James Lim, Lead-Thrive Synergist & Founder at Emmaus Strategies

Helping Individuals, Organizations, & Communities Thrive

What’s your story?
Motivated by people who had “invested” effort into my life, to help me grow as a person, and also wanting to do something to help people in need, I made the decision to pursue my university degree in Social Work. Upon graduation, I joined the social service sector as a social worker and worked in various social service agencies. By 2017, I had undertaken various roles in casework and counselling, training and programme development over the span of 15 years in the sector. Even though I enjoyed pursuing my passion in social work, I started to realise that I was burning out towards the middle of 2017. After careful deliberation, I made the intentional choice to leave a job I love and take time to really care for both my physical and mental well-being. While taking time to rest and recuperate, I pondered the next steps in my career. I began to identify an inner desire and a sense of personal calling to want to help others thrive and get over burnout. And so I embarked on my journey as a first-time social entrepreneur and founded Emmaus Strategies, to help people, organizations and communities thrive for good. 

What excites you most about your industry?
What keeps me going and excited about my industry is really the positivity and the people in it. Personally, it is really encouraging to interact with people who do what they do and to also experience the positive spirit they bring with them. I remember the many chats I have had with social workers, social entrepreneurs, change makers and volunteers. I always leave these conversations feeling greatly inspired and encouraged, as I learn their stories and how they are now resolved to make a difference, no matter how big or small, wherever they are. Today, I carry this same spirit into my social entrepreneurship journey as my team and I seek to “fuel good;” to grow good through whatever we do. To me, this industry that seeks to grow people, organizations and communities is indeed the industry I find great meaning in and is the one place I can meaningfully offer my time, skills and experience to “fuel good.”

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia is where I was born and where I am currently involved in change-making. 

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Other than Singapore where I began my social entrepreneurship journey, I have yet to have the opportunity to work in other cities in Asia. I believe each city would have its charm for businesses. But for now, I would say Singapore, since this is the place I am familiar with and where I run my day-to-day business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
As a young social worker, I unintentionally looked through the wrong lens of how the non-profit I was working for was “competing” with other nonprofits. Things changed when I chatted with a veteran worker in the sector who reminded me that we are all working towards the same goal and should collaborate with one another rather than compete. It is only then that we would be best able to serve our service users using the array of expertise each person brings to the table. That advice stays with me to this day and so, I am constantly looking to meaningfully collaborate with others in the pursuit of the social mission I am on.

Who inspires you?
My former boss inspires me. As a director of Human Resources in a large multiservice charity, she is constantly engaged in projects and has tonnes of matters vying for her attention. Yet, her personal belief in me and how she brought me into my first volunteer programme management role, despite me not having the relevant work experience, encouraged me. She would always take the time to check-in with her team members, pray for them and would always be present at every team members’ life events; be it the birth of a child, hospitalization of a team members’ loved one or the demise of their loved ones. Her person-centeredness speaks to me and reminds me of what it means to be a true leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
As an advocate for mental resilience and mental well-being, I am constantly learning about how we can stay mentally resilient and well amidst the daily craziness at work and in our personal lives. One such area is that of digital balance through healthy email habits. I recently encountered The Email Charter by TED Curator, Chris Anderson, and TED Scribe, Jane Wulf. I am now working to tweak it for my social enterprise as part of our effort to help our team and others achieve better work-life harmony. We hope to also share our version of The Email Charter once it is ready.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe who I am today is a result of the various life experiences that I have had, both the good and the bad. So while it is tempting to be able to do things differently, if I could turn back time, I might actually not change anything at all.

How do you unwind?
My social mission and social enterprise can take a potentially large chunk of time away from my life. So when I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my kids, or the simple creature comfort of catching a humorous movie.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Asia is such an interesting region to travel. Even though I have yet to totally cover the whole region, I have had wonderful memories of relaxing on the beaches of Koh Samui and also in experiencing the culture in South Korea. 

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance” by Bob P. Buford

I read this book and it played an instrumental role in my gaining clarity of how I can meaningfully move from success to significance for the second half of my life, and it led me to start my social enterprise.

Shameless plug for your business:
They say that an organization is only as healthy as its people. Imagine a thriving business and a thriving team where positive things happen. We go beyond stress management. Have a chat with us on how we can help you to further enhance mental resilience in your people and your organization. 

How can people connect with you?
I would love to connect and chat with people who are also keen to be involved with change-making in a synergistic manner. They can reach me on my email at james@emmaus.sg or contact me on my handphone at 9058-5925.

Social media?
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/emmausstrategies/
Facebook – http://fb.com/emmaus.strategies
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/emmaus-strategies/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews

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Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.

Connect with Callum on Twitter and LinkedIn
Download free copies of his books at www.callumlaing.com

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