Episode 16: Dan Swift – CEO at Empire Selling – Insights With Experts – by Discere
Thomas Chu is an accomplished leader with more than 30 years of solid experience in sales, business strategy and management in Asia Pacific. Mr Chu has Proven track records in building highly motivated teams and sustainable business models to deliver consistent and extraordinary business outcomes as well as extensive customer and partner networks to support rapid business growth. Currently leading the Asia Pacific revenue operations with full P&L responsibility covering 13 offices in 10 countries, Chu focuses to grow market share, revenue and profit, build and nurture strong lasting relationships with senior business leaders.
What made you go into consulting? Was it planned or did you “fall’ into the industry?
Thomas Chu started his career in software development, he then moved closer to the front line with technical support/sales consulting in software and financial services industries where he had to strengthen his problem solving skills and develop customer oriented thinking. Afterwards, he continued his career in the financial services industry in sales/product marketing roles that leveraged technical expertise and numerous soft skills. It was also the first time he was exposed to leadership roles to manage small teams. After 10 years in the workforce, Mr Chu had the chance to join the management consulting arm of Big-5 Accounting firms, Coopers & Lybrand. Here, he had the opportunity to offer knowledge and experience to help companies to improve their business operations and solve their business dilemmas. C&L taught him how to help solve client’s problems through an approach that is unbiased, fact based, with analysis and to present the findings/recommendations to clients in a clear and impactful way. This was the start of his consulting career. Afterwards, Mr Chu joined a couple of startups in 2000 (the dotcom era), in doing so, he learned a lot through the long working hours and fast pace of the industry. After the dotcom stint, he ran into a consulting firm called Resources Connection in a networking event. Finding the business model very unique and agile, he thought that he could deliver high value creation in a more cost-effective approach to clients. Thus, he joined Resources Connection (now called RGP) in 2002 when it was still very new to the region. Resultantly, Mr Chu led the charge to build out the offices of HK, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Singapore.
How has the industry changed over the years? What are you/RGP doing to keep up? How can the youth adapt to ever changing industries such as this?
Mr Chu stated that client’s expectations of consulting services definitely changed over time. Stating that they want more than just advice, but instead for consulting firms to implement their recommendations and show the results (walk the talk). Overall, there are a lot of changes to the business landscape – more new regulations across the globe, digital transformation has become a key strategy in many businesses, COVID has sped up this process and developed future workplace. As the youth, we should accommodate this change by always being open to learning new subjects and strive to upgrade our knowledge, skills and develop insights through our own lens.
What made you want to stay in your current firm for a relatively long amount of time? Do you have any advice for the youth in terms of how they can stay in their jobs for the long term?
Throughout Mr Chu’s 18 years with RGP, he was given the unique opportunity to build new business and teams (13 offices) in Asia Pacific with a lot of flexibility, empowerment and trust by the previous CEO. Claiming he was very honored, Mr Chu felt privileged to have this opportunity. Flexibility, empowerment and trust are the key reasons he chose to remain at RGP. In terms of advice to youth or individuals that are starting their career, he said that it is okay to move around and find a job that you really enjoy doing and develop a strong passion for it.
If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Grit (passion and perseverance) is very important. Finding your path (defining your long term goal) early in your career gives you focus. Mr Chu found working with mentors really helped him to exceed in his career. If you can find one or two mentors that you can talk to for advice and candid feedback, you will find yourself improving in many aspects of your life.
From the Guest Student
I personally enjoyed this interview very much and I learned more about the business world and entrepreneurship. I learned that it is important to find something that you are passionate about and strive to keep trying , trial and error is very important when it comes to starting your own business as it will take a lot of time before success.I understood that it is vital to invest your time and money into something you are passionate and interested about. Get involved and help your investments grow, instead of watching from the side and hoping for change. I found it interesting to hear that the pandemic has led to more people working from home and communicating more effectively through the use of technology. The product cycle of products has also shortened due to a more efficient way of communication between different agencies and companies. All in all, I feel very privileged to be given the opportunity to be part of this interview and gain relevant insights through a business perspective. I strongly recommend that more people join in these discussions as a lot can be learned from these interviews and new ideas can be made throughout this process
– Arvin Silva, former IB Diploma student currently serving in the Singapore Army