With his passion for Human Resource management, Sam founded his own HR and branding consultancy business to work with organizations not only to help them build good practices, but to create innovative solutions to address the unique challenges that each organization faces.
What’s your story?
I was in a comfortable, stable and high paying job in a reputable company where it set me thinking,”Is this really what I want to do? Am I maximizing my potential? Can I create a bigger impact in the community in other ways?” I have always believed in the potential of what HR could do but often got frustrated because HR is often restricted to transactional and support work in a corporate setting.
This created the quarter life crisis in me, a term that is increasingly common amongst Millennials today. It got me thinking what’s next and I started reaching out to mentors and got involved in HR communities in search of the answer. That’s where I realize that I needed to look beyond and eventually saw that entrepreneurship was the most suitable vehicle for me to make the difference that I seek to deliver. Therefore, I founded People Mentality Inc when I turned 30 to mark a milestone for the next chapter of my career and life.
What excites you most about your industry?
We always hear HR teams taking pride in supporting the business growth. This shows how HR is always perceived, not only by others, but also themselves, that it is a 2nd tier support function. In my opinion, I do see how HR can step up and take the lead in organizations because after all, people are the common denominator in business regardless of industry. With that in mind, why can’t HR do more and create a bigger impact? The untapped potential and being in the position to make the change that can leave a meaningful legacy in this space really excites me.
What’s your connection to Asia?
People Mentality’s vision is to build practices in Asia, for Asia, and exchange it with the rest of the world. I believe that it’s time for us to uncover more stories from the good practices in Asia rather than constantly trying to copy the “best practices” from other parts of the world. We do have good stuff here but as Asians, though we tend to not showcase them well. Therefore, I hope to work with organizations to not only build good practices, but also showcase them through storytelling and show the world how Asia grows the profession, collectively.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
As a young business, the place that I’m primarily operating in at this moment is still Singapore with some training gigs regionally. I take pride in being a homegrown company and making a mark in it. I believe that it is important to first establish a solid foundation at home before putting my company on the map elsewhere.
But of course, I’m also looking forward to venture out to other Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Indonesia etc, to learn more about their business culture and HR practices in the next phase of my business.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice was definitely from my mum where she would always tell me and my sister, “In everything you do, you will learn something”. This has been my mantra since day 1 and that’s the mindset that I have regardless of how small or “dirty” the task is. It’s all about the perspective you take and reframing your mind to approach things positively. With that, regardless of what you do, it will lead you to something bigger and even create surprises for you in the future.
Who inspires you?
My basketball idol, Kobe Bryant, has been a constant inspiration to me. His fearlessness, his hardwork and dedication to perfect his craft and most importantly, his mentality to be the best possible version really impresses me. Another area that I truly look up to him is his ability to grow beyond his core area of work. After retiring from basketball, he went on to set up his venture fund and started focusing on storytelling. And guess what, he even won the Oscar and Emmy award for his short film “Dear Basketball”! That’s a true inspiration for me and it reminds me constantly that there are plenty of opportunities out there so if you are willing to work hard for it, you will always stand a chance to shine. Interesting fact here, not many people know this but the name People Mentality, was inspired by what Kobe calls the Mamba Mentality!
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The most recent skill that I picked up was NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). I signed up for the certification course conducted by Mind Transformation through a friend’s recommendation. My initial expectations were to learn more about the human behaviour and explanation behind it. But guess what, beyond discovering how others behave and think, the biggest takeaway for me was really self-discovery. I learnt a lot more about myself and in turn, realized that the best way to create change is to first change your state of mind. That’s something that I’ve been applying since and I find it really powerful.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
It’ll definitely be to reach out to a mentors way earlier! Ever since I had mentors in my life, my career accelerated and I no longer feel like I’m fighting a lone battle. I know that I have a support network behind me and a sounding board to hear me out when I need some clarity in life. These are people whom I value a lot and respect them for taking precious time off to guide me on this journey. Shoutout to Lawrence, Chek Wee, Avi, Eddie and Elliot!
How do you unwind?
The best part about being an entrepreneur is that I can choose when my off days are. Some days where I really just feel unproductive, I’ll take the entire day off and not think about work at all. What I’ll do can vary depending on my the time and present mood. It can range from taking a nice walk outside to get away from my work, catch a movie, sing my heart out at home or simply spend time with my love ones that includes my adorable pet dog, Cotton. I also take time to read, either books or online articles, to learn more about things not only in the HR space, but also in other fields so as to broaden my perspective and that’s often how I get new ideas for my core work.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok is probably my ideal Asian destination if I’m looking to just relax and get away from work. With the delicious food options, wide range of affordable shopping items and value for money massages, what more can you ask for! In addition, I also enjoy interacting with the local people who are generally polite, friendly and genuine. As I’ve been there many times, I do not need to spend much effort planning my itinerary so it takes away additional work off my back when travelling there. Bangkok is definitely my top choice in Asia if I’m looking to relax.
Everyone in business should read this book:
I’ll like to recommend the book “Give and Take” by Adam Grant. In business, there is a common misperception that it’s fixed pie and that you need to know what’s in it for you. What I’ve learnt is that you actually receive a lot more if you give before asking for anything in return. That’s how I managed to grow my business a lot quicker than expected and received so much help from the community in the most unexpected ways.
Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking to solve your attraction and retention problems, People Mentality is the new age HR and Branding consultancy firm for you. In particular, we take pride in creating innovative solutions to address the unique challenges that each organization faces. Especially in today’s day and age where the Millennial engagement and technology piece is key, that’s where a young professional like myself can easily relate and help organizations build up the ability to manage the next wave of change.
How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn is probably the best channel to reach me (https://www.linkedin.com/in/samneo/) where I regular share my reflections and content that I create. I am pretty much on it daily so it’s as good as reaching me via mobile! It will also be great to follow my People Mentality Inc pages on both Facebook and LinkedIn where constant updates are published.
I’m currently more active on LinkedIn. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/samneo/)
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’.