Lionel Lee on effective delegation as key to business success

Lionel Lee‘s life experiences — the places he has worked at, the problems he has faced, the people he has met — have provided him with tools that allow him to wear many hats as a husband, father, and boss of two different businesses.

Lionel Lee, co-owner of Playmakers and Westpoint‘s director of marketing, is a good boss and a good leader. One does not always imply the other, and vice versa, but he does both extremely well. Blame it on the excellence of his mind or his heart that empowers his colleagues. One thing is certain: Lionel Lee is a valuable asset to any organisation in which he is involved.

Let’s get to know more about him.

Q: What is “empowerment” to you?

A: To provide an individual or a group of people with autonomy.

Q: Tell us something true but nobody agrees with you.

A: There is no such thing as the perfect job for you.

Q: When did you get your first paid employment, and how old were you? What was it, exactly?

A: I was a part-time group fitness instructor whilst studying at university. This was in 2006 and I was 20 years old then.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about your journey.

A: After graduating from Uni with a double degree in law and communications, I wanted to be involved in political news reporting as a journalist, but got rejected by every media platform that I applied to – print, TV, radio even! I ultimately settled for applying for a copywriter role in an advertising agency but got rejected as well. Out of desperation, I took on the next available role – which was an account management internship in the same agency. I decided then that since I was going to be in this role that I would strive to rise through the ranks as quickly as I possibly could, simply by focusing on delivering the best of everything I touched. In some ways, this paid off after five years when I was hired as a senior account director for an agency, servicing the account for McDonald’s in the Singapore market. In 2017, I started a digital marketing agency, Playmakers, alongside my business partner, Denise, and, in the following year, made the jump from advertising to marketing by joining Westpoint Transit where I currently am serving as director of marketing. I’m very blessed that I get to wear both hats in terms of co-running the agency and having this position at Westpoint.

Q: Let’s talk about your current occupation or business. What do you do?

A: In Playmakers, the digital marketing agency that I co-founded, I support Denise (my business partner) with talent hunting and whitespace business planning, and also advise on the account management practices of the team. Concurrently, at Westpoint, I strategised and execute up all marketing and communications functions, as well as the business development side of things, as Westpoint seeks to expand beyond traditional bus chartering to become a business technology solutions provider for the transportation and logistics industry.

Q: How did you come up with this concept and carry it out?

A: I would say that I would desire to make a difference – to try and find ways to make aspects of people’s lives more convenient or efficient, whether it’s trying to book a bus for an outing, or starting a business, or getting a parcel delivered to a loved one, or simply trying to figure out how to best market their business on the digital market. With businesses that I get involved in, I don’t seek to provide a service that people pay for – I envision the companies I work for empowering business owners to get what they need to be done well.

Q: What about your line of work excites you the most?

A: To find a solution that perfectly lines up in terms of rising to the challenge that a business owner may be facing.

Q: What has been your most challenging obstacle, and how did you overcome it?

A: Changing the mindsets of individuals who have been in a company for a long time to help bring forward change in a company. The first step to overcoming this challenge was for me to recognise that a lot of the resistance I was facing was due to fear of the unknown – whether it’s job security, trusting new management, or leaving the comfort zone – which are all very common fears. Once I embraced that perspective, I could approach these individuals with more compassion and patience – and gradually earn their trust and reliance in my vision.

Q: What motivates you to go further in your business or career?

A: Changing mindsets: winning the hearts and minds of colleagues, clients, and haters even.

Q: What do you consider to be the most valuable talents you’ve acquired and implemented during your journey?

A: Those who come in with a desire to make a difference, and those whom I have managed to ignite that desire into a passion.

Q: What is the most significant mentality shift, belief shift, or “ah-ha” moment you’ve had in your business?

A: That I didn’t have to be involved in every meeting, discussion, decision, or piece of work that is carried out every day, and to trust the process and people whom we hire to do their job.

Q: What would you do differently if you could go back in time and do things differently knowing what you know now?

A: I would have told myself to listen less to that negative automatic voice in my head, and the chatter that isn’t going to help move things forward.

Q: What attributes do you believe are the most necessary for a successful entrepreneur?

A: Faith – in your vision and to stay focused despite all the chatter around you; and grit – to get through the tough periods.

Q: What are some of the most crucial aspects of establishing a successful company?

A: A good team that complements its leaders, and a leader that is humble to identify those areas that need complementing.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten?

A: Be clear, then be clever.

Q: What have you recently discovered that has astounded you?

A: Did you know that without your pinky finger, you would lose about 50 percent of your hand strength? That goes to show how important every member of any organisation can be, and for leaders to be able to identify that without assumptions or prejudice.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring and first-time entrepreneurs?

A: Just because you have an idea or concept that’s not been seen in the market doesn’t mean that it’s the next big thing – be humble enough to test and prod your idea from every possible angle, and accept all feedback and criticism without taking it personally!

Q: How can a lack of cash be overcome while beginning a business?

A: Be creative and realistic with where your money goes – instead of committing to renting an office or hiring staff, find networks, grants, freelance communities, or spaces where you can harvest such ideas for cheap – and train them to acquire the skills that your business requires! Also, if you have an area of expertise, find your way into podcasts and webinars – regardless of how small they may be at the start!

Q: What is one question you wish we had asked you? What would your response be to such a question?

A: What would be one reality that first-time entrepreneurs know about? There are going to be many, many months of what I call ‘no man’s land’ – whereby things may not be taking off or crashing/burning – and you’re tweaking, brainstorming, waiting for on-pitch results, etc. In fact, much of the time that you spend on your business would be alone, so be prepared for those by keeping a strong focus on your ultimate business goal.

Interesting nuggets from our interview:

Q: Life has its ups and downs; can you tell us a compelling story?

A: It’s a little cliche a reference but check out the latest story post by HONY.

Q: Who motivates or motivates you?

A; My wife. She juggles being a full-time mum of our kids, our household matters, and being a fitness trainer all at once – and a wife to boot!

Q: What are your favourite ways to unwind?

A: Meditating, talking to my wife and kids, and watching documentaries (I have a penchant for any non-fiction content)!

Q: This is a book that every business person should read:

A: Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”

Q: What would you do if you were to commit a crime? What would you have done and how would you have gotten away with it?

A: You mentioned “if” – what makes you think it’s not already been done?

Q: Describe the colour pink to a blind person.

A: I’d ask him or her about what are some items that are important or precious to him/her, and relate from there.

Q: What would you do if you found yourself on a (potentially) deserted island as a single survivor?

A: I’d do my best to recount and re-enact every scene from Tom Hanks’ Cast Away.

Q: How would you choose which emails to answer if you woke up with 1,000 unread emails and only had time to respond to 100 of them?

A: I’d prioritise those whom I could make a difference with, in my replies.

Q: How much would you be willing to pay for a machine that could produce 100 dollars every day for the rest of your life?

A: USD 100. While I don’t believe in things that are too good to be true, I do feel that one should experience everything at least once – as long as you learn something from it.

Q: How fortunate are you, and why are you so fortunate?

A: I am very blessed. I have been blessed with a supportive wife, kids, and teams who have been My journey as an entrepreneur and corporate jobholder could have been met with catastrophe and/or failures at many points, and we avoided that somehow. That said, being thankful for the smallest.

Q: What would you play if you could only play one song every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life?

A: Lighthouse Family – High

Q: Shameless plug?

A: Let’s connect! If you’re an SME on the lookout for an agency that can walk you through your marketing challenges and business journey, Playmakers is an SME-specialised branding and marketing agency that can help consult, strategise, and execute a personalised marketing plan for you. Check us out!

Let’s get you featured in our next entrepreneur story! If you want to share your experience, connect with us at People’s Inc.

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