How to be a Champion.

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The Rio Olympics just concluded, and for me there was one “Aha” moment – Joseph Schooling. Rings a bell?  To my fellow Singaporeans he’s more than a hero and a household name. To the wider world – Why? 12th August 2016, he struck gold in the 100m butterfly, beating Michael Phelps by half a body length.  Phelps – a name the world has known for over an Olympic decade.  The largest winning margin since 1972!  The two previous Olympics saw Phelps win this event. How could that have happened?

His parents sacrificed many things to get him the requisite training, education and support. The government of Singapore encouraged and supported him by deferring his national service. His dream started 15 years ago when he was 6, and since then it’s been hard work, strong belief, sacrifices and drawing strength from his idol Michael Phelps who he met in Singapore, when he was 13. Only to compete with him 8 years later and beat him by half a body length. What a story! Joseph at the Rio Olympics, likely realised that by the time Phelps would get to the 100m butterfly final, he may have tired just that much having competed and winning gold in the other events. So Joseph flipped out of the 200m event to be laser focused, capitalizing on his strength – the 100m butterfly.

I said this in my last blog. “We wonder why some people always excel time after time. It’s because they are curious, always looking for new ways / methods to stay ahead, exuding the energy and passion that drives them.”  I’d add the words  “belief” and “focussing on strengths” in there.

Back to reflecting on the rookie year, where at work we formed our L3V2 (Listen, Learn Love = Voice+Value) culture. In continuation of my previous blog, a couple more stories to share.

On one my visits to Japan, the youngest member of our splendid Japanese team approached me and raised his hand to be a sales guy. He had some ideas where and what. My Rule 1: Someone with passion and an idea on what and how, deserves more than a chance. We believed he could and would…


That is Celio, 3 years ago as a rookie to now – The APAC region’s top performer. He struck his first gold 1.5 years into the role. A new technology life cycle and mopped up some handsome net new business. And, now – five fold growth YoY.  “How”, I asked him?

I put myself in my Customer’s shoes and then my Competitors shoes and think hard. I studied harder so I knew more about the subject than the Customer does, so as to add relevant, realized value. It is also critical for me to understand the person I work with as a “person” first. Starting early is important i.e. enable the Customer’s personal win with insights. I would wait in their lobby for a call, up to 3 times a week for weeks at end,  just to get the call for assistance with a trial or the need for information.  While waiting, I would read up on the standards/specifications. That’s how I built the credibility and trust to earn my seat at the table. I yearn for more, much more…

I learnt and I learnt and am learning…observing people, their body language, tone of their voice, eye contact etc., as I read the situation and do what is appropriate.


In my previous blog, Shashi another champion told his story. There was one that was untold.

Nothing beats transparency and honesty”  he said. I asked “How”?

A client had a problem he was trying to solve.  I staved off competitive threats from right flank (product companies) and left flank (service/rental companies) companies. Given the paucity of funds, I transparently shared options for him to consider. Options that included a mapped solution – product purchase (capex) and a rental option (opex). Coupled with the advisory approach in listening and understanding the pain points, I could position an appropriate solution to the problem. 


Most times people don’t know what they need. It’s for another man or woman to understand the use models, the associated pain and it’s impact, or the gain they strive for. The smart person will connect the dots and help the Customer realize what they need.

This is how the iPhone was built. No one walked up to Steve Jobs and said I need an iPhone. He took his bets and built something based on what he realized as means to a need, without them realizing this in any obvious manner. Wright Brothers were not told to build an Aeroplane. A light bulb was invented by Edison to remove darkness, not because people needed light bulbs.

People interact with People. It’s all about the journey. The journey of learning, discovering and then doing something with that, that which matters to someone, one and all.

It is a gift towards creating “The Champion”.

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