Why There’s Nothing on The Other Side of Fear
Thinking about kickstarting your 2020 by walking a path less travelled? Not sure how to go from the typical corporate track to managing a lean team? Hear first-hand from Omar Taheri, Founder & CEO of Spark Plus Pte Ltd on how he pivoted from stable financial institutions to striking out on his own. Discover how he overcame his fears, tips for thriving, and what keeps him going in this unconventional route!
- Share with us your career trajectory in a nutshell.
I have been living in Singapore for the past 8 years and have been with various financial institutions such as Bloomberg, Eurekahedge, Swiss-Asia. Now, I have my very own venture: Spark Plus. Spark Plus specialises in non-deal roadshows for listed companies, providing them access to thousands of investors in the Asia-Pacific region. This includes hedge funds, family offices, mutual funds, private banks, and high net-worth investors.
Over time, I realised I was quite a decent networker and wanted to put my interpersonal skills to use. Back then, as Head of Business Development at Swiss-Asia Financial Services, I had the opportunity to grow its hedge fund platform business and incubate start-up hedge funds in the region. That’s when I saw the possibility of combining what I love doing most and where my talents were at. Previously, I set up a hedge fund networking event (that still remains!), and now get to leverage on my past experience to provide that connectivity with Spark Plus
- Share with us a time when you were afraid on the job?
I can still remember the moment vividly! This was during the initial period of striking out on my own. Imagine starting out on your own venture and considering the opportunity costs of leaving a great firm like Swiss-Asia. It was definitely a time of expanding out of my comfort zone and plunging into something that I was passionate about.
However, I always remember a quote from the book “Tools of Titans” by Jamie Foxx that goes:
“What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.” (Ferriss and Schwarzenegger, 2017, p.606)
This one-liner stuck with me and really made me take a different view of life. It has made me more confident as an individual and as a business owner. Because truthfully, what is the worst that could happen?
- Considering all the people you have met in your field, what personal attributes are essential for success in your opinion?
- Having an open mind. There are many definitions of this, but to me, it means hearing people out and listening to them. Everyone is at a different phase in their lives and hence, their priorities could be very different from one to another – so don’t be too quick to judge but take time to hear them out, to the deeper motivations that drive those opinions! There’s so much we can learn from someone else, regardless of their background, experience or where they are at.
- Never put people down. I guess there are both commercial and personal consequences that one has to bear if this is done. This is especially so in such a tight industry – everyone is associated with someone and word will travel. On a more personal basis, it might destroy someone’s self-belief and that could result in limiting the individual’s potential solely because of a negative remark. Lifting people up has far greater benefits than putting others down!
- Who were your biggest supporters when you made the switch?
Shout out to my best friend, Kadir Satar from Lombard Odier, for giving me the confidence and assurance that I will be successful in what I do! It was definitely a confidence booster when he mentioned that it was ME that he believed in, not just the business, and that business models can always adapt to the times.
One more thing that kept me on track was also from ‘Tools of Titans’, where it talks about high performers in the world having a common denominator: backing themselves up in their ideas even when the world turns its back on them.
I guess the above two are emotional and intellectual support pillars to keep me going.
- Can you share with us what’s the best part of your current position?
From the business’s point of view, I am very blessed to have the freedom or what I call a blank canvas to paint Spark Plus in the direction I want it to be. That’s also getting to build a great company culture with an awesome team. Over the last few years, I’m very lucky to have experienced steady growth throughout all aspects of the business.
Personally, it has encouraged me strongly to become someone who is less afraid to take the plunge. Starting my own business has helped me to develop further and positively unlock many of my limitations, whether it is trying a new sport or to pick up a new hobby. I couldn’t be happier for these spill-over effects!
- Finally, any advice you would give to professionals who are looking to make the move from employee to entrepreneur?
Go with the choices that scare you the most because it can also teach you the most. You will be surprised when you set foot on a path you thought you would never take – the rewards are truly endless! By going with that decision, you will grow rapidly and learn more about yourself as an individual!