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Grant Hall, Owner of League Cultural Diplomacy

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Life is never dull for Grant Hall. He works across the globe with many different cultures. Specifically, Grant believes events are a great relationship builder between cultures. He draws on his experience around the world to help businesses develop more sensitive techniques when dealing with different cultures.

What’s your story?
I’m the owner of League Cultural Diplomacy, an event management and consulting agency that specialises in corporate cultural diplomacy. We help businesses develop relationships using cultural diplomacy techniques that governments have used for centuries.

My background is as a musician and then later as an arts administrator and educator where I worked in Northern Ireland, Canada, Vietnam and my home country, Australia. When it comes to event management, I’ve done the lot, from managing orchestral concert tours to coordinating large festivals and working with Indigenous artists in remote areas of Australia. I’ve worked for governments, arts organisations and universities. Through many years of working abroad, I’ve noticed how arts, cultural and sport events and initiatives can be used to build relationships and trust between people from different cultures, and how this can be useful for businesses operating overseas. This is what League Cultural Diplomacy is all about.

What excites you most about your industry?
Working in the events and cultural diplomacy fields, I’m constantly excited about the power of cultural activities, such as making music, sharing food or playing sport to create bonds across cultural and linguistic divides. Understanding culture is a very powerful. Once better understood it can be used by organisations or individuals seeking to develop relationships, trust and influence. Working in this industry allows me to travel and meet many interesting people from a wide variety of professions from all over the globe. Life’s never dull.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Like many others, I fell into doing business in Asia. I first came to Vietnam for a holiday and soon wound up in demand as an independent contractor teaching business and communication skills to employees of organisations that were under the management of expatriate managers from western countries. I often help my clients  negotiate the cultural differences between the locally engaged staff and foreign management; a role that I found both challenging and thoroughly rewarding. I’ve lived in Vietnam, on and off now for six years.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I recently visited Jaipur in India. Often when I mention corporate cultural diplomacy, people have no idea what I’m talking about. In Jaipur however this is different. Jaipur is a sports mad city with a rich cultural heritage and people instinctively know what I mean and deeply understand the value of culture. There’s so much to see and do there as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
In the earliest days of setting up League Cultural Diplomacy, someone challenged me to “see myself in the room.” Now, I’m at the stage where I’m travelling abroad to meet with prospective clients and negotiating my first contracts. Essentially I’m now “in the room” that I was encouraged to visualise. It’s a variation on the “if you can see it, you can achieve it” theme. Of course, simply visualising a future scenario or really wanting it is never enough. A whole lot of hard work is needed too.

Who inspires you?
I get to work with some extraordinary people from the business, arts and sporting worlds. The thing that I admire most about athletes and artists is their dedication and desire to do their very best and I’m especially inspired by business people who apply themselves to their work like an athlete or an artist does to theirs.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Throughout my blog, wherewordsfailblog.com, I argue that organisations, including businesses and governments will benefit from putting culture at the centre of their operations. Since launching the blog in January 2015, hundreds of people have contacted me to share similar thoughts and provide examples of organisations where this is occurring and the success that it has brought. The social theorist Paul Schafer recently sent me an advance copy of his excellent new book The Secrets of Culture where he promotes the idea that humanity needs to ‘pass out of the present economic age and into a future cultural age.’ It turns out that a great number of people, including myself, agree with him and are working to make this happen.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing! As the song goes; “regrets are just lessons we haven’t learned yet”.

How do you unwind?
We live on the coast in Vietnam so it’s about the beach, resorts, seafood, beer and fun with family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
The Gulf of Thailand on the Cambodian side for the beautiful beaches, islands and people. It’s not hard to find your own deserted tropical beach paradise, simply grab a motorbike and head along the coast or get on a boat and find an island. No phone reception, no Wi-Fi, just pure bliss!

Everyone in business should read this book:
In one of the most popular posts on my blog, wherewordsfailblog.com, I discuss Robert M. Pirsig’s novels, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila.  In these books Pirsig threads philosophical viewpoints through semi-autobiographical road-trip tales. Pirsig’s writings investigate the concept of quality, addressing questions like what is quality and how do we know it when we see it? Whilst it’s not a business book, Zen is the book that everyone in business should read as understanding quality and knowing how to apply it to your work is a good recipe for success.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you want to build great relationships, with any person or group, anywhere, call me!

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn https://vn.linkedin.com/in/glhall
Blog www.wherewordsfailblog.com
Webpage www.leagueculturaldiplomacy.com

Twitter handle?   
@grantleehall

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

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.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

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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Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

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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