Tech in Hyperspeed with Suraj Naik, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Director of the Genius Group

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This is a podcast episode titled, Tech in Hyperspeed with Suraj Naik, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Director of the Genius Group. The summary for this episode is: <p>In this episode, Jess and Suraj speak about his entrepreneurial journey and how Suraj</p><p>is motivated by the energy and passion of the <a href=";!!BupLon6U!-mmNYm-dBvz3fRmIgM6QSWFo0TwWVOE5wsfwRe5iNGdfcXm9gtbdpH5f5PSV5vgmUOj6XKg$" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">global entrepreneur community</a> that the group has established.&nbsp;Genius Group supports entrepreneurs in their transformations with its technology solutions. These include its online education platform and entrepreneurial assessment tool. The group also runs events and spaces like Genius Central Singapore where entrepreneurs can co-work and make new connections.&nbsp;</p>

Speaker 1: The world as we know it, has fundamentally changed. What was once considered the future of work is here now. We are operating in an all digital work from anywhere world, more and more consumers are supporting brands that align with their personal values. It's the values driven firms that will rebound sooner and grow faster in this new world. Salesforce has partnered with Singapore Community Radio to bring you this podcast. We want to explore the opportunities and the challenges of this new world. We want to talk about the ways in which we will work going forward, how businesses can be a platform for change, and how technology will continue to impact the world. We have some amazing thought leaders, executives and community advocates joining us, and we hope this sparks some inspiration and innovation for you. To learn more about us, you can head to our blog, @ salesforce. com/ ap/ blog.

Jess O'Reilly: Welcome everyone to the Future of Work, Now. We're going to be exploring tech in hyperspeed. What does technology play in this new normal that we're living in? My name is Jess O'Reilly from Salesforce, and I'm joined today by Suraj Naik Genius. He's the CMO. Oh, Suraj. Welcome.

Suraj Naik: Hi, Jess.

Jess O'Reilly: I am incredibly excited to spend this next moment with you unpacking a few little topics. But I think it's probably best for us to start off understanding a bit about you. So I know that's a very broad question, but I'd love to know a little bit about what got you to where you are today, whether that be influences from random areas of life or whether you had a very straight path from university into work. I'm guessing based on who you are, you probably didn't have a straight path.

Suraj Naik: Yeah. First of all, excited to be here, and thanks for the invitation. I enjoy being at Salesforce events. It's just is perfect. And just in terms of my journey, I wouldn't say a roller coaster journey, but it's been... I grew up in India. I grew up in India, in Bombay. And while I was there, I was in the events industry. I started with the events industry.

Jess O'Reilly: Okay, what type of events was it?

Suraj Naik: These were more like Bollywood events.

Jess O'Reilly: Bollywood?

Suraj Naik: Yeah. Yes, I would organize Bollywood film shows and award shows and we have all these celebrities come through. So I would organize those and then got into media buying as well, yeah.

Jess O'Reilly: So could we completely get rid of anything we're going to talk about today and just focus on Bollywood?

Suraj Naik: Yeah, let's just talk about Bollywood.

Jess O'Reilly: Yeah. I want you to teach me moves. I think everyone here would be interested. Jokes aside. So you moved from Bollywood, go into media buying, and that, I guess, opens up a whole new world, right?

Suraj Naik: Yeah, it does. And the company that I moved into was into new media, back in the day, and it was too early for its time, where we would do content syndication and deliver content on mobile phones. And even there was no Facebook at that time, right. And I just loved the tech and the connection of tech and Bollywood and entertainment.

Jess O'Reilly: Okay.

Suraj Naik: And that journey itself was pretty incredible. And then yeah, that's where it started.

Jess O'Reilly: Interesting. And so what brought you to Singapore? What's that next season after?

Suraj Naik: Yeah, so what happened was when I was in India, I was working for a big media conglomerates. And I was at the stage in life I was like, " I have to upscale myself." And the way I could see it was to get... It was like most of the Indian CV. I got to Singapore, did my MBA here in Singapore. And while I was here in Singapore, I didn't let the entertainment side go, so I organized salsa workshops here as well.

Jess O'Reilly: Salsa workshops.

Suraj Naik: Yeah, Bollywood and ballroom dancing workshops in the university.

Jess O'Reilly: We definitely have to go out crosstalk.

Suraj Naik: We do have to.

Jess O'Reilly: I need to see these moves. That's amazing.

Suraj Naik: We're right next to inaudible right now, so we should.

Jess O'Reilly: This is true. Okay, so MBA. You're in Singapore. What happened after that MBA? I feel like people go through different paths after they finish inaudible.

Suraj Naik: Yes. And yeah, so after I finished the MBA, I had a job that I was going to get into, and it was very... So now you know the story of me being into Bollywood and entertainment, and the job that I was getting into was more into engineering. And it didn't feel right. It was more on the landscaping, construction and engineering. I was brought into as a business manager over there and it just felt very different energy for me. And luckily, what happened was at that time, I knew someone who said, " Hey, do you want to go to Bali to run a event?" And I said, " Yeah, why not? I have got a month before I join that organization, let's just go to Bali, do the event." And it just changed. So I went to this entrepreneurial event in Bali, and for me, that was the first exposure to what does entrepreneurship look like. I didn't know. My dad runs a family business, so I've seen it from the inside, from the family side, but when I could see what he would be going through, I could see it in the eyes of other entrepreneurs. I saw them going through transformation. And that really touched me. And I think that's when it really hit, seeing that the... I haven't seen such sort of transformation, and it was a big shift, and I decided to stay there. And I've been there since the last 12 years, seeing transformation.

Jess O'Reilly: Don't you love life. You're in this moment where you're about to go down this engineering course.

Suraj Naik: Yeah.

Jess O'Reilly: It's so polar opposite to this entrepreneurial route, where I have to say, and obviously unpack this a bit more, but you've completely changed so many people's lives down this route, and just the impact that you've had. So before I steal your thunder, tell us a bit about that entrepreneurial journey. What have you created? What have you been a part of in that period of time since you made that pivot? We owe it to Bali?

Suraj Naik: Yeah, so there were key aspects within that while I was there, and I remember standing in front of the room and seeing everyone just go through that. And there was this energy shift which just went like, " Boom." And I could feel it. And when I decided to stay there, I was like, " Okay, this is great. Let's just see where this takes us." We started organizing events across Asia, and then moved into Australia and New Zealand, very much towards entrepreneurial transformations. And we then decided, " Hey, tech is booming. Tech is booming." I remember we were in Melbourne, and I was with the founder. And we were going to the airport and he said, " What do you think of us moving towards tech?" I said, " We do need to do a connection." Now, while I had the experience of connecting Bollywood and tech, I said, " I could do this." So we launched some assessments. And that was really the first step, which is we knew in the event space. And this is so bizarre. You see this on day- to- day life, and you try to connect that to the tech side of things. We could see that in the day- to- day life of entrepreneurs, they go through phases of self- awareness, self- expression, and self- mastery. So self- awareness is getting to know who I really am, self- expression is when they come to events and express themselves and connect with... And through these skills, they would go into self- mastery. So those three things really stayed. And we said, " How could we translate this into tech?" And that's where it really, really started, where we said, " Okay, let's just try out a small Facebook app with a quiz."

Jess O'Reilly: I love that that's how it started.

Suraj Naik: Yeah.

Jess O'Reilly: Tell the audience where it is now, because from a Facebook app with a few questions to this amazing application that you've created.

Suraj Naik: Yeah. And the thing that we had, we had an assessment, which was a $ 97 paid assessment, and this is where we got into the digital marketing space and said, " Okay, let's try and sell as many of these assessments as possible, go to corporates, sell it." It was tough, digital marketing back then. Even now, when you go with that mindset of selling, it was tough. But then we said, "Okay, how do we actually do something where we could give value?" We gave as many freebies as possible through Facebook. We launched this Facebook app, so that people get a taster of it. The mindset shifted like, " Let's just give more value and see what happens." And we saw for every 100 people who would just use the app, the sales would come in. So we were no longer selling, we were looking at giving value to anyone who wanted it, and the sales would come on the back of this.

Jess O'Reilly: I love this. And this is where I wanted to segue to is... This whole podcast is around tech and hyperspeed, and we all agree that we're in a new normal, we don't need to address that. But I think what we really need to understand is, what role does tech have to play, now that we are in such a new world? And I love exactly what you've said that I think you guys were a little bit before your time, right? Because you already were making that shift from physical to digital. And when was that? That was years ago, right?

Suraj Naik: That was 2008.

Jess O'Reilly: Yeah. I have so many customers that we've worked with through this new normal, where they've got such a physical presence in motion, they're having to shift so quickly to digital, whereas you'd already made that shift, which you've got an augmented business of physical and digital now. So that's point one, you'd already gotten there. But the second thing I've noticed with a lot of the customers we're working with, and even with Salesforce, we've had to take a real step back and say, " This isn't a sales conversation anymore. It's a values and a relationship conversation, and from that, the sale might come." So can you talk through a little bit more around how you've seen that tech evolve, and how you're using technology to help provide that value. Because I think a lot of brands are trying to battle with, " We still need to sell, but how do we sell and add value?"

Suraj Naik: Yeah, and that shift's a while. We started in 2008, it really took off in 2014. So we were trying to figure things out. And as you said, the value side of things, we're seeing that shift very clear now. It was hidden behind, and some people knew it, some people are working through it. We saw that when COVID hit, when in 2020, it was like, " People are not buying." It was panic, everyone just pause. And it became more clear that if you go with the mindset of trying to sell your product to the market, and make sure that you tell them, " Hey, here's my product, buy." As an end user, you'd be like, " Someone's trying to sell me." But when you go through the idea of, " Am I solving someone's problem?" So more than the product being a market fit, it was a problem- solution fit, right? And that's been our core since the beginning. So even when we did the Facebook app, and just going through the numbers, we saw that take up of about 10, 000 app users a day.

Jess O'Reilly: A day?

Suraj Naik: Yeah. And our database itself was 10,000 in those many years. Like, " This can happen in a day, right. This took so many years, this can happen in a day. So how do we scale it up?" And that's when we really got into CRMs and understanding, " Where do we get inaudible all our clients?"

Jess O'Reilly: How do we make sense of all of this?

Suraj Naik: Yeah.

Jess O'Reilly: Interesting. I just want to repeat something you said earlier, because I think that's a really powerful shift. So the market fit versus the market problem.

Suraj Naik: Mm- hmm( affirmative).

Jess O'Reilly: Talk us through a little bit more around how you're building out your strategies for... You've got several different arms of your businesses, right. So how are you using that mentality to build your business strategies?

Suraj Naik: Yeah. So as we were working through the internet, we've got a very strong community, and all our products are very community driven. Right now, we're about 1. 7 million strong entrepreneurs and about 1000 new coming in every day. So we get a lot of data and feedback from them as well. What are the challenges they're facing? It then becomes a collaboration, when it's that. And then it's more about how do we collaborate and connect, not just the community to us, but the community to the other community members, and find solutions over there? And that's when it really sees the growth as well. And trust plays such a big factor. Even if we go back to the idea of money, money is the exchange of trust, right? Yeah. And most of our answers right now are from ages ago, right? It's just advanced in this digitized new medium, yeah.

Jess O'Reilly: So we're February last year, panic starting to hit. Tell us about how you, as a business leader, shifted. Was it a shock reaction, or did you lean in? Tell us your story.

Suraj Naik: It was crazy. I remember we were in South Africa. So we've got the safari lodge in South Africa-

Jess O'Reilly: I just want to tell you, I was in South Africa when it hit too.

Suraj Naik: Oh, really?

Jess O'Reilly: I had to rush home. There you go. Did you rush home? Maybe we were on the same plane.

Suraj Naik: Yeah. So I did have to rush home. And we had an event over there at our safari lodge, and then we were with all the entrepreneurs, and the news started coming in. And even when we got there, we were seeing some checks happen, and then got the news that the Bali property they were talking about put in lockdown. We said, " Okay, this will be a week or two." Then the news came in about Singapore. And when we were in the meeting over there, we didn't realize the panic, but as we were coming back, we were like, " What next?" Right? And because we were with the group of entrepreneurs who are part of our community, we all like, " What next?" Right? And then we said, " Let's regroup. Let all of us get on a call and see how we can handle things." And come March, we decided to launch our entrepreneurial hub in Singapore. It's like a cafe co- working space, we call it Genius Central, right in the middle of the city, in Far East Square, a massive investment.

Jess O'Reilly: So you decided to set up a physical in March, okay.

Suraj Naik: No, so it was going on for last six, seven months. So it was going through 2019, all the refurbishment and everything. It was supposed to launch in January, got delayed and was launched in end of March, right.

Jess O'Reilly: Okay.

Suraj Naik: And we have all these things happening. And then we have this launch happening of this place, and we have to pay the rental, and going into the hospitality space within Singapore. So we knew the experience through our resorts and cafes that we own around the world, so we knew what it takes, but we were not prepared for COVID, and not prepared for it to just shut, right? And we opened, and there's a lockdown.

Jess O'Reilly: Oh my goodness. Okay.

Suraj Naik: Yeah. And that was just crazy. And then we said, " Okay, we do need to make a pivot. Let's just speak to our community because when we've gone back to them and understood their challenges, we've sorted things out." And when we spoke to them, they were panicked as well. And that's when we decided to have something which is going back to the trust, because trust has always played a role. When you've got a trusted community, there's that relationship. We launched something called the Trusted Buyers Club.

Jess O'Reilly: Okay, tell us a bit more about that.

Suraj Naik: Yeah. So Trusted Buyers Club was because there was a freeze in people buying.

Jess O'Reilly: Yeah.

Suraj Naik: People want to sell. They wanted to keep their business operations running. And we're talking about SMEs here, right? So not big corporations, a lot of SMEs, solo entrepreneurs, said, " Okay, you've got products. We will build a platform, and let's just make a group of about, say 200 of us coming together, and everyone chips in$2, 000, and we make a pact that we buy from each other. Every week, we have to spend$ 2, 000."

Jess O'Reilly: That's awesome.

Suraj Naik: Yeah, so there were some people who were making more than$ 2, 000, because they had to sell. They had to get rid of that$ 2, 000 within the week, and they had to get rid of that within the community itself, and someone else would make money. So that way, that exchange really happened, business operations kept running, and we said, " If we could keep this going for two months, at least the businesses won't shut down."

Jess O'Reilly: Yeah.

Suraj Naik: Some people made more money, but that really gave insight into that the product was really good. Some people didn't make that much money, but that was feedback from the community that you could really improve your product.

Jess O'Reilly: So give us an example of this exchange, just so we get a sense of what type of product was on the marketplace?

Suraj Naik: What was interesting, some of the products didn't even exist.

Jess O'Reilly: Wow.

Suraj Naik: So for example, we had someone who built your own Facebook marketing chatbot, and that was selling for something like$1, 000, right? A lot of people were struggling with even getting their websites, because we're talking about COVID hitting and a lot of digitization happening as well. A lot of the SMEs were not in the space to transform into a digital space. All they had was more like a digital lipstick, but not really in the DNA of the business, right? So they had to really get into that. So we saw a lot of tech offerings come through, like we'll come and set up your Salesforce, or we'll come and set up your CRM systems, do marketing automations, do social media postings. And it became great offerings for people who always thought of getting into it, but did not, and now they were forced to say, " Okay, if I was to buy something, would I buy a chatbot, a social media package?" And then they started really experiencing it, right?

Jess O'Reilly: I love that story. It's amazing what community... We all saw it last year, communities just rallied together in all different shapes and sizes, and I think the ability to pivot, you use that word, and I think it's a word that's probably been overused during COVID. But we experienced the same at Salesforce. We're sitting here, all of our business plans ready to kick off another great year, and all of a sudden... We've often said to ourselves, " Did we think this time last year we would have a Vaccine Cloud, for example, where we now have technology that helps to manage the vaccine process? Did we think we would have a work. com?" Is what we've called it, which is a technology to help bring people back to work. That technology didn't exist a year ago. The Trusted Advisors Club didn't exist a year ago. And as much as it was a hard time, it's amazing to see the innovation that's come. And to your point, I think a lot of that innovation is not coming because we're trying to sell. That innovation is coming because we need it, and we've listened to the community and we've bought that. And I think that's going to be interesting to see how that plays out in the next couple of years. Let's take aside where this pandemic will take us. But how do you see this future of business and technology evolve when we're using the words like trust and community? That didn't exist in business a couple of years ago. So yeah, how do you see that looking as we move into the future?

Suraj Naik: I see that growing a lot more as well, and we've seen a lot of that happen, and even the stock markets that happened. Yes, right? COVID hit, they're at peak right now. When Elon Musk's post something, stocks got really up. How do you explain that? Right? Because there is that level of trust that people have, and that itself makes a big difference. And when you go deeper into it, trust and purpose, it makes a big difference. I was talking about the Genius Central Hub that we opened up. We had hired everyone to come join us as well. We decided we got to stay core to our culture and make sure that we are here. And we linked everything that we're doing to the UN SDGs, which is the Sustainable Development Goals. And SDG 10 and eight were talking about providing equal opportunities to everyone. So we decided we're not going to let anyone go, let's just keep everyone within the organization, let the senior management take pay cuts, and then let's decide if the team wants to take a pay cut voluntary. And most of the team came together saying that they're okay to take pay cuts, even people who are fresh graduate, they said, " We'll do it." Because they saw the purpose behind it. And when that comes in, and that shapes your culture of your organization, it's not forced, it comes from within.

Jess O'Reilly: And without sounding cheesy, I'm imagining that's created such an incredible step change in what was probably already a fantastic culture, it's one for all, all for one now, I'm sure. You guys probably come out of this or going through this so much stronger than before. So how's the business like? I remember we chatted and the cafe's back open again, and it's thriving better than it probably would have been before. Tell us how business is looking, now that we're in a bit of a different state to say last March and April.

Suraj Naik: So yeah, so the cafe is buzzing, it's packed. There's also queues outside during lunch because-

Jess O'Reilly: That's a good problem.

Suraj Naik: Yeah, that's a good problem. So that's buzzing, and we've managed to connect a tech, which is the high tech, which is everything that's happening on the platform, which is geniusu. com, to the high- touch, which is the experience that happens at the cafes and the resorts and everything. So people have really seen that connection. When they come to the cafe, they're able to take all these assessments, go through the transformation by being at the cafe as well. The teams have really taken upon themselves to make it work, because they were part of this journey. And what that has also done is that has built cultural advocates within the team. So they are the one who are spreading our culture to even the new ones who are coming on board, right?

Jess O'Reilly: So you don't even need to rock up to work anymore. You've just got these amazing people that are spreading the word.

Suraj Naik: That's what you'll see me doing.

Jess O'Reilly: That's a dream.

Suraj Naik: Yeah. But you'll see me doing that at Genius Central. I'm just sitting there, and the team's just doing fantastic job over there.

Jess O'Reilly: That's amazing, really. Yeah, I want to congratulate you for being a fine example of what we want leaders to be like in these times. And let's talk about leadership a little bit, because I think I lead an amazing team and I think I've had one of the hardest years as most people have as a leader, because you're really having to juggle this empathy and leading with purpose and building trust, at the same time you lead a business, you have to perform. And so I've often said to a lot of my team, " I'm really trying to battle with this. We've got to do performance, because we've got to keep the lights on, but we've got to balance empathy because we're all people and we're going through hard times." So how are you as a leader trying to really stretch yourself and adjust through these times? Have you noticed a change, or have you always naturally been like this?

Suraj Naik: I think, yeah, definitely. I've been, and even the organization and our leadership team, has been pretty much aligned to what... We start with a purpose, and that's why we connected with the UN Global Goals as well. But as we've grown from three or five people to more like 300, 500, it becomes difficult to get that culture going, and COVID really helped bring it all together. And when we were going through this process, we did an exercise recently, after the... Because people don't realize how COVID has actually impacted even mental health, right? People have gone through... Yeah, and not just mental health, but people are stressed and teams haven't had time to connect at a deeper level. We did this exercise, and I would highly recommend if you're listening, you should try this out with your team. We sat with the team and said, " Let's do an exercise where we come authentically to the meeting and share what enables us, what disables us, and what do you look forward to in the next year?"

Jess O'Reilly: Okay, repeat that. What enables...

Suraj Naik: What enables me, what disables me, and what do I look forward to in 2021? And it's not just work related, it's my life, right? What enables me in life? What disables me? That's when people really got it, and we had some meetings where the teams were like, " Oh, I didn't know this about you, this was disabling you. I could have sorted this out. I would do that now." And that's when teams come together, it becomes such a solid. And that led us to then, the week after, build 100 day plan saying that, " Let's get into as a team." We've acquired quite a few companies as well, including some universities in the US, and we're like, " We have to get them integrated and bring all of this together. So let's all rally together and do the 100 day plan." And not just at the leadership level, this happened right through at the cafe levels as well, where everyone went through the enable, disable exercise.

Jess O'Reilly: I love this concept of 100 day plan. These businesses that are doing five, 10 year plan, the world has showed us over the last year, that is just impossible. It's so hard to predict what you're about to be hit with. So, I like that rapid fire of just being like, " Okay, what does 100 days look like?" And I think that's something I've learned personally, and I have a fantastic colleague, inaudible, tells me this all the time, " Bring the finish line a bit closer, Jess. Make your goals a little bit more in front of you so that things don't feel overwhelming." To your point, mental health has been such a critical aspect over the last year. And if you can see where you've got to go, and take things in bite- sized chunks, I think we've been able to get through this. But if you see it in such a huge thing in front of you, it's overwhelming sometimes. So I love this concept of 100 day plan. Now, I'm going to put you in the hot seat then.

Suraj Naik: Okay.

Jess O'Reilly: So what enables, disables, and what excites you for FY21? So let's start with enables. What enables you?

Suraj Naik: Seeing transformation, and that energy shift, when that happens. You don't really see that in products, when people are consuming products at home, but when you see it through people, that really enables me.

Jess O'Reilly: That's cool. Disables.

Suraj Naik: I'm a people's person, so if I'm in the cubicle, that disables me.

Jess O'Reilly: I'm committed to writing an article, or even a book, that says COVID kills extroverts. I am the scale of high- end extrovert, and I have noticed that when I'm around people, it's just like I'm a completely new person. And I've been locked away in my house for so long that I agree with you, it disables you when you don't get that human interaction. It makes a difference inaudible.

Suraj Naik: Yeah.

Jess O'Reilly: I agree. And what are you most excited about for 2021?

Suraj Naik: For 2021, as I was mentioning, we were going through this acquisition strategy, and we've really shifted from events to a tech company to more like education group now.

Jess O'Reilly: Okay.

Suraj Naik: So bringing all these companies together, and seeing how we can transform more lives and bring more entrepreneurs to the forefront as well.

Jess O'Reilly: So let's talk about entrepreneurs for a second. I think one thing I've noticed on my LinkedIn feed, and I love it, every time I go on, it's like almost every person in my LinkedIn network is posting about this new job they have, or this new venture they're doing, and part of me gets excited that COVID's probably encouraged people to explore new things that they probably had in the back of their mind, but hadn't put time to. Are you seeing the same trend in your community? Are you seeing more entrepreneurs come up from, I guess, the shadows? What's your view on that?

Suraj Naik: Yeah, we've seen a lot of that, and we've seen that not just with our existing group of entrepreneurs. We've seen a lot of intrapreneurs as well, which is entrepreneur mindset in individuals and companies. And one back interesting story is when I experienced this back in India, my dad grew up in a village, and he had to run away from the home to get to a big city, start working, pay for his education, and get those entrepreneur skills, to launch something to give the life that we have right now, right?

Jess O'Reilly: Amazing.

Suraj Naik: That sort of transformation, we're seeing that happen at a rapid scale, when opportunities are put in front of people. And when LinkedIn and all these other platforms shows those opportunities to individuals, they see it's possible. So we're seeing a lot of teenagers take up entrepreneurial skills as well. We ran a program called the Young Entrepreneur Academy for teens, and some of the ideas and the plans that came, they put some of the bigger businesses to shame as well, right? And they were so purpose driven too.

Jess O'Reilly: Oh, I love that. I just think there's got to be a lot of the beginner's mindset that that brings, right? And I'm constantly reminding myself, my team, how are we bringing our beginner's mindsets to things? And it's amazing that you're providing a platform to encourage that, right? I hate when young people are sitting there thinking, " Oh, that'll happen when I get to that age or that step in life." It doesn't need to be that way. So very cool to see that happen. Now, we talk about purpose, we're talking about culture a lot. We also talk about mental wellness. And you mentioned when we chatted about preparing for this podcast, you said rhythm and frequency is something that's top of mind for you. The energy around how you are working, and the spaces you work in. So can you unpack this concept a little bit more for everyone today?

Suraj Naik: Yeah. So when we are going through the idea of the COVID recovery, and the rapid pivot as well, we said, if we were able to... And this goes back to the point which you were saying, do bite- sized goals.

Jess O'Reilly: Yeah.

Suraj Naik: Bite- sized goals.

Jess O'Reilly: Bring the finish line closer.

Suraj Naik: Yeah, bring the finish line closer, it becomes a lot easier to achieve those as well. So we said if we were able to do, say, a meeting, if we were doing quarterly meetings, can we do more like monthly? And can we bring our monthly meetings, turn them into weekly meetings? Not from the idea of stress or pressure, but the idea of, can we increase the frequency of what we're doing, right? So if you're doing the same task, if you increase the frequency of that, you'd reach your goals a lot faster as well. So we realized that. So the frequency has a lot changed, and that is what rapidly we're seeing in the digital environments as well. And one thing which goes back into energy spaces, which links to creating rhythms, is if I'm an extrovert, and I was saying what disables me is sitting in a cubicle and trying to make it work, right?

Jess O'Reilly: Yeah.

Suraj Naik: It's just like if you are really good at art. If you're growing up in a school, and if you're really good at art, right? And if you're forced to learn math, and put into a math tuition class to become a normal math student, what would happen is you would not really excel in art, because you're spending so much time trying to figure out your math. And if it was the other way around, you would become an artist, right? So identifying people's strengths and where they really excel. And that's where the idea of energy spaces comes in, the environments. When you're in your environment, you excel a lot.

Jess O'Reilly: I think that's a challenge, though, where we don't have so much freedom and flexibility of that environment anymore, right? Because we are limited with where we can go and how we can be to some degrees, and this is across the world, right? I was talking to one of my friends in my team, and he was saying to me, " I have to move in my house. When I want a creative moment, I've got a creative space in my house, and that triggers my mind to go,'Okay, now you're doing creative stuff.' And then I go back to my normal desk where I'll be doing emails and standard stuff." And so when you're talking about energy and spaces, I totally get that as a concept, but how do we actually make it real and the restrictions that we have around us today?

Suraj Naik: Yeah, so that's where the rhythm comes in, right? Which is every Monday, we call it the metal Mondays, that's when we go through everything that is detailed, our numbers, our accounts, tech development. So on metal Mondays, we don't talk about networking and people, we just focus, because we're such in that zone of saying, " Let's just go through the details, go through the numbers." Imagine you're going through your accounts, numbers, and then you have to jump into a meeting. The energy shift that happens when you're so deep in your numbers and then all of a sudden you have to move towards presenting to say about 10, 20 people, it's an energy shift and it's challenging. But if you were to structure your days saying that, " Okay, metal Mondays is when I'll go through all of this, Tuesdays is when I would probably go through creative mindset, when I'm just in my creative space for the entire day. And Wednesday I'm just going to connect with all my customers." And when you're with that mindset, and you've got the entire day, you can find your spaces as well. So I do this at Genius Central. You wouldn't find me at one place in Genius Central. You'd find me in the meeting room when... I'm in the meeting room to do more finance, numbers because it's closed, but I would be outside on Thursdays and Wednesdays because I would love the buzz and the energy, and that would really energize me to connect with all our customers as well, and everything, yeah.

Jess O'Reilly: So I get it now, it's really... And I think this is something we all need to be conscious about, the speed of which stuff is happening, you have 1000 Zoom calls in your diary. My team will laugh if they listen to this, but your diary will manage you if you don't manage it, right. And you're talking about being hyper- conscious about, " Today, this is what I do. Tomorrow, this is what I do." And I think that structure is something critical that everyone needs to take a step back, if they haven't already, to go like, "I've got to be mindful of where I can be my best self in this new environment." I love the idea of Mondays. I'm never calling you on a Monday, because I reckon you're going to be in such like space.

Suraj Naik: Yeah. But that's so important because then, not just you, your team knows that when to really reach out. They know that, " Okay, Suraj is available on Wednesdays, because that's when he has meeting with all the teams." All the calls are set up on Wednesdays with the team. So they wouldn't really reach out on Monday or Tuesday, unless there is something super important.

Jess O'Reilly: So you've made the point at the beginning of this conversation about, it's not about selling, it's about really understanding your community and bringing value. But I'm just going to let you have a moment to just tell our audience, genuinely, how do they engage with your businesses? Because the stories you've told us about how you're operating and the stuff you're doing are amazing, but just getting super practical. So if I wanted to engage in your businesses, tell us a little bit about how we could do that. Sell to us. Oh, now you're getting really embarrassed.

Suraj Naik: No. So you could come to our platform, which is geniusu. com, and there're series of assessments as well. And as I was explaining earlier, our platform is built for three main areas, which is how do you upscale yourself? What is a new thing you're learning every day? So you come onto the platform, learn new skills through micro- degrees and courses in entrepreneurship, investment, and all the other areas. The second thing is you connect with the community. We are 1. 7 million strong community. Learn from the community. There's a very solid group over there. And the third one is tap into the opportunities which are there on the platform as well and what the communities offers. But a lot of that would happen if you just go to geniusu. com, take the assessments, they'll take you through really finding out more about yourself, and then guide you on that path of what's really best suited for you. So while that's on the platform, if you feel like connecting with us offline, come to one of our resorts or cafes. So we have a beach club in Bali, a resort in Bali, and South Africa, and we opened up this co- working hub in Singapore called the Genius Central.

Jess O'Reilly: So I want to be in Bali right now, but I'm not going to be out of VEDA. But this Singapore option sounds like a fantastic thing. And I'll be coming on Thursday, Fridays, when you're in your best space.

Suraj Naik: Absolutely.

Jess O'Reilly: So I've loved this conversation. I think some of the key things I've taken out of it is certainly this, we just need to keep reminding ourselves, we need to understand the value we bring and lead with value, lead with trust. And at Salesforce, our highest value is trust. And I believe that that really does create an amazing foundation for the relationships you have, whether it be with customers or partners or even your internal staff. So that's definitely my key learning one. But I think the other thing I really love about what you've spoken about is just the entrepreneur and intrapreneur concept, and how do we cultivate that in our environments? And it's made me stop and remind myself that regardless of the size of business you're in, and the world you're in, everyone can be an entrepreneur, right? And we need to take that beginner's mindset into the new world that we're operating in. So they were my couple of takeaways. Now, I'm an aspiring podcaster, and Brene Brown's my idol, as she is to pretty much everyone. So I'm going to totally, in honor of her, surprise you with Jess' rapid fire five.

Suraj Naik: Oh, all right. Go for it.

Jess O'Reilly: Have you listened to a Brene Brown podcast?

Suraj Naik: No, I haven't had the chance.

Jess O'Reilly: Well, at the end, she does a rapid fire.

Suraj Naik: Okay.

Jess O'Reilly: So the rules go, you have to answer pretty much as straight as I ask the question.

Suraj Naik: Okay.

Jess O'Reilly: And basically, I'm going to start a sentence and you're going to finish it. And that's how we're going to wrap up our today. Are you ready?

Suraj Naik: I'm ready.

Jess O'Reilly: Okay. I am most grateful for...

Suraj Naik: Family.

Jess O'Reilly: The last meal that really satisfied me was...

Suraj Naik: Last night at Genius Central.

Jess O'Reilly: Good plug. Good plug, I like that. The last book that made me start to think was...

Suraj Naik: Scaling Up.

Jess O'Reilly: What's that about? Give us a little bit crosstalk.

Suraj Naik: That's the book from Verne Harnish around how to scale, because we are right in the stage of taking that exponential step in our business with new companies coming on board. So how do you really scale up while keeping the culture and purpose?

Jess O'Reilly: Yeah, amazing. I wish society would change by...

Suraj Naik: By just connecting, empathizing.

Jess O'Reilly: I am most excited for...

Suraj Naik: The young generation and the young entrepreneurs. Seeing transformation in their lives and what they could bring.

Jess O'Reilly: I love that. Yeah, you've definitely intrigued me about this. I'm going to lean in a bit more to that community. I think that's exciting to see what the future can bring. Well, I have really enjoyed the conversation. For everyone that's listening, thanks for joining us today. I hope you've been able to take some learnings out of this. But more importantly, I'd love you all to join geniusu. com, to really learn a little bit more about how you can be part of this community.

Suraj Naik: Mm- hmm( affirmative), absolutely.

Jess O'Reilly: Thank you so much.

Suraj Naik: Yeah, pleasure being here, loved this session. Yeah, thanks.

Jess O'Reilly: Have a good day.

Suraj Naik: You too.


In this episode, Jess and Suraj speak about his entrepreneurial journey and how Suraj

is motivated by the energy and passion of the global entrepreneur community that the group has established. Genius Group supports entrepreneurs in their transformations with its technology solutions. These include its online education platform and entrepreneurial assessment tool. The group also runs events and spaces like Genius Central Singapore where entrepreneurs can co-work and make new connections. 

Today's Guests

Guest Thumbnail

Suraj Naik

|Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Director at Genius Group