Bea Lim: Secrets of a Successful Leader in Marketing
Bea grew up in a healthy family, but she always had another family by her side called TeamAsia. She has been working at TeamAsia, an integrated marketing experience company, since she was only six years old, being the owner’s daughter. Over the years Bea has studied hard and invested in her own development in order to be recognised as a real asset to the company, as she is today. Bea is not afraid of change and embraces the challenges it brings. In this interview she reveals to us how TeamAsia has managed to remain a leader in its field of business despite the recent difficult times. For Bea, the relationship with the staff is like a family and this is probably the key to her success as a Managing Director. The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed a number of business and personal priorities and today Bea devotes more time to yoga, cooking and her recent certification for ‘Trauma and Tension Release’ practice.
How much do you feel the weight of responsibility that goes with success?
For me, success is all about making a positive impact in your work, in your community and in your country. When I was younger, my idea of success was all about a long list of accomplishments and accolades within a specific time frame in order to be able to say “you’ve made it” within your industry. But today, it’s really about the impact that you have in your line of work and in life in general. The responsibility that comes with it is all about making sure that whatever you do, you do it right and you do it well. And it’s a big bonus if you are able to inspire others to do the same – or at least get them to ‘pay it forward’.
How difficult has this journey been for you? What were the first barriers you encountered?
This journey has been my biggest learning experience. It’s been beautiful, exciting, challenging, humbling and everything in between. I grew up with TeamAsia. I watched my parents build it up from the start. I experienced the business’ ‘firsts’, the peaks, the valleys and the amazing growth through the eyes of a daughter, and then later on, a part of the team. I would kid around and say that TeamAsia was my first ‘job’ and I was only six years old when I started working. We would be part of an assembly line at home, helping out with event invitations and mailing them off to different parts of the country and then across Asia. It was a unique and awesome way to learn geography! I continued on with summer jobs, rotating my summers around the different departments within the agency including work like updating the database, filing accounting reports, helping out with IT, customer service and then, later on, managing my own events and projects. That’s what made me fall in love with TeamAsia. It was learning about the nitty gritty of the business while getting to know each member of the team. I fell in love with one particular account, the ‘League of Corporate Foundations’ – and that prompted me to stay on beyond the summer and work at TeamAsia full time. I was ‘TeamAsia’s’ first Marketing Manager, working directly with my Dad, Michael Hamlin. I represented the agency in various industry associations and events and strengthened relations with various clients, while honing my creative skills – especially in conceptualisation and writing. I loved every part of it. But I also wanted to learn more and expand my horizons. I went to the US to continue my studies in ‘Integrated Marketing Communications’ at Emerson College in Boston, MA. I had plans to hone my skills further and then later on bring it back home to TeamAsia. But as John Lennon said, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
My Dad passed away after bravely fighting cancer while I was still finishing at graduate school. So, I made a decision to come home and take care of my family and our business. I took on the role of Managing Director. That was a very difficult part of the journey -juggling the grieving process, stepping into a new role and bringing people together after losing such a beautiful role model and mentor. It was also about keeping the business thriving in the midst of digital transformation. Sometimes I look back and think how I managed it and then I just shake my head and thank the powers that be that I made it through. That’s where the amazing and fabulous partnership I have with my Mom comes in. She is a rock, not only at home but in the industry too. All the training, values and business ethics I received from my parents kicked in and the experience I had abroad helped me bring something new, fresh and exciting to the table. With new roles and responsibilities however, come the barriers of change.
One was having to counter the perception of being the ‘COO’ or ‘child of the owner’ instead of someone who was really at the helm managing the business day in, day out. Another was being perceived as ‘too young’ for the role, which led folks to think I was inexperienced or that I was the default. Ouch. What people didn’t see was the passion, determination and the fact that I knew the business inside out. Couple that with the grieving and it was quite rough. But that’s when I learned to focus on what really mattered, to toughen up and clear out the noise and push forward instead of just soldiering on. That’s when I learned that teamwork really does make the dream work and as long as you have a solid team with the same vision and heart as you, you’re good. That’s when I learned that success was not about the many lists of accomplishments and awards, it was powering off your laptop at the end of the day knowing you made a good and positive difference in someone’s life or someone’s work.
Can you share more about your work at TeamAsia including the big campaigns and your daily commitments?
Our everyday goal in TeamAsia is to bring our brands, partners and employees to the next level of experience. It’s always upping the ante and ‘besting’ the last thing you did, not only with your work, but also how you connected and engaged with your team members and partners. With those goals in mind, I see to it that our team of experienced experts generates campaigns that are creative and strategically attuned to the needs of brands and their audiences. I make sure that we walk the talk because it is important to meet or even go beyond the expectations of our clients in order to give them a high-level experience through all our services including events and activations, branding and design, digital marketing, content marketing and video storytelling. At the same time, I’m always on the lookout for what’s new, innovative and transformative for our clients, while ensuring our ‘TeamAsians’ are creative, productive and well taken care of. Our team comes first because happy, inspired and motivated teams deliver that extra spark! I push my fellow ‘TeamAsians’ to ‘go beyond’ and break boundaries, cultivating an environment that strives for excellence, inspiring one another to think big and be as passionate as they can be in what they do.
At the same time, I like to make sure that the workplace is a safe environment for our team to have fun, be themselves and deepen their relations with other members of the team. We’re not just an agency, or a team. We’re a family and that’s how we survived and thrived during the pandemic. We quickly pivoted and claimed the ‘new normal’, using TeamAsia’s 29 years of solid experience to take care of our clients and cultivate their brand stories. One of our biggest campaigns was launching our very own proprietary strategic marketing approach which is called the ‘Integrated Marketing Experience’ or IME. The pandemic pushed us to step out of our comfort zone and think bigger on how we can still be of service to brands. Through IME, we are able to bring our marketing efforts to the next level by empowering consumers to take part in a brand’s story by genuinely engaging them across a variety of channels. It is all about genuine and meaningful connections – which is right up our alley.
Compared to a few years ago, how much has the world of marketing changed?
A lot! And it continues to evolve with the changing economic landscape, the ideas and culture exchanges, the advancement of technology and the shifts brought on by the global pandemic. Even before the crisis, the digital age was already on the rise. The pandemic just accelerated the speed of adoption because we, both brands and consumers, were launched into a ‘new normal’ of needing to connect, to consume, to survive and to grow online. This is also one of the reasons why we developed our own marketing approach which is the IME -to be able to fully adapt to the brands and consumers’ needs. We want brands and consumers to have genuine and meaningful connections despite having restrictions, strengthening ties in order to say, “we’re in this together.” Marketing today is more than just one-way communication. It’s about going deep into what consumers need now and looking into ways to deliver next level experiences that will forge those genuine connections. You need to be strategic and data-driven, but more importantly, authentic to fully grasp the needs of both brands and consumers.
How do you make these changes benefit you as a company?
We don’t see change as a problem, we see it as a challenge and an opportunity to grow. In TeamAsia we believe in being flexible and agile as we adapt to the changes around us, both in the industry and in society. When the SARS epidemic hit Asia in the early 2000s, TeamAsia made the decision to diversify its services and also work towards getting its team to be more mobile. As we started servicing tech clients, we also adopted their tools and technology to make us more efficient and effective in our work. The investments and digital transformation through the years proved to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made when we were suddenly struck with the pandemic lockdowns last year. The shift to work from home was easier for us because the infrastructure was already in place. We got to focus on our people and our clients, helping them through the ‘big pivot’. We also have our own remote work playbook that helps navigate through the shift from onsite work to online work. It outlines not only the tools and technology at our disposal, but also ways that we can combat online fatigue and remote work burnout through time blocks, ‘no-meeting Wednesdays’, employee engagement activities and mental health programs. We also support our clients through the changes they are experiencing, especially in the marketing field. It’s not just about providing expertise in the industry, but also looking at strategies to pivot, grow and claim the new normal as partners.
Why is it so important to be able to adapt to change?
Because the only thing constant in this world is change. It’s the name of the game. If you can adapt to change you get to stay in the race. As a marketing experience firm, it is very important for us to be in the know about the latest trends, technology and strategy because that is what helps us maintain our partners’ visibility. We believe in exploring and taking advantage of new tools and ways to create meaningful connections for brands and consumers. But adapting to change doesn’t mean we’re neglecting the past. We acknowledge that there are still some things better done traditionally. Like reading from a physical book instead of a tablet because the smell of the pages just gives us a different escape and experience. It’s just about spicing things up and adding more to the table to make your dish look better and taste better. And this is what our IME approach is all about. It’s taking your game higher than ever and knowing there is no one way of doing things. It gets your creative juices flowing at all times and brings brands and consumers to the next level of experience.
Of all the campaigns you have undertaken, which one would you single out and why?
TeamAsia is a nation-builder. We absolutely love taking on projects and campaigns that are directed at driving progress and economic growth in the Philippines, which, in turn, will uplift the nation and its communities. One particular campaign that is very close to my heart is the work we’ve done with the Philippine ‘IT-BPM’ industry for the past two decades. I believe that TeamAsia grew as the industry grew as well. When it started blooming in 2004, TeamAsia came on as a partner to tell its story through branding initiatives, C-level events, public and media relations and digital marketing. Our goal was simple: put the Philippines on the map! Through the years, the industry grew exponentially, with its unique and excellent brand of service eventually becoming one of the top investment destinations in the world. Through all the twists, turns, landscape changes and technological advancements, TeamAsia was there to continue writing and weaving this industry’s narrative with the Filipino people at its core. Today, the industry stands strong as one of the main economic drivers of the Philippine economy, employing more than 1.3 million people in the industry, servicing the world with heart, passion and excellence. Getting to see this industry grow and continue making a positive impact in its community, allied sectors, the whole country and the rest of the world even amidst the pandemic, is nothing short of remarkable. And knowing we are part of this story is mind-blowing. I want to continue being part of stories like these that really move the world.
What can you tell us about Bea as a public speaker?What do you get and what do you give on stage?
I’m a storyteller more than anything. I always say that I’m in constant pursuit of stories that move the world. I love to read, write, hear and experience stories. I love building upon them, looking at the best ways to mould them into their best shape and form. Going on stage to speak is another fabulous form of storytelling for me. When I am given a topic to speak about, I really go in deep. I look into ways to make the topic really come alive, to make it pop and to make it relevant and impactful to whoever is in the audience. Then I look into means and ways to make it fun and engaging, because I believe that that’s how you make that first connection. It’s not just about the first dramatic line or how you walk on stage. It’s about making that genuine connection, hitting the right spot down to the core saying, “I get you, and here is how we’ll talk about that.” It’s about meaningfully connecting and engaging with people who want to know more, who are craving learning and growth and adventure through topics and issues that resonate with them. And yes, I give it my all – 125% every time.
What about your free time?What do you like to do for leisure?
The pandemic has changed my usual ‘free time’ for sure. Instead of travelling and looking for the next adventure and the latest foodie find, I am now doing a lot more mindful work with me, myself and I. I practice both yoga and meditation. I also like to cook and my latest obsession is ‘Bun Cha’, a Vietnamese favourite. I also like to write my ‘morning pages’ and I’ve been catching up on reading too. In addition, I finally started playing the ukulele, which I got about five years ago, but only recently had the time and the courage to start learning. I am also in the process of completing my global certification for ‘Trauma and Tension Release Exercise’ (TRE®) which is a body-based approach of releasing tension and stress from the body.