Despite the success of his foray into being a restaurateur, Robert Barratt used his 20 years experience in the construction industry to found an online B2B marketplace for its professionals.
What’s your story?
Born and raised in the northeast of England, I’m a Chartered Surveyor who made the jump to Asia in 2010 and never looked back. I’ve spent the bulk of my time in Hong Kong where also I co-founded a fast-casual restaurant that became a huge hit, featuring in the national press and international lifestyle guides quickly after launch.
I sold that business in 2018, travelled the world and recently founded an online B2B marketplace for construction industry professionals.
What excites you most about your industry?
Somewhere to shelter is one of the basic human needs. So construction is literally everything to everybody in some form or another!
I’ve worked in the industry for almost 20 years and seen first-hand just how many great people are involved in creating the places we live and work. That said, having run a business in a completely different industry, I’ve also seen just how much room construction has to grow and better itself. In that sense, construction is exciting because it’s ripe for new technology, ideas, and more efficient ways of working.
What is your connection to Asia?
I should start this one by saying my amazing partner Kacey, who is a proud Hong Konger and makes sure we’re always connected to Asia in some way or another (usually through good food!). On top of that, I’ve a network of brilliant friends around the region whom I’m very grateful to know. Oh, and the small matter of a business registered there!
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It has to be Hong Kong. Everybody has a side-hustle, and the city has an energy that’s unlike anywhere else on earth. Things move quickly, and that pace is addictive!
It also helps that you can set up a business there in just a couple of days, and it’s becoming quicker and easier to arrange things like insurance and legal documents quickly too. All of which means there are more opportunities for entrepreneurs to do creative things.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The cream always rises to the top”.
I’m not sure that’s advice necessarily but, when you think about what it means, I certainly think it’s a good maxim for life – both for when things are going well or poorly.
Who inspires you?
I love sports, so get inspired a lot by athletes and love the wider narratives wrapped around a big game or tournament. In that respect, my inspiration can change daily, depending on who’s playing!
But in terms of lifelong inspiration, I always look to the examples set by my family. As I get older, I realise more and more the sacrifices my parents made and the trust they had in me to make good choices growing up. I also look to my sister, who is a successful entrepreneur and an all-round great human being.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
That shelf at the bottom of the oven? It’s for keeping food warm, NOT storing baking trays and pyrex dishes. Don’t judge.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I love studying, and I think I really would have loved to go to university in the USA. I would totally have bought into the “college” life, and I would have lived for university sports. I did actually get offered a scholarship when I’d just graduated in the UK so that could be a “what if” moment if I wanted to daydream a little. But ultimately the timing wasn’t right, and I definitely would have missed out on the people I’ve met and adventures I’ve had here in Asia!
How do you unwind?
Playing football, being in nature, doing Crossfit, and watching obscure Japanese reality tv on Netflix. That’s the first time I’ve admitted the latter in public.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Easy! Thailand, every time.
I’ve been so many times, and it never gets old. The food is incredible, the beaches are stunning, hotels are always a cut above, and the country as a whole does hospitality pretty much perfectly.
Everyone in business should read this book:
If you’re thinking of starting a business or making a big change in your life, I would always recommend You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. I probably lose a heap of credibility with that recommendation, but I don’t care. It’s awesome, and I’ve read it so many times.
For anyone running a business right now, I would recommend Influence by Robert B. Cialdini. It’s a brilliant insight into the art and psychology of persuasion that every business owner should read.
Shameless plug for your business:
If you’re running a project in the construction, oil and gas, or petrochemical industries you probably have commercial or planning problems. Quantitiv can put you in touch with professionals who know how to solve them – often at a lower cost than you’d find locally.
How can people connect with you?
You can connect with or follow me on LinkedIn, where I try to respond to every message I get (except for the weird/spammy ones).
Social Media Links?
To hear how entrepreneurs around the world overcome their challenges, search your favourite podcast platform for ‘CallumConnects‘ to hear a 5-minute daily breakdown.
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’.