The International Entrepreneur Podcast

#2 Part 1: Singapore with John Marcarian and Boon Tan

October 19, 2022 Kreston Global Season 1 Episode 2
#2 Part 1: Singapore with John Marcarian and Boon Tan
The International Entrepreneur Podcast
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The International Entrepreneur Podcast
#2 Part 1: Singapore with John Marcarian and Boon Tan
Oct 19, 2022 Season 1 Episode 2
Kreston Global

In our second episode, we visit Kreston's Singapore business arm with two brand new guests to really dig deep into what makes a successful interpreneur, and why courage and resilience are the two most important traits for those looking to expand their business.  Part 2 coming out next week! 

Link to the full Kreston Global report can be found here: https://bit.ly/3RAdWhV

Written, hosted, edited & produced by Infinite Global: https://infiniteglobal.com/

Show Notes Transcript

In our second episode, we visit Kreston's Singapore business arm with two brand new guests to really dig deep into what makes a successful interpreneur, and why courage and resilience are the two most important traits for those looking to expand their business.  Part 2 coming out next week! 

Link to the full Kreston Global report can be found here: https://bit.ly/3RAdWhV

Written, hosted, edited & produced by Infinite Global: https://infiniteglobal.com/

Hello. And welcome to Kreston Global's, the International interpreneur Podcast.

Hi, I'm Hannah. And today we're back with two new incredible guests to continue our discussions around the interpreneurial mindset. As a quick side note, I do have a bit of a cold at the moment, so bear with if I start to get a little more gravelly than usual, but we'll crack on as is. If you've just joined us as a new listener, I'd recommend listening to episode one, part one for some general housekeeping on how this podcast works.

But in short, we'll be speaking with our new guests for two many episodes. If you. Uh, discussion will be split over a part one and a part two, Part two being released next week to keep these sessions easily digestible for busy. Listen. Anyway, let's get to it. I'm thrilled to introduce our episode two interpreneurs representing Kreston Global's, Singapore Arm.

We have John Marcarian, founder, both of the Expat Land Global Network, and of CST Global Tax Advisors and Boon Tan, Managing Director of CST Tax Advisors, Singapore. For a little bit of background, Kreston Global is an international accountancy network that brings the best minds in business accountancy together.

I think a great place to start, as we did with our previous guests, would be to hear how you got into accounting in the first place as a career, and what inspired you to become an accounting interpreneur in your own rights. Shall will we start with you, John? Um, so I got into accounting, uh, because I had an uncle who worked for the United.

And, uh, he was head of the, uh, internal audit function and he was, uh, telling me how he was always flying off to one exotic location or another to check out how the aid money the UN had given was being spent. So I got the idea that accountants lived glamorous lives and flew around the world. And I, from a young age, I thought I wanted to do that.

So unlike some of my friends, Fell into accounting. I always had this vision of being a, a chartered accountant who flew around the world. And, um, I'm very pleased to say, uh, that that's what's actually happened. So that, and that's, uh, that's how I got into it. So I got into accountancy because I wanted to help people.

And I, I've always been, uh, I've always liked numbers, uh, growing up. So for me, account becoming an accountant, It was a very, uh, logical profession for me because it allowed me to help my clients manage their affairs by helping them with their numbers. And to give listeners a little more of an idea about you as people and what makes you tick, we thought we'd ask an icebreaker question, and again, very generic one at that.

It'll be the same with every set of guests that we have. If you don't mind humoring us. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, past, present, who would it be? And. Well, I think if, if I could have anyone, if I could, if I could have dinner with anyone in the world, uh, that have dinner with pe, uh, probably the greatest footballer of all time.

So he's a hero of mine. Uh, and I love, I love football and he made it look so easy. So mine's pretty simple. Uh, it's pelle. If I could have dinner with anyone live or dead, my uh, individual would be Michael Jordan. I'm a, uh, passionate basketball, used to be a player, but more fan at the moment. Uh, and you know, apart from his exploits on the court, his business, uh, success off the court is something that I would love to have a chance to talk to him about as well.

So onto the meat of our podcast topic, which is that of the report Kreston Global has very recently released and the findings of their global business culture research that it contains. Are there any stats or resorts in there that surprised you at all or stood out against your own personal experiences as interpreters?

Well, my first impressions are it's quite accurate. Um, and. Capture, uh, the topic quite well. I think, uh, uh, interpreneurs, um, and, and global business and, and what makes the move? Uh, there's a multitude of reasons. Um, but no, I think the, I think the white paper does a pretty good job, um, of, of zeroing in on, on a lot of the, on a lot of the things that interpreneurs go through.

Yeah. From my perspective, having. Having a business in a expat, an internationally focused city, uh, the themes and, and collective feedback of of the people that were interviewed for the white paper absolutely resonated with me. And, you know, there were anecdotes and examples throughout the white paper, which I see on a, on a daily basis with my client base and prospective clients.

So, so looking at the key findings of the white paper with regard to our region, uh, Singapore and Southeast Asia, I think that the key, the key findings are for the most part, um, correct. I think, uh, I would say one of the things that struck me, um, supply chain issues, Post covid really have, have been more of the threat than the, than the opportunity.

So that's, that was one of the key findings. Um, particularly given what's been going on with shipping and container prices and just getting access to, uh, access to, to goods, um, has been, has been a problem. Um, so that's what I'd say about, um, those findings. And for me, uh, looking at. Findings. My, I I found it particularly interesting of, um, the fact, I, I would agree that a lack of familiarity with the local issues are something that was definitely holding back preneurs.

Um, you know, the thought of, well, it worked in this market, so it obviously should work in the other market is not something. Is really something you can look at. As a rule of thumb today, I think each market certainly has their own characteristics and nuances that any interpreneur or anyone looking to expand into this part of the world in particular, uh, needs to take time and careful consideration in understanding before taking the leap.

I mean, considered, you know, Business etiquette, expectation of communication, how quickly decisions are made, who makes the decisions? How many meetings do we need to have before we get to the person who will actually say yes or no. These things are, you know, things that you'd need to understand and you, you certainly, if you're serious about entering a market, Such as Southeast Asia, then you'd need to have advisors on the ground who are familiar and able to guide you and help you through that process.

Just jumping in there for a sec. Also, I think the culture point, uh, in this part of the world. Uh, is also impacted upon by the history and, and, and heritage of the, of the country. So, um, Singapore's, uh, heavily been in influenced by the British and so it's way of doing business generally. You know, common law, commonwealth, uh, similar type institutions, um, may give somebody the impress.

That it's that you can bring a, a, a British business practice to to a Singapore, but then of course you'll find that you can't because the mode of communicating and the way people, the way people speak, uh, and the way they interpret the message that's being given is totally different to the uk. Uh, and so if you go next door to Malaysia, Which, you know, culturally, again, quite different from, from Singapore, uh, similar institutions.

But again, language messaging, uh, and you know, what, what they will do, um, when, when challenged, or what they will do when pushed as a, as a, as a leadership group. Totally different again from what you might get in S sw one. Look, nothing jumped out at me. Um, Something that I didn't, I didn't agree with. Um, I think it's hit, you know, there was, you know, seven or eight key findings that, that, uh, were, were mentioned.

I didn't take objection with any of them. I think, um, if, if one I would comment upon, um, would be, I, I obviously don't agree that Western Europe and the US are, are key. Um, I think, you know, Asia is, and for the foreseeable future will be the, the, the market to be in and the growth engine, uh, of the world.

And I think if anything, the recent events have shown the fragility, um, of, uh, the western economy's supply chains and the cohesiveness of the. , but I think Asia is so sprawling and diverse and they are far, um, more, uh, how shall I put it, Less likely to get into conflict with each other that it makes for a more harm harmonious place to do business.

Um, the Singapore itself, uh, is a, is is the key launching pad in Southeast Asia. And I can't think of a better place to, to grow a market from. So if I was looking at a key target, um, it, it wouldn't be Western Europe, um, or the US to be frank. It would be, it'd be, uh, Asia, uh, Asia Pacific, which obviously includes the wonderful country of Australia where we gotta throw that in.

Yeah, I, I totally agree with John. I, the market. And the number of inquiries that we are seeing on a regular basis about companies wanting to set up in a, in Singapore, and primarily because they believe it's, uh, you know, a safe jurisdiction, stable jurisdiction. Geographically is located in a fantastic spot.

You know, you can get anywhere throughout Southeast Asia and Greater Asia. Um, and if you were interested in expanding into Europe and, and the us you know, like likewise the transportation hubs and mobility, ease of mobility is there. Uh, but certainly. Based on what discussions I've had with prospective clients and and clients that we have in the practice here in Singapore, there's certainly a focus away from the traditional western markets of Europe and, and North America and the usa primarily because of this lack of stability and uncer and the high levels of uncertainty in terms.

Simple things like banking. You know, how can we be sure that if I start entering agreements with this jurisdiction in the European Union, that sanctions aren't going to be suddenly imposed overnight because the government makes some decision in relation to the Ukrainian conflict. So that kind of has made people more wary.

Where can we actually find sustainable growth? I think is is the key, right? Obviously those markets are new markets that they want to explore, but on stability and sustainability, Uh, metrics. Asia is Southeast Asia, and the greater Asia region is, is certainly the focus for a lot of our clients. And as we've, um mentioned before, in previous episodes, a big part of Kristen's research and subsequent report has been around this idea of an interpreneur.

Coined phrasing for international interpreneur, and it would be great to hear what you all take the mindset of a successful interpreneur to be. What gives them that confidence to take that leap of faith, which, you know, if you're just starting out, can be quite intimidating to, to kind of hold fast too.

Well, I think that's a great question and, and obviously, um, having set up the practice, 30 years ago, um, most of my clients were, uh, small business people who were headed, headed offshore. Um, you know, and I came to understand that they had certain key characteristics, um, many of which I, uh, have myself, that, that led them to take the leap.

So I think in, you know, the interpreneur. Is somebody who doesn't want be constrained by their domestic market, who's up for a challenge, um, got a semi irrational belief in their own abilities and is prepared to take the plunge. So for anyone who's watched, uh, title Diving off the coast of Acapulco Co. Uh, next time you watch it, you may wanna pay attention to the fact that the time the guy jumps off the cliffs is when he can see nothing but rocks.

Because he has confidence that the tide will come back in and the water will cover up the rocks and he'll be, and he'll be fine. So all the interpreneurs out there, uh, are comfortable with that analogy because they've done it themselves. They've moved outta their comfort zone. So I think that's, that's what we have in common.

And certainly as insofar as, you know, Expat Land Global Network, we're now in 38 cities growing strongly with cress. . Um, I've had to cross a lot of cultures and go into a lot of unfamiliar environments and figure it out as, as I go along. And I think that's what interpreneurs do. Um, because if you are going to sit at home base and try and envisage every particular challenge that you might meet, and then come up with an answer to it before you've left your shores, well save yourself the trouble and go and watch some mash re.

Because you'll have more fun. Yeah. I think from a personal perspective, myself, having been born and raised in, in Sydney, um, I think my intrapreneur experience has been, you know, a lot more interest, more interesting than I had expected. You know, I mean, whilst I was born and raised in Australia, uh, my family heritage is from s.

So I speak the local dialects of Mandarin and Hawkin. Um, you know, my extended family and relatives are all residing in this part of the world. So for me, having six years ago landing in Singapore, I thought, well, this would be pretty easy, right? I can, but you know, it really made me realize that it's a diff very different.

Culture and a different approach to business in this part of the world. And it's not just dealing with clients, but dealing with service providers on the ground. Okay, So a lawyer, as John mentioned before, Singapore, with the background of a, you know, British common law system, former Colony of Britain, part of the Commonwealth.

Walk for me. I thought, okay, well my, given the heritage and native and, and language skills, this should be a breeze. But it certainly wasn't. Um, but having said that, it certainly was something outside of my comfort zone and something that I needed to learn and adapt to. Um, and six years later, um, you know, It was, it's probably been one of the most fulfilling professional and personal experiences I've ever gone through.

So intrapreneurs certainly have to be able to, and, and do obviously have a spirit of. Passion for what they believe in, passion for what they're doing, and a belief in themselves in regards to building a business in a new jurisdiction regardless of what barriers and hurdles may be put before them. Look, I think learning from failure is, uh, essential.

Um, and if you don't learn from failure, you won't be an interpreneur for very long. Uh, it'll be. Very brief, hectic ride. Uh, so I, I think most interpreneurs will look back and, uh, acknowledge where mistakes were made. Um, I, I'm certainly, uh, in that boat we've, you know, set up, set up a practice in Singapore in 2004, um, and I've expanded it into a number of countries, uh, and realized that in some markets, Um, the cross-border, uh, Australian way in inverted commerce of doing tax and providing tax services wasn't going to work.

Um, but that's a mistake that you make once or twice and then you realize you've gotta change tax. Certainly I've seen clients roll into the US and assume that an LA business culture. Equates to a, you know, a New York business culture or a Georgia business culture and think that a model which might work on the west coast is gonna work on the East coast and, and obviously it doesn't.

So, uh, you know, if they, if they accept that they're gonna need twice the capital and take twice as long, that's probably a good rule of thumb. So I think adapting to failure and recovering. Temporary setbacks is absolutely essential for any intrapreneur because until you get there, um, no matter how many books you read, you don't really know your customer.

You don't really know the business environment, and you can watch YouTube as much as you like. Uh, you are not there. So I think failure, uh, having done it a number of times, Being on pretty good terms with it. Uh, I think resilience is where is where I've gotta go. Um, burn you, you, uh, you would agree? Yeah, absolutely.

Um, you've just gotta stick in there and, and keep going. Um, you know, as, as I said previously, you know, if, if you really believe and have a passion for what you do, then you know, some people are going to. , understand your value proposition straight away. Others never will. And you learn and you take on the feedback and adapt as necessary.

You know, uh, we've had, I've seen clients come in and gone to, have come across from a different provider, but it was very clear that their mindset in terms of how. The local Singaporean tax system should work, was identical to that of their home jurisdiction in the uk. And I was like, Well, okay, I understand that's what you are used to in the uk, but this is Singapore.

Right? And there's different, different ways of doing G S T. This was all about GST registration and there were, you know, so there. Confused as to why something they would normally do in the UK didn't work here in in Singapore. And so I had to politely say, Look, it's a different market, right? You're in a different jurisdiction with different regulations and different, different business norms and approaches.

Um, so yeah, resilience is, is a key to survival in, in an intrapreneur world. It's not just about building the story, it's about building the story, selling the story in a market that you've never been in, and learning how to adapt to that market as you go along. But I think there's also another point, which, which has to be said, and that is there's a difference between resilience and, and, and stupidity.

So if it's clear that something isn't working, uh, and the rugged interpreneur wants to ruggedly drive the car over the. There'll be plenty of cliffs to accommodate him or her. So you, you've gotta, you've gotta keep your ears open and, and if, if going, you know, route one straight down the middle isn't working, um, then you've gotta adjust and, and, and, and look at if you don't have competitors, cuz you're in a unique position, then you've gotta try and figure out how you might alter your approach yourself.

If you do have competi. What are they doing and why is it working for them and why isn't it working for you? So that, that flexibility and adapt, you know, and and uh, to, to adjust your operating process is, is very important. Resilience to keep going, um, not resilience by being stubborn and just continuing to carry on as you, as you were, because that's a fast way to ba.

Great. Well, I think that's, um, that's a great place to close off for today, but part two will be released next Wednesday where we will discuss John and Boone's personal business experiences in a bit more depth, as well as share some invaluable wisdom on how to make a success of going it alone in the accountancy world and even throw a few laughs in there.

While we're at it, I know that these guys have got great chemistry. Looking forward to carrying on that, that discussion next week. If you'd like to read the report we've been discussing, then you'll find a link in this podcast description as always. Um, and we, you know, we really can't stress enough that it is an invaluable resource for those looking to expand or move their business overseas.

and join us all again next week to continue the conversation. See you soon. You won't want to miss it.