The Belgian army is not the traditional route into organisational restructuring, but it has stood Thomas Laboulle in good stead.
What’s your story?
I first started my career in the Belgium army, where I served for ten years before moving into management consultancy. My working style has largely been influenced by my time in the army, in terms of discipline, structure, and ownership. Moving to consultancy, I worked with a Singaporean telco company, where I was tasked to restructure the organization. It was a move that made me realize that there was a lack of companies that offered an all-round communications service. I founded Toku shortly after working with them with a vision to help organizations digitalize through the Cloud.
What excites you most about your industry?
IT budgets today include cloud spending, and while more enterprises are looking to move to the cloud, they need support with that journey. As businesses move their services online, there is a need to find a partner that can enable them to scale and grow to serve their customers. For traditional organisations, that includes finding the expertise and technology to manage intricate legacy systems that are complex to migrate. Toku has the hybrid expertise required to streamline their workflow and improve customer experiences without compromising their existing service levels.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
We connect with companies that want to digitally transform their business but are concerned about the complexity and impact on their business continuity. As the only native APAC player, Toku has the ability to scale their businesses through the power of enhancing the customer and employee experience. This drives us to work towards expanding our business to reach a wider audience globally. The eventual goal for Toku is to push boundaries and venture into new territories. I do believe that we’re moving towards a new era of communications and I’m excited to be part of that journey in transforming businesses.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
As an entrepreneur, I understand that fundraising is critical for growth and provides a clear runway for business objectives to be met. One useful skill I’ve picked up is learning how to select the right investor. With investors crowding up the startup scene, it’s tempting to pick the investor with the biggest cash flow. But the reality is, an investor’s most valuable investment is their experience in running a business, especially in a region as fragmented as the Asia Pacific. When aligned with your own business objectives, the right investor can be part of the company’s long-term strategy to success.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
One advice I’ve received is to cultivate an open culture within the organization, and focus on building trust. When you have trust in your colleagues, letting them make fundamental choices and taking ownership will reduce the need to micromanage and free up time to focus on what truly matters.
Who inspires you?
Richard Branson for his resilience in the face of adversity and the fact that he did not wait to be big to compete with established brands. His autobiography “Losing My Virginity” is worth reading.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
It is still a work in progress, but I keep being amazed by the potential of sentiment analysis and augmented reality. Combining both is part of the exciting innovative journey on which Toku has embarked.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would confront my ideas to the market faster instead of fine tuning theoretical aspects. There have been too many occasions where I’ve waited longer than necessary before jumping in at the deep end.
How do you unwind?
Sports in general and specifically going for a run or a swim as you are able to be alone with your thoughts in a continuous effort.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
This would be when I realised that instead of comparing our offering with the competition, we should embrace our telco roots and hybrid expertise to go after larger and more complex deals.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.
Entrepreneurship is a complex subject that many people have written about. This book is all about defining and executing a career plan that creates life impacting opportunities. It explains the importance of networking and how having the right connections can establish the groundwork for starting your own business. Of course, since it was written pre-COVID many of the suggested methods to meet new people will require some adaptation.
Shameless plug for your business:
Toku recently completed a US$5 million series A funding round, and as a testament to our commitment to bring enterprise-grade solutions, the funding will be used to enhance our product capabilities and coverage. Toku has combined local expertise, in-country infrastructure and bespoke UCaaS, CPaaS and CCaaS solutions into one compelling package – empowering the region’s biggest enterprises to streamline their communications. Since our inception in 2018, we have worked with organisations as diverse as Gojek, JCDecaux, Public Utilities Board Singapore and foodpanda.
How can people connect with you?
My LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomaslaboulle) is always open for people keen to embark on a new career in Cloud communications.
Social Media Links?
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.