"It has been an amazing, fun, torturous, weird, satisfying, frustrating and enlightening run," offered Lou Hoffman, CEO of the consultancy.
The catalyst for the Agency's decision to expand to Asia occurred in 1994 -- a press tour in Asia for Hyundai Electronics (now known as Hynix). At the first press conference in Tokyo, the local PR agency had neglected to mention that the format for overhead projectors in Japan -- LCD projectors were still a curiosity back in 1994 -- was different from the format of the overhead projectors in the U.S. The Hyundai executive put the first foil on the projector ready to sing the virtues of the latest technology only to see roughly 20 percent of his information cut off at the screen. The journalists reacted with a gasp and then absolute, utter silence.
While this theme of "things not going according to plan" continued throughout the press tour, the mishaps gave courage to what was then a 42-person company to expand globally starting with Asia in November 1996.
Today, the Agency projects global revenue at US$11.5 million from its offices in Asia, Europe and the U.S., with an average global growth of 9% since 2012. The largest percent of the company's revenue comes from Asia, the only U.S.- or European-born communications consultancy that can make such a claim. Eschewing the conventional PR agency model that worships the P/L in each office, The Hoffman Agency has created a different type of global communications consultancy, one that cultivates collaboration across geographic boundaries.
"I've always remembered the passage from the book, 'The Monk and the Riddle' by venture capitalist Randy Komisar who points out that companies are like the laws of physics, neither inherently good nor evil," said Hoffman. "I'll take this a step further and say that companies at their best enrich employees' lives. Asia is a huge part of striving to do this."
Operating offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo, Hoffman Asia Pacific supports a range of clients from tech and non-tech industries. These include ARM, AsiaMalls, CenturyLink, Chicago Booth School of Business, CKGSB, Corning, Evernote, Fashion Walk, LinkedIn, Niantic Labs, NVIDIA, Nutanix, Parrot, Uber, Wearable IoT World, Western Digital and WeWork.
Bullet Points from the 20-Year Journey
The first staff member hired in Asia in 1997, Maureen Tseng, still works for the Agency as director of client services in Singapore.
Hoffman Asia Pacific's longest tenured client is Google, a relationship that started in 2001.
Lou Hoffman reckons his 217 office visits in Asia translate into 10.5 days waiting in line to go through immigration at airports.
In less than 15 months after the birth of Hoffman Asia Pacific, Lou Hoffman marked a new milestone in 1998 by opening The Hoffman Agency Japan in downtown Tokyo.
The Hoffman Agency Singapore in 2014 worked with the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) and Earth Hour to launch the global campaign -- "Use Your Power" -- to much fanfare with the cast of "The Amazing Spiderman 2" joining the team at the launch.
Lydia Lau has processed 17,760 employee payrolls during her 16 years at Hoffman -- definitely a force to be reckoned with.