From Car Mechanic to Business Owner: A Story of Faith, Flexibility, and Purpose

October 26, 2023
From Car Mechanic to Business Owner: A Story of Faith, Flexibility, and Purpose

Life is never straight. It is a series of winding paths, which, if we have the right attitude, may finally lead us to our purpose. In today’s blog, get inspired by someone who did just that.

Leo Reuter, a Swiss national, unexpectedly became part of the success story of Cambodia’s first Wake Park. He also played a significant role in establishing a hospitality school in Indonesia. We are confident that you will find his insights on business transformation, life, and other important topics inspiring.

Watch the entire interview by clicking on the thumbnail below or read excerpts in this blog.

From Car Mechanic to Business Owner: A Story of Faith, Flexibility, and Purpose w/ Leo Reuter

Lots of Zig-Zag Before a Straight Road

David: Leo, you went from working as a car mechanic to serving as a full-time volunteer in Cambodia to eventually becoming a business owner and investor. Do share about this journey.

Leo: I was a car mechanic in Switzerland. After I got married, I traveled with my wife who volunteered for a short time to support children using her medical background. That led to some coincidences, and we ended up in ICF Cambodia, a Christian NGO in South East Asia. My wife had important tasks and I was just a handyman around the camp offering support here and there. During a span of three months, we became friends with another young Swiss couple who were doing market research because the NGO was looking to build a business for financial support.

After the project, we eventually got ready to leave Cambodia. I was looking forward to spending time in prayer and then going back home, saving some money, having a nice apartment, buying a new car — you know all the work. But as we flew away from the Cambodian land, we felt we had left a piece of our hearts in the country.

To our surprise, before we even touched our homeland, we got a call from our new friends in Cambodia that they got a green light for one of the projects they were planning, which was an adventure park — a Wake Park. It turned out the project was quite huge and my friend was looking for somebody to support him with planning, construction, leading and running the business for the first 12 months. After we got home, we decided to quit our jobs and move to Cambodia.

During volunteering, building up this way, the park and running business for the first year, God showed us a lot of skills and we ran the project successfully.

David: And I learned that at the end of that term COVID changed things for you a bit. How did that happen?

Leo: Yeah so once the project was finished, we were quite clear that we needed to go back home. However, we had made a small investment in Cambodia. We were calculating how much money we use to pay rent for around three years, and that money we invested in buying this small land and building a small house. But towards the end of the project, our bank account was empty. It was COVID and selling a foreign house in Cambodia was pretty much impossible. But we decided to advertise it and see how it goes. After three days, both houses were all sold and that was really unexpected for me and it opened new opportunities. Now suddenly I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go home. Our friends wanted to go back to Indonesia. They were living in Indonesia before, and they had a plan, and they offered us a job.

I wasn’t really excited to go to another country with the new language and start from zero. I would have preferred to go home to Switzerland. However, we eventually decided to follow our friends to Indonesia and see if we could start something.

Long story short, we had success in Indonesia again and now we have a hospitality school together with the holiday resort bungalows and private land and villa investment. It is under construction now.

Meanwhile, we learned that the Wake Park had a hard time during COVID, and so the organization decided to sell it to the landowner. The landowner asked us if we could come back and rent the park from him and build up our own company to run the park. Our first reaction was negative since we were quite busy in Indonesia. Yet, we ended up going back since I believe in business transformation. We loved being back, and took up the responsibility happily.

Building Trust and Relationships in Asia

David: Wake Park is the first and the only such park in Cambodia, and it is a visionary project. Let’s talk about your business vision for the park, and tell our readers how to influence people? You mentioned the word business for transformation, tell us a bit about that.

Leo: I think people have different skills, different backgrounds, different performance. And for me personally, I like to be a pioneer and maybe faithful in starting something which doesn’t look really realistic. So I’m more of the guy who likes starting something and creating a platform with other people or with other talents. The vision behind those projects is definitely making money so that we have money to work for social projects.

We love to invest in the young generation in Asia. We see a huge potential and the business is just the smart way to get income and to create a working space. But that’s not the main thing. So we love to work together very closely with a small team, long term to have an impact, to share life, to learn from each other. And then the bigger impact has to be organized by somebody else with other talents to continue the work. I don’t even know what it might be in the future.

David: Let’s say we have this conversation again in three years from now. What needs to have happened in the next three years? I’d say life wise, and business wise. You want a thriving business, but what should have happened in the life of those people that you are impacting?

Leo: Well, what I see is a long-term relationship in the team, but also with God. So I think it’s very important, especially here in Asia, to build up trust and relationships. I see the young generation stepping forward with having trust in God and having trust in friends. It is about having peace, and a good family, to do good work, and to just have a positive impact. This is what I see when it comes to building trust, feeling wealthy, or having security. These things build up slowly.

David: Let’s talk about the challenges in projects like yours. What kind of challenges do you have and how do you overcome them?

Leo: Take for example as a car mechanic, my expectation for quality and speed is a little bit high. In business, if the cash flow is not really good, if we are struggling with the financial situation the pressure for my staff and my wife and everybody around me gets high. So once I get a little bit more pressure, I am tempted to bring the pressure into my team by controlling them too much or just expect too much. For that, I have my wife who reminds me every time what the challenges are. That’s how I overcome the challenge by having somebody telling me to calm down and look towards the bigger picture. It is always awesome to have somebody to reflect you, otherwise you will maybe not even recognize the situation.

Too Flexible or Too Static?

David: As a business owner, I need to trust and have confidence. And so let’s talk about this for a moment. What gives you confidence in these situations and also in these countless leaps of faith you have done?

Leo: I realized early in my life that if I put my faith in God, it turns out much better than when I succeed with my own ideals or plan. So that’s something which is that deep in my heart. My faith is pretty strong when it comes to difficult situations or mission Impossible, because I know it’s up to him. I know I am not the solution. I am not the smartest, I am not the best. I need His blessings and His guidance. And that has a big impact for peace in my heart to stay relaxed.

So it’s really as long as I have the blessings and the flow, it works. And if not, then I can probably not even change it because a lot of stuff we do, we cannot really control in Indonesia and in Cambodia. And this made me dependent on God instead of myself.

And also we have great support from friends and family. I think that’s very important to stay strong even if you have a bad time or you see for a long time to have support from outside. Also for big decisions, to have support, to have prayer from outside and talk and ask. I think that that helped us a lot to make all the decisions to last the past five years.

David: What I love in your story, Leo, is that it’s not a straight line. I mean, you started somewhere, you went to Cambodia, you thought it’s just going to be three months. Finally you ended up learning long term. How do you stay flexible and open also in this whole adventure actually to what God has in store?

Leo: I think if we are not flexible anymore, we just continue to follow the success from an earlier past. But I think there are different paths, different points in your life. Well, you probably have to move or go forward or go back to the world or whatever. So I want to be flexible. That was a decision we made when we got married.

Maybe that’s why it’s been such a crazy time the last five years. We chose to stay flexible for God’s plan. If you have too much stuff you cannot leave behind, you are probably not that flexible.

I never had a lot of money, so I never had a lot of material. So it was quite easy for me to stay flexible. But I think that’s definitely a decision you have to make if you are flexible or not.

David: I remember when I left Switzerland and I just sold everything, it was a bit scary, but in the end I actually felt amazingly good. But still, I think if you have a lot of stuff, you can still be flexible. You just need to let go and to make this decision.

Leo: I think it has a lot to do with faith again, because if you are flexible with His plans, probably the ideas coming up are not exactly what you expect or what you wanted to do. So it’s good to have trust that God has a good plan for you. And if you feel the deepest you can fall, you fall into His hands, which is still much better than a lot of other stuff we have in mind.

What Makes Your Heart Pound?

David: What if the vision you have is much bigger than you have anticipated and way out of your comfort zone? What do you do then?

Leo: Yeah, that’s basically what happened the last couple years. I laugh once in a while with my friend Libby and we just joke about how big it is now and then. It’s too big for us anyway, and we trust that God will send the right people with the right talents at the right moment, and that’s usually always a little bit later than you think. We have seen people with talent, time or money just showing up out of nowhere. I have to put it in God’s hand pretty much every day, because it definitely is much bigger than my skills or my education.

But He can use me for a certain time and then other people will maybe take over or add or expand. And that’s something we should not carry on our own shoulders. I am not sure if I could sleep well if I see the pressure from these two projects on my own.

David: What gives you meaning or fulfillment? What is the thing that makes your heart pound?

Leo: I think it has a lot to do with the story from the last two years to see that God’s plans are so much higher than my dreams. And He has so many opportunities to make something happen I cannot even imagine. And then what makes my heart pumping higher is to really expect huge things from God because He has His plans and many opportunities.

I just need a few people who are flexible and faithful enough to start and yeah I am really excited to see Asia in 20 years, Cambodia or Lombok in 20 years and see what happened, or how many lives changed.

David: Leo, can you give our readers some advice on how to live their best life?

Leo: I think it’s really good to realize that life is pretty short, like a breath. The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible teaches us that everything is like changing the winds. On the other hand, we should learn from the ends. It is important to do good work, to work hard. If you work, if you go to your company as an employee, you work eight or nine hours a day. Why not give your best shot in those eight or nine hours and be sincere in small things?

Don’t wait for the huge or the big, or the purpose of life like that. The big purpose in life is that you already have one and you can do it right now. You can do well now, you can enjoy life. Now you can be faithful to God’s guidance now. So you don’t need to wait for anything. And I think God will promote people who are trustful in the small things.

And that starts right now.

Get in touch with Leo:

Wake Park Cambodia: Unleash your watersports adventure in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Saba Lombok: Hospitality training center in Lombok, Indonesia

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