I first met Brian Tam in Shanghai shortly before or after he had founded his company Let's Make GREAT!. A regular speaker at a variety of community events, Brian is always a wonderful person to listen to or chat with. Leaving his audience inspired he has an uplifting aura of positivity.
So, Selective Attention caught up with Brian to get his take on entrepreneurship journey, life outlook and his forthcoming book.
In your own words could you tell us about Let's Make GREAT!?
We help multinational companies in China develop new products, services and brands from zero. Most of the time, our client's internal staff are specialized in only one aspect (finance, marketing, manufacturing, etc.), so our team is hired when they need someone to explore new opportunities. That's our specialty. We're based in Shanghai and the team is made up of international Chinese, with diverse creative and business backgrounds.
How has your company evolved since you launched it in 2013?
In the beginning, we started with creativity training but soon evolved to include more consulting work. So our work has moved from the classroom into the field. Even with these changes, we saw that it was either feast or famine as a service-based business. China's business cycle has seasonalities (things are very quiet during the winter) and that kind of irregularity affected our cash flow. After about 2.5 years of this irregularity, we decided to develop products for individual consumers. That's where PROTO came from. Its a social card game that we designed to ease people into joys and challenges of entrepreneurship. We successfully crowdfunded that in 2017 on Kickstarter and have been selling it on our website since then.
You're currently working on a book, can you give us a sneak peek of when we can expect it to be published and what it will be about?
Yeah! So I know now, I'm an entrepreneur and creativity consultant, but it wasn't always that way. I studied business and back in the day I preferred the logic systems of excel spreadsheet to the chaos of creativity. I always chose the safest path: safe university, safe major, safe friends, safe first job... but I was bored and didn't feel challenged enough. That's what this book is about: choosing creativity. It's called Awrignawl Creativity and its 65+ visualized reflections (part graphic design and part inspiring principle). I wanted to capture the key lessons and be able to pass it down to that younger version of me.
What lead you to make the jump from employee to entrepreneur?
The fact that I didn't feel like I fit in, at any job. There were aspects that I liked, but it was never completely satisfying. After 7-8 years of trying different things, I wanted a way to combine my skills together in a meaningful way. I couldn't find a job that did exactly that, so I invented it. The passing of my best friend also was a key factor. It made me realize time was limited and working as an employee was basically giving it away. This really accelerated my desire to find something meaningfully challenging.
What's been the most rewarding part of your journey?
All of it has really been amazing, but the best part or most important part rather, was finding out who I wanted to be. Entrepreneurship is a kind of self-making process. Everything is dependent on you: the direction, daily tasks, and deadlines, but also deeper questions like your identity, purpose and value to society. It's kind of lofty but it has very real-world implications... like how do you introduce yourself to others, to potential clients? or how much is your time worth, really? So I often say entrepreneurship the modern day spiritual journey; it's where philosophy meets practicality.
How has this aligned personal life philosophy?
I guess society largely recognizes work and money as the only criteria of success. But there's also personal growth, intellectual challenge, meaning and happiness, relationships, and family. These factors are just as important if not, even more important to me in the long run. Unfortunately there isn't much weight given to these factors in the traditional setting. So I'm very thankful to entrepreneurship for forcing me to evaluate these intangibles and to be rewarded in the way that I value.
What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs based on your six plus years of experience?
Don't wait. Don't wait for the perfect partner, the right idea, or until you have enough savings. The only way to do it is to start small and to keep making progress. Don't wait. Start as small or cheaply as you can and keep going. Waiting is a reflection of your fear. Trust that you'll figure it out as you go along, and go.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Buy my book! Haha, no, just playing. I could talk for days, so I should probably just stop here :)
To find out more about Let’s Make GREAT! check out their website here. You can add Brian on WeChat his ID is tamonline or follow him on Twitter or Instagram @letsmakegreat.