Alan Tsao Talks Luxury Branding, How to Build a Loyal Customer Base, and the Importance of Indulging your own Curiosity

Alan Tsao has been an innovative yet grounded person as long as I have known him, (which is longer than I can remember). Unwavering, never without a smile and there for you in a pinch, Alan is someone you can dream with or go to for solid advice.

I have always envied that he knew when we were kids who he wanted to be with for the rest of his life, yet he still seems to find ways to act like an inquisitive kid.

When I wanted to interview an inspiring entrepreneur about curiosity, I knew I wanted to hear what Alan had to say. 

Anne Hilb (AH): Alan, tell us about Tsao Baltimore.

Alan Tsao (AT): Tsao Baltimore is a premium watch company based in Baltimore, Maryland.  We combine high quality components and design within a more affordable price.  

It all started with an obsession with watches, always collecting and buying more, until one day, my wife tells me to stop buying so many watches and just create my own company.  So long story short, I started making designs, looked into what made a high quality watch, spoke to several manufacturers and learned how to personally assemble and disassemble a watch.  We are currently producing/manufacturing our second watch design, called the TORSK-DIVER.

In the last two years, we have sold and assembled over 1,000 watches in 40 different countries.

Alan’s decision to start his own luxury watch company was sparked by passion, curiosity, self-confidence and support.

AH: How do you define curiosity?

AT: Curiosity is the desire to constantly learn, adapt, and understand how things work. Curiosity opens your mind, to go beyond the norm, or even fears, and ask/find the solutions to everyday problems.    

Alan doesn’t shy away from new opportunities–even those as terrifying as starting his own watch company, or jumping out of a plane.

AH: Why do you see curiosity as a key ingredient to running a successful business?

AT: Curiosity is a very important ingredient to running a successful business.

Curiosity helps identify new opportunities, evaluate objectives, and seek new information to constantly grow and maintain a competitive advantage.  

AH: Looking at your professional life, it seems like you have lived a (work) life full of curiosity! Can you speak to what it took for you to make the leap and open your own business?

AT: I’m definitely a curious person… I love working with my hands, coming up with creative ideas, and figuring out how things work — but making the decision to start a watch company was a bit difficult.  It took a lot of research, joining various forums and asking the right questions, while also convincing myself that I can do it.

Ultimately, I tend to go by the “if not now, than when” mentality, and it just made sense to take the leap and just see where it goes. I had, and still do have, a lot to learn, but everything that is going on, continues to peak my curiosity to keep growing. There isn’t enough time in the day for regrets, which is why I had to start the company when I did.

I didn’t want my curiosity to do something I love, disappear and just become another wishful dream.  One’s curiosity helps drive passion, and passion is what drives success and opportunity.

AH: Graymake is a business-to-business consulting firm, so many of our readers are business owners, execs or decision-makers themselves. Can you speak to some of the trends you’re seeing in your industry in particular, or tips of the trade you’d suggest or to those looking to grow their company’s presence?

AT: As an independent watch company, customer service is incredibly important. With any business, and especially a small business, it’s incredibly important to maintain a positive relationship with both existing customers and prospects (which can be anyone).  

Consumers enjoy a personal message and enjoy speaking to the owners. It creates a deeper relationship and connection between a product or service and the consumer.

In addition, make an effort to get feedback and suggestions for growth directly from your customers.  If you can get them involved and feel appreciated, you have a customer for life.

Alan knows engaging with customers and clients one-on-one is key to building relationships with a brand.

AH: Here at Graymake, we love to share success stories.  Can you share an example of time where operating with curiosity served you–or a client!–well?

AT: Prior to launching my first watch in 2017, I wanted to make sure I had enough interest, so I looked into traditional and digital advertising as methods for lead generation.  I didn’t quite get the return I was looking for.

As my curiosity grew in determining ways to generate interest, at a shoe string budget, I found some information on viral marketing through lead generation.  I was definitely curious about this new opportunity, so I started asking questions, tested out demos, and took the leap and invested in a digital viral marketing program.

Through a viral marketing program, I was able to generate 2,000 email leads in 1 month and had a 20% sales conversion once my first watch was launched.     

AH: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you, and did you follow it?

AT: The best advice was from my parents, to always work hard and never take things for granted.  I believe I’ve followed their advice and will continue doing so.

Alan posing with some Tsao merch. Successful branding yields benefits such as increased customer loyalty, an improved image, and a relatable identity. 

AH: Lastly, what is one thing that often surprised people about you?

AT: One thing that often surprises people about me is usually the amount of work I’m doing.  In addition to my watch company, I also work full time as the Advertising Director for a property management company, and a current MBA Student at the University of Baltimore.  

Graymake extends a sincere thank you to Alan for his time and for sharing his story and wisdom with us.

Check out Tsao Baltimore on the web!

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