When you change the way you think of things, the things you think of change...
Have you ever noticed that in this 24/7 social media sound-bite age, people are fascinated by the story? The back-story, the inside-story, the real story…
For the longest time, I didn’t think I really had much of a story to tell. Then I realised that what I’ve gone through on my journey might help other’s get through theirs.
My awesome life today
First let me say that I’m grateful every day for the life I lead.
My wife Sylvia, a strong, grounded, passionate independent woman has been my rock for the past 27 years, and our 18-year-old son just started college in Munich. I’m blessed.
We have a beautiful home in a 1200-year-old walled city in the state of Bavaria, Germany. We balance our time between Germany and Singapore, our second home, and next year we will start spending the European winter in Monaco, a location that feels to Sylvia and me like balsam to the soul.
Our international lifestyle is reflected in my business. I get to work every day with brilliant Entrepreneurs from all over world. I get to be part of future tech breakthroughs and future industry disruptors in real time as it unfolds. And as a bonus, some of the companies that I helped and invested in when they started their journey, are on their way to becoming Unicorns!
However, my life wasn’t always like this.
I wasn’t always successful, fulfilled and happy. For many years I lived a life of emptiness, regret and denial.
The life I lead today would never have happened if not for a series of events I went through in 1976, when I was just 16.
Within a few short months in that year my Mother crushed my dreams of taking over the family farm, I dropped out of school and got a boring job in a bank, my Grandfather (who was my male role model – not my Father) had a heart attack and died, and my Mother kicked me out of our home.
The plans and dreams I had for my life were gone. My friends and family were gone. Working a 9-5 office job made me feel like a fish out of water. I had no ambition. I lived in the moment. I drifted. And my new room mates were a bunch of 20 something year old men, all of whom had alcohol and gambling problems!
I did not see my parents again until five years later.
Yet I survived.
The problem with not having plans or ambition is that you never know what you want, you never feel happy, you never fully commit to anything, your life never seems to have any meaning.
I spent the next 14 years in a series of jobs. There were some high points, like getting my pilot’s license when I was 20, or getting into University as a mature aged student when I was 27 and graduating with a Bachelor of Business.
In general, though, I never really excelled at anything – sport, relationships, business…
Despite some success and achievement, I still felt “empty”.
The turning point
Then fate intervened – again.
When I was 30, I was sent to Vietnam to become the General Manager of The Saigon Floating Hotel, the one and only Post-Communist Economy 5-Star Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. It was a turning point in my life.
Three things happened.
I learned how important strategic partnerships were – especially Promotional (Sales and Marketing), Financial and Resource partners – if you wanted to optimise business performance.
I met Sylvia, who would become my wife.
I realised that I still yearned to run my own business, and that the stars had aligned to bring me to Vietnam at a time when so many companies who’d entered or wanted to enter Vietnam needed advice from someone who had done it before. I resigned my job. Sylvia resigned her job. And we went “all in” in our first business.
This changed my life forever
Suddenly my life had purpose and meaning. I was whole again.
During the subsequent years doing business in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, The Philippines, The United Kingdom, Switzerland and the USA, I refined and perfected my ability to identify and close deals with strong Joint Venture Partners, especially promotional and financing partnerships.
And I started to invest in myself by tapping into the wisdom of mentorship from the best advising partners I could find.
Fast forward to the past 10 years in Singapore and I have focussed on investing in, mentoring and advising growth stage FinTech and CleanTech company founders.
My “unconventional journey” that led me to this point enriched me with invaluable lessons.
If someone asked me what I’ve learned on my journey so far, I would say this:
- Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted. You will experience the elation of success and despair of loss, sometimes simultaneously.
- You can always find ways to make more money, but you can never make more time
- The most successful Entrepreneurs seek out Mentors who have been in their shoes before. The wisdom that the right Mentor brings can get their business from where it is, to where they want it to be, quicker, with fewer mistakes, saving them money and giving them back more time.
- Partnerships are a key element in my solution strategy.