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John Winning, CEO of Appliances Online

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John Winning started as a salesman. He ended up in the family business and from there he set up his own online retail business, Appliances Online.

What’s your story?
When I finished high school I went straight into the workforce and took a job as a door-to-door salesman. One year in, I was attacked by a dog and ended up in hospital. After that I went to work for dad at Winning Appliances. Even though I was resistant to work in the family business, I started out in the warehouse, and soon after was driving trucks and doing deliveries. From there I moved to the store, which is where I first had the idea to sell appliances online.
I started Appliances Online as a pure play online retailer in 2005 when I was 21 years old. It quickly grew from there and is now Australia’s leading online retailer of appliances and whitegoods delivering to 95% of the population and stocking more brands than any other online appliance retailer.
Now, in addition to being the CEO of Appliances Online, I am the CEO of the Winning Group which encompasses Winning Appliances, Appliances Online, Home Clearance and Handy Crew.
I also love sailing, My grandfather sailed and my dad is also a world champion so I’ve sailed for as long as I can remember. I was involved with boat racing at the age of four and while I don’t sail as much as I used to I still love getting out on the water.
In 2016 I was part of the record-breaking and line honours winning team in the 2016 Sydney to Hobart on Perpetual Loyal. It had always been a dream of mine to sail the Sydney to Hobart so to win line honours and to set a new record was an amazing feeling.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s probably the challenges that excite me the most about our industry. I think we are in a really interesting time for retail as more and more consumers are starting to shop online and we’re in a position where, in the last five years, Australia has really become part of the global retail landscape. Some of the world’s leading brands like H&M, Zara and Topshop have come to town as well as the world’s best online retailers. Plenty of South African retailers are coming over and seeing Australia as a good place for their next expansion move, as well as Amazon and Alibaba. So for me, the most exciting thing is being able to finally put ourselves up against the world’s best in terms of retail best practice and retail experience.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Even though our businesses operate solely in Australia, we buy a lot of Asian brands.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’m from Australia and operate my business here so don’t know much about Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I remember from a very young age, my dad always drilled into me that you can do whatever you want. Whether it was in sailing, work, life, school or whatever, he would say, “look, if you want to do it you can do it. We can do whatever we want. It’s about making the decision of what you want to do you, knowing what you need to get there and whether you’re willing to make the sacrifices involved in doing it.”
I think the advice that you can do anything if you want it badly enough has really stuck in my head and I’ve definitely brought that into our organisation.

Who inspires you?
If I look closer to home my dad has definitely been a huge influence and inspiration to me. Growing up and seeing how hard he worked, everything he did for the business and how much people respected him as a leader and were willing to band together and really work for him was very inspiring.
Our Advisory Board Chairman, David Gordon, who is a phenomenal support to me and someone that is so humble yet has achieved so much is really quite inspiring.
Outside of Australia someone like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs is certainly very inspiring. There are also several musicians who have inspired me to be more creative.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It’s ongoing I guess, not just one particular thing. I’ve been reading up at a very early beginners level about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and I think it’s just incredible how quickly AI is evolving, how fast it learns and how quickly I think our lives are going to change on the back of that. I’ve also been really interested in neuromarketing and neuroscience and, again at a very early beginner level, extremely fascinated by the power of marketing to the subconscious mind and how much, as human beings and consumers we believe we are in control of our decisions but in reality how little our conscious mind actually has control.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I always say I would do nothing differently because I have no regrets about the things we do, but if you were to ask me what some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made are, I would have to say not going with my gut reaction on major decisions early enough.
I wouldn’t take anything back because I think that the journey you take in life leads you to where you are and I’m quite happy where I am so I wouldn’t change a thing.

How do you unwind?
Meditation primarily and sometimes yoga, in addition to that, I love to listen to music and play music.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Probably Tokyo, Japan because I just love the culture. I guess the obvious answer would be somewhere with a beach and sun but for me, I love Tokyo in terms of relaxation because I think that the whole culture, society and people really put you in a relaxed state.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be’ by Paul Arden

Shameless plug for your business:
If you don’t know about us you should, and if you do know about us you should tell all your friends how great we are because we have the best shopping experience in the world. We’ve won awards for it so you don’t have to take my word for it.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn https://au.linkedin.com/in/jwinning

Twitter handle?
@WinningJohn

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

CallumConnectsCallum 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

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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

Arthur Lam, Co-Founder of Synergy

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Arthur Lam’s business, Synergy offers B2B energy saving solutions.

What’s your story?
I am Arthur Lam, Co-Founder and Vice Chairman at Synergy (1539.HK). I was born and raised in Hong Kong until I was 13. Then, I lived in boarding schools in Melbourne and California during my high school years. After that, I attended the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 2008.

Upon graduation, I came back to Hong Kong and worked for a hedge fund. The financial crisis in 2008 wiped out a big part of the industry and gave me a chance to rethink and reposition myself. After the financial crisis, companies stopped spending and everyone was on cost-cutting mode. As an entrepreneur with an engineering background, I co-founded an energy management company called Synergy, offering B2B energy saving solutions. The idea is simple – clients don’t have to pay anything upfront, we do all the engineering and upfront capital investment. In return, we share part of the savings we create for the client over a period of time. We first started with energy saving lighting technologies based in Hong Kong. We are now also in the field of cooling & refrigeration, solar PV and battery storage with operation in over 10 countries. Synergy is one of the first and few energy management companies listed on the Main Board of The Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
On the side, I started a student co-living space with about 80 rooms.

What excites you most about your industry?
Sustainability, renewable energy and energy efficiency are some of the few industries that can ensure the continuity of our existence! We do not need to quantify the potential market size to justify our effort to provide a more sustainable future for the next generations. Practically every nation and business leader have pledged to work collaboratively, trying to undo the harm we have done to the planet for the past century. As a result, more energy efficient technologies and solutions are always in demand.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My great grandparents were from Chiu Chow and Shunde. I was born and raised in Hong Kong until I was 13. I spent 3 years in Melbourne during middle school before heading to US for high school and college. With Synergy, I was able to travel and work in China and most of the major cities in Asia such as Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok. Besides Cantonese and English, I speak Mandarin and took 4 years of Japanese during high school. I’m also trying to pick up Bahasa slowly.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Every city has its own merits and it is extremely interesting to learn about the intricacy of cultural diversification and different ecosystems. As a business owner, I believe in top quality service. No other city would exemplify world class service better than Hong Kong with respect to speed, quality, effectiveness and robustness of the financial and legal system.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Life is a journey – you come to this world to enjoy life, to be happier and healthier – Jack Ma

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I am always amazed by the rapid advancement of technologies and innovations around the world. Everyday there may be a breakthrough coming up in different areas. One thing I learnt recently is the possibility of extracting clean water from air anywhere! Previous technologies require very high energy input, high cost and certain environmental conditions such has high humidity levels to extract water from air. However, MIT and The University of California provide a new method which has the potential for use in any locations. They developed a foam-like material that draws moisture into its pores and is powered entirely by solar heat. Today there is another commercially available product which is also a self-sustaining system, using sunlight to generate electricity to drive a cycle of condensation and evaporation that can produce 2 to 5 litres of clean water per day. People now may obtain drinking water anywhere with no external energy usage and this may solve severe water shortages in some areas in the future!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would love to learn more languages and learn how to code better. These are two important skill sets which I find very useful wherever I go.

How do you unwind?
On weekdays, I try to visit the gym at least 2-3 times a week after work. A good workout definitely helps to de-stress. Occasionally, I have the luxury to play a round of golf with my father or friends after completing a major project.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Sipadan, Malaysia is an amazing place for scuba diving.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Book of Changes “I Ching”. I make most of my business decisions based on the philosophy from the book.

Shameless plug for your business:
Victoria Park is one of the most famous parks in Hong Kong and it has about 3,500 trees. The amount of energy we have saved in the past 8 years is equivalent to planting 1,000 Victoria Parks worth of trees from the carbon emissions we saved.
Synergy is ranked 2017 top 100 most potential public listed companies in China by Forbes.

How can people connect with you?
Linkedin: Arthur Lam
Email: [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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