind of like dream of giving them advice and then five years later, they give a speech about when I was in high school or when I was in college and when I was in need and I called Alana.
And when you could picture that, like that's what a vision is, when you could actually hear and see that dream of somebody saying, thank you. I mean, there's been a lot, it's Hall of Fame season, right? So Tiger Woods recently did his speech. And I'm sure Brady will get his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame and whatnot. But a lot of these people talk about seeing these things happen before they actually became a reality. And I just, I think that people need to, they need to slow down and dream more. That's one of my takeaways that I would have for people, is don't fixate so much on today, but actually picture yourself in a reality format of how people are talking about you.
Now this is a little bit morbid, but like, yeah what would people say to you at your memorial when you die? Will people even show up? And we've all had to face mortality in COVID the last two years, and it's not about age, it's not about health, it's not about gender. And COVID has decimated a lot of lives. So we should slow down and think about that. And I think if we do that exercise, which is as morbid as it sounds, think about what people would say about you, who would show up? How many people would show up? And what are the words they would actually say to describe their relationships with you? That is a great starting point for how you should have that vision. Then the dream is the dream and you just need to make it a reality and live that way.
Alana Muller: Oh, that is beautiful. I mean, I love that you break down the word visionary and you start with the root vision and to see it, to picture it, it makes it tangible. It makes it something real. And you're right. It is a really good starting point. And to the extent that we all have the capacity to sort of close our eyes and see that future to see what's possible, that actually does bring it to reality. And I'm a big believer that what you put into the universe comes back to you. So, I think that's what you're describing.
Teddy Liaw: This is very different, a very different exercise and I do this with a lot of folks that I coach. It's very different from writing a list of your dreams. I want to make this money. I want to retire with that. I want two houses. I want... That's not really what I'm talking about. Those are material things that can come and go, but the how people describe you and the actual situations that you can see yourself interacting with people, is what I need people to slow down and think about. And that's very hard for people to do.
Alana Muller: It is. I mean, it's more about legacy. I love that. I agree with you, that there's kind of some, a little bit of a morbid undertone or overtone to that. But that what's your legacy, what are you going to be remembered for and begin to build that now. Now's the time to get started with that. So that's very cool, very cool. Kind of continuing down this line with being a visionary, I know that you are a recognized thought leader on the topic of the future of work. Can you tell our listeners, if you would, a little bit about what that means, what the future of work means and how it may impact them and their careers?
Teddy Liaw: Well, I think that we're starting to see a little bit of that and I've talked about this a lot and what I used to say was the 40 hour work week, not sustainable. I used to talk about commuting. The average American spends 20 miles driving to and from work. That's an hour a day that for most people who make in the minimum wage to $20 an hour range is about 20% in the equivalent of hours or gas money, and gas is obviously surging. But imagine for people that kind of make that level of money, that would be like saying Alana, I want you to work five days a week, but I'm not going to pay you for Friday. Right.
So commuting the 40 hour work weeks, eight to five, nine to five, all of this is going to be blown up. It is a social construct that we've been forced into doing because of the commute. And I think with technology, we're going to allow people to not have to commute. With technology, we're allowing people to work from anywhere. With technology, we're allowing people to realize that flexibility matters and not just sitting down and pretending to work and not being productive. And also the American family and the global family has changed. Microsoft did a very interesting study a couple years ago before COVID and they evaluated the four day work week. And they realized that actually people were more productive. They were surely happier to do four days. And a lot of them were willing to do four days times 10 hours. So still getting the 40 hours, but the concept of a three day weekend is like, I would love that.
And that makes a lot of sense, because even back, that was during the pre-COVID days. So people were still commuting. It's like, look, if I'm going to spend all this time doing makeup and looking good and all these other things that is so inefficient. And imagine if on Friday, I don't have to do that and I could just go straight into my errands, my chores, or my life. So I think that flexibility is really important. I think a borderless, office-less, work environment is going to be the future.
And I really think that we're starting to see that. COVID really accelerated that. We had over 10 million people that resigned in a few months during the great resignation. We still have over 10 million jobs that are unfilled. People thought that it was because of the free money that was being passed out and once that was gone, people would go back. No, they realized I've been miserable for seven, eight, 10, 15 years. I'm not going back, even though I should. And it really changed people's values. Also, I think the mortality thing that we talked about, which is, I don't want to do this until I'm 65.
Alana Muller: Right.
Teddy Liaw: So the net of all this is, I really think that people need flexibility. I think that the American labor laws are going to change to reflect this. That the constraints of a W2 model, which means an employee model is going to completely be blown up. And I think that in the same way that worker, that employers used to have a lot of control, I think employees, workers, and regular people are going to reclaim that power back. That means more time for flexibility, more time with families, living where they want to live, and using cloud technology to get access to a whole bunch of work opportunities they never had before. So it's really time also for legislation to keep up and catch up.
Alana Muller: Yeah. Listening to you I'm reminded that prior to the pandemic, so many employers, I believe, thought that if they didn't see their associates, if they didn't see the people who worked for their companies in the office at their desk, heads down, then work was not getting done. And we certainly proved otherwise during the pandemic, didn't we?
Teddy Liaw: We saw productivity numbers go up.
Alana Muller: It shot up. I mean, there's no drive time between Zoom meetings, as I'm often heard saying. So people worked harder, they worked longer hours. And we proved to ourselves that we could be efficient from a home office, a remote office, from whatever, wherever we wanted to call the office that day. And so-
Teddy Liaw: We also realized how stupid many meetings are.
Alana Muller: Yeah. You're not kidding.
Teddy Liaw: I mean, hours, no meeting, no professional meetings should ever be over an hour. I don't think most of them should be over 30 minutes. And what ended up happening was everybody's attention spans shrunk.
Alana Muller: Yeah.
Teddy Liaw: So the people running the meetings found themselves having to be more efficient and realized, wow, this hourly standing meeting that I used to do should only be 20 minutes. Let's cut the crap out. Everybody who wants to go back and work and do what they want to do and they need to do. And they'd rather just be done with it. So productivity went up, meeting inefficiencies went down. Overall, I think the way people interact with work has completely changed, hopefully forever, in a good way.
Alana Muller: Yeah. I think you're right. I think we are not going back to it. At the time people were saying the new normal, I think it's just normal now. It's just normal. This hybrid, this flexible remote work opportunity, I think is real. I think it is the way of now and into the future. So thank you for that. I want to talk a little bit more, I had asked you earlier about what role or what value you placed on networking to grow your business. I want to get back to that and talk a little bit more about how networking has impacted you. I'm thinking specifically about the fact that you were appointed by California Governor Newsom to his California entrepreneur task force. And I know that you've guided US senators on workforce and labor policy. How did you find these opportunities or maybe more accurately, how did they find you? And what role did networking play in the matter?
Teddy Liaw: Yeah, I would say for me on the surface, working in the call center industry might not sound sexy. Working in cloud technology might not sound sexy, but at the end of the day, being successful at what I do has given me an opportunity to have a platform to do more. And that platform, when I can say that I am a technologist from, at the time, the Bay Area, who's helping thousands of people. And these people tend to be stay at home moms, disabled folks. They tend to be people in displaced parts of rural America that don't have other opportunities. They don't necessarily have to have advanced education. And there are people that might have been forgotten by most of American work and, or they're just restricted to not being able to move to a major metropolitan area. So that story, I think, is very American.
And in my space, a lot of folks have offshored their customer service to India and the Philippines. And I'm like, no, I'm going to keep that here, keep that work here. So I think there's a very American, and there's a very patriotic story to how we're able to keep and create work opportunities for folks here on our shore. And I think that was very interesting to folks. I think that allowed me to, that platform of just knowing that I'm helping lives and I'm not just about replacing people and I'm not about automating everything away. But that story, I think, was very interesting to a lot of folks in government. And they became interested in finding out my version of work. And honestly talking to companies like Uber and Lyft and whatnot was scary for a lot of politicians. I'm not a lobbyist, but I'm somebody who has a lot of great ideas.
I was an ethnic studies major at Berkeley as well as business. So I studied sociology. I studied people. I love people and anthropology, and history and understanding displace people. So I was able to get appointed onto Gavin Newsom's entrepreneur task force, we were in the founding group. And then it goes back to what I just said earlier, which is that I met amazing people. And then my core of fantastic, amazing like-minded people only got stronger and we talk about not just money because it's easy to be made, but how to change lives and how to impact things. And then our belief and our vision of what we can do with this power only grows. And you start meeting more and more inspirational people, and you realize that you can do it too. And then with a lot of the senators, I was grateful to be able to meet folks like Lorna and Wade Randlett who have spent their careers helping politicians, government officials, driving policy.
And they said, Teddy, it'd be great for you to come in and do a retreat with us at Martha's Vineyard. So I went to a retreat at Martha's Vineyard. There were, I believe 40 senators out of the 100 that spent the weekend on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, everybody had their sandals and flip flops and shorts, and we were squeezing into taxis and going to restaurants. And it was so casual. And I was able to meet with a lot of legislators and specifically senators, like they were senators and explain what I do and what I think. And that turned into, come to DC. Talk to my team. I need to hear from you. And wham bam, 17 page labor laws are being written to transform us into the new century, to be honest. So that's it. I think ultimately the foundation is to be good, build that network, be truthful, be authentic and good things happen. And then as you continue to expand that network, keep asking yourself who the five closest people are to you.
Alana Muller: Yeah.
Teddy Liaw: Challenge yourself to get better and just keep doing good things. So that recipe has been very, very simple and it's worked. And now that I've moved to Las Vegas, the same thing happened. I didn't come in expecting a lot of things, but I didn't know a lot of people, but I moved literally just a year ago. Did it without knowing people. And now yesterday I sat with the governor at a round table to talk about how to transform Vegas into a tech hub.
Alana Muller: So cool. So you've successfully built a network around yourself, a group of close, trusted, personal contacts. I think that's phenomenal. Phenomenal. Thank you for sharing that story. I know that our time is coming to a close. So I have just one fun question I have to ask you and it is this. If you could meet one person for a networking interaction, some kind of get together, go for coffee, whatever it is, who would it be and why? And I don't care if it's a fictional, nonfictional, living, not living, whoever it is, I want to know who would Teddy want to meet?
Teddy Liaw: Oh, so this goes back to my inner childhood idol. I mean, it's got to be Jordan. It's got to be. I mean, he is very, very secretive. He's hard to get ahold of. So I think he would be somebody. And the mindset, he kind of gave us a glimpse during his Hall of Fame speech, but to hear how he thinks about certain situations and he's impacted so many people, Kobe and all these other people that really tried to be like him and never really could touch him. He was it. Not just the athletic ability, but the mindset. And then to be able to translate that into business.
And he's such a, and people don't talk about this enough, but he's a philanthropist and he's done so much for North Carolina. He could've bought any basketball team and been in any city. And he could've been involved in so many other teams. And he chose to go back to Charlotte where he's from in North Carolina. So he is a philanthropist. He takes care of people close to him. He's obviously super successful, incredibly smart. And he's mentored a lot of people. So he'd had to be it. The GOAT.
Alana Muller: So great. What a great choice. I love it. I love it. Teddy, thank you so much. Tell us where we can learn more about you and your company.
Teddy Liaw: Great. You could visit us at www.nexrep.com. There's no T. So it's N-E-X-R-E-P.com. And looking forward to hopefully continuing the conversation with anybody.
Alana Muller: Teddy Liaw, thank you so much for joining us on Enterprise.ing. It was such a fun conversation. I feel inspired, and I know our listeners will too.
Teddy Liaw: Thank you for having me.
Alana Muller: Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders one conversation at a time.
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