Olivia Leong developed a business to help SMEs through their startup journey.
What’s your story?
I started Verra Asia with the purpose of providing startups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with more time so that they can focus on growing their business. When businesses are in their early stages of growth, business owners have acknowledged that a few of them have the right experience, resources and time to develop effective go-to-market strategy encompassing an impactful B2B marketing and communications plan. In many cases, when they are highly reliant on distribution partners, most of them struggle to develop a viable partnership framework that they are confident will build scalable and sustainable pipeline, which is critical for customer acquisition. While investment exists for businesses at this stage of their lifecycle, many of them cannot compete for talent in the market at the right level and salary, as they compete constantly with MNCs for top talent. And the reality is that developing a B2B go-to-market strategy is not a widely available skill.
Having observed these challenges that SMEs and startups face today, I was encouraged to develop a business model that can help these businesses to develop and support the execution of their GTM strategy. With 26 years of corporate experience in B2B sales, marketing and product development, creating Verra Asia was a great way for me to apply tried and tested approaches and methodology. At the same time, we continue to adopt innovative ways to support our clients needs to achieve speed to market and develop critical brand presence.
What excites you most about your industry?
B2B and B2D marketing and communication is a critical part of a business’ GTM. SMEs are still significantly underserved in this area, as most agencies focus on B2C marketing with enterprise-sized clients. In today’s digital ecosystem, the opportunity to be innovative is infinite. In addition, our clients are presented with more opportunities to collaborate than ever before, which means that we can be more open to new ideas and approaches.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I am Singaporean and I have lived and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. In my corporate roles, I had the opportunity to operate and manage teams in the Asia Pacific region, and have developed a fondness for the exciting growth opportunity our region has to offer. Despite the geographic fragmentation, being Asian means that we deeply understand that developing and cultivating purposeful relations are important regardless of geographic boundaries. An appreciation for the diverse culture and how business is conducted helps to connect with intended audiences.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Without being bias, Singapore continues to be my favourite city for business, for its connectivity to the rest of the world. In addition, for a business that is highly reliant on our network, Singapore efficiently paths the way for us. I would also commend Singapore for providing our business great access to a diverse and highly skilled talent pool, whether internally or externally, and so we can grow our business with a lot more agility.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have a tendency to take things very seriously, focus on executing seamlessly at work. One of my mentors reminded how important it is to strike a balance and inject playfulness into what we do without forgoing the quality of work we produce. This advice has helped me cultivate some of the most amazing relationships with colleagues, clients and partners, and as an entrepreneur, is one piece of advice that I embrace daily in running Verra Asia.
Who inspires you?
My father. He has been a pillar of strength for me since I was a young girl because he believed that our future is ours to create, and an inspiration for my entrepreneurial journey. Underpinning this mantra is to cultivate a sense of personal accountability for building a successful and fulfilling life.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
In Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, he shares the lesson that it’s important for winners to quit the right stuff at the right time, so that you can master at being the best in the world. Quit or be exceptional. So don’t settle for just being good enough.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have liked to have started Verra Asia earlier. I am thoroughly enjoying the journey of building a growth culture in an environment that my colleagues and I can feel purposeful every day when we come to work with our clients and with each other.
How do you unwind?
I am an avid cook. I enjoy experimenting with new recipes or taking on culinary challenges while enjoying some nice wine on the side. I especially enjoy watching my 2 tween boys consume the food that I have prepared. It’s very satisfying!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali is my go-to for the ultimate relaxation, especially between July – August when the weather is just perfect. It’s nice to get away from the city to chill out and take things at a slower pace on this paradise island. There’s always a great selection of restaurants with a great variety of cuisine where palates are spoilt with local produce prepared with care and passion.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great by Jim C. Collins.
Shameless plug for your business:
· We are not a one-stop shop. We are a shop that delivers what your business needs to grow.
· We are not 360 helicopters. We are a boutique consultancy that acts as your partner in growth, playing the role of facilitator as we help your business ascend in a fragmented Asia Pacific region.
· We are not an agency. But we have the experience, innovative spirit and nimble approach you need to develop inventive strategies that help establish your product and its value to the world.
Verra Asia’s strategies are its innovation. We arrived at this position by listening to the issues and challenges faced by our clients and realising that without brand champions working closely with them, it was increasingly tough to get word of their businesses out in front of those who needed them.
We offer solutions that align with the budgets of nascent businesses and startups, fuelling their ambitions without costing them unnecessary expenses that are misaligned with their business objectives. With the care of storytelling, strategic marketing and on-ground activations parked with us, any business can be assured of a plan to go to market that is on point with what it plans to achieve.
How can people connect with you?
Email me directly at [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’.