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What's New
Interview with Mr. John Lee (2)

Published in Pro Audio Asia January-February 2010 Edition

(Continued) My perspective is different from others - I'm looking at this from the end users point of view rather than sale or a technical one. The best business is repeat business and referrals – customers come to you.'

Tom Lee's after sales service division with technical teams capable of completely rebuilding traditional musical instruments, repairing advanced consumer electronics products to the most sophisticated digital equipment is also ISO 9001 certified. In 1977 his father set up the non-profit Tom Lee Music Foundation to organise music courses and sponsor music activities, which today numbers some 8,000 students, teaching music through courses developed in conjunction with musical instrument makers. There is also a rental division offering sound and lighting equipment for events and concerts. On one hand, the company has large marketing, distribution and after sales service overheads for all the products they represent but they also have to bear the overhead of a retail organisation to promote their products at the front line. 'It’s a specialised business to the point where it's not just having a product and selling it – it's a combination of everything and you need partners and suppliers to think the same way.'

Having established Tom Lee Engineering as a systems integrator within the group some eight years ago, a further ambition was fulfilled. Mr Lee feels that the inception of this division was more appropriate than just having a pro audio department within Tom Lee Music, as it clearly caters for different customers and in doing so being more focused in its ways of doing business. 'Our relationships with our customers are very strong as they all generally love music – it’s a common denominator. If you were drama, dance or music educated, you appreciate the arts, but otherwise you didn't. Therefore, we decided to start from the classroom in order to stimulate musical appreciation, enjoyment and creativity. Music has to come from the heart and it cannot be forced, but it can be assisted with help from teachers and parents. If you give young people the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate music, it will snowball through the generations. Children today seem to prefer computers and video games, but they still enjoy music.' Traditionally a Canto-pop culture, Hong Kong's musical tastes have broadened in the last few decades due to the combined efforts of the government and the private sector. 'Music plays an important role in enhancing personal development of both children and adults.'

Mr Lee is quite a perfectionist and feels that if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing well. 'We never sub-contract – it's important not to take on too many jobs. If we can deliver – OK. If we cannot, we won't take it on. We need to correctly market our products, our company credibility and in-house expertise as we use the products every day and know their benefits in addition to their weaknesses better than anyone else.' If nothing else, his willingness to shop around for innovative products has placed the company in a very good light. Aviom, Duran Audio and Technomad being good examples – brands that are highly valued in niche markets, but are hardly in the same league as Yamaha in terms of sales potential. 'It’s vital to appreciate what products are complimentary, and which have some direction for the future in order to sustain long-term business. Sometimes, you can be too ahead of the game and sometimes you can be perceived to be following others.' With Mr Lee, it's safe to assume, that the latter has never been the case.

Hindsight has taught Mr Lee that the best way to set up a new division is to offer it a new identity. 'Having been perceived as an MI company selling audio products by many overseas companies, it was vital that we gave the new division a completely separate identity,' he reveals about Tom Lee Engineering.

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