Building Business? Maybe you need to be Impactified!

What’s your story?
I am an entrepreneur with a rather unusual background. I got a PhD in the UK, worked as a global project consultant, then did a lot of research on the Asian Fintech ecosystem, a topic I teach at Uni, that got me back to my initial entrepreneurial mindset. I feel best surrounded by entrepreneurial minds and people who dare trying, doing and deciding, so I got into the Impactified adventure to grow and nurture a forward-thinking and difference-making environment around me. 

What excites you most about your industry?
My job is all about challenging people who ask to be challenged. Sometimes their company is messy, and they need someone to help them see through things, but entrepreneurs also tend to feel very lonely in their business, so at other times my job is to have passionate discussions about their business model, about their competition, or about things that could be tried. People with a rich business experience turn to me for advice, trust my ability to ask sharp questions, and give me access to a permanent pool of ideas. Sounds like a dream job to me…

What’s your connection to Asia?
None originally. Like many people, I came to Asia for work and after a short stay, I felt like I would have to come back. The opportunity to do just that presented itself a few years later so I took it. I’ve spent four years in the region so far and I’m not planning on moving away. The entrepreneurial mindset is far more dynamic, people have much more access to each other and the ambition to actually do something is far more developed, so overall, I feel much more connected to this region than to Europe.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’ve lived in Hong Kong for the past four years and it’s been the most exciting place to work in, ever. My main comparison point was a mix of Paris and London, but there’s no comparison possible in the end. I’ve been to various cities around Asia for work and leisure, and for some reason I find everything here. Probably because of the dynamics. China is next door, Singapore or Bangkok are a short flight away, and questions can be asked over the phone, so living in a central place, from which I can manage everything, is ideal.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I received was to dare. It’s so easy nowadays to stay inactive, because you don’t know what’s coming next, because people don’t think you should, or because you are scared of what others think of you. Several people pushed me to dare at different times, and it always paid. Now I try to stick with this principle.

Who inspires you?
I am generally inspired by people who dare, as a matter of fact. Entrepreneurs, for their mindsets, a few academics, for their willingness to provoke a public beyond their own world. It’s a state of mind thing, more than a matter of persons and names. Some people, who haven’t done anything significant can be more inspiring than famous ones, simply because of the idea they have and the determination they put into making it happen.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Hong Kong is a city where people often do things for their own interest first, and we easily forget those who are usually invisible. I recently met Jeff Rotmeyer, the CEO of ImpactHK, a charity which focuses on putting distressed people off the streets, and I was struck to listen to someone who puts kindness first, thinks about others as a priority, and does his best to make a real difference. Learning about his ambition and determination blew me away, but it also decided me to get involved.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Life is a learning curve, so I would do the same again, but I would learn differently. Looking for my first job during the financial crisis was a nightmare and it took me way too long to dare starting my own consulting firm. It then took me a lot of time to realize staying on my own would get me nowhere… It’s not about doing differently, but about learning and adapting faster.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy working from hotel lobbies, they give me time to unwind on a daily basis, fifteen minutes at a time. Getting a good book, good coffee and some space around you works! Of course, in Hong Kong, trails are another typical way to unwind, so a mix of both is a good option.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Urban-wise, I really like Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay and the atmosphere over there. Bangkok is another destination I like for a weekend because quality time along the river and trips on those little boats are nice. Chinese Gui Lin is another very different option. Have you tried riding an electric scooter there?

Everyone in business should read this book:
There are several books worth reading from a business perspective, but some of the big ideas out there come from books that are really painful to read. One book I always recommend is “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant. It encompasses academic research on entrepreneurship and innovation, written in a fun and inspiring way. I bought this book for my e-reader and, after reading only a few pages, found it so good that I actually bought a paper copy.

Shameless plug for your business:
Shameless plug? Impactified challenges and assists entrepreneurs who need to make their business more Impactful and who want to be pushed on a regular basis, because business models are difficult to reinvent alone, and because being alone sucks… 

We also run a business blog with ideas to pick from, for free, and we build digital tools to help entrepreneurs build better business without us! Have a look!

How can people connect with you?
Feel free to get in touch through Linkedin (with an intro word, please) or directly from our Impactified website!

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews

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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 and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.

Connect with Callum on Twitter and LinkedIn
Download free copies of his books at www.callumlaing.com