Darien Mah - Co-Founder & CEO of FOREFRONT International
It all started when my three initial team members and I were working for a company that wasn’t stable at that point in time. Together, we wanted to shift our focus into creating a platform where we could make a difference, and I just had this crazy idea of doing something new. That’s how we got our name: the four of us facing the unknown from the living room of an apartment – four fronts to Forefront. With our collective expertise, we started as a web design company. However, we began noticing communication problems between different aspects of a creative business, and seized the opportunity to expand into a fullfledged creative agency.
This move proved to be a fruitful one as it is one of the company’s key strength – a one-stop centre where we provide creative solutions for social media, websites and traditional print advertisements. We also have a full team along with videographers and photographers, so our communication channels are open and we have clear control on the direction of the campaigns we create.
In advertising, it’s very important to not jump into the digital bandwagon, and neglect traditional forms of advertising such as print and radio. Despite common perceptions, they’re not irrelevant but are vital elements in an integrated, multiplatform solution. With that in mind, we offer clients a mix of traditional and digital media platforms, including emerging technology. For instance, the newest feather in our cap is an augmented reality solution and touchscreen integrated multimedia design system that’s all done in-house.
My working style is rather hands-on. I involve myself in the different stages of a project, to monitor the development and guide my team to create customised solutions. I invest in recruiting and retaining talents by exercising an open-communication policy, where anyone can approach me on anything, anytime.
Currently, the company is focusing on branding ourselves as a full-fledged advertising agency with a highly personalised approach. We have not had a salesperson per se for six years because I believe in building relationships with clients to deliver the best service. We recently launched a public installation of our culture in the form of our café, Foremula, where we can have warm chats amongst the team members, and also with clients over coffee and cake – that’s how we get to provide value for our clients.
It’s actually been amazing to see how this four-man team has blossomed to over 100 talents within 14 years – and what a fantastic journey it’s been! Most of them started off as interns and executives, and they are now heads of their own departments – some even business owners on the side. I get very motivated by seeing the pride my team puts into their work, and the improvements they’ve made not only through their work but also in their personal lives. It has also been a great source of pride for me when the company won not only industry awards for our work, but also for human resource excellence with employee loyalty-based awards. We joined the 4As (Association of Accredited Advertising Agents of Malaysia) a few years ago, and this reinforced my belief that I’m on the right track with our work and our culture. I truly believe that the future of creative advertising lies in talent management.