We talked to Willie Lee, Managing Director of Big 3 Group, the only film and video production company you will ever need and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Willie Lee: My family and I are doing okay. Adapting to COVID-19 has been a challenge, with some changes to lifestyles, but we do what we can and make the best of our situation. Thankfully, Singapore has managed the Covid situation very well, and things are improving.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Big 3 Media.
Willie Lee: Well, my entrepreneurial story first began when I graduated with a business degree in 2008, to the backdrop of the Global Financial Crisis. There were job freezes in almost all the banks, and it was difficult to secure a banking job which was what I desired to do. While studying, I attended university in the day and worked as a sound engineer and music producer in a music studio at night, mainly to supplement income for books and expenses. As there were no banking jobs available when I graduated, I continued working in the studio.
While working hard in the media industry, I realized that Singapore’s media scene was not making much headway internationally. The industry had little advancement in media innovation and a greater lack in utilizing more efficient digital tools and online platforms. This made me feel that a lot could be done to improve this industry, so out of desperation to make a living and armed with a will to make a difference in the media industry, I started the business.
Big 3 Media was started with only $60, which was used to register for a sole proprietorship with the government. As I was struggling in the first year of my business, Isaac Tan, my childhood friend, and church buddy, offered to come onboard. He initially promised to help the business for 3 months as a business partner, and now it has been more than 10 years growing the business together.
Over the years, Big 3 Media transformed itself from a bedroom business to the top film & video production company in Singapore today. The business, now a group of media companies, has over 150 staff to date, spanning across 4 offices in Singapore, Malaysia, China, and India. Looking back, I would not have made it to where I am today without the unwavering support of my family and business partners.
How does Big 3 Media innovate?
Willie Lee: Innovation is a key ingredient to the success of Big 3 Media. And in order for us to keep innovating, a familial culture that values creativity is fundamental to that success, where people are treated like family and encouraged to express themselves creatively, without fear of failure, ideas, and innovation flow.
We also keep ourselves up-to-date on the latest technologies and trends in the media industry. Whether it’s virtual reality, 360-degree videos, augmented reality, live streaming, animation, or motion graphics, we ensure that we always are at the edge of innovation to remain relevant in this day and age.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Willie Lee: Similar to thousands of other companies in Singapore, COVID definitely impacted us. However, it also brought about the unprecedented opportunity. For a short time, due to lockdown measures, we were not able to film, and this definitely impacted our bottom line. However, moving out of the lockdown, we saw a surge in demand for video-related services, as businesses and organizations were looking for alternative ways to communicate with their customers, stakeholders, and employees, and making videos was the obvious solution.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Willie Lee: Most definitely. Redeploying staff from unprofitable areas and changing their roles can be daunting for many. Difficult conversations of change and disruptions to usual processes were a demanding process for managers and staff alike.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Willie Lee: Instead of meeting with our customers face-to-face like we do pre-COVID, we fully transitioned to digital means such as email, phone calls, and online video-conferencing tools. The use of online conferencing tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and DingTalk became the norm for everyday interactions and conversations.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Willie Lee: Yes, we benefited from a few government grants that significantly helped small-medium enterprises like us. The Government Job Support Scheme really helped us to offset the periods where our business was unable to operate.
Your final thoughts?
Willie Lee: Covid has forever changed the way we work and live, and businesses will need to be flexible and adapt to the new normal by learning how to transition from working offline to online. As much as the virus has brought about much disruption, it has also brought new and unprecedented opportunities if you seek it, so seize the day in this new era.
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