I have spent the past few months in a bit of a daze, but somehow or other, I’ve managed to set up a studio in Hong Kong; persuade my lovely wife that relocating half way across the world is the sensible next move; parted with my Porsche under duress; and this week I began the process of packing our life into a suitcase with a 40KG weight limit. It’s clear my bikes won’t be coming!
So why Hong Kong and why now? Well, five to 10 years ago ‘going east’ was unheard of. More often than not, international growth for digital agencies meant hopping over the pond to the US, and that wasn’t something we felt was right for us back then. But for a long time now the pull has been to the east, and for Precedent, this was the space we knew we wanted to be in.
Where Singapore’s focus is on FMCG, Hong Kong perfectly matches our Education, Finance and Travel sector experience. It offers a big local market and good access to rest of Asia, and importantly, it gives our existing UK and Australian client base access to this region.
It is true that most digital agencies have chosen Singapore as their Asia base, and Singapore definitely has its appeal, but it wasn’t just the rebel inside me that opted for the less obvious choice of Hong Kong, we chose it for a number of reasons, the main one being, the belief we can make it work.
We’ve done copious amounts of research and delivered several successful projects in China. It’s this groundwork and our strategy led approach that I believe is right for Hong Kong now, and importantly, right for us now. Don’t get me wrong, this move is not without some trial and error. A few years ago we partnered unsuccessfully with a company in Beijing. We learned a lot, and this time round we didn’t rush in. Hong Kong offers the best red tape free access to the mainland, and for us, it is the right match for our services and expertise.
I love what I do, that’s why I’ve been doing it so long, but after 25 years, having overseen the successful launch of our studios across the UK and in Australia and record growth this year, I feel now is the right time for change. It’s time to take on a new challenge. Quality agencies should be able to operate successfully from almost anywhere in the world, as our office in one of the most isolated cities in the world (Perth) proves! It’s not so much the location, but ensuring you have the right people and systems in place to make it happen (not to mention a tad of luck).
Get the right people, trust them and believe in them and you’re half way there. It’s the people that form the culture, and culture for Precedent is our bedrock. We expand based on where our people want to be, we have opened seven studios this way, although I’d like to take the opportunity to say a firm NO to the person that put forward Ibiza as an option!
In truth Singapore was also seriously considered but it’s just too small, a pocket handkerchief of a country, I’d go stir crazy and end up completely pickling my liver in true expat style. I am looking forward to the new challenge and if asked, I’ll share it with readers of The Drum from time to time.
Paul Hoskins is the founder and chairman of digital communications agency Precedent, which has offices in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and now Hong Kong.