Networking: Your Guide to Business Networking In Vietnam

By: Victor Burrill

Networking defined

Cultivating deep connections with the people you want to collaborate with

The secret to keeping your connections alive

Professional relationships are at the heart of every successful business networking can branch out to many opportunities if you are able to build a genuine connection with the right people. The question is, how do you get from where you are now to a well connected businessman? Find out how you can effectively build your own network to pursue your goals, keep those connections alive, and get help from the right people.

Let’s Get Started - What Is Networking? 

Networking is simply the process of interactions for establishing, building and maintaining relationships for personal and business purposes.

Networking will help you develop and improve your skill set, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your personal growth and support your career and business development.

Keep in mind that networking doesn't begin or end at an event such as at a chamber of commerce or professional association. Networking can be done anywhere: at a bookstore, over lunch or during a conference. It can continue long after the initial contact was made, and in the best cases, it will branch out into other opportunities to grow your professional community. 

 Business Networking In VietnamImage source: vietcham.org.sg

Before you get out there for some live, face-to-face interaction, it's a good idea to get into the right mindset. One way is by developing an elevator pitch: a short description of what you do, who you work with and the value you offer to your customers or clients. The goal is to be able to deliver this ‘pitch’ in 60 seconds or less, in a conversational way.

Professional relationship development expert, Keith Ferrazzi, recommends creating a relationship action plan for every professional goal that you have. Make a list of people who can be instrumental in helping you achieve a goal, even individuals you don’t know but do admire, and reach out to them. Ferrazzi also suggests writing down why each person is important, and how you would categorise the strength of your relationship on a scale of zero to five. This will help you develop a strategy to pursue your goals—and home in on getting help from the right people.

Connection Is Essential In Vietnam

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou, Poet

Before you go out armed with business cards and an elevator pitch, be careful not to mistake networking for a face-to-face cold-calling opportunity. You are more likely to be successful if the people you want to influence know you, like you, respect you and trust you. An immediate sales pitch will not build that type of relationship. 

Successful networking aims for quality connections, not quantity. Instead of casting a wide net, direct it toward cultivating deep personal connections with the people you actually want to collaborate with. Figure out what you and the other person have in common—whether you went to the same school or love the same sports.

 Business Networking In VietnamImage source: chamberforge.com

It’s also helpful to know what others are truly interested in, from charities they support to any awards they’ve received. This shows your sincere interest in the other person as an individual, and also helps you understand how you can be of service. If you can offer something specifically geared to what’s important to them, they’ll be more open to connecting with you.

Always be real, humble and vulnerable. I’m the Chairman and Chief Connecting Officer of the Business Executive Network in Vietnam. We have a membership of CEOs, Country Managers or Senior Directors. It is not easy to impress these people with professional accomplishments. Instead, I recommend keeping it real and genuine, being ‘open’ and authentic, I even recommend ‘boasting’ about your weaknesses; this draws people to you quicker and wins sincere admiration and trust. 

Put Others’ Needs Ahead Of Your Own

“The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person's needs ahead of their own.” - Bob Burg, author of The Go-Giver

One of the biggest networking mistakes people make is asking for too much too soon. One cardinal key of successful networking is ‘Give before you can get’. 

I can’t emphasise this enough: if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit, says Keith Ferrazzi. 

 Business Networking In VietnamImage source: southerncharmgiftbaskets.net

As it is when you bring a small gift to a dinner party, it is a good idea to offer a potential partner a token of generosity. The gesture can be as simple as forwarding a relevant article or providing an introduction to someone who can further the person's own interests. It’s helpful to think of networking like a bank account: you have to make deposits before making a withdrawal.

Value The Strength Of Diversity 

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't.” - Bill Nye

We tend to hang out with people similar to ourselves. But leveraging on a diverse group of skills, knowledge and personalities is key to professional networking.

Seek relationships with totally different people who can introduce you to brand-new social clusters. Not only will you gain access to potentially influential individuals whom you’d otherwise might never meet, but it will help you stand out from the pack.

Someone I know became a member of an organisation of women business owners. They allow men to join, so he asked a female friend to sponsor him at a meeting. Everyone remembered him because he was one of two or three guys there and ended up getting a lot of business out of it.

 Business Networking In VietnamImage source: irishtimes.com

One way to diversify is to ‘network down’. Most people concentrate on ‘networking up’, building a rapport with someone higher than yourself on the corporate ladder. But it’s also smart to connect with savvy junior people in your industry because they might end up being portals of intel.

Keep Your Vietnam Connections Alive

“Great ideas often come from small talks around a drink” - unknown

After making new connections, too many people fail to maintain or leverage this new relationship. It’s most effective to send a friendly, sincere email to your new contacts as soon after meeting them as possible, noting some things that were discussed when you met.

In order to maintain or build on your relationships you should ‘connect’ on a regular basis. I suggest scheduling some time aside each day to these important relationships. The frequency and depth of your interactions depends on the strength of the relationship. For casual connections, the occasional retweet or Facebook comment might suffice. For deeper ones, think along the lines of a thoughtful email or meetup over a drink.

Finally, good luck and remember that it's not about who you know, it's about who knows you.

Banner Image source: wallstreetenglish.edu.vn


The Science of Networks: How Connectivism is Changing Our Interactions

By: R.E.H.

Connectivism Can Change the Way We Work

Psychologists are Divided About the Implications of Being Constantly Connected to the Digital Sphere

Developing Connections Within Networks is Actually More Important Than Acquiring the Knowledge Itself

ConnectivismImage source: ematrix.uk

Almost everything these days revolves around our gadgets and, more specifically, the networking apps that help us get through the simplest of daily tasks as well as social or professional situations. This is evident everywhere from catching up over social media with friends or e-meeting potential business contacts to finding a personal assistant through a gig economy app or even getting a virtual doctor’s check-up!

Everything is networked. Everything is connected. This newfound sense of being connected has led the academic world into a tailspin as social scientists and psychologists try to understand the implications. While there are many different theories that explain individual elements of the impact of digitalisation and how networking has changed the way that modern society functions, none are quite so poignant as the emerging study of ‘Connectivism’.

What is Connectivism and How Does it Affect the Workplace?

Connectivism is rooted in the belief that everything belongs to a network. Networks are the basis for biological life—the integration of cells to form a living object. Networks are the basis for social life— the integration of relationships to form a community. Networks are the basis for technology: nodes connect to hubs to create complex digital applications.

Connectivism emphasises that the capacity to learn through these networks and foster them are a core life skill. Essentially, it is through networks that all knowledge is acquired and distributed.

The originator of the connectivism theory, George Siemens, wrote in his article “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” that “Connectivism also addresses the challenges that many corporations face in knowledge management activities. Knowledge that resides in a database needs to be connected with the right people in the right context in order to be classified as learning”.

Connectivism also highlights the surprising idea that learning to maintain and develop connections within networks is actually more important than acquiring the knowledge itself.

One example of this is recent research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research publications, which has found that being connected to a large social network within an organisation is more influential than being knowledgeable or holding an important title.

Social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn are great examples of connectivism at work in the business sector. These networking sites demonstrate that the more followers you have, the more influence you have to disseminate information. LinkedIn has recently capitalised on this accessible connectivity by creating an invite-only LinkedIn Influencer program.

According to the Nordic media monitoring company, Meltwater.com, the program is made up of “… a global collective of 500+ of the world’s foremost thinkers, leaders, and innovators”.

While LinkedIn Influencers are primarily made up of public figures, social media influence is present even on a smaller scale across the internet. The research report, “Enabling Community Through Social Media”, published by JMIR Publications, comes to the conclusion that “Prominence in the network appears to be related to familiarity with individuals, for example, more active participants receive more attention in terms of mentions and retweets”.

This opens the possibility for employees who may have been confined to the ‘lower ranks’ of an organisational hierarchy, to gain an audience as large as the managing board, dependent on their ‘connectivism’ skills to entice followers.

In this way connectivism is already organically encroaching into organisations large and small. Traditional hierarchies, which place power at the top level of management, are being replaced with models that allow for greater levels of power distribution. Models that promote feedback networks in which reflexive learning and decision-making give a voice to employees at all levels of the organisation are starting to be seen as the future in office culture.

Workplaces are necessarily moving away from “Do as I say” to “What do you think?”, promoting employee engagement. This demonstrates that connectivism is helping companies to fully value each member of the team, while equally supporting each member to become more invested in the company’s goals. Both results are achieved in companies that perform as an integrated network, rather than a top-down pyramid.

How Does Connectivism Relate to Vietnam?

Connectivism, and understanding its role in Vietnam, is perhaps most important when applied in training the next generation.

ConnectivismImage source: Shutter Stock

Corporate Connective Open Online Courses (COOC) should be used to make the future Vietnamese workforce more connected, according to Nguyen Manh Hung’s article “Using Ideas from Connectivism for Designing New Learning Models in Vietnam”, published in The International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 4. A COOC is basically a networked way of learning that allows corporations to offer targeted online training courses for future employees or clients.

Nguyen expresses the need for Vietnam to move away from traditional learning methods in the education systems towards COOC, which can be used successfully in “education environments with developing infrastructure like Vietnam”.

The digitalisation of the workplace has created an increasing demand for employees who are flexible, agile, resilient and able to make connections—to learn as the job requires. The recommendation to promote skills that make us effective lifelong learners, which started as a whisper, has turned into an urgent cry.

It is no longer enough to train youth in industry-specific knowledge. Now it is necessary to train them to know how to make connections. Future leaders need to know how to make connections between information pools in order to create, innovate and make refined decisions. They need to be able to connect to networks in order to become influencers, visionaries and leaders. Connections are what will allow them to continue to be a part of our evolving human story.

A giant in the research of networks, Dr Barabasi, said, “Each of us is part of a large cluster, the worldwide social net, from which no one is left out. We do not know everybody on this globe, but it is guaranteed that there is a path between any two of us in this web of people. Likewise, there is a path between any two neurons in our brains, between any two companies in the world, between any two chemicals in our body. Nothing is excluded from this highly interconnected web of life.”

Like this article? Read more about Business and Networking on CityPassGuide.com.

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Singapore-Vietnam Factsheet: The Lion Meets the Dragon

By: Keely Burkey

Diplomatic Ties: 45 years in 2018

Major Companies: Sembcorp, CapitaLand, Mapletree, Keppel Land

Overview:

One of Vietnam’s strongest diplomatic ties is with the powerhouse city-state, a relationship that comes primarily in the form of a robust business relationship. Singapore’s FDI in Vietnam is third overall, just behind Korea and Japan, though in the first months of 2017 Singapore briefly held the top position. In 2017, FDI increased 12 percent, with US$1.85 billion; it’s also Vietnam’s sixth-largest trading partner. Most of the investments focus on HCMC, thanks to the current real estate boom—799 projects, valued at US$9.75 billion, were reported in 2016.

Major Industries of Influence:

Real Estate: Look at the skyline and you’ll see the investments at work. The proof is in the numbers: Keppel Land has 20 licensed projects across Vietnam with 25,000 homes being constructed; CapitaLand has recently acquired land banks in District 4, a move in tandem with its 20 percent stake in Thien Duc Trading Construction; Mapletree acquired Kumho Asiana Plaza for US$215 million in June, 2016; and most recently, Lion City has jumped into the game as well, investing US$1.85 billion in commercial properties. Residential developments have been the main priorities for Singaporean real estate companies, though that hasn’t stopped CapitaLand from investing in commercial lands as well.

singapore vietnamImage source: blog.mogi.vn

Manufacturing Development: We’re not talking about manufacturing specific products: we’re talking about manufacturing the manufacturing plants themselves. The Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIP), a joint-venture between Sembcorp Development and Vietnamese-owned Becamex IDC, are the jewel in the crown of cooperation between the two countries, a statement fully supported by the numbers. In an email correspondence with Tran Thi Quynh Thanh, Senior Marcom Officer for VSIP, Thanh said the infrastructural offerings have helped to attract more FDI into the country while providing employment opportunities. VSIP have generated US$10 billion in investment from 738 multinational companies in 30 nations, though 11 percent of the companies in the industrial parks come from Singapore. At the moment there are seven different projects around Vietnam, and in 2017 they received an investment certificate for VSIP III in Binh Duong, totalling 1,000 hectares.

singapore vietnamImage source: datdautu.com

Healthcare: Although it’s not leading the pack in terms of money invested, Singaporean interests in healthcare have ramped up in the past years. In January, 2017 the Singapore Medical Group signed to create a second Careplus Clinic Vietnam in HCMC, to go along with the first clinic established in Tan Binh District. Chandler Investor, Clermont Group and Parkway all have presences in the country and have been investing in existing Vietnamese hospitals. Perhaps most visibly, Hanh Phuc Hospital, since its opening in 2011, has been touted as “the first Singapore-standard hospital in Vietnam” thanks to its hospital management agreement with Thomson Medical Centre Limited. As Vietnamese regulations continue to improve, investment in this sector is likely to grow. Michael Sieberg, Project Director of Solidiance Vietnam, said, “There’s a lot of interest to play a part in private-public partnerships [in healthcare], but I think the framework is still being worked out. Right now it’s mostly local investors.”

Social Issues:

While business ties are the bedrock of the relationship, cooperation has taken social forms as well. The Singapore-Vietnam Strategic Partnership was solidified in 2013, in honour of the two countries’ 40 year diplomatic anniversary. Cooperation has strengthened in areas like armies, counter-terrorism efforts, piracy, human trafficking and money laundering. Unfortunately, we could find no updates documenting concrete results of this partnership.

Banner Image source: media.baodautu.vn


The Gender Gap in Vietnam is Narrower Than You Might Think

By: Molly Headley

2017 was a year of revolution for women across the world. Massive women’s marches were organised in international cities to bring light to the injustices that still face the female gender today. Social media has kept the flame burning by creating popular hashtags including actress Emma Watson’s #HeforShe male feminist tag, the #YesAllWomen flag where women disclosed stories of everyday sexism and now the #MeToo hashtag where women are talking about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. #tòasoạnsạch, meaning "clean newsroom," is the hashtag specific to Vietnam that was created in response to sexual harassment and abuse of Vietnamese news media employees.

In Vietnam as in other countries subjects about women’s roles in society and whether there is gender equality in the workplace are trending.

For good reason. Women are a force to be reckoned with in business.

A 2017 study by World Bank-Goldman Sachs shows that microenterprises—small businesses with no more than six employees, such as market shops, street food stalls—are the majority of female-run businesses in Vietnam, coming in at 57 percent.

A surprising report by Grant-Thorton Vietnam, which was presented in March at the event “Women in Business Strive for Excellence”, put on by the British Business Group Vietnam (BBGV), revealed that Vietnam offers women much more egality in the workforce than other neighbouring Asian countries. Ho Ngoc Anh, events and marketing manager for BBGV, was part of the team that organised the event. The panel included some of the top female leaders in Vietnam like Truc Nguyen, CFO of HSBC Vietnam and Tran Thi Thanh Mai, managing director of marketing agency Kantar TNS.

Women owned businessesImage source: pcworld.com.vn

Ho said that one of the most interesting topics discussed was about the current gender balance in the workplace. Out of two equal candidates for a job—one male, one female—who would be more likely to be hired, the women leaders were asked. Almost all of the female respondents surprised the audience by saying it would be the woman.

“Confucius beliefs present in the Vietnamese culture have pushed men forward in the past”, Ho said. “Luckily, Vietnam has been trying to escape the Chinese way of thinking and has also been affected by French culture.” Important female figures such as the French suffragettes in the early 1900’s helped spur the feminist movement worldwide.

“We’ve become more and more open to opportunities for the ladies in the community. We also have very inspiring women, ambassadors in the United Nations, powerful women in business and female war heroes that stood up for their families”, Ho said.

Moreover, a survey in the report asked male and female employees in companies in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam whether their companies had made progress in the last one to three years in terms of gender diversity. Respondents reported that 87 percent of men and 84 percent of women in Vietnam said their firms had become more inclusive compared to only 43 percent of women and 82 percent men in Singapore. In Malaysia, 54 percent of women and 79 percent of men reported their firm was progressing in terms of diversity.

From a jack hammer-wielding female emerging from a pit in a construction zone to women holding top roles in the government, such as Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, who is currently serving as Vice President of Vietnam, women are present in every sector and at every level of business.

Women owned businessesImage source: mfa.go.th

75 percent of businesses in Vietnam have at least one woman in a senior management role and 25 percent are CEOs, these numbers are some of the highest in Southeast Asia.

Ho feels that there is still work to be done to make sure that women are getting paid equally for their work but the current climate is largely positive.

A Delicate Balance

Esther Lam is the co-owner and designer of Esther Lam Lingerie. The creations showcased on Lam’s website feature female models in ethereal lace held up by structured boning, the lingerie’s underwire skeleton. Lingerie is a distinctly female-oriented business but it is also one in which gender roles can be a topic of discussion, simply because women’s undergarments are fetishised and are said to be made for the male taste.

But Lam said she created her line out of “the desire for all girls to pamper their skin.” It is a brand for women created by women, and there in lies the strength.

Women owned businessesImage source: Esther Lam Lingerie

Lam believes sexism still exists in Vietnam because of the deep-seated traditions in the country. “There are surely cultural sensitivities about female identity, and Vietnamese women need to be more decisive but reasonable, and have intelligent methods of solving problems.”

When asked what challenges women face as business owners in Vietnam, Lam responded that “A woman has more roles to finish than just business ones. She has to learn how to harmonize with all roles in her life, or quit almost all to fulfil her dream.”

A Woman’s Place in the Home is Building It

Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen’s design work is as complicated as she is—both strong and approachable, modern and nostalgic, Scandinavian and Asian. Zeuthen was born in Thailand and was then adopted by Danish parents; a translation error during the adoption made her name have a Chinese edge to it.

When asked whether she had ever considered changing her name, Zeuthen laughed. “No”, she said. She said she likes to walk into a room and not be what people expect her to be. Sometimes when she meets with major real estate developers, she’ll come into a meeting, the only woman surrounded by 20 men. She knows that often they’re expecting to meet with a Chinese man or even a white Dane but when an Asian woman appears unanticipated, Zeuthen said the surprise can be powerful.

This unpredictability is part of the approach that Zeuthen has used to rise up in a typically androcentric profession, a métier heavy in men: architecture and design.

Women owned businessesImage source: KAZE

Zeuthen came to Vietnam 16 years ago for a job as a furniture designer. Eight years later she began her own interior design and architecture business, KAZE. Since then Zeuthen has turned KAZE into a top design firm in Vietnam. Given the size and visibility of projects—from the Vinpearl Ha Thinh and Marriott Resort and Spa Hoi An to offices and private residences—, you’ve likely seen Zeuthen’s work before.

Women owned businessesImage source: fixi.vn

Zeuthen said that she owes a certain amount of her success to Vietnam itself. It is one of the few countries in Asia where women consistently hold the same jobs as men. Zeuthen opined that male and female roles interchange easily, more so than in other Asian countries, and perhaps that is because of Vietnamese history.

There has been a high presence of female fighters and workers in Vietnam’s past. From the Hai Ba Trung sisters, revolutionaries who led the people to take down the Eastern Han Dynasty to Nguyen Thi Dinh, the first female general in the Vietnamese People’s Army, the bravery of women in Vietnam has been well-documented. However, the modern boardroom is a different beast and both the women on the BBGV panel and Zeuthen mentioned that today the number one thing holding women back in business is their confidence.

“Women in business in Vietnam, and everywhere else in the world, need self-confidence to build up trust. Women need to start asking for what they want”, Zeuthen said.

Women owned businessesImage source: wordpress.com

For example, Zeuthen said that men come to talk to her about salary and they walk in expecting a high number but they’ll negotiate. Whereas women “are not ready to fight for it. If they don’t get the salary they want from the beginning they walk away rather than fighting.”

Gender Equality, a Work in Progress

In many ways Vietnam is ahead of the curve in terms of gender equality in the workplace. One clear example is in the area of paid maternity leave.

Female workers in Vietnam are able to claim up to 6 months of full-pay leave through the national insurance system. The father is allowed 5 days paternity leave.

A typical allowance from other countries may be just 12 weeks or less of unpaid leave. “[Vietnam] is the most generous [country] for paid maternity leave in the region, and even in the world”, VN Express wrote in their 2017 coverage on the issue.

Vietnam, like most places in the world, is still a work-in-progress regarding women’s rights. However, women are out there, at the top, already moving the conversation forward.

Video source: UN Women Asia and the Pacific

Banner Image source: cdn-image.travelandleisure.com


What is it Like to Work in Vietnam?

By: City Pass Guide

What should be in your Employment Contract when working in Vietnam?

Your compensation and working hours

Your rights as an employee in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City is the economic capital of Vietnam and where many expats and Vietnamese locals choose to find work or set up a business. The city has become a target for many who want to live and work in Vietnam, due to a growing number of attractive job, business and networking opportunities. Here is some important information you need to know on what it’s like to work in Vietnam.

Working in Vietnam

Employment Contracts in Vietnam

Work contracts are very straightforward in Vietnam and generally do not differ too much from their Western counterparts. When working abroad, in any other part of the world, the employer and employee must directly enter into a written employment contract. It is best to be specific and stringent with your employment contract as standards may differ across the globe. For temporary work of less than three months, an oral employment contract is allowed.

Working in Vietnam

Some stipulations may differ from your contract in the west, you may want to turn your attention to very specific items in your contract such as your salary, health benefits and the like. Note that local companies must have employment contracts in both Vietnamese and English.

Payment Terms

The most important factor to consider when working in a foreign country is how you’re getting paid. By default, you are going to get paid in Vietnamese Đồng. But you’re always free to ask if there is an option to be paid in a different currency, especially if you would like to take your hard-earned money out of the country.

Working Hours in Vietnam

The regular working hours in Vietnam is 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week. For unconventional jobs that follow schedules on a weekly basis instead of your regular 9-5 office hours, you cannot exceed 10 hours working in a day.

According to Vietnam’s labour law, the maximum number of working hours shall not exceed 48 hours a week. Working hours may be distributed on an hourly, daily or weekly basis subject to the employer’s requirements. These working schedules should be specified in your contract before starting with the work to avoid inconvenience to both parties.

Working in Vietnam

As specified by the competent authorities, regular working hours must not exceed six hours a day for jobs that fall on the list of extremely heavy, toxic or dangerous working conditions.

Overtime

Overtime work arrangements require the consent of both parties. Employees must compensate employees for any overtime hours worked and needs to be outlined in the employer’s internal labour rules. The amount of overtime cannot exceed 50% of regular working hours a day, 30 hours a month or 200 hours a year. Special cases can bump up the yearly hours to 300. For a weekly working regime, combined regular and overtime hours cannot exceed 12 hours a day.

Working in Vietnam

The rates for overtime pay as required by the Labour Code are as follows:

- At least 150% of the agreed-upon salary on regular working days

- 200% for working on weekly days off

- 300% for working on public holidays and leave days with full pay

Women in their seventh month of pregnancy or later, or women who have babies 12 months old or younger, are forbidden from working overtime.

Night Shifts

Night-time working hours or graveyard shifts run from 10 pm to 6 am of the subsequent day. Further, overtime cannot exceed 50% of regular working hours a day, 30 hours a month or 200 hours a year. Special cases can increase the yearly hours to 300. For those with a weekly working regime, combined regular and overtime hours are not allowed to exceed 12 hours a day.

Working in Vietnam

An employee working at night must be paid an additional minimum of 30% of their regular salary when working overtime. Along with this, any employee working overtime at night must be paid an additional 20% of their salary in addition to the rates described above for work conducted in the daytime.

Probationary Period

Arranging a probation period is common in Vietnam, especially with new employees. A probation period should be indicated in the contract or through a separate letter and the conditions for work should be specified and agreed to by the employer and employee.

The parties may agree on the following probationary periods:

- Up to 6 days for positions that require no training.

- Up to 30 days for trained staff or those with intermediate level qualification

- Up to 60 days for jobs requiring professional or college qualifications.

By law, the employer is only required to pay 85% of the full salary expectation during this period.

Health insurance

Employers in Vietnam must offer health insurance to all employees by law. Some companies offer more comprehensive packages in line with international standards.

Employee Rights in Vietnam

The current Labour Code went into effect on 1 May 2013 and introduced several changes that concerned labour subleasing, maternity leave, work permit duration and revised work hours, amongst others. In general, the new set of laws tends to favour employee rights and has made it harder for employers to terminate employment. We highlight some of the relevant changes below, though this is not a complete list:

- A probationary period does not exceed 30 days of employment with a position requiring vocational and professional level qualifications; 60 days of employment with a position requiring a college level qualification or above; and six days for all other cases.

- The wage for the probationary period is at least 85% of the wage scale rate of that position.

- The maximum validity of a work permit for a foreign employee is reduced from 36 months to 24 months.

- The annual Lunar Tết holiday will increase to five days from the original four.

- Maternity leave is increased to six months from the original four.

- The current labour code is now under review and changes are expected.

Working in Vietnam

The number of expat jobs in Vietnam at the moment are not that high, but if you have experience in a certain field that requires your expertise then it shouldn’t be a problem at all. Take note that foreigners who want to work in Vietnam need to secure a work permit and the process can be tedious—something that the government is simplifying.

Image source: shutterstock.com


Creating a Company in Vietnam

By: Keely Burkey and Jonas van Binsberg

What brought you to Vietnam?

I consider myself a product of the time and the places I grew up in. Born and raised in the Netherlands, graduated and started visiting Southeast Asia just before the financial crisis, in 2006. When the investment bank I was working for in the Netherlands started to run into difficulties at the end of 2007 and in 2008, I had heard of this large Vietnamese company that received support and relationships from international banks such as HSBC and Deutsche Bank. The owner and founder became known to me through the parents of my ex-girlfriend who was living in Australia at the time. We got introduced to each other, and he offered me a job. After that, I joined the export team of a multinational Dutch company responsible for the sales and trade of raw materials and ingredients of several countries in Southeast Asia. About 10 months into the job, this company also started to reorganise. I decided to stay in Vietnam because I was just engaged to my fiancee and strongly felt my time in Vietnam was not finished yet.

What is important when doing business in Vietnam? How does it differ from your experiences in Europe?

First of all, to pay attention to the people, to the relationships. In Germany, in Switzerland we would give a powerpoint presentation with four or five reasons why they should buy our product. Here, it’s all about who you are, where you are from, your family background, and then after that maybe the business things. Here the relationship comes before the transaction.

entrepreneurshipImage source: dbav.org.vn

Do you feel that foreign businesspeople are at a disadvantage here because they don’t share the same culture?

Well, language is one thing. The system is another thing. So, you have a slight disadvantage if you don’t know the language, but you can bring in good local people to work with you. You can have translators, you can have assistants. If you’re looking at the system, I think it’s getting a lot better. Where you might think people would be disadvantaged as a foreigner, Vietnam has already done all the reforms.

In the past few years a number of large international chains have entered Vietnam’s marketplace. Do you think these will hinder local growth, or create unreasonable competition for local companies?

I think local businesses still have a unique chance. They can get local support and they can also develop well because they are local. The local consumer is also buying local, I think. You see that more and more. You see a lot of people are very open to trying new things. You see a new restaurant to try. But I think in the long term, people will be more conscious about buying local products, and the government has already campaigned for a while now about Vietnamese people building local brands and things like that.

What are some of the biggest challenges you've encountered since doing business in Vietnam? What advice would you give people to avoid these obstacles?

In terms of life and investment advice, I would say: know your priorities and know your limits. Time is probably our most valuable asset. How we spend our time can say a lot about us. In the past, I often thought in terms of sacrifice. Sacrifice time for business, sacrifice money and give priority to the happiness of the family or the wife. But this is not right thinking. Right living is a life which is in balance. We intentionally choose to spend time with our loved ones; and we cultivate relationships, healthy habits, healthy living. Our priorities become visible through our daily choices. And what we can do should be within our limits. Unrealistic expectations or behaviour and risk which is beyond limits is dangerous and not a sustainable way of living and working.

What is Saigon Startups? Why did you create this company? 

I have noticed from my own experience, and from my friends here that we, start-up companies, small and medium-sized companies, all need the same things: product development, design, sales and marketing, bookkeeping and other services. The idea of Saigon Startups is sharing of resources, knowledge, experiences between entrepreneurs and companies. The idea is that, things that I have overcome already, or that I know already, can help you to grow your business faster. Saigon Startups is going to be a network of small and medium-sized companies, some invested by myself, some invested through friends or through fund investors. Together sharing information and targeting the same things: sustainable growth, good business, stability, health, wealth, happiness and profit in Vietnam.

entrepreneurshipImage source: media.baodautu.vn

Right now HCMC is seeing a surge in start-ups. Do you think these companies will create competition that will ultimately hinder expansion? Or is there enough room in the market for everyone?

It is a normal part of market growth, company growth and country development. Competition enhances performance and productivity. One thing that I would like to share is that each person and each business is unique. We do not have to copy or emulate one another. We have to find the one thing that ‘only I can do’, the one ‘calling’ that life has for us, our ‘passion’. Once we find that, there is no competition. There is only ‘doing what you love’ and other people sharing the same mission.

What sorts of start-ups are you seeing being developed at the moment? Which start-ups tend to be successful in Vietnam's business environment?

A lot of people are focused on technology start-ups. My personal interest is still mostly old-fashioned business such as manufacturing of agricultural products, healthcare products, things like that, but then combining it with and/or applying the modern tools available such as online marketing, online shopping or mobile phone apps. I think a lot of different types of start-ups can be successful in Vietnam. The key issues which I think are important are: long-term commitment of the team, financial pressure, great innovation... In my opinion, often things go wrong here when people change. No money or borrowed money, try for three to six months but then give up. An entrepreneur needs to have to ability to create, to have a dream, to create a vision, to create a product. If finance, commitment and creation skills are lacking, it’s going to be much harder for a start-up business to be successful.

entrepreneurshipImage source: wellesley.edu

Banner Image source: knowstartup.com


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