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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

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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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Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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