“Human beings as inspiration are overrated..” This entrepreneur prefers to make meaningful connections between things and get inspiration from that.

What’s your story?
I was born into a Navy family at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, and moved around a lot growing up. By the time I dropped out of high school at age 16, I’d lived in California, Washington State, Maryland, and Hawaii. At 16, I got a G.E.D. and went to community college. Then I transferred to Western Washington University for a B.A. in Comparative Cultural Studies, followed by a Master’s Degree in Counseling from The Pennsylvania State University. I spent a couple of years working as a psychotherapist in Seattle, but found myself spending more time on paperwork and in meetings than actually talking to clients, so I decided to change careers.

What excites you most about your industry?
The variety that comes with agency work.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Eleven years ago, when I was working in Seattle, a friend returned from a year teaching English in Korea, and had a good experience. I thought I’d give it a try, so I went to Asia for a year, and never came back.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Manila. It’s the only city in Asia I’ve both worked for someone else in, and run my own business in, so it’s really the only one I have experience with. In South Korea I was a communications consultant for the Republic of Korea Air Force and then later a university instructor. In China I was a university student and a freelancer.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t smoke.

Who inspires you?
That word, inspire, means “fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” I think other human beings as inspiration is overrated and is a part of this entrepreneur/live-your-dream/Steve-Jobs-is-a-God culture that is being foisted on people these days. Other people don’t fill me with an urge to do something creative. That comes from the connections I make between things. For example, Hubspot is a content marketing software suite. They cost over a thousand dollars a month. That’s way too expensive. So I figured out how to do the most important parts of what they do for a hundred dollars a month. Then I add an operator to run the software for you, and I can charge 500 dollars a month for it. It does the same thing as Hubspot, except it’s done for you instead of you doing it yourself, including all the content. What was my inspiration? The fact that Hubspot cost too damn much.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Very little surprises me.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have continued with the business I started when I was 14, and folded when I was 15. It would have made me modestly wealthy by the time I was 25.

How do you unwind?
I’m into backcountry camping. That’s when you’re not at an established campsite, so you are totally on your own. No potties, no parking area, no place to get water, unless you’re near a river.

I also like really posh hotels. I’m dichotomous that way.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I like Pagudpud quite a bit. It’s quiet, has nice beaches, with a rural pace of life.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The McKinsey Way. Good, relevant read no matter what industry you’re in.

Shameless plug for your business:
Tony Ahn & Co. does digital public relations, which means we do what your digital agency does, and more. Our clients include the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), PSBank, KFC, Group M, Home Credit Philippines, Singapore Medical Group, and dozens more, including small businesses and startups. Our most popular offering is StarNet.

StarNet is a microendorsement platform that facilitates celebrities tweeting for brands at a fraction of the cost of a full endorsement. You want the biggest local stars of stage and screen to Instagram or tweet your product? That’s StarNet. The analytics it offers are quite rich as well.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@_TonyAhn_

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/>

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