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Josh Black, CEO of GroupM Content & Fitness Advocate

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How can a dead man kill you?  Josh Black has the answers, read on!

What’s your story?
It all started about 39 years ago in a suburb of Sydney, Australia.  As a young lad my passion for business was fuelled by spending weekends and school holidays working the cash register at my father’s take-away food shop.  I took home my first pay-packet at the age of 11 and haven’t looked back since.  I have sold ice-creams at sports grounds, pop-corn at live concerts, cookies to office blocks around Sydney and currently am the CEO for GroupM’s Content business across Asia Pacific. We get to create pop culture, bring new TV Formats & Content to Asia and work with some of the most amazing brands in the world everyday.  It’s awesome.

What excites you most about your industry?
I work in Media and Content and it’s an incredibly dynamic place to be right now.  You’ve probably heard the saying that “Content is King” and that’s true – but I believe “distribution is queen and she wears the pants.”  I find that most of the industry is heavily focused on creating content but unless you have the audience really defined and understand what they want, what they are searching for and where they are getting it from, the creative is pointless.  I’m also excited about the people I get to meet, work with and collaborate with each day – they are all so much more interesting and smarter than me, mostly.  

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived and worked in Asia now for 12 years – starting in Bangkok and then moving to Singapore, Sydney, Manila and now Hong Kong.  For all of those 12 years I have been working in regional marketing and business operating roles cover everything from Afghanistan to Japan, China, India, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
There is just so much diversity across the region that I struggle to just pick one.  I love the energy and vibe of Ho Chi Minh City, the pace of Tokyo, the cafes in Melbourne, running in Seoul and the nightlife of Manila.  Oh, the question was ‘favorite city for business’ – sure, yes they are all very good.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Well the worst piece of advice I ever received was “don’t make friends at work”.  I spend about 12 hours a day working and if was as dull and boring as that I’m not sure how I would handle it.  The best piece of advice, “90% of being in business is turning up”.  So many people have a great idea but just lose the drive, the conviction or their purpose at some point in the journey… and that’s what separates those that eventually make it happen and the rest that don’t.    

Who inspires you?
People that don’t accept second best, people that set goals that really stretch themselves and people that have a wide variety of interests and passions beyond work.  People that run marathons, ultra-marathons and Ironman’s whilst holding down senior roles in companies.  People that really embody the values of being “corporate athletes” which is something I work on everyday.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Sigurd the Mighty, a ninth-century Norse earl of Orkney, was killed by an enemy he had beheaded several hours earlier. He’d tied the man’s head to his horse’s saddle, but while riding home one of its protruding teeth grazed his leg. He died from the infection.  The point of this random story is that, you as the reader probably won’t remember anything about this article in a year from now, except the story of Sigurd the Mighty.  Story-telling is powerful and as an industry, we need to be great at telling stories as it helps bring brands to life.  It always needs to be backed though by a great distribution plan though.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would probably have undertaken studies in my second choice of study at University – Geology – and gone on to find iron ore mines in Western Australia and be retired by now.  Actually, in all seriousness, I probably wouldn’t do anything differently – I’ve met some amazing people, worked on some great brands and had a lot of fun.

How do you unwind?
I hit the gym 6 days a week and do MMA Training, box and run half marathons.  I like to shop (hunt) for my food, cook it up and share it with friends.  You’ll occasionally find me at one of Asia’s hippest new bars or nightspots mostly drinking vodka and soda water because it only contains 65 calories.  I love to travel, kite-board, wake-board and mountain bike. I wind up each day with a double espresso.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love Seminyak in Bali and Boracay in the Philippines – they both offer a great mix of chilling out, good food, interesting people, nice beaches and adventure.  When I unwind, I really try and unwind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu – the Art of War and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

Shameless plug for your business:
I have my own fitness and health brand ‘247X Fitness’ which I am growing as an opinion leading platform around corporate health and being a corporate athlete in the workplace.  Follow me on Twitter and watch out for my YouTube Page.

How can people connect with you?
I am on LinkedIn (Joshua Black)

Twitter handle?
@247XFitness and @JoshuaBlack11

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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