Business matchmaker

Interview with Dominique Herold, German Centres Worldwide

The Managing Director gives some insights on why Singapore is the place to be for expanding businesses.

We spoke to Dominique about working and living in the tiger state, her passion for business matchmaking and why Singapore is the best place for expanding businesses. This interview is part of the series #peopleinournetwork.

Dear Dominique, tell us something about yourself.

All my life I have been interested in buildings, a fascination that runs like a thread through my life. As a child, I loved playing with bricks, but it soon became clear that my talent for architecture would not be enough to make a career out of it. That’s why I focused my studies on real estate management and subsequently held various positions in this industry. One example is the Corporate Real Estate department at the headquarters of the Schwarz Group in Heilbronn.

During a trip abroad for my MBA studies in Shanghai, I was deeply impressed with the dynamics of the real estate market there. Incredible skyscrapers were popping up in no time, iconic buildings were being erected and changing the skyline of Pudong and other areas of the city. That was the point where I said to myself: I have to be in Asia! Consequently, I ended up here in Singapore five years ago.

I grew up in Stuttgart and I love pretzels. If there is anything I miss from home here, it is pretzels. Besides family and friends, of course! Otherwise, I am still very happy to be able to live in Asia, especially in a country like Singapore where it’s summer all year round. I am a huge fan of water sports of all kinds and am happy that I can do sports like open water swimming or paddling here without shivering. I am also captain of an international dragon boat team, which is one of my favourite team sports.

What was your first contact with the German Centre like?

This is a really funny story that proves once again that the world is a village! When I first heard about the German Centre, I was working for the Schwarz Group in Heilbronn. A real estate agent friend of mine, who knew that I was planning to live and work in Asia, introduced me to one of his friends here in Singapore. Benamed friend was Global Vice President Sales of the Waldner Group. A perfect connection, as Waldner has its Asian headquarters right here in the German Centre Singapore.

As a consequence, I sent my first application to the German Centre – which was rejected because there was only one internship position available at the time. Fortunately, a few months later, a position opened up as Tenant Relations Manager. So I applied again – and this time I got the job!

My story shows that the right networks and a good dose of perseverance can pave the way to success. For me personally, that was the key to success and it’s the same for companies that want to enter new markets.

What is special about your current position at the German Centre?

Together with our clients and with my entire team, we can develop and implement ideas. The prerequisite for this is that we understand our clients’ business, their goals, their needs and challenges. I am sure that some people wonder why I am so curious and ask so many questions about their business. Above all, this is the only way I can be a good sparring partner for them or act as a business matchmaker to find the right experts, companies, etc. for our clients. In this way, I can facilitate the cooperation of many, many parties. In Germany, two companies can be bitter competitors.

In Singapore, competing companies work together as neighbours in the German Centre to realise their projects together. To my mind, this is the most important added value of German Centres Worldwide, which you will not find in any other business centre. That’s why our slogan is “We match. You grow.” We see ourselves more as a partner than a landlord, we bring companies together and thus enable companies to grow.

What comes to mind when you think of Germany?

Slower than Asia. Reliable. And conservative in a positive sense.

What advice would you give to a company planning to enter a new market?

I have two good pieces of advice and one best. First: Get connected work with the right people! The German Centre network houses a huge wealth of experience and is constantly evolving. We are happy to be your business matchmaker. If we do not know the answer ourselves, we definitely know someone who does.

And second: Asia is “the place to be” with a fast-growing market and huge potential for any kind of business. Singapore is undoubtedly the best place to start. Nowhere else can you get this level of efficiency, transparency, stability, innovation and simplicity. I am a big fan of Singapore and could go on for hours talking about the benefits of the city-state. Anyone thinking about getting their foot in the door in Asia/Singapore may contact me and I would happily share more details.

My best advice is to come to Singapore and move to the German Centre! There you will get the whole ecosystem you need to succeed in a growing market!

Which trends are most important for companies in Singapore?

Digitalisation is trend No. 1. This also includes internal processes and workflows. No less important is industrial automation, which is changing entire business models and the way products are sold. Industry 4.0, connectivity and smart manufacturing are just a few keywords in this context. It affects not only the products and services, but also the sales and distribution channels of every company. By investing in digitalisation and innovation, Singapore continues to build on its advantages as a hub for the entire region. It is exciting to see huge innovation hubs developing across the country for large international companies. This also opens doors for startups and small and medium enterprises. Singapore not only supports with scholarships and other benefits, but also offers the right ecosystem of a skilled workforce and a digital, innovative environment.

The second big trend I see is sustainability. Singapore realises that despite its small area, it has a big impact. With limited space and resources, sustainability is the only way to take the region into the future. The focus here is on construction and manufacturing as well as recycling and waste management. The government knows that German companies in particular can be important partners for knowledge transfer in these areas. The city state is very supportive of German companies that want to bring their products and know-how to Singapore.

What market opportunities do you see for German companies?

There is no universal answer to this. The Southeast Asian markets are definitely growth markets, but although ten countries are organised within ASEAN, all countries have completely different legal and labour frameworks and sales opportunities. To be successful in these markets, highly individual strategies are needed.

When you think of the best location to do business in the region, the answer is simple: Singapore! Location, transparency, political stability, language, ease of incorporation, skilled workforce, digitalisation and government support, to name but a few factors. Singapore is the leading innovation hub in the region and has many advantages for future industries such as MedTech, FoodTech, Industry 4.0 and many more.

What does success mean to you?

That in the end everyone is happy and satisfied.

What is your favourite place to go after a long day at work?

Colbar Café, a hidden gem in one of Singapore’s lesser known neighbourhoods, One North. The place is a very casual outdoor café and bar where many, many different people from all nations meet, locals as well as expats. I love the very relaxing community and environment.