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Jonathan O’Byrne, Founder of Collective Works

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Jonathan is creating one of the most exciting communities of small business owners here in Singapore.  Having watched what he has built over the past couple of years, I am very excited to see where he takes it over the coming years.  If you are thinking of opening an office in Singapore, checking out Collective Works must be your first priority!

 

What’s your story?

I’m a lifelong expatriate. I was born in Europe but moved overseas when I was very young. I have since lived on three continents but spent 20 years in the Middle East. It is a thriving part of the world that has undergone phenomenal change in the past thirty years. That palpable sense of progress changes societies – it makes people optimistic and hopeful for the future. I think that’s why I enjoy living and working in Singapore where there continues to be even more rapid progress.

What excites you most about your industry?

Living as an expat means I understand more than most the importance of community: When you move frequently or live in a third-culture environment you constantly lose people from your life. That puts you in the position of needing to rebuild and reconnect more than most.

Architecture is a powerful influence on wellbeing and from a young age that fascinated me. What excites me most now is what happens at the confluence of community and great design because you are putting people into such a resource rich environment. With talented people, in a space designed to enable you and simplify running a business we become a serious catalyst for many of our clients.

What’s your connection to Asia?

On the face of it I have no explicit connection to Asia other than my business. What you can’t see is the resonance I feel with the drive for progress and achievement that can be felt here. There is an energy in Asia that you don’t get anywhere else, that’s why I choose to live and work here.

jb

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?

That would be Singapore. Singapore is a well-known and respected business hub. It is well positioned in the region, it has a stable currency, a British legal structure and English is the national language. Combine those factors with a government that actively encourages entrepreneurship and the well-educated population and you have a great environment for business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

“A DIY mentality will kill your business.” It’s profound on a number of levels and as a perfectionist it was a difficult lesson to learn. It speaks to your perspective and vision – if you always look inside your business you can never look ahead, so you can’t lead. It speaks to trust – if you can’t trust people to help you, you will never move forward. And, it speaks to humility – if you always think you are the best person for the job then your ego blinds you to other’s abilities. To summarise, the antithesis of a DIY mentality is to look forward, trust, embrace your team and focus people on their strengths.

Who inspires you?

I draw inspiration from a lot of people. Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive and Ingvar Kamprad are all people I admire for their commitment to bringing the highest levels of design to the masses. Intrinsic in all three is an understanding of human need and behaviour and I admire the insight behind the decisions they make. I follow Marissa Mayer quite closely she is fearless for taking on Yahoo, her ruthlessly data driven approach is strong and she is a very inspiring leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?

I’m a big fan of crowdfunding – I love some of the new projects that are coming through where people are trying to change the landscape of the cities they live in through these initiatives. Examples would be the Kickstarter swimming pool for the Hudson River in New York that filters the water and provides recreation and its sister project for the Thames in London. It’s such a transformative movement; forget voting get people to pay for things that they want changed and you get more engagement and real prioritisation.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

What I would do differently isn’t a chain of thought that I dwell on. If I’ve learned anything from being a business owner, it’s to make the best decision at that point in time and not to focus on what cannot be changed. I’ve learned from my tangents and benefited from the experience. So long as you use your life experience to move you forward you shouldn’t dwell on what you’ve done. The only thing you should ever regret is wasting time and that is something I’m rarely guilty of doing.

How do you unwind?

People are a big source of energy and catharsis for me so a dinner and a glass of wine with friends is a sure fire way to unwind. There are few things better than the experience of sharing war stories and having a good laugh with trusted friends. Exercise is also a significant part of how I manage stress.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?

Hong Kong. I know it’s an unusual choice for relaxation but the urban grittiness is such a contrast to Singapore I find it really refreshing. I get refuelled by the energy of cities so I always come away from Hong Kong inspired. I love the fusion of people and the eclecticism. Hong Kong is a city of contrasts it is ugly and beautiful, hard and soft, personal and anonymous. It also has a fantastic art, design and fashion scene, which seals the deal for me.

Everyone in business should read this book:

Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell. That said, I quote The Tipping Point often around the office, probably because of the social nature of my business. The Tipping Point is a wonderfully observed study of the social side of paradigm shifts and Outliers is a study of exceptional performers. His books are incredibly well researched and profoundly insightful. The essence of commerce is understanding and relating to people so I think Gladwell will really open your eyes in that arena.

Shameless plug for your business:

Collective Works is an award-winning business ecosystem that focuses on Entrepreneurs. Our Goal is to improve the drive, creativity and social interaction of small businesses. In under two years we’ve built one of Singapore’s premier entrepreneurial communities with Membership of over 85 companies from more than 20 countries. We have developed a unique portfolio of spaces including coworking, private offices, meeting, lounges and event space to cater to every eventuality. With three expansions since launch we now operate a 10,500 square foot facility and we’re not stopping there.

How can people connect with you?

Website www.collectiveworks.com.sg

Facebook www.facebook.com/collective.works.asia

LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanobyrne

Twitter @collectiveSG

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

CallumConnects

Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

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

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

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Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

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

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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