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Olivier Verot, CEO of Gentlemen Marketing Agency

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Olivier Verot is a 36 years old entrepreneur from France. He is now the CEO of Gentlemen Marketing Agency, a pure digital player dedicated to the Chinese market. Olivier decided to travel to China about 11 years ago and fell in love with its culture, people and environment. Olivier is now married to an incredible Chinese woman and have a child. He has worked and lived in China since 2008 and have not looked back since. Olivier discovered China by participating to a semester long exchange program at Dalian University when he was in business school.

In regards to his knowledge and experience in both Marketing and the Chinese market, Olivier can be described as a Chinese digital marketing lead generation specialist. His company, Gentlemen Marketing Agency, offers different services related to using a Chinese tailored digital strategy to enter the Chinese market. Services range from community management, e-reputation, SEO to content marketing. All of which allows their clients to create tangible leads and more traffic to their website or online business. They also provide well-though out and captivating articles on our French and English websites (marketing-china and marketing to china). They can accommodate international clients as their team is culturally diverse and made of French and Chinese employees.

In your own words, what do you do?

As a CEO, I oversee the team and take care of the big projects. Besides assigning tasks and projects to my project managers and lead generation interns, I am also in charge of replying to request for proposals/quotation, meeting prospective clients and most importantly thinking through a value added digital marketing strategy to meet our client’s requirements, thanks to my numerous years of experience in the Chinese market.

What led you to your current business?

My passion for marketing, as well as my love for the Chinese culture and market, led me to the creation of my blog Marketing in China a few years ago. As my blog started receiving more and more traffic and attention, I started to get comments and messages from visitors willing to know more about digital marketing in China and thus started doing some freelancing. After 3 years I decided to take the leap, and created in 2012, the Gentlemen Marketing Agency in collaboration with Phillip Lim, a Chinese marketing professional.

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

The first step that helped me in developing my business is having a successful blog. Writing high quality and relevant content allowed me, not only to connect with prospective clients who could eventually be interested in my services, but also to enjoy a good ranking on the most used search engine in the world, Google. Everybody do their research before engaging with a company to get information about their expertise, advice, reviews or even just contact information. The second step was to continue to build momentum by creating a lead generation strategy. Gentlemen Marketing Agency mainly relies on online lead generation. Even though I started my compan, I didnít stop my blog and continued to supply good quality content and information for my readers by posting frequently. Thus, we gain new clients thanks to our expertise in SEO, e-reputation, content marketing and so on. it is important to note that an entrepreneur should use its own talents to create his own opportunities. Why should you act like others when you can do better with your own skills, team and strengths?

Did you encounter any particular difficulties in the beginning?

Just like any entrepreneurs, I had to overcome obstacles to get to where I am today. One of the difficult parts of being an entrepreneur is the fact that I had to leave my home country, France, to establish myself in China. This ultimately means living far away from your friends and family which can, sometimes, be difficult. However, I am lucky to say that I have my family here in China and can once a year go back to France. Another thing is the work-life balance when you start a business, I had to learn how to juggle between working hard for the business and still enjoying some resting time.

What is your long term plan?

My long-term plan is to grow Gentleman Marketing Agency to be :
1) The most well-known, reputable and sought out Digital Marketing agency in China by foreign brands looking to enter the Chinese market,
2) Develop the business internationally maybe in Asia or France,
3) Employing more staff to cope up with our new projects and having an overall improved turnover.

Could you share with us some industry insights?

The digital landscape in China is rapidly evolving and changing every day. What you knew two years ago doesnít apply today. To give you an example, before WeChat was born, QQ was the most used instant messaging app in China. WeChat has now surpassed all of the other social platforms and remains strong at the first seat. Basic things you have to know about Chinese digital marketing are the fact that the social media platforms are merely Chinese. The main social media are WeChat (more than 690 million active users worldwide and first market: China), Weibo (a twitter-like microblogging platform with over 220 million active users), QQ, and Ren Ren (similar to Facebook). Concerning search engines, Google is out of sight and Baidu dominates owning about 80% of the Chinese search engine market.

There are a lot of things to say, but I think it is important to note that Chinese are very web and tech-savvy, they mostly use their mobile phone to access the internet and do so daily. A study found that Chinese internet users spend on average 25 hours a week just browsing the web! Also about 90% own at least one social media account. A lot of services in China are provided through mobile apps and the internet. You can book a taxi, get your lunch delivered to your home and even your groceries.

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

You have to work hard! Nothing is easy in life and even less when you decide to run your own business. Managing people is the most complex part but also the most rewarding. You have to choose your employees and co-workers wisely. Finally, networking and connecting with people genuinely and providing relevant high-quality content is the way to go to grow your business.

Any tips for achieving success?

Have a vision, know where you are going. Also, don’t listen to nay-sayers and believe in your talents as well as your team ability to succeed. Finally, work hard, team up with the right people and enjoy the road!

Connect

My website: http://ecommercechinaagency.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/olivierverot
LinkedIn: https://fr.linkedin.com/in/olivierverot

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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Callum Connects

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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