The ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots seem to be switched with Marc Hagelauer.
The Land of Smiles is famous for converting care-worn businessmen into adolescents. In his case, though, an island-hopping backpacker has been transformed into a respected member of Bangkok’s business community.
Not that the successful entrepreneur has entirely forgotten Thailand’s ample opportunities for leisure.
‘If I hadn’t come to Thailand I don’t think I would be able to take time off from work to play golf every Thursday,’ he says.
Marc Hagelauer has earned his weekday morning on the golf course through a decade building Food by Phone – a delivery service that will even drop off a pack of cigarettes or a pint of milk for especially lazy city-dwellers.
He arrived in Thailand 17 years ago as as a fresh graduate on a gap-year adventure – and dedicated his first six months in the country to its sun and beaches.
Then, bored of his carefree lifestyle, he took a job installing smart card systems for a French IT company. But here Marc Hagelauer also spotted his business opportunity, and initially set up and ran Food by Phone in his evenings after work.
Today, Food by Phone sends 70 motorcylists buzzing every evening between Bangkok’s top restaurants and upscale condo.
Marc Hagelauer has also put down roots in Bangkok, where he met his wife and now has two daughters at an international school.
‘You can have a sophisticated lifestyle here. If you make the effort, people are accessible – everyone is away from home,’ he says.
Marc Hagelauer celebrated the 10th anniversary of Food by Phone last year and is now cooking up the next phase in its development – marketing the interface he developed to keep track of its 36,000 customers.
‘We have used our knowledge built up over the years. Once the software system is completely finished, we may package it and market it to people in the region or offer a turn-key solution,’ he says.
Also in his sights is leveraging the streamlined operation of his company into a lifestyle closer to the one he enjoyed in his early days in Thailand.
Of course, like every long-term expat, he also has reservations about his new home. But nothing works better than an overseas trip for highlighting the appeal of Thailand.
‘When I go back to France I don’t like the fact that there’s no easy possibility of changing your lifestyle. Here, you can do a few things and completely change your lifestyle as you want,’ he says.
Tips for business success in Thailand
1. Networking is crucial…
‘Networking is very important, especially when you begin. When you arrive, it’s extremely important to get to know the other expats,’ he says. ‘The chambers of commerce are a good place to start.’
2. …but sport is even better.
‘You get to meet loads of people in a relaxed and friendly environment. If you know them that way, you can easily call them up on a different level,’ he says.
3. Invest in property.
‘My company bought its premises off Sukhumvit five years ago. The building next door is now on sale and the price has gone up 55%,’ he says.
4. Don’t fear red tape.
‘I have never had any legal or bureaucratic hurdles. As long as you follow the rules, the administration is there to help you,’ he says.
5. Focus on your customers.
‘We have stayed ahead of the competition by focusing on customer service. If there’s a mistake we work out whether it was the person who took the order or the restaurant staff or the cook… We try to solve it. We always try to maintain the quality,’ he says.