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James Leung, Founder of Head Start Asia

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Born in Hong Kong and educated and raised in the UK – James is a keen golfer, and has since moving back to Hong Kong gained a real passion for whisky and Bordeaux wines. He started his career in IT as a web developer before transitioning to commercial management and finally into a career in recruitment. He completed a BSC in Mathematics and Management at Loughborough University and stayed on to complete a MSC in Information Technology there as well.

His recruitment career started in the UK where he managed a team recruiting aviation professionals (primarily pilots and cabin crew) for roles based internationally. He then moved to Hong Kong and joined a large UK listed international recruitment business within their property & construction team. With no contacts and industry knowledge, James had to rely on his recruitment experience and immerse himself in the industry and build his credibility in the market fast. He quickly built a team around him and has successfully managed the team to achieve some record breaking revenue targets.  After being promoted to Associate Director, James was also charged with leading the Technology team in Hong Kong. With a total of 10 recruitment consultants in his two teams, his role included leading, driving, recruiting, training and retaining the top recruitment talent in Hong Kong.

James founded Head Start Asia in the Autumn of 2016 to provide sales training and recruitment services for those looking to pursue a career in commercial sales.

In your own words what do you do?

I am the founder of Head Start Asia, sales training and recruitment experts in Hong Kong. We provide 1 or 2 day training courses to individuals looking for a chance to get an understand what working in sales is like, or for those to obtain some sales training in a field that they are already working in. We also provide sales consultation and training to businesses who want an external expert to either review their sales processes or provide bespoke training to their existing team. Because we come in contact with the top sales talent day in day out, we also provide sales recruitment services to clients in Hong Kong.

What led you to your current business?

In the back of my mind, I have always wanted to start my own business. Having had the experience in working for a start-up in the UK for their initial few years and a UK listed international recruitment business in Hong Kong, I have experienced and learnt a great deal on what can be achieved in both types of organisations.

Although I wanted to remain in a recruitment related field, I also knew that recruitment in Hong Kong was already a challenging market with many well-established businesses in place. I wanted my business to be scalable and to be able to provide a different service offering to clients in Hong Kong, rather than going head to head with the established recruitment firms.

One part of the job I enjoyed most was unlocking people’s potential through training, I enjoyed, running ad-hoc and formal training sessions within my previous business and took great satisfaction from seeing them grow on the back of it. In my previous role, I also met a lot of individuals who wanted to pursue a sales career but did not have the background to demonstrate their ability. That was how Head Start Asia was founded.

In Hong Kong and in many parts of Asia – the attitudes towards a sales person is very different to the UK. Training, development and mentoring is often overlooked – particularly in smaller businesses. Perhaps it is because that Hong Kong has gone through some spectacular growth over the past few decades and the role of a sales person has been more transactional than a role of an influencer. As the market in Hong Kong and Greater China changes, businesses who look inwardly to their sales teams to ensure they hire, train and retain the right people are those businesses who are most likely to succeed. This is where Head Start Asia comes in.

Could you walk us through your process of developing your business?

One of the hardest parts was coming up with the name and identity of the business. I wanted the business to be scalable and not just one country, skill set or industry specific. That is why I spent some time in coming up with the right name for my business.

Once I had the name and identity that I wanted the business to have, next was logo and website design. I used to be a web developer – so I managed to create a simple, informative website myself to keep costs down. For the logo design, I reached out to some family and friends to help out.

Although, I have ran many training sessions in my past businesses, I had to write and perfect our own bespoke training material for all the courses. This took much of my time at the beginning stages of setting up the business. I am pleased to say that the feedback from the course attendees have been great.

Currently, the business model requires me to get as many people through the training courses as possible and this is where all my time is focussed on. From SEO/SEM to traditional marketing avenues as well as collaborations and partnerships with other organisations.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties in the beginning?

Even greater than the challenges mentioned above, in many ways the actual decision of quitting my previous job was the hardest part of this whole journey so far. I am a very loyal person and having been at my old job for close to 5 years, I had built two great teams and had some very talented colleagues that I worked along-side with too. Leaving them and moving on was tough. Also, the move meant risk and uncertainty but deep down I knew it was the push out of the comfort zone I needed.

I am very fortunate to have a very supportive wife, family and network of friends which has helped immensely.

What is your long term plan?

Right from the outset, the goal is to create a scalable and sustainable business in Asia. The long-term plan is to achieve this through regional growth into other cities and countries in Asia as well as recruitment into other disciplines outside of sales. In the future, perhaps we will even look at an outsourced sales service if the market is ready for it.

How and when is still to be decided but the mission is very clear in my mind and everything I set up and do now, is taking me one step closer to this goal.

Could you share with us some industry insights?

There will continue to be enormous growth both In Hong Kong and in Asia over the coming years and businesses will need talented sales people to capitalise. As with any developing market, hiring and retaining talent is tough and I believe that sales training will make a significant impact in the shape and performances of sales teams across businesses of any industry. At present, it is not a common practice and this is the mindset we need to change. The most talented and naturally gifted, professional athletes at the top of their game train many hours a week and it is a constant battle to improve and compete in their field. Very rarely do we see any sales training given in the work place, but why? Businesses should imagine what if the right training and direction was given to your sales teams and what results can be achieved.

The potential in Asia is still just emerging and we want to help hire, train, grow and retain the best sales people of the future for this exciting period in Asia.

What are some important lessons you’ve learnt about entrepreneurship?

Where to spend your time and budget is a constant battle that you need to face every day. Asking yourself “Is this the most important thing I need to be doing right now?” and if the decision is “Yes” then making sure you stick to it.

Allocating your time is similar to how you should spend your budget, these two areas are the hardest I have found so far.

In an environment with limited time and resources initially – prioritisation is critical.

Any tips for achieving success?

Make sure you have a solid business idea and a passion for it before you start. Once you started your business, stay disciplined, trust your gut and believe in yourself. Everything else will come.

Connect

Website: www.headstartasia.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/head-start-asia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/headstartasia

Twitter: https://twitter.com/head_asia

Callum Connects

Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings

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Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@malcolmABM

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

William Chin, Founder of Mummy’s Market

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William Chin set up Mummy’s Market. Mummy’s Market is the uncontested platform connecting parents and retailers in Singapore.

What’s your story?
After National Service, I enjoyed a rousing start to my corporate career with successful stints at events and conventions companies such as IQPC, Hannover Fairs Australia and Lighthouse Independent Media in management roles, building my experience in conventions, trade fairs and events.

However, I hit a particularly bad streak of unemployment after that, facing difficulty finding jobs because according to recruiters, I was overqualified, yet too young. In fact, at one point I was struggling so badly with my family loans that I was sharing bowls of ramen with my girlfriend for our meals, to save costs.

My financial pressures eventually culminated in my forced venture into entrepreneurship where I had to strike out my own path with a brief stint in Expomal. However, this turned out to be my next break that fuelled my current success. It was there I built up Smartkids (another wildly successful baby and child fair) before it was bought out by a bigger company. Inspired by SmartKids, I started Mummy’s Market and eventually Baby’s Market, outperforming established names in the business to take its current place as market leader.

What excites you most about your industry?
Mummy’s Market is the industry leader in baby, kids, maternity and household with 80% market share and our clients – coupled with branding, advertising and exhibiting on Mummy’s Market platforms, we are seeing a 30-60% company growth year on year despite the downturn in the economy. With attendance of over 100k consumers per fair and serving 70-80% of pregnant mums, our actual business is in data, data collection and processing from consumer fairs.

I am excited about how big data analytics from Mummy’s Market can be applied at every stage of the retail process such as data segmentation – for retailers now when mums are giving birth to sending relevant content over. This will transform and innovate the industry of baby fairs and Mummy’s Market, with the huge amount of data we process from our fairs yearly, is the forerunner in this disruption. With this, we have transformed the DNA of how digital business has always been done. Global online marketplaces are burning cash quickly to achieve big data analytics, but not us.

Another testament to Mummy’s Market’s popularity is that huge marketplaces have been trying to pass off as Mummy’s Market. It shows that we are heading in the right direction and the most exciting part is, we are only at 10% of where we want to be – a platform where $1 billion gross market value products are transacted annually around Asia in a niche market.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore, and intend to stay in Singapore to build the Mummy’s Market brand.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – if one can strategically become a leader in a small market like Singapore, its grounds to show that one’s business has an opportunity to grow further in larger countries.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“It is easy to become number 1 because the others can just copy and tweak to overtake you.
It is more difficult to STAY number 1, because you have no one to copy. You have to innovate.”

Who inspires you?
Steve Jobs – he transformed the digital age. Without the invention of smartphones, mobile computing and mobile advertising would never have grown. He changed the way businesses and consumers communicate. Without the introduction of iPhones, mobile applications would have never existed the way we are using them today.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You no longer have to lick stamps to make it sticky.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I love my life and my family. And I love the platform Mummy’s Market has created to help businesses grow.

How do you unwind?
I play with my little 1 year old baby girl.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan – cool weather with beautiful mountains and lake scenery.

Everyone in business should read this book:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey

Shameless plug for your business:
Mummy’s Market has established its reputation as not just Singapore’s but Southeast Asia’s largest baby fair:

  • Nearly S$100 million gross merchandise volume transacted on Mummy’s Market platforms annually
  • 800,000 visitors at its fairs yearly
  • 80% of all of Singapore’s baby product distributors in one convention
  • 15-20% year on year increase in sales volume at every baby fair since its inception

Apart from market dominance, Mummy’s Market also has the largest database of parents and the number 1 platform for MNCs and SMEs to reach out to this audience. From exhibitions, magazines, seminars to digital campaigns and roadshows. Mummy’s Market is the uncontested platform connecting parents and retailers in Singapore.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]
https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-chin-23910a9/

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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