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Timothy Yee, Director of Ta Square

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Timothy Yee has several enterprises. He is a F&B and hospitality consultant and he has his own interior design agency.

What’s your story?
During my childhood years I always loved to draw and I have always wanted to do something creative. I used to see my dad produce beautiful manual drawings as a draughtsman which sparked my interest in architecture. I would take my pencil and pen and draw on the piles of recycled papers next to him as he worked late nights to meet deadlines. It was only natural for me to pick architecture and design as a chosen field. There are so many ideas that I would love to create and work on.
After spending a few years honing my skills and craft with different reputable firms, working on residential, commercial and aged care living projects, I decided to fulfill my university dream of starting my own design studio. Along the challenging journey of establishing a young design studio in Melbourne I managed to co-found Seoul Soul, a small and quaint Korean restaurant in Richmond and Northcote as well as Breakfast Thieves, a popular local breakfast joint in Fitzroy. This opened up the door of opportunity for me to venture into interior design and grew our services as a F&B and hospitality consultant. From a one man practice in 2011 we are currently a team of 20 people including architects and interior designers for our Melbourne studio.

What excites you most about your industry?
To be given the opportunity to realise our client’s vision into built reality, is always exciting for me!
Be it a new building or a new restaurant concept we are always striving to do it better. Being located in Melbourne, the works created by our peers are amazing and we want to be the best at our craft. The design scene in Melbourne is very active and this keeps us on our toes.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Malaysia. While pursuing my architectural degree I also worked on projects with a local firm to gain practical experience and an understanding of the local market. We are setting up an office in Malaysia to expand our presence and we are currently looking into collaborating with a local Malaysian manufacturer to create furniture pieces for our clients’ projects.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I would say it has to be Malaysia as my network is based there. Because of our experience and skills, we are finding that local developers or investors wanting to expand their presence or experience in Melbourne will look to us, to provide them with advice prior to starting on a development project in Australia. We have also worked with clients from China, Singapore and Indonesia and have started expanding our presence in Sydney and Perth.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
What won’t kill you will make you stronger and if you don’t succeed first, keep trying! I’ve learned that if you put your heart and mind to it, with determination, patience and passion, the end result is always rewarding. Also important is to remain humble and honest and our clients always end up as friends in the process.

Who inspires you?
My mum has been a great inspiration to me. There was a time during my year as an architectural student I almost gave up as it was so challenging and exhausting. She however, encouraged me not to give up and don’t be too focused on achieving good grades but to enjoy the journey and process by simply giving my best. Needless to say I went on to achieve a position on the Dean’s list at Melbourne University for my final year studies. I owe my determination and success to her to this day.
My ex tutors and boss Mr. Arnold Lim, Mr. Azroei Ahmad and Mr. Paolo Tombesi. Without their guidance and insights I would not have the courage and determination to take on the challenging role of delicately balancing architecture as a design and business model in Australia. You can still achieve great results if you do your best for your clients and sincerely look after their needs.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To ensure a project is delivered successfully you need to align yourself with a good team and most importantly a skilled and honest builder. Working with different builders on a variety of projects on different scales has allowed us to constantly hone our design skills to ensure we can deliver a beautiful outcome with modest budgets from the clients. You’ll be amazed how skilled and creative the local tradesman can be if you work closely with them to come out with great solutions for the client’s projects!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I don’t think I would do things any differently as every step and decision made from my journey has been integral to where I am today. Perhaps the only regret I have was not spending enough time to invest and work on my personal projects and ideas. However better late than never!

How do you unwind?
I love to travel and explore different places to broaden my mind and experience. For any other usual days that would be trying new food at new establishments with friends as Melbourne always has something new to offer. Other times if possible that would be reading the news or catching a movie. Taking brief short breaks from work allows me to look at the project again with a fresh approach and new perspective to ensure we can deliver good results for our clients.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
That would be Japan. Every visit is always an exploration process for me. The architecture, the food, the people and the culture are fascinating!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I’m actually quite a visual person. However if given the time I would try and read books. The last book I read was Hannibal and Me by Andreas Kluth. I find Hannibal quite fascinating and his greatest successes and failures somehow, can be applied to what I am trying to achieve with my life.

Shameless plug for your business:
Ta square is a full service architectural, interior and project management studio based in Melbourne, Australia. We are able to assist our clients to source for development sites and ensure their vision and aspiration is achieved through collaboration with relevant parties and consultants to achieve a successful outcome. We are pragmatic and we focus on delivering real projects for our clients by balancing the needs of creating an outstanding product without sacrificing the bottom line results. No project is too small or too big for us as we enjoy collaborating with talented individuals to deliver bespoke design solutions for our clients.

How can people connect with you?
Over a cup of coffee at Breakfast Thieves!
You can also reach out to us at [email protected] or visit us at www.tasquare.com or our instagram @t_a_square

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

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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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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