Simon Ong on his rollercoaster entrepreneurial journey and speaking at StartUp Show

Simon Ong on his rollercoaster entrepreneurial journey and speaking at StartUp Show

Posted: Tue 17th Jan 2023

Simon Ong is an entrepreneur like no other. From being in the eye of the storm during the financial crisis of 2008 to becoming an award-winning speaker, life and executive coach and author, Simon’s path to success has been anything but straightforward.

Sitting down with Enterprise Nation, Simon unleashes something of a tour de force – detailing the trials and tribulations of his utterly unique career – while also giving a sneak preview of what he plans to talk about during his much-anticipated keynote stage appearance at StartUp Show.

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur, a seasoned business owner or simply after a daily dose of inspiration, Simon’s story has something for everyone.

Let’s start by looking at your background – did you always want to forge a career out of helping others?

When I grew up, I mistakenly believed that to be seen as a 'success', I had to become a banker, doctor, accountant or lawyer.

It was a very narrow definition to work with and so unsurprisingly, after graduating from university in London, I got my first job in the financial services sector. Unfortunately, this was in the summer of 2007 (a year before the global financial crisis swept across the planet, bringing economies to their knees) and the company was Lehman Brothers, which collapsed into administration in September 2008.

It would be the beginning of a very volatile career, where I was in and out of jobs within the industry. It was a scary moment in the timeline of my life but in hindsight, it was a beautiful blessing in disguise because it was the catalyst for the longest journey we make in our lifetime - the inches from our heads to our hearts.

It made me want to explore the path of entrepreneurship and as I reflected on the value I could bring to the market, I noticed that I experienced so much joy from helping others. This led me to become a coach.

I've now worked with entrepreneurs, corporate executives, Michelin Star chefs, TV presenters and celebrities, I've spoken at conferences and events across the globe and landed a book deal with Penguin to write my first book Energize, which was published in 2022.

While a lot has been achieved since making the transition from employee to entrepreneur, I feel like I am just getting started...

You describe yourself as a life coach and business strategist. How exactly would you define this?

In essence, it is someone who helps people rip open that portal to their hero potential. To step away from being in the shadows and becoming the main character of their story. Through the power of questioning, mentorship and guidance, a space is created that allows for fresh insight and thinking.

The beauty of the work that I get to do is that there is no typical week - one week I may be abroad speaking to an audience about my work and insights, while another week may see me recording content for my social media channels and meeting with clients.

I love this aspect of entrepreneurship because there is always something to keep you interested in and excited about the journey you are on.

What tips would you give to those looking to successfully market themselves as a personal brand, as you have?

To successfully market yourself as a personal brand, you want to be focusing on these three activities:

  1. Reflect on how you can add value to people's lives every day, no matter how small. This is because your value as a human is determined by how much more you have given to the world than you have taken from it. As Dale Carnegie remarked: "you can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

  2. Embrace content creation as part of your marketing strategy. From sharing videos on social media to writing articles for publications and being interviewed as a guest on podcast shows, content creation is a must to elevate your personal brand. You might have a great product or service, but if you can't communicate what you do and why people should be interested then it is going to be very difficult to get your business off the ground.

  3. Establish exciting partnerships with other brands to open yourself up to new audiences. In marketing my book Energize for example, I partnered with the world's best bar inside The Connaught hotel in London, where they created an exclusive Energize cocktail to mark the publication of my book and with a Web3 educational platform to host one of the world's first book launches in the metaverse. Partnerships are important if you want to grow successfully, for you never get to the top alone.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to reach this level of success?

Facing challenges is an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey, and at every stage of growth, you will face them. At the beginning of mine, it was mostly about finding clients, making people aware of the services I offered and developing the mindset required to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

As the business developed, my challenges evolved. It became more about hiring the right people - photographers, videographers, editors and assistants, deciding which projects and opportunities to say yes to and adapting my business model to changing market conditions.

However, if there is anything that I have learnt when it comes to challenges it is this: it is not about what happens to you that matters; it is about how you choose to respond to what happens to you. For in your response lies your greatest power.

You can choose to be defeated by challenges or you can choose to turn them into fuel for showing yourself just how capable you are at facing whatever the world may throw your way.

You’ve been featured on countless media outlets, spoken at some of the most prestigious events in the world and have even published a book, but what’s next for you?

I feel very fortunate and grateful to have had these opportunities, especially to have had a book deal with Penguin - the world's largest publishing house. Not only did it receive an incredible endorsement from Simon Sinek, but it was also endorsed by Enterprise Nation founder, Emma Jones.

At the same time, I have an eternal student mindset and so am always looking to be better than who I was yesterday. Right now, there are lots of things that I am excited about for 2023.

Outside of the UK, I am scheduled to speak at conferences in Spain, the USA, Romania and Canada; I am having conversations with an incredible abstract artist about a collaboration for a piece of art inspired by my book Energize, and am also looking at doing more media work on TV and radio.

I am also looking to produce and share more video content on my YouTube channel (so make sure to subscribe to it!) and who knows, perhaps a second book in the works...

Moving on to Enterprise Nation - how did you become aware of the platform, and what impact has it had on you both personally and professionally?

Enterprise Nation has been a part of my entrepreneurial journey and it has been incredible getting to know the team over the years.

I first came across the platform when attending StartUp 2017 in Canary Wharf and since then have spoken at a number of events hosted by them. These include the event they hosted at Twickenham Stadium together with O2 Business which also featured the England Women's Rugby team, the Next Gen Fest event they hosted together with Facebook Business and the series of events across the UK hosted together with DocuSign.

My involvement with Enterprise Nation has not only allowed me to help business owners - from those who are just getting started to those looking to diversify their product or service range - but also helped to develop my personal profile.

I was part of a group that attended 10 Downing Street in 2018 to share thoughts on how the government can better help SMEs as they launch and grow their businesses. I also spoke live on LBC radio alongside Emma Jones about the mental game of entrepreneurship and I have made friends with some insanely inspiring entrepreneurs.

You’re also speaking at StartUp Show 2023 as one of our keynote speakers! Can you give ticket holders a sneak preview of what you plan to cover during the event?

I don't like giving too much away so all I will say is this: make sure you are there for my talk (in person or virtual), have a notepad and pen handy, and are ready to be inspired, have your creativity awakened and leave feeling energised!

Finally, how important are events like StartUp Show if you’re an individual looking to start or grow their own business?

Events like the StartUp Show are fantastic to attend for this reason: the fastest way to make progress is to design an environment around you that makes it impossible not to succeed.

You put yourself in a position where you are able to learn from those ahead of you, meet others who are on the same path as you and connect with other business owners that you can collaborate or do business with.


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