Balancing the Grind with Marcus Ho, Managing Director at Brew Interactive

Marcus Ho is the Managing Director at Brew Interactive, a digital marketing agency based in Singapore.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I own and run Brew Interactive, we’re a digital marketing agency based in Singapore. My entrepreneurial journey started right before I finished my national service (NS).

Most of my peers in NS were planning on going to Ivy League universities, but I wanted to try on the path less travelled. So I started an e-commerce business, selling tech accessories. Back then, I knew nothing about business, so the first thing I did was to go to a consumer electronics show to distribute flyers.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t work. So I started learning about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), display advertising, which slowly helped to build up the revenue stream for the e-commerce business. But lucky for us, Facebook ads back then just launched around that time period, and we took advantage of it. The e-commerce store’s sales exploded, and we rode that trend well.

The business was sold to a PE firm after that. And then I started my digital agency around 2011. At our biggest point, we grew to around 35 staff members. In 2015, we got acquired by a fintech company, but 12 months into our acquisition, the agency went downhill, with debts piling up for the first time, and unpaid vendors.

So in 2017, I made the difficult decision to take over the agency again, paid off the company’s debts and unpaid vendors with my own money, and started everything from the ground up. It was a challenging turnaround attempt, but I’m proud to say that we’ve managed to turn around the agency and even won two industry marketing awards by the end of the year.

Today, Brew Interactive (the name of my agency) has two revenue streams — client servicing revenue, and investments in startups.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’m more of a night owl, but now that I have two young toddlers, I get up around 7 in the morning, take them to school, work out for about 30 to 45mins or so, and then I’m on my desk, usually for back to back calls until lunch. Thereafter, I’ll pick the kids up from school, battle them to nap, and then back to work again. In the evenings, I try to spend some time with them, put them to bed, and then back to work. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

 We actually ditched our swanky office some time ago! And we’ve become a 100% remote agency with close to 40 staff members. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

That’s a big challenge when you’re working remotely. Unlike working in an office, where the conventional perspective would tell you that work stops once you’d leave the office, you can’t actually do that when working remotely.

So instead of work-life balance, I’d encourage people to think about work-life integration. There are a few good books on this, one of which is “At Your Best” by Carey Nieuwhof

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Yes! One thing I’m quite proud of is not touching any devices until I actually start work. This has allowed me to feel less distracted in the morning, which enables me to have clearer thinking. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

For productivity, I sometimes check out what Asian Efficiency has to say. I have also enjoyed watching the educational content on a lot lately.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I use this app called StayFocusd. It helps to limit the amount of time I spend on time-sucking websites! Another setting that I use in the iPhone is to also limit the amount of time I spend on social media.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

 Carey Nieuwhof’s content is very practical, I would suggest everyone read his stuff. Another thought leader would be Aaron Lynn.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Nope! Thanks for having me! 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.