ODM: how we took our Hong Kong marketing agency global, with Podio

I moved to Asia in 1997 from Ireland to experience the vibrant changing economy of Hong Kong. Having worked for a few different business sectors I founded the ODM Group (Original Design Manufacture) in 2003 and we’ve grown across Asia ever since. We specialize in promotional products and develop new promotional gifts. We also invent new products for clients from our invention incubator in Singapore, providing specialized design services with the brand Mindsparkz, all of which we promote through our global sales and marketing offices in Hong Kong.


Promotional product companies like ours work with a great variety of clients around the world and a large number of suppliers. We are confronted by some major challenges like differing time zones, geography, a growing client and supplier base, and complicated logistical challenges.

To organize ourselves, we progressed from paper to Excel, then to Google Sheets that offered an excellent upgrade with real time collaboration, before attempting  to develop our own custom CRM system with a company in India – something we would just not advise! We lost so much sleep ironing out all the bugs and it was an endless and thankless task. Clunky is all I can say! We looked at industry solutions but did not want all the baggage that came with them.

Organizing a growing global network, in one place.

Then one of our partners, an internship company, suggested we try out Podio. At first view this was a daunting platform because you need to customize it to your needs, but last summer we took the plunge and made sure one of our team spent a few hours every day for two weeks to get this running.

The first app was simple – tracking incoming requests for quotations (RFQs) into the company. It was great having a Facebook style feed of our incoming enquiries each day. The last few comments allowed me, as a manager, to have an excellent overview of our processes and where there were issues.


Soon we could begin linking RFQs to clients in a new Clients app. We created a Samples app linked to a Factories app documenting where they were produced, and quickly we had a fully integrated system structuring our workflows.

We then discovered the power of webforms. Our clients ask us for quotes on our website and my staff have instant access with different sales people tasked by Podio to handle the enquiries.


Everything is just automatically in Podio, far better than the WordPress forms we used in the past which then needed manual entry. Over the next few months we got our suppliers to sign up and collaborate with us and so we built out the workspaces as needed.

Our senior managers have taken a step back from their daily routines in some ways due to Podio. Most importantly, they can now spend time analyzing our business and seeing where we can improve.

By re-examining workflows in Podio and automating our processes, we have learned how to be more efficient offline too. Podio encouraged, or I should say, mandated this.