At the beginning of 2016 I was exciting to be part of the team that brought on board Elizabeth Ong as Managing Director of IQPC Singapore. Having a long history with the Singapore business myself I knew it was especially important that the leader of this business had a deep experience of both the conference industry and the Asian Market and Liz more than fits that bill.
Now almost 12 months later I caught up with Liz again to talk more about her first impressions of IQPC, her leadership style and the future plans and opportunities ahead for her team and business.
ES: When did your IQPC career begin?
LO: I began my career with IQPC in Feb 2016.
ES: And what did you do prior to IQPC?
LO: I worked at IBC Asia, part of the Informa Group Plc for eight and a half years. I started with IBC Asia as a very green conference producer. The conference industry was an industry I knew nothing about and happened to stumble on it through a recruiter. I met with my hiring manager at the time and knew from the first interview that she was a manager I could get along and work well with, and secondly, that it was a role that greatly appealed to my interests for research and learning, networking with senior level executives and developing business and commercial acumen. With a great manager/mentor, I quickly realized I wanted to develop into a divisional management role where I could build a portfolio of events. I soon became a senior conference producer across conferences in Oil, Gas & Power, Healthcare, Finance, then a Team Leader- responsible for building up the Gas and LNG portfolio and leading a small team of conference producers, and eventually moved into a Divisional Manager role, in a completely new sector, to build the Life Sciences & Healthcare portfolio.
ES: What brought you into IQPC?
LO: It was a combination of people, a new opportunity and time for a change. I knew some people from the industry already that I had great relationships with and happened to work with IQPC, who gave me an honest view of what it was like to work in the company. In addition, I met with some great people including Rick, our CEO that inspired me with his entrepreneurialism, risk taking and big ideas. The new opportunity presented was the chance to step up and manage the Singapore office. I was very lucky to have great managers/mentors, to work with great people, and to be given the chance to lead and build a division twice within IBC Asia previously, to experience different sectors and different challenges, and felt it was time to experience a change.
ES: You are originally from Australia but you’ve been in Asia a pretty long time, can you tell me a little more about what it’s like to work in this market?
LO: Asia is an exciting market. There are so many different cultures, languages, policies, frameworks and hierarchies to run businesses in, which makes it a complex, but very interesting market. I have learnt so much about different communication styles, management styles and strategies needed to produce regional events. The depth of knowledge you gain from Asia’s markets is an invaluable experience and one I’d recommend to anyone.
ES: And what about living in Singapore? What do you enjoy about life in the Lion City?
LO: Singapore is a great city. I planned to live in Singapore for a year when I first moved over, and now it’s been 9! I enjoy the fast paced environment, love the hot weather, love the different cultures and great food, bars and activities available.
ES: So what were your first impressions of IQPC? What do you think of the culture here?
LO: My first impressions of IQPC was that it is a very entrepreneurial, sales oriented, performance and results driven culture. It’s also a commercial and fun culture that works well in teams to collaborate, to deliver its services to customers and achieve great results.
ES: What opportunities do you think IQPC presents for its employees, be they new graduates or experienced professionals?
LO: IQPC offers great opportunities such as experiencing different roles within the local office; for example, we’ve had interns coming into customer service roles then move into marketing functions, or delegate sales managers moving into sponsorship sales roles and vice versa; to working in different offices globally; to working within global functions and sister companies like WBR or the SSON Network.
Within the team we’ve seen plenty of fresh grads moving up the hierarchy. Josh, our MD for the FPSO & Defense Portfolio is a great example of someone that has transitioned over the last 5 years from coming into the business as a fresh conference producer.
Aside from the career development opportunities, IQPC offers allot of hands on training including exclusive time with Senior Global Leaders like Iain Alexander, our Global Head of Sponsorship Sales or Jason Romain, our Global Head of Marketing. There is a real focus on comprehensive training and development to skill up employees that I believe is a real competitive differentiator.
ES: And what characteristics do you look for in a member of your team?
LO: The right attitude is key. I strongly believe that if you have the right attitude, a person can develop and work well in teams. Knowledge can be taught.
Next is resilience. It’s important to remain upbeat, energetic and positive to work through each day’s challenges and to continually generate new ideas.
Third would be hard working. I’ve always believed that to achieve something great requires hard work.
And finally, someone that is proactive. It’s important for team members to take action and risks. I’d rather a team member take a leap and fail than not try at all.
ES: And can you tell me a little more about your future plans for the business, what’s the focus for 2017?
LO: The focus for 2017 will be to build and grow our key LSE’s such as Customer Experience Management, Shared Services & Outsourcing and FPSO, plus to geo-clone key brands in regional markets. Topic generation and a focus on portfolio development in profitable sectors will always be key for growth and sustainability in a business like ours. With new market and economic conditions changing, new parties and policies coming in to play, fluctuating oil prices, local talent requirements etc. it’s important for businesses to remain agile and ready for change. This is where continued topic generation, launching new ideas and risk management becomes ever more important for us to be a sustainable and profitable business. In addition to this the focus is always on customer needs and objectives. We are proud to put to market strong, leading edge events and repeat customers are critical to business growth so we simply can not afford to under-deliver.
ES: I know in the past the Singapore team has always been committed to giving back and helping the community. Last year they worked closely with the Assisi Hospice and with several Cambodian Children’s Charities. Why do you think these outreach programs are important and what’s in store for next year?
LO: It is easy to forget about the importance of community and the responsibility individuals have to be kind, mindful, respectful, polite, generous and giving. Participating in these outreach programs remind us of that.
We have a social committee that will be developing the next outreach program for 2017 so watch this space for more updates!
ES: Strengthening IQPC’s Local Employee Core is a big priority for all Singapore based businesses right now and IQPC is no exception. What programs have we got in place to support these goals?
LO: IQPC is proud to be an equal opportunity and we value all our employees regardless of where they are from. But we also recognize that identifying, developing and progressing local talent is key to ongoing stability in a local market. We actively participate in grad fairs, recently we were at SMU and we have another one at NUS coming up. We were the only conference company represented at SMU and it is evident that not many grads know much about our industry. It was great to be able to educate future workers about the industry and find out what the local talent are looking for in an employer.
A lot of the graduates we talked with mentioned they weren’t sure what they wanted to do and liked the idea of internships as a way to try before they buy. For us this is great feedback and we will continue to offer internships. Plus as I mentioned earlier these opportunities have resulted in permanent placements at IQPC for top performers that enjoyed their experience with the company.
And of course all the comprehensive training and development programs I mentioned earlier are available to all our local and foreign talent.
ES: What opportunities do you think IQPC offers to ambitious local based talent?
LO: IQPC offers ambitious local based talent the chance to work in an international, multi-cultural company; to quickly develop business and commercial acumen and skills; to collaborate and problem solve; to learn and to be exposed to different sectors and industries across Asia’s markets. We think that’s a pretty unique and special opportunity.
ES: So finally what advise would you give to talent who are thinking about IQPC as a prospective employer?
LO: If you’re looking to be a part of a team of great people, to learn and develop commercial business acumen quickly, to be rewarded based on results and performance, then IQPC is definitely the right company for you.
ES: Thanks Liz, great to catch up with you.