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The power of diversifying from the inside out

This post is sponsored by FOREFRONT.

“How can we differentiate ourselves today?” – a question most well-meaning creative agencies are asking as they face industry uncertainties. Most of them are no strangers to the art of diversification. They understand it’s almost entirely essential; that it acts as a solution to overcome roadblocks in this creative economy.

So, how do we effectively manage risks and liabilities, ensuring the successful growth of our business while venturing into competitive industries?

As we continue to redefine what it means for FOREFRONT to be a fully fledged creative group, our DNA might be transient, but our business dynamics are greatly shaped by our culture-first values. Forefronteers are enthusiastic about the creative work they produce. We recognise that and nurture their passion, skills and aspirations for professional growth, in a collaborative environment that is centred on open communication.

Brewing an entrepreneurial culture

When FOREFRONT first established Foremula café in 2017, it was born out of one Forefronteer’s love for quality coffee and his entrepreneurial aspirations.

Foremula marked the beginning of FOREFRONT’s foray into F&B – a significant undertaking for our creative group, given FOREFRONT’s humble beginnings as a web-design agency 15 years ago.

This was partly made possible due to a culture that embraces diversity in individuals. We encourage Forefronteers to collaborate with one another to enhance their work, and we give them the support they need to explore creative outcomes that have the potential to grow into something more.

One example is the “CEO for a week” initiative, where a Forefronteer is invited to imagine taking the lead at FOREFRONT. At the end of the week, the “CEO of the week” presents his or her propositions, which are then shortlisted and implemented as official FOREFRONT initiatives. This empowers them to recognise the value in their ideas and explore their entrepreneurial leanings.

Cultivating passion for growth

It’s clear how helping Forefronteers discover their innate strengths has played out. In the two years of running Foremula, we’ve established our F&B portfolio FourbyFORE, which holds under its umbrella, Foremula cafe, the Chinese fusion restaurant Forebidden, the brand spanking-new Therefore café, and two more establishments in development stages.

Forefronteers of a myriad of talent came together to enhance all three of the FourbyFORE establishments, from the dining concept to the uniquely eclectic interiors.

FourbyFORE wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t embrace their unique qualities and personal passions to develop them professionally. Coupled with our experience, we were then able to launch these competitive businesses in a high-growth industry.

As we continue designing welcoming spaces for the community, where they can dine, drink and make great memories, we are not only building relationships with the people around us, but also pushing Forefronteers to realise their fullest potential, whether it’s with us or on their own.

Forging collaborative partnerships

Today, we are using FourbyFORE as a springboard to build more collaborative relationships with industry partners.

Just last month, FOREFRONT hosted the inaugural industry engagement Steamulus talk series by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents of Malaysia at Foremula. It was an intimate evening aimed at connecting industry professionals to insider insights, and it helped spark discussions on unique ways brands can use music to connect with their audiences.

Let them fly

On top of tuning into industry needs, listening to employees regularly and investing in their professional growth can do a lot for a creative agency looking to differentiate itself.

The sooner we recognise employees as essential assets in our diversification portfolio, the bigger their capacity to contribute and grow within the company, and the higher the likelihood of new businesses succeeding.

I recommend for all companies out there, no matter big or small, to start entrusting smaller business units to your key team members. This strategy not only boosts employee loyalty, but also opens doors for the company. An inclusive culture goes a long way, and is truly powerful.

The writer is Darien Mah, CEO of FOREFRONT.