Ben is a Strategy Consultant and a Stand-up Comedian
What’s your story?
I’m an ex-investment banker and strategy consultant turned stand-up comedian and CEO. Admittedly, I didn’t stray too far from my corporate roots, as I left the corporate world to set up my own strategy consulting firm, Quinlan & Associates. But, I made the move, as I really wanted to change an industry I think is fundamentally broken that adds little value to clients. Comedy just makes it a lot more fun!
What excites you most about your industry?
I really enjoy solving complex business problems and learning about a wide variety of different industries and business models. I also love being seen as a trusted advisor and industry thought leader that businesses of all shapes and sizes turn to for straightforward, value-added advice. As for comedy, the ability to make a room full of strangers laugh is one of the best feelings in the world…and if you’re able to make your clients laugh, then that combo is even better.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I moved to Sydney when I was 12, for high school and university, and started my career there, as well. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of working half of the year for “free,” thanks to Australia’s whopping tax rates, and I wanted more international exposure. So, I relocated to Hong Kong to broaden my horizons and reconnect with my roots. Asia has always been in my blood and I don’t see myself leaving any time soon.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is an amazing place to do business. After all, that’s why people live here! As a global financial centre, the city acts as a key gateway to China and the broader Asia Pacific region, which gives every professional the opportunity to expose themselves to different business cultures. It’s also an exceptional place to be if you work in financial services, and the buzz of the city is simply unbeatable.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Nothing succeeds as planned. This is not only the case in business, but in life, more generally. While this doesn’t mean people shouldn’t plan for the future, there are many things beyond our control, and in many cases, life has a very strange way of working out in the end. Sometimes the best opportunities or ideas end up being a complete flop, while the most devastating situations can turn into a blessing in disguise, and bring out the best in us.
Who inspires you?
Every entrepreneur who has sought to challenge the status quo and go out on their own to build something from scratch, especially those without financial backing. It’s always inspiring to see people believe in – and pursue – crazy ideas, especially when others tell them they will never work. The sheer determination that is needed to overcome persistent failure, doubt, and negativity is something I admire in anyone who dares to dream a little. Grit is best taught in such a way.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That Donald Trump is still the President of the United States.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. It’s easy to look back on your life and think about what you would change in an ideal world – be it with respect to a different career choice, a critical business mishap, a lost investment opportunity, or a major personal faux paus. But if that were the case, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. Most importantly, I would have failed to learn all the things I have picked up along my journey, especially as a result of all the mistakes I have made. If life was perfect, it wouldn’t be any fun. Making mistakes is what allows us to appreciate the good times – and ride out the bad times – even more.
How do you unwind?
I love to hike, catch up with friends, have a drink, and tour around the region performing comedy shows. It’s always great to end the week on a happy note, meet new people, and explore different cities.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Nothing beats Phuket for a relaxing getaway – amazing food, gorgeous weather, lovely people, stunning resorts, and a real bargain as compared with Hong Kong.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Trump: The Art of the Deal,” by Donald Trump and Tony Schwartz. This is a book on how NOT to conduct business.
Shameless plug for your business:
We are one of the most widely quoted financial services consultancies in the world, across all major media publications, and were featured in Bloomberg News as the most accurate Bitcoin price forecaster in 2018 (lucky we made such a good guess)! We are also one of the only boutique consultancies in Asia that can go head-to-head with the big name global firms on major strategic engagements. And all credit goes to my team for helping us get there.
How can people connect with you?
Follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/benjamin-quinlan-17b32416/, though my regular posts might ruin your LinkedIn homepage experience.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.