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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

Elizabeth Wu, Co-founder & COO of Trehaus

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Elizabeth Wu is making work-life integration a reality for working parents in her new family friendly coworking space.

What’s your story?
I co-founded a coworking space in Singapore that comes complete with a child-friendly facility. We’re the first of our kind here and we’ve been making work-life integration a reality for working parents since we opened.

What excites you most about your industry?
We are the first of our kind, and there’s no other coworking space like us. Sure, there are plenty of coworking spaces in Singapore, but we are the pioneers of championing ‘BYO-kid’ to work by creating a conducive workspace and enriching kids play, all under one roof.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I’m a local through and through.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, of course! It’s safe, well-regulated and has a diverse community. Barriers to entry for starting up a business is low, and generally there is good support for small to medium enterprises and startups, which is great.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Life is short. Do stuff that matters.” I think I decided to do “stuff that matters” a long time ago and that’s why I became an educator. When motherhood beckoned, I decided again, to do “stuff that matters” by staying home to be with my kids. Then, I began to desire a meaningful career while raising my kids. So, I decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, because I am governed by wanting to “do stuff that matters!”

Who inspires you?
So many people inspire me. My members at Trehaus inspire me with the things they do and the changes they make. But if I have to pick someone, it would be Elim Chew, founder of 77th Street; who is a seasoned entrepreneur. She started from humble beginnings, went through setbacks and never said never to new journeys in entrepreneurship. I love that she always looks for ways to give back to society and mentor the next generation with her wealth of wisdom and experiences.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I learned the 5-by-5 rule recently: That is, ‘if it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset by it.’ This helps me puts things in perspective, and I try to remember this every time the urge comes to dwell, to brood, to beat myself up or to sweat the small stuff.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely be more careful with the people I hired to build the team. I’ve learned that it is important to find and build an entrepreneurial team that will plough and work hard alongside the founders. Like Jack Ma once said, “Don’t hire the most qualified candidate. Hire the craziest.” I should have done that right from the start. It would save us so much time and heartache.

How do you unwind?
I take long walks to clear my or I go for a fruitful session of self care, like yoga or a massage.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I really enjoy getting out of Singapore to the outskirts of Bangkok to live amongst the locals. My family of 5 used to do that each December; just taking off to live amongst the locals where street food is aplenty and warmth and hospitality is everywhere. I enjoy their slow pace of life and how simple things can be.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

Shameless plug for your business:
Trehaus is Singapore’s first ever family-friendly coworking space that lets you build a career while prioritising family. If it takes a village to raise a child, then Trehaus is the modern village where you will find a robust community and supportive ecosystem that lets you be an involved parent – never missing a single milestone in your child’s early years – and at the same time do efficient and productive work. We’ve made magic happen in what we’ve created!

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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Mark Winterton, General Manager of InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay

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Mark Winterton has dedicated his life to achieving unparalleled and extraordinary guest experiences in the hospitality industry.

What’s your story?
I’m a seasoned hospitality professional with over twenty years international experience launching luxury brands, repositioning existing brands and driving innovation for some of the world’s most successful hotels.

As General Manager of InterContinental® Singapore Robertson Quay, I’m responsible for the strategic positioning of the property as the next generation of the InterContinental hotel brand and have been spearheading the hotel since its opening in October 2017, with the goal of achieving a unique and unrivalled market positioning as Singapore’s most luxurious residential hotel.

I started my career with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®) in 1995 and have since been dedicating myself towards achieving perfection. I find immense fulfillment in leading my team towards achieving extraordinary and unparalleled guest experiences.

What excites you most about your industry?
The hospitality industry boasts an extremely dynamic landscape, and we are always seeing new hotels opening alongside the entry of burgeoning brands. This growth has, over time developed positive competition and generated positive driving forces that have elevated the overall standard of the industry in Singapore. The industry has a dynamic landscape. There are many opportunities to bring the right people together and create amazing teams to launch or reposition hotels. The process of creating teams, inspiring individuals and then working together to bring a project to life is where I find the excitement lies.

What’s your connection to Asia?
The lure of Asia has always been very strong for foreign economies and companies, with great accessibility to new opportunities, customers, consumers and clients. My first foray into Asia was back in 2007, when I launched Crowne Plaza Changi Airport in Singapore. Following that, I was also based in Bangkok for a couple of years for the rebranding of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park. Over my years in Asia, I have had the opportunity to truly immerse myself in new cultures, establish new connections with key counterparts and friends; and these have further solidified my interest in and strengthened my connection to Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. Commonly known as the gateway to Asia, we’ve been blessed with a stable government, a sound political economy and a comprehensive infrastructure for reliable business operations. With tremendous efforts put in by the Singapore Tourism Board towards elevating the city as an attractive venue for visitors, the growth of Singapore as a key MICE destination, coupled with a cosmopolitan pool of talent, Singapore remains my favourite city in Asia for business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You can never be 100% ready for a new role.” I believe that there will always be room for growth and learning on the job. As long as a person is 80% ready for a new role, the opportunity should be extended. I am a strong believer in the development of people and the grooming of talent, and this piece of advice has allowed me to take more chances on people I’ve worked with and developed over the years.

Who inspires you?
Simon Sinek, a speaker with TED Talk.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I don’t think I can pinpoint just one lesson learnt recently, as learning is an ongoing process. No matter how small a piece of knowledge may seem, it should be valued. Everyday is a journey of learning and development.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing at all. I don’t believe in regrets and everything that has happened thus far, has had a part to play in who I am and where I stand today.

How do you unwind?
Spending time with friends over relaxed conversations and wine or working my green fingers in my balcony garden.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali. It’s one destination where I’ve always returned to, simply because it offers me the same level of comfort and familiarity each time I return. It’s where I can feel most relaxed, yet still be able to enjoy the vibrant dining scene.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

Shameless plug for your business:
Officially opened on 12 October 2017, InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay is the first international luxury hotel brand situated at Robertson Quay. Set amidst a dynamic, sophisticated neighbourhood along the Singapore River, known for its dining options and arts houses, the luxury residential-inspired hotel has been carefully curated by world-­class designers, architects and culinary purveyors. Located minutes away from the CBD, the hotel still maintains a stylish but laid back, relaxed feel in the leafy, upscale neighbourhood of Robertson Quay. The hotel offers 225 luxurious studios and suites, including an expansive Penthouse, which has unparalleled views of both the Singapore River and vibrant city via floor-­to-­ceiling windows.

The residential-­inspired property combines elements from Robertson Quay’s industrial and intriguing past with sleek contemporary finishes whilst seamlessly blending into the residential surrounds. Light-­filled room interiors have been designed to magnify the familiar comforts of home where guests may enjoy bespoke amenities such as a specially designed in-­room cocktail kit.

Established as part of a holistic dining and lifestyle destination, the hotel boasts a wide range of restaurant and bar concepts. Flagship restaurant Publico, representing the central core of Italian culture, is a multi-­concept dining destination comprising a variety of Italian experiences under one roof – a neighbourhood deli and bar and a ristorante with adjoining terrazzo by the river. Other highlights throughout the hotel include New York institution Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener, and a bar and dining concept from the team behind Izy Sushi. Over 40 other dining options await at the hotel doorstep, in The Quayside precinct.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markwinterton1/

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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