Updated: May 25, 2022
Mark Bergin - Founder and CEO of BETTER FUTURE and The Design Exec Club
Adrian Battisby - Senior Director of Interior Design at LW
Dylan Brady - Conductor (Owner) at Decibel Architecture
Richard Henderson - Founder & CEO at R-Co Brand
Stefan Krummeck - Principal at Farrells
Ophenia Liang - Director & Co-Founder at Digital Crew
Stephen Luk - Regional VP Design Service ASPAC, Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Bob Neville - Founding Director at Director to Consumer / Design Test Centre
Betsy Sweat - Head of Asia Pacific at Restoration Hardware
Mark Bergin 00:02
Hello, everybody, welcome to the 28th Design Exec Club Town Hall. I'm Mark Bergin, the founder of DRIVENxDESIGN and the Design Exec Club. Joining me here is an incredible panel of diverse minds from digital marketing, architecture, retail design, brand and brand positioning and innovation. So, we're going to actually have a look at six months back, the New Possible and also 12 months forward for the New Possible, because in the pre conversation between our panelists, we had somebody who said, it doesn't feel like six months, it feels like it was you know, it was a snap of the fingers. Another presenter said, it feels like it's been an eternity. And I think that's 100% right. What we've lost, often referred to as the tent poles of life, those, you know, that we have our life that gets strung together, like lights, you know in a tent, but the tent poles that actually give us definition. Most of us won't have had the holiday break that we're expecting. Most of us won't have gone to the conference that we're expecting. There'll be lots of those tentpole moments that have gone. For some of us it will have been a lot slower year, for others it will have been a much faster year because we don't have some of those references there. The big thing that's in everyone's mind and conversation, is about the New Normal. It was never normal to start off with - I think that's the most important thing. And so as I go through, and we talk with the different panelists here, what I'm trying to find out is, what did they think the New Possible is, because I contend there was never a normal in the first place. The first person I'm going to throw to is Adrian. You've been focusing on how togetherness and also that safety and confidence is going to happen, particularly around travel and luxury getaways, and also in business.
Adrian Battisby 01:56
Yeah, so I'm based in Hong Kong, and we have had quite severe travel restrictions around us in the region, and inbound travel restrictions that I think has hindered a lot of travel. And myself and the people I speak to, we've been talking about being together, that we haven't been together. I haven't seen my family in England since last year. And I think we're feeling that now. We're feeling the lack of the human contact. I know we can connect by video call immediately, and that's been amazing as a respite. But I think the reality is we are human beings, we are social animals, and we do want to see each other and physically touch each other and hug. And I think we're missing that. And you know, a lot of platforms talk about mental health and how that certainly, the lack of that contact is affecting us. But we will bounce back to be together again very quickly. And that then loops on to safety and security and confidence for the traveler. For us to travel, governments around the world need to have a unified procedure or a standard that everybody can adopt and travel to. So whether it's testing before you get on a plane, testing when you get off the plane, it should be a blanket universal agreement that allows travel to bounce back very quickly. I mean, we've got a vaccine in development, which is great. But we want to travel, we want to be together, we want to be with our family. And we need that security and competence in the travel industry to allow that travel economy to come back. I'm sure all the airlines are desperate to get us to travel. But it's the regulations of the governments that are stopping us from you know, entering countries. Look, for example, Australia, where you are, you can't even leave.
Mark Bergin 03:46
Well actually, so Australia is very interesting. We are in, you know, the fortress of Australia, and as people are in New Zealand, as people are in Iceland. So, the fortress side is something which is pretty common. But then even inside Australia where you know, Melbourne today, actually we've got our first day that we're allowed to actually travel and be free to do what we want to do, still within a certain range. And there's the the confidence of how do people go back into retail shops when they haven't been used to doing that. Am I setting myself up at risk. But then there's also, I went for a drive before this call and looked at the retail shops in the regional area where I am. And the main street of the town was full. But then you're going, well I don't think it was as full as it would normally be. So people have this desire to go back. But there's also, have we got the confidence there. It is a very interesting moment to go see.
Adrian Battisby 04:45
I think if, organizations can demonstrate hygiene and demonstrate sanitization and demonstrate that they're taking measures very visually and very obviously, I think that will also give consumer confidence a boost. Because we can't see the virus, but we need to see that places are sanitized and safe. And I think things like floor markings at checkout so that you, you keep a distance or check ins and airports, you keep a distance, help keep sort of confidence alive, that everybody's being responsible. That allows us then to relax a little bit more, and enjoy the experience and maybe, you know, spend some more of our hard earned cash and keep the economies ticking over.
Mark Bergin 05:26
Yeah, and I think, you know, if we were to go back to the Great Depression, we had the Roaring 30's that came afterwards. We know that there's a lot of cash that's around both in corporates and in people's home lives. So, we are going to see money being spent. It's actually, where does it get spent and what are those possibilities there. So, people who have been able to go and actually position that they've got a safe experience, that they've got something you can have confidence in, and that you're also able to get that togetherness that you could, friends that you may have missed out on? I think they're gonna do incredibly well. But that's actually partially a brand building and communication perception side. So, what that's going to do for me is throw across to Richard Henderson. Because Richard, your world is all about how do you actually reignite the imagination of people. That I think, today, I saw the team at Ovolo celebrating, you know, 10 years that they've been in business. You've helped them with some of their branding in there. How do you actually take what was a previous product and then communicate through that they've actually got these new values, you've got confidence, you've got safety, but there's also togetherness for people. Is that the sort of branding program that's there, that people are going to look at? How do you get the customer's imagination to be stimulated?
Richard Henderson 06:47
Well, Mark, you're talking sort of in a way, tactical things, products, etc. I think the bigger picture is really where people's mindsets are. And I like what Steven was mentioning. and also Adrian. I think it really comes back to that we've had a refocus on humanity. I think we really know who we are. We're getting to know each other as we are as individuals, but also how important someone else mentioned is connectivity. I think, connectivity and what you mentioned in products and things, now the big question is what is not keeping the CEO awake at night, but what is keeping the customer awake at night? And how can the CEO of an organization and product development, be it interiors, be it a travel offer or whatever, how can they perhaps refocus on that. I think the other thing too, about brands is that there's a great deal of uncertainty. You know, we've all been through this process of loneliness and disconnection. The same time we've had better connectivity because we've been able to use Zoom and things like that. One of the other aspects, I think that I'd love to encourage; we're a creative team here; I'd love to encourage what I call being courageous and being brave and thinking about what could be, given a situation where I believe, right at the moment, we've got permission to have a gear change. I think everyone's entitled to say perhaps change careers, change families, change where they live, because of this reconfiguration. And I think that's a great time for new ideas to be expressed. And it's up to creative people who are involved with talking with their clients and helping to give clients confidence, about pushing out into into new directions. I mentioned before, that I've just seen a new campaign for Melbourne about "Coming back to Melbourne". But all they're doing is talking about the past. Where is the potential for the new Melbourne? And maybe we have to talk about the past before we can go to now, then the future. But it does surprise me that we're going into a comfort zone, as opposed to perhaps the opportunity to think about something new. At the same time, we still have to have that humanity. We still need to connect. And I think at the end of the day when we look back at this, the big word is going to be humanity; big love; and a few of those things which are generous and feeling about people and connectivity and what it means to be human.
Mark Bergin 08:58
And look, I think they're very key points there. Stephen, I want to get across to you. Because you said to me, in the pre conversation, about the idea that normally with your role across China with Hyatt, that you've got to go and actually travel a hell of a lot. And you've been grounded since basically the beginning of the year, a little bit like I have. But what that's done is it's allowed you to actually work out new ways to work and new ways to get things done, and I think patience was one of the terms that you came up with. That's one of those senses of humanity isn't it, that we need to be first, we need to be patient with each other before we can start to create great experiences for our future customers.
Stephen Luk 09:40
Yeah, it actually has been a very interesting year for me, because I'm grounded. It gave me a lot of opportunities to work. So, I've picked up what I need to do with some of the people that I need to work with, and look at things differently. And be able to actually pick up some of the, for lack of a better word, mistakes or things that fell through the gap in the last couple of years. And now we can sort of, look back at it and refocus - to fix it and do it better. And then it was very helpful for me to, myself personally, to sort of refocus myself. In fact, at the beginning, I really do miss the traveling part, not because of the traveling, it's that I actually miss the quiet moment. I guess, I realized I'm an introvert, because I missed that quiet moment when I leave the office, get into a car, head to the airport, get on a plane, get to my hotel. I may probably say about 10 words, you know, in that process of like four or five hours. You know, even if it's a shorter trip. But nowadays, this year since February, on the call and talking basically starts from 8.30 in the morning until 8pm. Just non stop talking and non stop with the earbuds in my ear and close my office door. And then when in between a call, I'll run now, take a deep breath, get some water, use the bathroom. So my whole life is different. And then it almost makes me, like during my work hour, I have to think like non stop processing, realizing I didn't have the downtime I had when I was traveling. In some way, I don't know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing or what it is, but it's just so interesting to have the opportunity to being forced, almost like being forced to step back and look at, you know, do it differently. So, I found that quite interesting. I don't have a conclusion for that, but I just find it quite interesting to having the opportunity to force yourself, force myself to do things differently and think differently. And, I don't know what it will be like in six months. So, do we all just go back to the old pattern and old methods of doing? But I do hope that what I've learned in this year would be something that will still stick with me in the future.
Mark Bergin 12:36
I reflect on how chemical structures change so much, if you take one little element out, it actually becomes something very different. And I think that's what we've done with our behaviors is that we've pulled out some aspects of our behaviors and that's dramatically changed the way that we will conduct ourselves in an ongoing sense. It takes a lot of energy to put that element back in. Yet, maybe we don't need to do that. Maybe there was some housekeeping that we've got right. Because as Richard had mentioned, that change is now acceptable. And in that sense then, we've been able to change some of those behaviors. I do want to go across to you, Betsy, and thank you for joining us. For our viewers, Betsy had emailed me just before she got into the call, she had one of those unscheduled automatic updates. Which I think is the modern equivalent of the 'at home' IT department. You know, things just happen to you, rather than overnight when you're in an office. So I'm glad you're here. But for Restoration Hardware, you know Restoration Hardware is a very interesting company - you've got such acceleration in the market, you're growing at an incredible rate. But then, to see what's happened now, it's either that you accelerate up, as we've seen a lot of fast growing companies, or you accelerate down into what might be better referred to as a death spiral. Now, I don't think you're in a death spiral. So tell us about how you've been able to go and actually manage that change? Because you're almost like living in dog years. You're probably doing multiple years of growth compared to other companies. How have you found the new normal, because your client's needs have changed a lot?
Betsy Sweat 14:17
All right, well then, as you know, our company is two phases. So there's a particularly large aspect of the business, which is all B2C. That is, and I'm almost embarrassed to say, that is up 450%.
Mark Bergin 14:34
Can you repeat that ... 450%
Betsy Sweat 14:37
450%. And for those of you that know the company, the stock has gone through the roof. And so how has that happened? It's all of us sitting at home saying I cannot stand that sofa another day. And, you know, we didn't anticipate that the pandemic was going to have that big an effect on the retail portion of our business. But each one of our galleries are open, over 85 of them in the US. And yet the marketing that's been done has been very different, as people are saying, now the humanity is very different. So I think the ways that we are interacting with people at the gallery has changed quite a bit. So that aspect of the business is, as I say, through the roof. So it has taught us to do things differently. The side of the business that I'm on and that I had for Asia Pacific is a very different piece of the business. So the hospitality predominantly is in the toilet with the exception of China. Certainly Australia, where you are Mark, a lot of projects have gone on hold, which that we were counting on. We've had to redesign the strategy for APAC. And that is away from hospitality, to a certain extent a lot of F&B. But we're spending a lot of time in the multi res, convincing people to be able to sell beautiful turnkey apartments. So that has been very interesting for us. And also, we are understanding better, our sweet spot within the business. What is I think interesting for how that changes how we work with clients, and also what we do in the future, I think everyone is quite tired of only having Zoom meetings. As Steven said, we're spending all day on the computer. And for me, personally, it was getting on a plane was about the journey. It wasn't about necessarily reflecting inwardly. But it was about having that time to focus on what I was going to do with clients when I was there, how I was going to prepare for them, what I was going to expose them to, what I was going to share with them. You don't have that time anymore. Unless you're compartmentalizing your day differently, you are either sitting in front of a computer for 12 to 14 hours a day. You've got very little downtime, where you can reflect on what you've just learned, and how to apply it to new ways of doing business. But I think for the main part, we're going to be looking at having to get creative, to keep people engaged for the next, you know, 12 to 16 months. And I'm hoping that I'm wrong.
Mark Bergin 17:29
It's going to be interesting to see, you know, what happens there. And I think it's very interesting about working out what parts of the market are growing and which ones are actually probably in a hiatus or on a bit of a pause there. And that's one of those important things about having a strategy which actually goes across multiple market segments so that you can actually accelerate and pause some of them as you need there. Stefan, I want to go across to you and then talk about the Hong Kong and people's understanding of the outdoor spaces that they're involved in. Because we often think that architects are mainly involved with internal built spaces. But you've been making some observations, particularly around the urban aspects and urban policy in Hong Kong. But also seeing that a lot of people are getting outdoors and actually spending more time there. I think, as Stephen was mentioning, he's stuck in a closed up office and goes for a gasp of air. You know, what's happening with people that you're seeing and getting out in and having different behaviors in Hong Kong?
Stefan Krummeck 18:37
Yeah, I think just maybe going quickly back to Stephen and to Betsy. I think we obviously have international business as well. And, China is a big market for us. And also, I've been traveling a lot and life in the last year basically was focused predominantly on Hong Kong. And my main issue with not being able to go overseas is that I think that interface with a client and reading between the lines and having meetings where you can see how they react to things we presented, that is definitely missing and is problematic. Because I think for us to develop projects, we kind of need that sixth sense in a way, to understand what is really needed and what people really want. And I think that's hard to do when you only do it through Zoom or through another computer interchange. So I think that's missing and it affected our business somewhat. We still have business overseas, but we haven't really had quite as many new opportunities as we maybe would have liked. But Hong Kong on the other side has been doing very well for us. And it's partially because we're doing infrastructure projects. And infrastructure, I mean, it's public spending. I guess, it's always kind of doing well when the economy is not doing so well. And it's also partially, you know I mentioned culture building before, which was nice for us to get involved with. But I also got particularly interested in, sort of, resilience of cities somehow. And I looked at London. We have offices in London, and London's been doing pretty badly really, and people have been not in the office for many months. And I've looked at other parts of the world - Australia, Melbourne, similar thing. And Hong Kong was quite resilient. And I was trying to understand why that is. Because actually, perception is dense cities are bad for corporate and you have high risk of infection. And then I realized that, I mean obviously, probably in a most important overriding aspect in Southeast Asia generally, which has been doing quite well and in China. Maybe you could argue they are more for the better word of it, obedient. So they recognize the risk, particularly Hong Kong has been battled with SARS. I was here when we had SARS. And there's a mindset there, which says, this is something serious, we gotta be astute and that means the mask now, for example. I mean, I leave my home, we hardly closed the office. We were actually in the office throughout literally the whole COVID period. Which I think is really important for us because it's about meeting as we say, and interchanging and developing ideas together. So it would be very difficult from my point of view for our business to do this independently from home. We had short periods, when we were doing this but I think the dynamic was some how gone. So I think the meeting is still critical for business. And I also think there are functions in an office which you can't easily provide at home, like we do model making for example, right. There's a number of support functions which most businesses have in one way or another, which we require people to go to the office. So I still think the office will play an important role in the future. But going back to this resilient issue, other than this kind of discipline ... Now what I was gonna say is, I mean, when you leave home, you feel something is missing because you haven't put your mask on yet. It's sort of become second nature. It kind of becomes really natural, you have it in your pocket, it's there when you need it, that I think is something which kind of our behavioral pattern is quite adaptable. I think we can adjust to these things, you know, we learn quite quickly as human species to deal with certain aspects in life, right. So I think that happened somehow. And you know, like, for example, public transport. The MTR was a bit empty for some time, maybe half occupied. Now, it's pretty full again. And in Hong Kong, they determined that there wasn't a big risk to get infected in the MTR. And why is it, because people don't speak that much in the MTR? Normally. They kind of say, yes it might be relatively crowded, but most of the time people are kind of by themselves. So there isn't really much risk there. Beaches for some bizarre reason in Hong Kong, were and are until now, closed, because that's, I guess, where people gather and where they, if outdoor kind of activities, are normally without masks. So beaches were seen to be, and also kind of bars and clubs and that, were seen to be, even gyms, they were seen to be quite a big high risk element. And they were until very recently, they were all closed. Restaurants kept open most of the time, even though you could only have two people at the table, now you can have four. I think they're just relaxing it further. But life in general, I feel was still relatively natural. We didn't have to stay at home. We could go shopping when we wanted to. We could go to restaurants and that, even though there was a level of consciousness. But in reality, it was still quite a normal life actually. But what has changed is people go to the countryside a lot. On the weekends they go to the parks, they're trying to get out of the urban areas and we have so much countryside is so easily accessible. That I think is a big part of the sort of resilient city concept, that people have that breakout space. And I think when they don't have that so much, then they are more maybe more focusing on places where actually people are closer together, and therefore that may be a little bit less good for resilience. But there are other factors about offices in Hong Kong, which are quite effective. In a lot of lobbies now, they put temperature measures up. So when you get into your building you get scanned, and that means you quite easily identify whether there is someone maybe in your block which has COVID. And you need to kind of increase the level of caution a bit. So the monitoring in a dense city is actually I think, a little bit easier, than it may be in a very scattered city.
Mark Bergin 25:32
It's interesting on the last Asian market Town Hall that we did, we had Andrew Mead from the Hong Kong MTR on and he was saying that little things like on their escalators, that they used to have sanitizing units that were inside the cabinetry. And now what they've done is they've exposed that working, because it used to be that it was bad to say that you were sanitizing. Now, it's actually good to say you're sanitizing. And so that's interesting, and it goes back to Adrian's bit about the confidence and safety building in there. And he also mentioned that the amount of patronage that they've got. If you take out the changes that come in because of Disneyland, and the changes that come in through the airport not having the same amount of use, the network is basically where it was pre pandemic. And that's very interesting. So the circulation is happening. And I know Stefan, with your work that you do, particularly around infrastructure and transport, large volumes of people moving, you know, you're 100%, right. There's a different behavior there than there are in social environments that are in there. Ophenia, I want to go across to you, because Stefan brought up a very important thing, which was about the amount of business and the fact that because it's solution selling. You know, you've got the Stephen Kovey - you were meant to go and listen, you were meant to propose a response to show that you've listened, that then gets modified and then you come back with another response. Your world is very different, because in the idea of digital marketing, you're trying to hit somebody between the eyes with an offer that meets their current need. And it's kind of click now, job's done, commerce has happened. It's a very different perspective, isn't it, compared to people who are selling professional services that have that multiple iteration cycle?
Ophenia Liang 27:30
Well, I actually disagree on that statement. So it's about people. It's about people connecting to people. Well we are a multilingual digital agency, so to our clients, it's solution selling, right. So we still talk to our client, we're still missing that physical contact, that we don't fly eight hours anymore to go to the Philippines to talk to our clients. We are talking on Zoom, which is the same as everyone. I think what this past six months has taught us is for everyone that in my circle, including staff or clients, or influencers that are related in the industry, is getting more understanding about other cultures. And so what I would say is being isolated, it has made us more connected. Why? Because in pre COVID, if you want to experience another culture, you get on a plane, you land on another country, and then you experience a different culture, you get the cultural shock, and all the things that come with it, you're overwhelmed with it. But now the past six months, nobody can go anywhere. We're spending a little time actually talking on Zoom meetings like this. And people are starting to understand that anything happens in one country actually affects another country. They're starting to realize and feel that effect. For example, in the beginning of the year when China was shut down and a lot of manufacturing or bigger brands like automobile brands, they are worried about the supply train because all the Chinese factory was closed. And then they realized they connected with each other way more. And, then later this year, we got this drama from US that WeChat and Tick Tock is getting banned. And I'm not going to go into that drama, but I see a lot of positive outcomes from there. It's because all of this event actually makes people understand more about another culture. Now, when clients come to us, they say we want to do Tick Tock ad, they're not coming to say what is Tick Tock. So it's actually getting us to understand each other way better. And I think that will continue to stay for the future.
Mark Bergin 29:50
So you've brought up Tick Tock which you're right, we all know about it. But I've got a feeling if we're going to talk about Tick Tock we all need to do some type of synchronous movement so we can go to a Tick Tock moment. Or is there other paths of digital marketing on Tick Tock?
Ophenia Liang 30:08
So that is the B2C. So, it's how do you communicate to the consumer and on Tick Tock. Because the demographic is slightly younger, but even though there's a lot of 30s, and 40s are on there as well. I invite you to go and try it out, it's very fun. So it's just a different way of communicating. Not necessarily it's about dancing, it has a lot of creativity in there. And a lot of creators, they call the influences on Tick Tock creators, they have a lot of very creative ideas on how to express what they try to express. So I think it almost gets into the realm of contemporary art.
Mark Bergin 30:53
So I want to throw across to Bob Neville - Captain Locked Down in New Zealand. I think next week, you managed to get back to Hong Kong and then Shanghai, is that right?
Stephen Luk 31:06
Hopefully, yeah, it's all on schedule. But, yes, let's see what happens.
Mark Bergin 31:11
Okay, so I'm gonna help the viewers here get some perspective. So Bob was Head of Global Design at New Balance, retail design at New Balance. Then somewhere about towards the end of last year, there was a change there. And he's got his new business, which is the Design Test Studio? Design Test Lab? Help me out here.
Bob Neville 31:36
Design Test Center.
Mark Bergin 31:39
Yes see, I've got it wrong. So the Design Test Center. And you're helping to go push out assets and prepared material, for people who had these branding needs. How do you do that from New Zealand? Or is it what we've contained in the rest of this call, where you've got the brand proposition, you've got the connection to people, you've got 1000 Zoom calls, and you're doing business without having to be in physical meetings?
Stephen Luk 32:09
So I think it's, again, although, yeah, the people on this Town Hall, you know, we've met over the months and other sort of social media. I mean, I am in this garriage a lot, but I do get out and about. So we're quite lucky in New Zealand with the level of flexibility. I mean, we had a function at our house here with 60 people last night, which was a lot of fun and quite a nice celebration. But yeah, so for me with the stepping into 2020, it's not just about myself, but you know, we've got a team in Hong Kong, we've got a team in Shanghai. So what we've been able to do is whilst we're all working remotely, or depends on the conditions in the country, you know, we're working as one team. And then depending on what the client needs, we can adapt and reflect on the sort of work that we're doing and how we're doing things. But physical retail, I mean again, it's interesting hearing. I was speaking with a Canadian client this morning and they were talking about the number of retailers in this one area that have gone out of business. Whereas at the same time, yeah, I've got a couple of clients where there's probably a need to roll out about two and a half to 3,000 physical, I won't call them stores because that to me now sounds quite sort of out of date, but let's say to two and a half to 3,000 brand spaces over the coming months and into 2021. So I think it depends on the segment. You know, we heard from Betsy about, you know, Restoration Hardware. So I think it's about dealing with issues, opportunities as they rise, depending on what the brand and the business needs. And having that ability to flex and adapt and not just be in one single mindset of 'this is what we do', 'this is how we always do it'. You've got to be, you know, if this year has taught us anything, it's why human beings love being with human beings, human beings love experience. And you know, you can't just sit in your one bucket. Yeah, we always talked about omni channel approaches. You know, if this hasn't been a great learning year for that, and how you can't just, you know, operate in silos, I don't know what will. So I think there's going to be a lot of good learnings coming out of this year. Hopefully some of those learnings translate into ongoing behavior. But unfortunately sometimes, as human beings revert to type. So hopefully we do learn and we do move on and yeah, the world's a better place for it.
Mark Bergin 34:48
Yeah, I can understand that. Dylan, I want to go across to you. Because if I remember right, there are a couple of projects that you got awarded and that you've been working on since about December or February in that period there. And your comment was in the pre conversation that things have gone so fast. But you've been working on those projects now for 10 or more months. Have you had a physical meeting with any of those clients?
Dylan Brady 35:20
Mark Bergin 35:23
If you think of what that used to be, that you would have had to have been on multiple plane trips. And I know there's also a project that was coming towards the finish here in Melbourne, that you showed me from some video of when you're in the boardroom there. Have they tenanted the building, like the office project is completed, all of that workflow planning that they put in, have they tenanted or are they still holding back?
Dylan Brady 35:48
No. It's been a pretty crazy year, 2020. I had a massive tree fall on my house. My dad died. I have had to carry a studio of thankfully, never letting anybody go. We've been really lucky to be working with the projects that we secured prior. And I do believe that the cup of rapport is definitely getting lower. I'm looking forward to making those trips and having that downtime Betsy and Stephen spoke about. And indeed, seeing Stephen talk about one of those projects and make sure that we're all in the same space. I think that what this year has done for me is it's clarified that aspect that a number of people have touched on about connection. It's made it incredibly apparent to me that we are actually able to work in our industry in a very distributed way, which has a lot of upside. It's very egalitarian. I've got a lot of younger team members who have never ever been into a client presentation, able now to be party to those. And there's a lot of really interesting learning going on. I think when everyone starts to come back into the studio, there'll be a giant, great Yahoo moment. I sincerely hope though, that some of that connection that we spoke about doesn't get lost in the immediacy or the pleasantness or the rut of the last hundred years is deep, my friend. And whilst everyone's talking about everything changing, there's a lot of momentum and a lot of inertia in the industry to just get back to what it was. To Stefan's point, you know, yes humans can change. But there's a vast majority, well not a majority thank Christ, there is a vast quadrant of the population who refuse to wear masks because they believe it's a conspiracy from some mad piece of, I don't know what. I think that the joy we get from meeting people... I'm a hugger, I love giving people hugs. And if ever or whenever I meet you all for a drink one day look out. Except you Bob, you probably will hug a bit stronger than me. I think that joy, that personal connection is something that we need to maintain a treasuring of. Because if we just go back to the way it was and put 2020 out of our mind, erase it from 'god wasn't horrible'. I think we lose an opportunity to learn some of the things that were revealed to us in this time, some of the things that are important, some of the things that are not important, some of the things that are. But without COVID, without having a distributed office, there is no way I would have had the opportunity to spend my dad's last month with him. Because I would never have thought that I could do that. But actually, I could. There's a bloody modem and a computer, and I could be wherever I want to be and still talk to everybody exactly normally, and yet be remote in another space.
Mark Bergin 39:23
So we get those realization moments that there is a possibility that we may not have considered. But I think also with that there's a high likelihood that a lot of people are going to come back with degrees of resilience challenges, or underlying trauma that in there. And on the weekend I found myself that I had two episodes where I teared up. One when I was listening to a song and I just was overwhelmed. Wow, you must be... I thought I was in much better condition than I was. The other one was, I finished doing something in my garden and I look back on it, and I tiered up again. I'm thinking, that's a pretty good indication that your resilience is pretty low. And that 'Roner Coaster' seems to have got a lot of us. And then when we all get pushed back into an office together, that's going to be very challenging, because people who are a little bit frayed are going to become very frayed very quickly. So, being able to listen and understand each other, it's going to be hugely important. Now, I really want to go through and actually, as we come into wrap up here, because you know, we've been going for about 40 minutes. I want to find out in this idea of the New Possible, has there been anything that's come up for any of you that you say, I want to make sure that we actually, you know, cap this out and that we close and we talk about it before we start to go into that. You know, I think Betsy that you've talked about an amazing difference in the world that's coming in for Restoration Hardware. One part of the business that has skyrocketed, which is fantastic. That's because we're all sitting at home. But you've another part of the business that's had huge dead ends and interruptions from plans that were well set. And now you've had to go and explore other things. Is that too demanding on the team? Or have you had to start to put in alternate ways to actually go deal with the team to keep their resilience up? What's been your success there?
Betsy Sweat 41:34
In fact, it's been interesting, because we we talk about what's happening within us, within our client base. But I think we sometimes forget about the mental health of our staff, and keeping them not only motivated, but making sure they are in good shape. And so, having those conversations with people internally about making sure if you need a mental health day, do it, we've got your back. I think it's for us, changed the way that we look at the business. We've become a very close knit team, not only within Asia Pacific, but within Restoration Hardware, certainly within the International. We've taken the time to share ideas that have worked, to celebrate successes. I'm literally down to being on a call where some people are in their morning clothing and breakfast, and other people are drinking champagne. But it's about getting together and even the small successes, you know, moving a project forward closing a project. And it has been a difficult way of doing things. But I think we've all come together beautifully. And then also reaching across the pond for us, not only for Europe, where we've got a tremendous number of plans for galleries opening, first in England then in Paris then in London. And then moving across to North America were things in our contract business have been the most challenging. So it's, as I said, it's really thinking humanly again, about how we can really bolster each other - whether it's someone that reports to you, someone that has to influence a client to help you get your business across the line, or it's just in general, people that you interact with. In particular, as you know, in Hong Kong, it's a very, very collaborative group. Even those that compete against each other, share in the success when someone has done well and share in the heart when someone is really struggling. So I love that about what we do here, not only in the industry, but in the country in a wider sense.
Mark Bergin 43:53
Yeah, that's fantastic. Adrian, I want to just pick up with you because I think you've had a lot of change in the way that you've had to go do your presentations to your clients, because so much of it would have been boards and textures and the weight of materials. How have you tackled that?
Adrian Battisby 44:12
It's been really interesting. At the beginning of COVID when we were working with some of our partners and clients in lockdown, we were having meetings and our clients would maybe not have the camera on, we couldn't see them, or they just be using their smartphone to view a presentation. We realized very quickly that we have to unpack how we do a presentation and repackage it almost in a way in a filmic way. Because we have to tell the story very visually versus somebody standing there going, this is what we're doing and you're in a big meeting room and there's all the people around you. And that's been something we've learned from, because in a way, it's added depth to how we communicate our ideas. And we now go into much more detail about how we've got to where we've got to. We just don't start with the brief and end with a product. We really go in more depth and take the client on the journey. Because we're having to do it remotely and not in person. We can't stand around a big plan printed on a big piece of paper and point at something and say this means because of this, and it relates back to how we're coming into the space. We have to do it very, very cinematically and visually, which has been learning and also great, because we've funnily enough, had a look back at what we've achieved this year. And some of our best work has been our most recent work, where we've really thought about how do we tell that story to somebody who is seeing it digitally for the first time and not seeing it cohesively in a meeting room. Normally, we put all the boards out. The clients can very quickly take in the presentation. And you know, your mind is very fast, and you digest it. On the screen, as you're going click, slide by slide, by slide or it's a movie, it's got to tell so much of the story itself without you or the designer interacting. So it's been a different format. But it's been quite exciting for us to add a new string to our bow in our presentations.
Richard Henderson 46:06
Can I just add on something like that about what Adrian's talking about which obviously is about what creativity can do to shift our minds. And I think what you're talking about is exactly, my thinking is that the way you express that, the story, the picture, the words, the time for people to. One of the great things about Zoom is that you can view all this in privacy. You can actually make decisions, you can either decide to look away or be more engaged. I think what you're talking about is a great insight as how creativity can be better expressed with a story, respecting each person's time. And also allowing people to, that the technology is great, so people can engage at their own level in privacy. Because a lot of creatives create this dynamic. There is a distance between a creative person and what I would call like, a non creative person - the people who are not attached by creativity. But there is that thing that creatives do set up a screen. They don't mean to but they do. So by doing it with technology, that gets pushed away. And what you were saying Adrian was great, because the picture then becomes the engagement process, which I like.
Adrian Battisby 47:24
We're working a lot with VR now. So when we're doing a guest room design, we'd normally do lots of visuals. But now we have a VR, we can spin the client around the space, we can hone in on it, or we can do adjustments in real time. So technology has really helped us to get those stakeholder approvals across the line.
Richard Henderson 47:42
Of course, Adrian, as we all know, you know that the image is not necessarily the truth. So obviously there could be a little bit of gossamer on all that I imagine as well.
Adrian Battisby 47:51
You wouldn't have to do that.
Mark Bergin 47:53
I want to go across to Steven here, because you mentioned that you're basically living in a cubicle that's actually got a screen and a camera and that's kind of your world. And I know I've made that sound a little bit terribly there, but you're there eight hours a day, and you've got the likes of Adrian, and you've got Richard who are giving you these great presentations on screens. How's that working from your capacity to be able to understand if the materials are what you need, coming from the demand side of this equation?
Dylan Brady 48:31
How much time do you have?
Mark Bergin 48:34
Well, actually, so you've just said the answer there.
Stephen Luk 48:37
Well, I have to say because, like we do it day in and day out. So we look at things, it's almost like, I think what Adrian said is right. It's also very important that on each board, on each slide, what is the message you're trying to get across? Which is the image that is truly going to capture what you're trying to say. Nothing worse than someone showing a bunch of inspiration images that's got nothing, especially like overly poetic design and got nothing really to do with the final result or with the brief - you know, the the wind, the flower, the tea, the clouds and all that. Like please, don't do it anymore. But what really interests us is, you know, sometimes it's even just one image that really captures the essence of what we trying to achieve, I think that's the most important. We do this day in day out. Sometimes we can look at it quite quickly. I do have to say, looking on the phone is different from projecting it, going into meeting rooms projected onto a big screen. So depending on different meetings, I get to move around. I can look at a set of drawings on my phone and give quick comments. I can look at it on my laptop, I can also project you on the screen, it does give you a different experience. So being able to tell a cohesive story, a story that is really capturing and then be able to translate that into this space, is very important. Almost go beyond the whole understanding of the brand. Each hotel, whether regardless of the brand, it has its own little character, right. Even though the same Park Hyatt, you want to evoke the same Park Hyatt experience. But each individual one of them should still have a little bit of their own character to represent the local, the storytelling; whether it's the architecture, or the local culture, the time and space of history, you know, even. So I think, like we can look at something very quickly and then immediately tell you what works and what doesn't. But it is very important as Adrian said, say putting a story together as a film set. And each shot should have something that you're trying to tell. It's not just some wind and birds and fish and tea, and water. Yeah, please don't do those.
Mark Bergin 51:38
I could imagine you're probably at a certain point where you want to turn your camera off and put a fork in your eye because you've seen the birds and the fish too many times and the water too much.
Stephen Luk 51:49
I have a blunt battle knife next to my table so I can slit my wrist.
Mark Bergin 51:58
Look, I am gonna go do a wrap up here. If anyone's got anything that you want to add, put your hand up now. Otherwise, I'm going to come into a bit of a close here. No, you're all done? That's fantastic. It is always so fantastic to go get your time, to go and actually have these conversations and have you share them. We do these weekly - we go have the Asian market, there's the Australian market, the European UK market and the US market. So please, next week, there's going to be another one if you want to join us. And to the panelists, thank you so much for your time. It is amazing to hear the differences are there. Some people actually saying time's flying other people saying everything seems to be taking so long? You know, that's kind of the dimensions of 2020 isn't it? Let's hope 2021 we've mastered a bit more. Everybody, thank you very much for your time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai