Now’s the time to embrace technology and start your own business….

What’s your story?
I co-founded and run Stepping Stone, a niche advisory and investment business with offices in Singapore, Manila and Dublin. Previously, I was a corporate guy for close to 20 years with large multinationals across Europe and Asia Pacific. My last role was as CFO for Asia Pacific for a global leader in the information industry. I’d always however wanted to work more directly with small business owners and entrepreneurs as I felt I could make a more impactful contribution. In today’s global services marketplace, it’s a fast moving and exciting place to be.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s a great time to be running or starting your own business. At least it is for those who embrace the unparalleled access we all have today to technology, people, networks, markets, etc. With many of these resources now available at little or no cost, time has become the new currency. If people are willing to invest time, then there are great assets at their disposal.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My family in New Zealand had a seafood export business into Asia for close to 20 years. There has always been a huge interest stemming from that. In addition, the first city I visited outside of New Zealand was Bangkok as a 16 year old, and I was instantly captivated. When the opportunity came in 2006 to move to Asia, my wife and I jumped at it.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore without question. Things move quick, are transparent and it’s so open and easy to connect. Singapore’s small size is its big advantage. Hence, it was the obvious and ideal launchpad for our business of helping global small businesses get funded, up and running and started in the right direction. Tokyo runs a clear second.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To not spoon-feed people who work with you. As a fresh graduate, one of my first managers would always bluntly, but with good intent, challenge you with “what do you think” as the answer to any question. A wrong suggestion is better than no suggestion, and a great way to develop people is to challenge their thought process. If you’re spoon-fed, you’re brain dead.

Who inspires you?
I’m from a large family and we’re a tight bunch. I cannot recall a problem of real note between any of us. Every mother is special, but I can proudly say that my mum is a special lady. She’s the glue that has kept us all tight and happy.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
How much writing a book has changed my thinking about my business. I’m finalizing my manuscript for my first book called ‘The Small Business Workout.’ It is aimed at helping small business owners and entrepreneurs benefit from the tools and resources available to them in today’s information age. While somewhat hesitant at first about writing a book, I have benefited immensely from the process. I believe anyone who reads it will also benefit in some way from it.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I hate to sound clichéd, but I really don’t like to dwell too much on the past. While it is important to learn from experience, time is too precious to think backwards for too long. I’m a pretty patient person, but I’ll be honest and say I don’t have too much patience for those who dwell on hindsight.

How do you unwind?
Running clears my head like nothing else. I really enjoy putting on my headphones and hitting the pavement.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
The Maldives stands out for the sheer isolation and beauty of the place. A pre-breakfast snorkel around the atoll certainly wasn’t the worst way to start each day.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Supertrends” by Lars Tvede. While it might sound like an investment strategy book, it’s much more than that. The news in traditional media day to day is often doom and gloom, including that related to business. Brilliantly researched, Tvede set out his views on where the world is heading over the next 30 years with advances in science and technology. It gives you lots of reasons to feel optimistic about the future, including in reference to many of the issues we face in the world today.

Shameless plug for your business:
Many entrepreneurs are great with the core part of their business, but not necessarily great at all aspects of running a business. Being able to manage this dynamic becomes inherently more important when businesses obtain scale or enter new markets. We help business owners with this as they get out of their comfort zone. Knowledge is at the core of this, and in today’s information and technology age, you shouldn’t have to pay premium price to benefit from this.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn
[email protected]
Skype – stefan.focas

Twitter handle?
@StefanFocas

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.

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