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Fred Mouawad, Founder of Taskworld

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Fred Mouawad is the founder of Taskworld. A task management application that improves the performance of teams.  Fred is also a global citizen, serial and portfolio entrepreneur, and founder of Synergia One Group of Companies. Synergia One is the entity that groups all the companies Fred founded which includes the family jewelry business, Mouawad, of which he is the fourth generation.

Synergia One group operates in 16 countries across several industries that encompass gems and jewelry retailing, diamond manufacturing and wholesaling, watchmaking, food service franchising, food manufacturing, interior fit out, publishing and trade shows, and software as a service with Taskworld.

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Fred grew up in Geneva, Switzerland where he attended boarding school. He received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, where he was also a teacher’s assistant for the Business Policy & Strategy course. Fred is a Graduate Gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America, and have co-authored articles in the field of gemology.

He is an Alumni of the Harvard Business School (MBA) and of the Stanford Executive Program (SEP) at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Trained in Lean Six Sigma and ISO 9001 and also a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).

Fred is passionate about improving myself and the world within my sphere of influence.  He loves the entire process of conceiving, starting, and building a business.  It’s the challenge, customer satisfaction, and the creative part of the journey that I enjoy the most.

Can you share with us how you came up with Taskworld?

In 2006, I realized I was spending at least a third of my time following up on tasks. I was using a variety of different tools ranging from Excel to notebooks to write down all the key tasks I had to track. As I run a portfolio of companies, I monitor multiple projects in different companies with distributed teams across countries.  As you can picture the effort and energy required to manually follow-up became counterproductive. I found myself doing less strategic thinking, and spending too much time in the trenches making sure we were executing on multiple fronts.  Realizing the magnitude of the challenge, I had to find a solution and it came in the form of building an online Task Management system.  We built the software internally and started using it within our group by end of 2006.  It was a great success, and as a result we increased productivity across all our divisions.

It wasn’t until 2012 that I decided to build a separate business based on the idea that had worked so well for our companies.  The opportunity was further amplified with the advent of social, mobile and cloud.  It felt like the perfect time to move from strategic insight to action by building a similar service that would be open to the world.  That’s how we started working on a prototype with a core group of our IT team.

7 pain points of project solved

Are there any industry insights that you can share with us?

I think we’re at the beginning of what is truly possible.  The more people embrace online collaboration tools, the more information they will get about their business.  It will make what was previously invisible, visible. Companies will start to see opportunities for improvement effortlessly. Traditionally, companies have very little visibility in regards to tasks assigned throughout an organization, and online tools are about to fundamentally change the way we collaborate and measure performance.

For example: in factories, we know exactly where all the material flows are going. We know how products are being constructed, but when it comes to the knowledge workforce, it’s far less transparent. Collaboration tools provide far more visibility pertaining to productivity by flagging tasks or projects that are behind schedule.  They also have the means to allow team members to provide feedback to each other in order to provide an evidence-based performance evaluation. Based on identified problems, the system can even make recommendations on what to do in order to improve performance. The power lies in the artificial intelligence that can be generated from the task unit level.

Who are your competitors and what makes Taskworld different?

The market we are in is very crowded. We see everything from To-Do list type apps to sophisticated enterprise solutions. We aim to differentiate ourselves by offering performance reports that enable teams to know how well they are doing, and figure exactly where they can make further improvements.  It’s a different long term philosophy, and that’s where we see the opportunity.

We have registered users from 120 countries and what’s exciting is that they cover a very broad range of industries. We have lots of success stories that we’re actually posting on our blog.  It’s very motivating to see individuals, small to midsize organization, and large enterprises use our application.  We’ve proven that we have a general purpose application that allows people to collaborate more effectively. People are enjoying using Taskworld, and are using it across multiple platforms such as on mobile, tablets, and on the web.

How difficult was your entrepreneurship journey? How did you achieve this and what keeps you motivated?

Being an entrepreneur is one of the toughest jobs on earth.  For a start-up to succeed it requires everything you’ve got, and you can’t easily quit along the way.  Your entire reputation is at stake.  You need to have resilience, determination, and the intelligence to adapt and shift when necessary.  It’s all about wanting to change or make an impact on the world around you, and then having the courage to embark on a journey of hard labor and on an emotional roller coaster as the business goes through different phases.  Great entrepreneurs are avid learners.  From every experience they try to reflect and learn, so in the future they avoid the same mistakes and focus on what is required to succeed.

What keeps me motivated is the impact I can make on customers.  I get satisfaction adding value to customers whether it’s by offering them a great cup of coffee or with a productivity app such as Taskworld.  If we can make customers happy, employ passionate people, and make money in the process to continue doing what we enjoy doing, we are rendering a valuable service to society.  That’s very satisfying to me.

taskworld testimonial

What are your personal goals and what is the future for Taskworld?

To be a good son, father and husband are my personal goals.

In regards to Taskworld, I would love to reach millions of people and improve the way they collaborate.  If we can improve the productivity of teams around the world, we would play a small role in making the world a better place.  The potential impact of Taskworld is far-reaching and a great motivation to me and our team members.

What values do you want to instil with the people you reach and employees?

The value of thinking first, planning, doing, learning and then adjusting and doing again. I want people to improve by constantly learning through execution and then making adjustments.  The key is to have people that first want to improve themselves so they can drive continuous improvements in the organization to increase value for customers and shareholders.

If you could pick two things to change in this world, what would they be and why?

I would want to give an opportunity for every child to grow with a chance to succeed in life.  I wish there were more justice around the world. The world can be very unfair. You may be extremely smart and ambitious, but if you’re just born in the wrong country and in the wrong family then all your possibilities are eliminated and that’s sad. If I could do something, I would give every child a real opportunity to develop to their full potential.

The other thing I would do is to try to eliminate war. I don’t know how I would it, but I don’t think human beings in this day and age should kill each other to solve problems. Those are two things I feel strongly about.

Can you describe your working style and what do you do on your free time?

I always make sure that we have the right people, that they’re self-motivated, and that they’ve got the right skills.  The next step is to then make sure everybody is aligned towards a clear goal. I am therefore very involved in making sure we have the right people, assure they are motivated, and are working on the right projects to create value.

I view my role as a guide and a coach. I fill the gaps where and when required. I don’t run the day to day operations of any company.  My challenge is how to best allocate my time across each company in the portfolio to maximize value. Since Taskworld is the youngest company right now, I’m deep in it and I’m doing more than I should. Eventually, I will rise and build a full team and be less involved in the details. It’s also necessary to find the right distance and decide at what depth to plunge in specific projects. At times it’s necessary to go deep into the details and at others keep a good high level strategic insight.  Managers that get stuck at one level tend to have higher rates of failure.  The key is being able to shift levels seamlessly based on the situation.

My style is ultimately getting the right people involved.  I believe that it’s important to have the right people with the right goals, and that they’re provided with the right resources in order to increase their probability of success.

I don’t have much free time. I like reading, exercising, snow skiing, diving, jet skiing, swimming and going to the gym.  With the family, we enjoy traveling together and experiencing different places.

Do you think education or the support of your government is more important in the entrepreneurial process?

Education is critical in providing the fundamental skills entrepreneurs need to increase the odds of building a successful business. However, it is not enough to assure success. You need an entire eco-system dedicated to providing entrepreneurs with support.

In the United States for instance, Silicon Valley has an incredible eco-system to encourage and support young entrepreneurs with great ideas.  They have venture capital firms to provide the capital and the guidance needed for start-ups to grow, universities that graduate talented individuals and conduct research with significant government and private grants, angel investors that will seed an idea, lots of talent living in the area, and many companies that can support or eventually acquire a budding company.  Without all the support structure, it’s difficult for governments to expect their citizens to be entrepreneurial.  If you have a great idea, but no one to fund it will remain just an idea.

Any inspirational entrepreneurs in mind? Why?

I like Richard Branson because he challenges the status quo and dreams big. He is bold and has the courage to challenge larger institutions.  He also built a great reputation for himself, and that has helped him launch more businesses.  What I appreciate the most is his resilience and willingness to experiment.  Many of the ventures he started did not make it, but those that did ended up creating significant value.  That’s an essential trait of being an entrepreneur.  Having the intelligence to learn from both successes and failures, and always having the courage to start your next venture with more wisdom and flair.

Connect with Fred Mouawad:

Website: https://www.taskworld.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fredmouawad

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Callum Connects

Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ 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 of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ 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 of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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