Walau eh, we have known each other that long ah? Gila! (Translation: Holy Cow, we have known each other that long? Crazy!)
Yes, as you may have guessed, I used to live in Singapore. Yes, I have been known to hang out with only Chinese, Malays and Indians, not with Ang Moh (literally “red hair” — which I don’t have by the way). Through osmosis, I picked up Singlish, the wonderful language of Singapore which unites all people in Singapore.
After 2.5 wonderful years working at Thomson Consumer Electronics in Singapore where I had the pleasure of meeting my now great friend Mo (aka Maureen Tseng), I shipped off to San Francisco to work for a digital marketing shop that was part of the BBDO family. After a short year there, I met a wonderful, sincere and ultra-professional man called Lou Hoffman.
Lou and I got to chat about me joining his firm and helping with the growth of the newly formed Singapore office (along with starting a digital marketing practice). Since I was “fresh off the boat” (from Singapore), I thought, this could be interesting and fun. I accepted and, wow, never did I think the influence Lou, The Hoffman Agency and the people I met there would have such a profound effect on my personal and professional life.
After working with Lou, his wonderfully positive wife, Heather, and the rest of the U.S. team, I was back in Singapore for Mo’s wedding. She was marrying my other great friend Mark Teo. Then came Ray. If my memory serves me well, I think I organized a lunch between Mo and Ray, and 20 years later… Ray has moved to Sonoma to enjoy life (lucky him!), and Mo is still at Hoffman!
When Lou and Mo asked if I would write about my experience with the team, Hoffman, etc., I wasn’t sure really what to write. Then, finally it came to me.
It’s the people that I met at the agency that made my experience at Hoffman — and WAY after — significant. For one thing, I was able to continue to feed my “inner Asian” (I have been known to be an egg — white on the outside, yellow on the inside). I got to interact with Mo a descent amount, then clients who were interested in Asia. Lou’s vision and investment in Asia was sincere, and long term. To Lou and Ray, the key was to invest the “right” way, which meant taking the time to hire the right people (aka Mo, Zhong Li, etc.), get to know the culture of the host country, and then craft beautiful stories.
All the people that I got to work with — Michelle Herman, who became APAC’s GM for a while, Paula, Ray, Jacob Rice, Bonnie — were genuinely interested in Asia, and Mo was their guiding post, their translator of cultures, and helped bridge the gap between “Ang Moh” cultures and Asian cultures. Of course, after Mo came numerous experts in communications throughout the region, among them Tay Kuan Yan and Zhong Li.
How did my experience at Hoffman and all the people I met influence my life? Well, for one, Lou inspired me to create my own shop. I started and grew a digital branding, marketing consultancy in great part because I saw Lou’s success, and I got the “bug.” Lou taught me to be patient, and doing it the “right” way was more important than cutting corners for short-term profit. He also taught me that developing a culture inside your company was crucial to the success of the company. Seventeen years later, 45 employees later and offices in San Francisco, Barcelona, and Kuala Lumpur — I always remember the lessons that Lou taught me. I also remember all the chats that I had with Michelle Herman, and the great moral support that Paula Larson and Jacob Rice gave me way after our respective times at Hoffman. Since then, because I don’t like to sleep, my business partner and I started and raised money for a second business in Shanghai, and then opened another business selling American cars, foods and wines to Asia, all because of Lou’s bug … 😉
The moral of the story is simple. Lou, The Hoffman Agency and all the people that are still my friends contributed to my foundation, and I am very thankful for that. I wish Lou, Mo and all the current/ex-Hoffmanites continued success. If you are a client, a partner, an employee or a future employee, all I can say is simple: The Hoffman Agency to this day is still a family, and that’s amazing considering how much bigger the family has gotten. That’s hard to do!