Danny Lee: Minority Business Hall of Fame Connection
Danny Lee, founder and president of Connect International Inc., is the only Asian American inducted this year into the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Hall of Fame by the state of Maryland.
Hall of Fame honorees “are at the pinnacle of their careers,” organizers noted in the presentation. To be inducted into the select circle, one must have received the Top 100 MBE Award three times or be an exceptional business owner.
The award ceremony took place last month at the Marriott Inn and Conference Center/University of Maryland University College.
“At first I thought it was just one of these Top 100 winners, which I had won before,” Lee recalled in an interview at the MBE gala awards. But later, they informed him “that this time, they wanted to nominate me as one of the 10 winners for the MBE Hall of Fame, and wow, that really got me excited,” he added, breaking into a smile.
The state of Maryland defines a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) as “a business that is at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more minority persons. A minority is generally defined as an individual who is African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, Native American, a Woman or a Disabled person.”
The Top MBE awards aim to recognize enterprising women and minority entrepreneurs who “fuel the region’s economy through their innovation, sacrifice and dedication.”
Connect International ((www.connectintl.com) is a small business which provides Information Technology (IT) services to the federal government, state government, and Fortune 500 companies. It is based in Rockville, Maryland.
Since the establishment of company in 1996, it has been recognized by the government and the private industries for its commitment to excellence. Today, Connect provides IT consulting services in the U.S., South America, and Asia.
Lee acknowledges his wife’s role in the company’s success. SSu-Shao Chou is his life partner, as well as business partner. The couple is blessed with two children.
“My family and many of my friends are in business,” he said. “I learned many successful stories and valuable experiences from them that are useful for many of my critical decisions.”
“However, my wife, a co-founder of Connect International, always brainstorms and discusses with me the pros and cons involved when I face a challenging decision,” he added. “One important strategy I learned from her to run a successful business is to know when to step back – you cannot be greedy.”
Lee encountered several challenges when the company started: “Lack of skillful resources, capital, creditability, networking opportunities, and teaming partnerships to introduce the company services to the market.”
But instead of just focusing on providing IT-oriented services to begin with, Connect later on determined to create its own software: the Web-enabled barcoding and the Digital Asset Management Systems in 1999. It provided the company with a real product to demonstrate, market, and promote its innovative technology.
He recalled: “The strategy flew and with proven IT skill sets, our IT services revenue increased tremendously. It provided the company with the most needed capital in its start-up stage to develop its infrastructure, and to recruit different talents to implement its ‘mission-impossible’ plan.”
Asked what advice he can share with Asian Americans who want to succeed in business, Lee replied: “Asians, just like other minorities, are disadvantaged in accessing the market capital and networking opportunities. To enter the business field, you must be creative, innovative, fast-paced, hardworking, determined, consistent, and have a never-give-up attitude.”
“Once you have entered the business field, you have to keep moving until you see the light in the tunnel,” he added. He, however, pointed out: “You are welcome to learn success secrets from others, but you must create and walk your own path to succeed.”
Since it started, Connect International has been growing in double-digits, with many achievements and awards, including the 2012 Hall of Fame Award for the Mid-Atlantic Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise (MBE).
Last year, it was featured by the Maryland Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, in the 2011 annual publication (Daily Record), as one of the successful minority enterprises in Maryland.
Also in 2011, Connect International received Business Excellence Recognition from the Unites States Senate, and Business Excellence Recognition from the Congress of the United States. In 2010, it garnered the Mid-Atlantic Top 100 MBE Award. In 2009, it was named the Best Small Business of the Year for Information Technology by the Small Commerce Association of California.
It was also presented the Top 100 MBE Award in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia in 2008 and the Maryland Top 100 MBE Award in 2006.
Lee said his father was a blue-collar worker. His mother was a housewife. Their advice to him when he was growing up was simple, and made up of two words: “Be good.” In his life and in his career, he has always endeavored to be good – one reason he is such a success.