The Atlanta Small Business Profile – Mico Yuk, BI Brainz

On this edition of the Atlanta Small Business Profile, host and small business expert Ted Jenkin speaks with Mico Yuk, CEO and owner of BI Brainz. BI Brainz is one of Atlanta’s top intelligence and analytics consulting companies focused on delivering the data support, tools, and techniques to businesses large and small.

Transcription:

Ted Jenkin:
Hey everybody. This is Ted Jenkin, Small Business Expert, right here on this week’s Atlanta Small Business Profile. And the one question I’ve been getting during the coronavirus is should we be scared of big data? Well, I have on a local business owner that knows everything and anything about data today, Mico Yuk, who is the CEO, the owner of BI Brainz. I have to tell you, they work with some amazing companies in the Fortune 500 companies across America. And I am so excited to talk to her today because she truly is an expert on this topic. And Mico, thanks for joining me today.

Mico Yuk:
Hey Ted, thanks for having me. I’m excited.

Ted Jenkin:
I have to say, I don’t think I was very smart in high school, and I understand that you actually graduated high school at the age of 15. And how the heck did you get into big data? How did you get into this as a career?

Mico Yuk:
Yeah, no, it’s interesting. Actually, Ted, the reason I finished early was because my parents gave me no choice and it was the only way to get out of school fast. I actually didn’t like school. True story. Didn’t like school, but there was no dropping out. So the only other way to get to do it was to finish up fast.

Mico Yuk:
So data’s interesting. I actually started out as an artist.

Ted Jenkin:
Wow.

Mico Yuk:
Believe it or not. Yeah. I actually started as an artist. I played instruments. So, originally born and raised in the Caribbean. Came over to the US to pursue my degree, computer engineering, and then something interesting happened. So I got out of engineering and it was time to get a job, and I realized that all of the jobs I could get was programming, and I ended up becoming a data scientist without knowing.

Ted Jenkin:
So do you still do artistry work? Do you still paint at all or anything like that?

Mico Yuk:
I sold some art. I don’t do as much as I’d like to. I will say that because I focused so much on data visualization, it’s kind of my way to get that artistic out of me, that creative.

Ted Jenkin:
Now let me start at the top in here, because I know during this coronavirus, there’s so many people that complain about their spouse or partner and say, “I don’t know why we have a package show up from Amazon every day on our doorstep.” And then the government recently threw an antitrust lawsuit that started with Google. I mean, should people, Mico, be afraid of big data? And big brother, is this something we should be scared of or something we should be embracing?

Mico Yuk:
I think it depends, and here’s why I see it. I was initially afraid, I’ll be honest. And I’m a Millennial, right? I was very afraid because obviously one thing you realize is because of our phones, these particular devices that we’re addicted to, we literally are tracked everywhere. Whether or not people choose to acknowledge it, whether or not they’re okay with it. Even when your phone is off, it’s on the network. Okay? And they’ve proven that.

Mico Yuk:
So I think one way to look at it is, okay, ready or not here it comes. Being scared at this stage, isn’t going to do a lot for you. I think the approach might be better, Ted, is let’s be aware. I think awareness is important, right? Because it isn’t going to stop. When it’s not your phone is going to be your Apple Watch. It’s on your computer. It’s on the camera that we’re talking to right now. All of these elements are topical. The ring door knob that you have, all of that’s accessible. So I think instead of being scared, people should be a bit more just aware and conscious because honestly there’s nowhere to hide.

Ted Jenkin:
Right, you can’t escape from it now. But in fact, the data like you do for these billion dollar companies across America, couldn’t it make even us as individuals better shoppers, more efficient, learn more about our actual behaviors, because sometimes the computer knows more about us than we actually know about ourselves? How do you use this big data to help companies be better at what they do?

Mico Yuk:
Yeah. So this is the thing, I wanted to add one more thing. When you talk about these recommendations, it’s funny because, I know you’ve heard this before, Ted, anything that’s free means that you’re the product. You heard that before? If Facebook is free, if Twitter is free, guess what? The product is you.

Ted Jenkin:
You’re the product.

Mico Yuk:
Exactly. And I think people need to remember that, because convenience is important, but just understand that all of it comes with a price. It’s just that because we’re not paying it out of our pocket and we don’t realize it. That’s number one.

Mico Yuk:
Number two is big data is exciting, Ted. So let’s give a good example. So we deal primarily with two different areas of big businesses. We deal with oil and gas and we deal with customer product goods. So retail, et cetera, right? And one of the things that’s interesting is, as you probably saw, there’s a different kind of buyer that’s coming up. I’m a Millennial right? Coming up behind me, I think, are the Gen X-ers. And one of the exciting applications we’ve seen a big data, for instance, in retail is them utilizing big data to try to understand how people like myself buy stuff.

Mico Yuk:
The reason being, Ted, is… I give a good example. When I grew up, my parents were like, “Hey, breakfast. Have a good bowl of cereal with some milk. Make sure you get in your Wheaties and go to school. And here’s your little snack.” Guess what? Millennials and Gen X-ers, we don’t do cereal. It’s been proven that we don’t want anything in a package. We don’t want anything that’s been on the fridge too long. And so one of the exciting things, particularly with big data that I’ve seen, is companies that are utilizing this type of information to try to understand the buying habits of the next generation because it’s completely different. It’s not 360, Ted. It’s more like 720. So that’s an interesting application.

Ted Jenkin:
Very interesting. This is why you’re an expert in this topic. And I’m wondering, even you and dealing with big data and all those, machine learning, how did you manage with your business during this coronavirus? Was it challenging or were you able to just be basically business as usual?

Mico Yuk:
Well, from a business standpoint, Ted, what was interesting is our company is about, before COVID I should say, our revenue streams are about 80% consulting, 20% digital. So when I say digital, we have an online course around our framework. We would do trainings. And when COVID hit, we literally have to cancel all our in-person events, and every consulting gig just stopped. Literally, I got a call from one of the… Yeah, well the oil and gas companies, I remember the call I got. I think it was from RaceTrac. It was like, “Look, no one’s driving.” I got that call, right? No one’s flying, you know? And it was like, what does that mean? Essentially there’s not much to do. And so it was a very interesting time.

Mico Yuk:
But what we decided to do, Ted, after we realized, like most people, this wasn’t going away. I mean, we had a point where we said, “Oh, 90 days, the world go back to normal.”

Ted Jenkin:
I’ll be good.

Mico Yuk:
Yeah, I’ll be good. And then we went, wait a minute. This is not ending. So at that point we made an executive decision with my team and said, “You know what? We’re just going to go all in on digital.” So even though we had no idea what we were doing, we converted our three-day live event all to online. We recently had our second one a couple of weeks ago. And we basically went all in on our online training. I mean, it was literally all that we could do. So it’s been a transition, but I can tell you that it’s probably been one of the best things that we did, to be quite frank with you.

Ted Jenkin:
Now, business owners are thinking about all kinds of ways to market and get new clients, but I was really impressed. And I’m wondering what your opinion is overall about podcasts because you have this great podcast, Analytics on Fire. Tell me about the podcast though, and tell me, do you think it’s a good idea if someone’s watching, and they’re a business owner, to get their own podcast?

Mico Yuk:
Absolutely. So first, let me be the first to admit, if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “Oh no, a podcast is hard.” Me and podcast have a bipolar experience, Ted. I actually started in 2016 and stopped. The 17 episodes that I did generated about 400 love letters from customers around the world, listeners that… Yeah, that’s why I came back. I actually came back last year because it was like– I kept getting these Dear Abby letters about how it changed people’s lives and how they were listen to it walking their kids. So long story short, I decided last year to bring it back, and now we are the number one analytics podcast.

Mico Yuk:
What I would say to people is-

Ted Jenkin:
Wow, congratulations.

Mico Yuk:
Yeah, thank you. Two years in a row. Hopefully we stay there. What I would say to people is, if you’re going to approach a podcast, I think number one, and the obvious, Ted, is be yourself. So there’s NPR radio, Joe Rogan, listen.

Ted Jenkin:
Crushing it.

Mico Yuk:
Yeah, crushing it. But let’s be honest, I’m not a Joe Rogan, right? And I don’t need to try to be a Joe Rogan. I need to be Mico Yuk, you need to be Ted Jenkin. That’s number one.

Mico Yuk:
I think number two is get away from perfection. So I was stuck there, Ted. I was editing my podcast for two, four hours by myself. Just start recording, man. Just get recording.

Mico Yuk:
And I think, second of all, be very firm about your why. So I started the podcast for a very specific reason and it was because of what I do. I told you, I go around the world, I speak at different events. I’ve spoken at MIT, Facebook, Google. I would gain access to all these amazing leaders, right? All these characters. And I would have all these amazing conversations and I would go to myself and say, “Wait a minute. How can I share this with my community? How can I get to people?” And that is exactly why I started the podcast. So it was very simple. Back then when I started, corporate didn’t even know what podcasts were. So I didn’t have to get approvals. All these big companies. I said, “Hey, Mico has a podcast, can I get on?” And these were like C-level executives and they would go, “A podcast? Yeah, okay, sure.”

Ted Jenkin:
Did the podcast come before you were doing online courses, or did you start the online courses first and then do the podcast?

Mico Yuk:
No, we were doing the online courses first. I will tell you, however, that the podcast today is probably our your number one lead gen for the online course.

Ted Jenkin:
Wow. Is it a free online course?

Mico Yuk:
We have both. So we have the ones that are free, where you can come in and learn and just understand the high-level concept. And then for people who want to delve into data storytelling, really get their hands dirty, we have the end-to-end four week course. And then we have what I was telling you about, our Accelerator, which you can attend with me. I’m a little bit crazy though, so I’m not for everybody. But you can attend with me and that’ll get you through it. It’s like swallowing a freaking fire hydrant in three days.

Ted Jenkin:
Yeah. Well, but I guess if you really want to learn data analytics, that’s the way to do it. You’ve got to get started somewhere and obviously want to get started with the best to learn all this great information. But I was going to ask, we’re approaching 2021 here and hopefully it gets faster and faster in closing this gender gap in pay between women and men and hopefully we can get equality one day. But it’s so impressive being in technology and what you’re doing, period. But there’s still a dearth of women that are actually in technology now. And if you’re a female and you’re watching this program, what’s the best way for somebody to get started to try to grow in technology? Because the women that I see that are in cybersecurity or in other areas, some of them are just leading the industries, but there’s not enough women in technology right now.

Mico Yuk:
I so agree. Now here’s the thing though, Ted. So when I started out, I don’t think there were any other women, far less women of color, of any color by the way. Not even black, just any color, anywhere in sight, to be very frank.

Ted Jenkin:
Period.

Mico Yuk:
Period, right. And so for me, honestly, I took that as an opportunity. And so if I have to go back, one thing I would say to women today is number one, you have so many more resources than I ever did. And when I say that, let’s give a good example. Google just started their Google certification for data. You know, a lot of organizations are providing very low hanging fruit opportunities, Ted, for women, men, anybody to get involved and learn. Right? I think the thing about it is you have to be able to want to learn and you have to be curious.

Ted Jenkin:
Right. Right. And I wonder, you’ve had so many companies you work with, like we talked about, from the low billion to $30 billion. It’s amazing with oil and gas, and oil actually at one point being negative dollars per barrel, that you’ve been able to make it through all of this right now. What do you see as your greatest success story you’ve had with the company?

Mico Yuk:
You know what, I have to say that one of my greatest success stories, which you might appreciate, Ted, has to be with a local company. They actually have a local office, they’re in Dallas. But I want to say, probably with Ericsson. I was very young– and… Yeah, you know where they are, you’re in Atlanta. So they have an office– in Dallas. And that was one of our first ever seven figure contracts for BI Brainz. And the sponsor that we had there is actually still a mentor of mine today. I spoke to him the other day and I remember that as I was going through that contract and I hope this will help somebody, I completely underbidded myself. Like I didn’t understand what I was worth.

Ted Jenkin:
You didn’t charge enough.

Mico Yuk:
I didn’t. And he allows me to tell the story now, but he literally sent me back to the drawing board, almost three times to fix my pricing.

Ted Jenkin:
Wow. I love having conversations like this when I do interviews because it’s just so interesting. And I think data is so interesting. And we recently have gone through, and I guess we still are, this whole thing that’s happening with TikTok and the Chinese as a whole. You being an expert in data, is there any validity to the fact that another country is using algorithms and things like that?

Mico Yuk:
Yeah. But here’s my issue. Before you get afraid about TikTok, think about Facebook. I think I struggle a little bit. I understand the concern with China, don’t get me wrong. I’m a third Chinese, by the way. My dad is Asian. I understand the concern with China. Yeah, but at the end of the day, I’m like, look, if you’ve been on Facebook and using it, you’ve already given in. I don’t understand where TikTok is now this huge concern. They’ve been stealing secrets. They’ve been taking data, right? Whether or not you know it. So I think I understand the argument, but to be frank with you, I don’t see how you can stop it. I think that’s my challenge.

Ted Jenkin:
Right. Unless you don’t use the program. And like you’re saying, I actually went on to Facebook, Mico, and somewhere I finally unlocked the thing to see, I guess they had every behavioral history on me. And they took so much information. It’s just like Amazon and Facebook and Google, they know all your moves before you know your moves.

Mico Yuk:
Yeah, TikTok is the least of your concerns. I mean, that’s honestly how I feel. They’re just another one. And when TikTok dies, there’ll be Snapchat when Snapchat dies… I mean, as long as you engage on these platforms, you’re the product. It’s just that simple. If you’re okay with that, then keep using it, keep learning and move on.

Ted Jenkin:
Well, even pre-COVID, you’re speaking around the world, these amazing companies, Facebook, Google, amazing universities like MIT. What advice do you have for an entrepreneur about how to separate your personal life and your business life to try to just break away from the business you’re involved in every day?

Mico Yuk:
Yeah, that’s a great question. I actually have two tips and I’ve coming a long way. Number one, when I travel, what I always tried to do, Ted, is I try to give two to three days. So I actually try to travel where I lead into a weekend, so that I consciously take the time to go outside and look around. And this took me five years to do actually, right?

Ted Jenkin:
–get there?

Mico Yuk:
Yeah. So normally if you ask me, “Hey, you want to come out to London?” Or whatever, I’ll say, “Yeah, sure. I’ll be there Wednesday. And I’m staying the weekend.” And most customers say, “Okay, yeah, that sounds fine.” Right?

Mico Yuk:
I think the other thing, as well, in terms of just getting some balance is… I don’t know about you, but I am anal about my morning routine. So I have a 4:30 to 7:30 routine that is… I call it bulletproof, Ted. I mean, I meditate. I pray. I work out. It’s like a–. I drink bulletproof coffee. And I have to be honest with you.

Ted Jenkin:
I love that.

Mico Yuk:
Yeah, I do. I like biohacking, and I have to be honest with you, I think without that I’m just a different person. So I’m just really big on routines. But then one thing as well is just knowing when to stop. So one thing I learned as I got into my thirties was my body says to stop, and I used to just overwrite it. I have to be honest with you, now when I hear the word stop, now when I’m too tired, I’m too exhausted, I need a time to myself, I’ve learned to stop. So I think these things are important. And then I think the last one is it took me a long time, Ted. I like to help people. It was hard to say no. Do you have a problem saying no?

Ted Jenkin:
I do. It is hard to say no, especially when you help people.

Mico Yuk:
Yeah. So I had to learn to say no, and I’m so bad at it. But honestly I literally just had to learn to say no. That is probably one of the best balanced snacks I’ve pulled off in the last three years. So I hope that helps somebody. But I think those elements of being intentional about going out and saying, I’m going to spend two days looking around, learning something that’s not my business, that’s really important. Just being intentional about it. It’s in my to-do list. I’m ashamed to say that, but doing that stuff is in my to-do list.

Ted Jenkin:
Well, I wanted to say, Mico, thanks so much for joining me today on the Atlanta Small Business Profile.

Ted Jenkin:
Folks, you learned a lot of stuff in here, but if you are part of a multi-billion dollar company, this is the person that you want to talk to you about your data, for sure. She knows what she’s talking about. And maybe as a small business owner, sometimes, like Mico said, you just need to learn to say no and do it intentionally to help you be better off.

Ted Jenkin:
Mico, thanks so much for joining me today.

Ted Jenkin:
And as always, I look forward to talking to you folks next week, right here, I’m Ted Jenkin, Small Business Expert on the Atlanta Small Business Profile.


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