Selene Chin, Head of Growth at TRIAD, tells us about the digital creative studio.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Selene Chin: We’re good, actually. Just last night, my husband and I were talking about the Circuit Breaker period in Singapore. That whole period was surreal; it was as if we hit ‘pause’ and then ‘slow-mo.’ We had meals together, we exercised, we’re blessed to be able to flow with that period. We’re hoping the worst is over, and we can all look forward to better days ahead.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded TRIAD.
Selene Chin: It’s not a glamorous story. I started my career in the advertising industry 24 years ago. Fresh out of school and eager to make a ding in the universe with great ads. I started off in a local agency and then moved on to multinational ones. I worked across all of Asia Pacific and, at one point, was flying every month. I trudged on for a long time and then came to a mid-career slump. I was steadily moving up the career ladder, but I wasn’t even sure if that was what I wanted to do and if the career was right for me.
I had the opportunity to head up the Asia HQ for a UK-based agency right about that time. And there, I got my confidence and mojo back. I realized then that I actually had in my mind all along with the type of teams I wanted to build and the type of business I wanted to lead. From there, there was no turning back, and I knew I had to start my own creative studio.
How does TRIAD innovate?
Selene Chin: We’re a creative studio, and our output is the ideas we bring to the table. Our differentiator is that moment of clarity when we can see how things can be done differently – none of these are tangible.
We start all our brainstorming sessions thinking about the audience at the core of the challenge. We put technology aside and think about the behaviors, mindsets, habits, concerns, and challenges this group faces. We would then finally arrive at a few possible solutions and then plug-in technology, platforms, enablers that would amplify the idea.
I guess the real challenge is in having space – the initial thinking process needs space to ponder, observe and consider. The idea needs space to develop. And in between, everyone who’s working on it needs to feel that they are operating in a space that doesn’t penalize thoughts, muses, even what-ifs. It’s not fancy, neither is it rocket science. It’s simply just humans thinking about how to get through and communicate to other humans in a space that is open, giving, and reciprocating.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
Selene Chin: You know, it’s funny. Whenever I’m asked about what we do and when people realize it’s ‘something digital,’ the usual response is – “That’s great, isn’t it? Your business must be booming since everyone is going digital!” But honestly, we did have a dip in business, and for a period of time through the pandemic, it was scary. I am a face-to-face person, and when I suddenly had no avenues to network in person, I was at a loss for what to do next. Everything you’ve learned about building a business changed. We regrouped, interrogated our entire pipeline, reviewed our prospecting process, and thankfully, we were able to move on.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Selene Chin: Yes. You have to economize and identify talents that are willing to go that extra mile, grinding through the journey, and have the patience to make it work together with you. The talents you work with will need to have focus, vision, and confidence in your leadership. We’ve had to make some difficult choices along the way. And really, at the expense of sounding like a broken record, it emphasized the need to keep focus, to remember what you want to achieve, and to prepare to weather a marathon, not a sprint.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Selene Chin: Yes, most of our customer and client relations are online now. We maintained our human connections even though we’re working remotely – to be real, keep a conversation going, and commit to building a partnership together. With more than 2 years into the Covid-19 pandemic and work-from-home situation, we also employed some essential tools to assist with our day-to-day – Hubspot for new customers Trello for projects.
We onboard our new clients with enthusiasm. We observed that our new clients are generally pleasantly surprised by our responsiveness and agility. There’s no pretense or a big staged induction session; we just get right down to it. Often, after working with us for a while, our clients embrace us as part of their internal teams and what results is a very human, real, and sincere relationship to get a job done well. Processes and tools keep us sane, but ultimately, it’s our attitude that builds the magic.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Selene Chin: Yes, we received some grants, and thankfully it wasn’t to the point where we needed those funds to keep the business afloat. But, the grants certainly helped, and we’re grateful for the support.
Your final thoughts?
Selene Chin: In an age where we have the technology, crypto, and the likes of modern-day transactions, it’s easy to let the next new and shiny thing stand for innovation. But keep in mind that the path to innovation is human at the core, and the tangible output is just that, an output (albeit a great, profitable, rewarding output).
In 2022, we will dig our heels deeper into Asia. We already have a robust network of partners all across Asia, and in the coming year, we are looking forward to deepening our understanding of how Asia works and engages. Global brands looking to entrench themselves in Asia will find our glocalization approach interesting. Asian brands looking to expand globally will benefit from the confidence they are working with someone who understands their DNA.