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Sam Lau, Founder of Total Loyalty

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A great mutual friend of Sam and I suggested we connected a couple of years ago as we both own businesses in the Employee Wellness space.  Sam built up a great company in Australia and now is replicating that success in Hong Kong.

Sam’s Business:

My company is called Total Loyalty Company, and we provide staff lifestyle programs for employers. We help companies provide more perks and social activities to staff, without using valuable internal resources to do so. We source corporate discounts, help organise staff events and seasonal offers to enhance the employment offering, allowing companies of all sizes to provide the sort of perks normally reserved for large corporations to their employees. We help provide happy, healthy and productive work environment. We call these staff loyalty programs. Companies very often look to loyalty programs for their customers, but many times ignore their most valuable asset, their staff.

We typically help our clients work on a theme – such as to enable staff to mix better, or have more work-life balance, but recently the most popular theme has been to provide wellness solutions.

We have a complete solution that costs similar to buying staff a cup of coffee a month. Currently our solutions are in Hong Kong but looking to expand to other parts of Asia.

What’s your story?

I have been an entrepreneur since 1995, after spending my early career in Shell Australia. I have a passion in helping companies create better workplaces, in terms of staff morale and making the workplace fun! As many of us spend almost half the day at work, I believe that each company should provide the initiatives at work to make sure each person can feel they can perform at their optimum. After all, happy and healthy employees will lead to optimal productivity!

What excites you most about your industry?

Work-life balance, corporate wellness, staff engagement are terms that are top of mind of many HR leaders, but yet in Asia not many companies are providing solutions in this space specifically. This industry is still in its infancy and has got huge opportunity to grow in the next 2-3 years. I am excited to be in the driver’s seat and see the opportunity to be one of the change leaders of this industry in Asia.

What’s your connection to Asia?

I was born in Hong Kong, and after studying in the UK briefly and spending many years in Australia, have recently moved back to Hong Kong.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?

I have to say Hong Kong, for now, as the city is, for all the rhetoric still the gateway to China and also a window to many international corporations. The city is very multi-cultural and still attracts many entrepreneurs with many fresh ideas.

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

There are many great pieces of advice I have received, but probably one that I live my life by, is to always think “how can I help you” when meeting people, without expecting anything in return. Doing business is about developing trust, especially in Asia. I am always happy to provide an introduction or a connection if I can help. You develop a trust and bond with your contact and that could be invaluable as you develop.

Who inspires you?

Many people inspire me for different reasons, so it is hard to pinpoint one. Just because one is rich and successful to me doesn’t necessarily inspire. I would say anyone who has a strong sense of ethics in they way they conduct themselves inspires me.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?

Recently someone was talking about company values, what does a company stand for. Large organisations tend to work these out through many offsite workshops and come up with some collaboratively created list. This person challenged all that, and say as an entrepreneur – you and you alone should set what the company values are, and these should be non-negotiable with your staff. It is about what you stand for and that is reflected in your business, and you should not be doing any staff consultations to work this out.

In fact you should use these values and find out during interviews for new staff if they buy into them. Otherwise no matter how competent they are for the job, if they do not share your values and ethics, that person should not be an employee of yours. I thought this was totally on the mark..

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

I think most entrepreneurs agree that starting companies can be a very lonely existence. You come up with great ideas, you have a plan and you work on it. Unlike sitting in a multi national corporation where you can have many resources on hand to help critique and enhance, you are a lot of times on your own. I would say I would get myself a mentor earlier on, to help guide and perhaps provide a sounding board for your wacky ideas and schemes, and also to ensure I stay on track!.

How do you unwind?

I am a big fan of hiking and in Hong Kong it is a great way to get away from the concrete jungle and actually smell some fresh air. It helps clear your head and I find it physically and mentally rewarding. I also love to eat and trying out new places. My latest favourite area in Hong Kong is the network of streets around Tai Hang for some great eateries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?

I recently went to Chiang Mai in Thailand and didn’t realise how relaxing it can be, sitting by the pool with a massive green wall, great service and people, and basically doing nothing! I highly recommend this place for a thoroughly relaxing holiday!

Everyone in business should read this book:

I am not a big reader of business books, but one that I recently picked up is called The Chimp Paradox, by Dr Steve Peters. It talks about how to recognise how your mind works and he has used his model to help many olympic athletes to succeed.

How can people connect with you?

You can contact me by email – [email protected] or by phone +852 5131 6338

 

This Interview was part of Callum Connects 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.

 

Connect with Callum here:

twitter.com/laingcallum

linkedin.com/in/callumlaing

Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

 

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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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Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

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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