REDWOOD CITY—On a sunny afternoon in the Peninsula, I sat down with Bay Area entrepreneur Bob Yau to chat about the ingredients to his success in starting and running a business.
Yau is the founder of four companies. The consulting companies Resource Torrent and Stratus-CPM are in the financial planning and analytics (FP&A) industry; 500ppx is a book publishing and motion picture company. His fourth company is a financial technology (fintech) company that is currently in stealth mode.
Yau and his teams have provided consulting services to companies large and small, including Cisco, Salesforce, Facebook, and Netflix. Despite all his accomplishments, Yau is incredibly kind and unassuming, with a healthy, rosy complexion and a ready smile.
He began his career as an accountant at Genentech, and since 1998 he has enjoyed a celebrated career in finance. In 2012 he founded his first company, Resource Torrent Inc. Highly organized, focused, and self-sufficient, even with 100-plus employees, Yau still manages to do programming and stay updated in the industry.
A Winning Morning Routine
Yau wakes up between 5 and 5:30 each morning. Waking up early is a sign of great discipline and focus, and it can be incredibly rewarding to get organized and to turn unknown items into to-do items, before the rush of the workday begins. Here’s what Yau’s morning task-related routine looks like:
1. 15 minutes thinking through the tasks to accomplish for the day
2. 5 minutes executing the easiest task
3. Getting into the “noise of email”
4. Reprioritizing the day based on what needs to get done
Focusing on the Customer
“In today’s hyper-paced world, it’s common for us to pluck information readily from any stream of consciousness. However, to convert this information into knowledge takes time, experience, and critical thinking,” Yau said.
“It also requires an openness to new ideas and structures. Customers want people that bring knowledge to the workplace, and help them learn and execute new ideas in innovative ways.”
Yau’s firm belief in doing the best work possible by aligning with customer interests is paramount to gaining deep trust from his clients. He is focused on achieving 100 percent customer service and satisfaction, even if that means forgiving billings if the customer is not entirely satisfied.
Bring the A-Game: Employee Autonomy and Deep Knowledge
Yau points to author Daniel Pink’s book “Drive,” which sets out a motivation trifecta: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Yau uses these ideas in shaping the employee culture at his companies.
Yau attributes his work ethic and management skills to the six years he spent at Genentech. The methodical, thoughtful decision-making employed by the talented and experienced folks at the large biotech company greatly influenced how Yau manages today.
“Hiring is the most important decision you’ll make in any company, and in today’s market there are more educated, motivated people than ever before; and the better the talent, the more they are interested in autonomy and learning experiences.”
“One of the things that I work with the team on is building a deep knowledge and understanding of what they’re actually doing versus just operating on superficial information,” Yau said.
Other than giving his employees the guard rails and a playbook to guide their processes, Yau said he doesn’t micromanage their time, and he gives them a lot of freedom to investigate and learn throughout the job.
Passion and Perseverance
Steady, patient, willing, and capable of tackling any challenge, Yau shared his love for his work: “In the face of adversity and a compelling stack of reasons why not, if you believe and are passionate about it, you’ll end up doing it anyway.”
“The key point is that, starting all these companies has been great,” Yau said. “I think that I’ve learned a lot. I think that as long as you always keep other people’s interests in mind and deliver on that, that’s ultimately going to be the one that makes you successful. It’s everything that we’ve done, and everything we are.”