“While Singapore is no Silicon Valley, co-creation and ideation are happening all over the city state..”
What’s your story?
If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind
My life as a career journalist and communicator has been driven by the above idea and has taken me far away from my upbringing in Glen Ellyn, Illinois – both physically and psychologically. Living in Asia and Europe – I’ve come to know the invaluable experience of being a foreigner: learning to see the world from different perspectives. Personal development is extremely important to me: I’m finishing my Masters in Digital Media Management from Hyper Island. I am also the Communications Mentor at the HUB startup accelerator and a volunteer at the American Association of Singapore and at my kids’ schools.
What excites you most about your industry?
Our world is inundated with people and organizations vying for attention. Sadly, most do a poor job of attracting and keeping the attention of their audience in a smart and engaging way. I’m really excited about working with intelligent people who have interesting things to say; there is a huge opportunity to coach them in traditional media and communication channels as well as the vast (and growing) social landscape. Nothing feels better than seeing a client successfully get up in front of a group of people or get online and deliver a great media interview or presentation.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia is the place to be – and has been for decades.
I moved to Tokyo from L.A. in the late 1980s, fascinated by the view from both sides of the Pacific Rim. While various countries have had their day in the sun since then, the Asian Century-trend is clear. Having lived and worked as a TV, print and radio journalist in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, (Switzerland and the US, too), I’ve seen the passion and drive across the APAC region. Assuming that countries make serious progress on issues like infrastructure, corruption and the environment, this will continue to be where the action is.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. While it’s costly, the ease of doing business and lack of corruption, combined with the sheer number of MNCs with regional or global offices here, is great for my business. Also, the growing start-up community at places like the HUB, Blks 71, 73 and 79 are breathing life into a new sector and generating some buzz. While Singapore is no Silicon Valley, co-creation and ideation are happening all over the city state; it’s very exciting to see. Additionally, many of us whose businesses are pan-Asian agree that Changi Airport is the best gateway experience, anywhere.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Three pieces of advice, actually:
– Working smart is always more profitable than merely working hard.
– Try everything: you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
– Do one thing every day that scares the hell out of you.
Who inspires you?
Anyone who tries something outside of their comfort zone; approaching it with good humor and panache. I’ve had the good fortune to know some “old timers” who lived through wars, radical social change and economic upheaval. Their can-do spirit was a common, successful trait.
If you want to know a specific, entrepreneur’s name: Richard Branson is my guy. Style, substance, fun. He knows his program and doesn’t give a damn what others think or say.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
We often think of “yes” as being the magic word that we must always say to bosses or clients. While we must surely please those who have control over our business lives. I believe entrepreneurs and consultants should also embrace the word “no.”
Experience has taught me that the right amount of push-back at the right time, can be the better choice. Whether it’s protecting your reputation, time, IP, energy, dream or whatever… that fantastically simple little word can be very powerful.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learned the value early-on of co-creation and prototyping and the concept of Jobs to be Done. In their current, much-talked about form, they are relatively new in our business lexicon (ok, JTBD has been around for 40+ years). These simple, yet rich concepts – well implemented – can propel any idea into a winning business.
How do you unwind?
I love spending time with my 9 and 5 year olds. They have a special way of cutting through the BS and telling you the way it is. I try to tuck my kids into bed every night; they always want to chat about their day. It’s very cute. The other night Kate said to me: “Dad, sometimes we hear that you’re watching TV after Max and I go to bed. Maybe it would be better for you to read a book or just go to sleep, early.” From the mouths of babes!
As a family, we generally take long weekends. This year we’ll go to Chiang Mai, Malaysia, Vietnam, Timor Leste and hopefully a long trip to New Zealand at Christmas and Goa in early 2016.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I’ve done a couple of motorcycle trips across Northern Vietnam with the guys. Riding 1,200 kilometres across the top part of that country is an experience that one never forgets. The people, food, local rice wine and scenery are the best.
For something more family friendly Krabe, Thailand is the best quick get-away from Singapore for our family. Good hotels and infrastructure. We stayed at the amazing Rayavadee Resort. A bit further afield is Ngapali Beach in Myanmar. Specifically, the north end of the beach is one of the best in Asia.
Everyone in business should read this book:
There are a million business books out there. We’ve all heard about them and/or read them. But there’s a book that’s almost 30 years old and has nothing to do with business that I think everyone should read: The Alchemist by Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho.
It’s about finding one’s destiny; determining your “Personal Legend.” Some critics have said that it’s more of a self-help book than a novel. If someone is an entrepreneur (or trying to be one), it’s a great read and gets your head out of “business” and into finding or defining one’s passion.
Shameless plug for your business:
I’m passionate about coaching clients to deliver concise and memorable spoken & written communication for media interviews, TV appearances, conferences, social and even TED Talks.
As a communicator and international journalist for 28 years with the likes of CNN International, ABC News and CNBC – I have developed a results-driven program to make sure C-Suite executives, entrepreneurs and journalists will command the room, when they stand up to talk. It dovetails nicely with KPI, by the way!
When we think about all of the “noise” today in our multi-media landscape, such skill is as important as it is rare.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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