Big 3 Media started out with her founder, Willie Lee, who possessed a hunger to make a difference in the media landscape and the entrepreneurial acumen to navigate around the challenges he and his team faced over time. In retrospect, he reflects upon how far he has brought Big 3 over the past 10 years and shares with us some golden nuggets of his wisdom and experiences.
Birth out of Desperation
Willie as a Sound Engineer in the past.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and while I had work experiences in a bank in 2008, the Global Financial Crisis had made it difficult for me to secure a full-time job relevant to my experience. I had worked part-time as a sound engineer in my university days, and after I graduated, I continued working in the media industry. I realised that Singapore’s media scene was not making much headway internationally, with little innovation in media production and a lack in utilisation of digital and online media back then. Hence, out of desperation and with the will to make a difference in the media industry, I started the company with this concept in mind.
Becoming the Disney of Asia
Willie in a jamming session back in his younger days.
I would say my vision for the company progresses over time. At the beginning, my vision was to make a difference in the industry because the “old boys” were taking a bulk of the work and we needed to create a niche in digital videos. When I had more people joining my vision over time, it slowly evolved to a belief in doing good. My idea of doing good was in the form of improving the lives of people, creating jobs with work-life balance and coming up with content that creates sustainable conversations with the public, especially for under-represented groups.
And for right now, we aim to be the Disney of Asia because we do not see enough creative work in leading conversations from characters to stories in Southeast Asia. I believe that Asia has a rich culture to offer and to tell through the hands of Asians.
Willie with his employees when Big 3 first started.
I first started Big 3 Media with only $60 and that money was used to register for sole proprietorship of my business in ACRA. Looking back, I would not have made it to where I am today without the unwavering support of my family and business partners. Back in our early days, my wife and I were living in the office and she helped settle the chores such as washing my clothes. As I was struggling in the first year of my business, Isaac, my cell group leader in church at that time, offered to join me. He then came on board to help for 3 months as a business partner, and now it has been 10 years with him and counting.
Through my course of business, I was sure to be like the captain of a ship, ensuring everything runs smoothly, smelling the horizon, anticipating future challenges and be prepared to help everyone who have joined and believed in me on board.
People as the Foundation
Big 3 Media in 2019.
Looking after my people is my utmost priority as they are the bedrock of my company. When people join me, I first look out for the values that he or she holds and whether it is similar to the company’s values – be Better, Empathetic and Creative. Secondly, I look for the polymath – specifically people with the ability to think laterally and out of the box since we are in the creative industry. Thirdly, I look for people with the drive to improve themselves and the company. These 3 essential elements are what I consider in my people.
To Rest is to Walk Further
Willie and his family during Chinese New Year.
My typical work day starts at 6.30am. I would wake up early to spend time with wife and understand family situations before sending my kids to school. I then go to the gym for 2 hours before coming to the office. At work, I would dive into an array of meetings, replying to emails, and taking some time out to find out how my employees are doing. I would then leave the office by 8 pm and head home to spend time with my kids and putting them to bed. I will then reflect on my day with my wife and do some reading before going to bed.
It has been a long journey and my family is what keeps me going. Providing for them and ensuring I can set a good example for my children so that they can be proud of their father are critical aspects that motivate me to become better. Other sources of motivation also include business partners who believe in me and some close friends along the way. I wouldn’t have done anything differently in my life, because it is part of my learning process and self-discovery.