Setting up A Business in Vietnam

By: Victor Burrill

Vietnam’s unique entrepreneurial start-up culture.

The challenges that comes with doing business in Vietnam for foreigners.

Understanding the local processes and government regulations.

Are you thinking of joining the many companies who are moving, relocating or expanding their business operations to Vietnam? Perhaps you have a business idea and want to join the fast growing & fascinating start-up culture unravelling amongst both Vietnamese natives and expats in this great little country of ours...

A Country Ripe for Business

After years of conflict, hunger and economic sanctions, Vietnam reached a turning point in 1986 when the country implemented the policy of Đổi Mới, or ‘renovation’ with the aim of creating a socialist-orientated free market economy. In 1994, Bill Clinton lifted the 19-year post-war US trade embargo and Vietnam entered the global marketplace.

Today, Vietnam’s 94 million people have experienced huge economic change. The national GDP is now around $180bn – a massive leap from just $6bn in 1990. As of 2017, 24 of the 28 EU nations have invested in around 2,000 projects in the country, with a total registered FDI reaching above $21.5bn. Industry, construction, and services were the major sectors that attracted the majority of EU capital.

Business in VietnamImage source: shutterstock.com

According to Forbes, Vietnam has become Asia’s hottest investment destination with $17 billion in FDI commitments last year alone. Bloomberg recently reported that the current GDP growth of Vietnam is at about 6.8%. This makes Vietnam one of the best performers among the emerging markets in South Asia.

The Vietnamese are incredibly enthusiastic about foreign investment and the opportunities it brings and increased integration into international markets. They are also keen to share their proud culture, traditions and history with foreigners in order to protect their local heritage in a rapidly developing and forward-thinking economy. For this reason, acknowledgement of Vietnamese culture can earn foreigners a lot of esteem.

Why Vietnam?

According to Tomas Svoboda, Head of Cekindo Vietnam - an organisation that provides market entry support to companies and investors entering Vietnam - many businesses are moving here due to competitive wages and a strong working culture. Common types of businesses favouring to operate in Vietnam range from IT to e-commerce, consulting firms, food and health supplements companies, and manufacturers.

Business in VietnamImage source: povertyactionlab.org

Tomas also says that many companies are moving or expanding operations from China to Vietnam to avoid US tariffs in the US-China trade war and Vietnam’s preferential trade agreements. Another big reason is the rapidly growing domestic market. Vietnam’s GDP is also one of the fastest growing in the world and is expected to double by 2030, creating an increased consumer demand.

Many factories are also finding success here, as producers look to lower the cost of labor and operations. Vietnam is a perfect fit for this as a large number of the population have the skills to work manual labour jobs. It’s not only big businesses making the move to Vietnam however…

This country has a unique start-up culture, great value per dollar, a good climate, and a strong entrepreneurial community. Vietnam is now very much ready for the startup scene and smaller companies are finding a lot of success here for a number of reasons. One is that it’s easier to find investors, as there are many investor-2-business matching meetings and pitch competitions that bring the investor closer to smaller organisations.

Things to Consider

Cultural differences can also be a huge challenge for foreigners doing business in Vietnam, not to mention the difficulty of dealing with the language barrier. Tomas advises finding a reliable local partner and being open-minded to marketing strategy, so you can adapt quickly to the local market. He also says that Vietnam is a strong and popular choice for technology startups and that many international companies know about it.

Business in VietnamImage source: investmentinvietnam.com

Some companies who have struggled in developed countries have very successfully grown their scalable start-ups in Vietnam. With 70% of the Vietnamese population being under the age of 35, Vietnam is young, fast and fun.

One American businessman recently said... 

‘I really love the people of Saigon. They remind me of New Yorkers. They are friendly with a healthy dose of scepticism coupled with a fierce work ethic.’

Another entrepreneur said...

‘Saigon is for bootstrappers who want to go somewhere to put their head down, enter into building mode and crank out their product or business. One could easily live on $1,500 a month here and live quite a privileged existence in a city where modern meets old. Local salaries for admins to coders range from $500 - $1500USD/month. Thus, there are a lot of bootstrappers here in Saigon - and in general, the crowd here tends to be more serious and focused on execution.’

Legal Issues

One of the major challenges businesses face when moving to Vietnam is understanding local processes and government regulations, which can be confusing. Ngo Nhat Minh, Founder & Attorney-at-law at BLawyers Vietnam, advises foreigners to consider finding good legal council before setting up a new business in Vietnam, especially those in conditional business fields.

Business in VietnamImage source: blogspot.com

Minh mentions that one area of help business leaders often need is understanding the many overlapping regulations from different state authorities. Understanding the whole picture can be difficult for foreign investors which can impact the strategy and implementation of launching operations here in Vietnam. He also suggests keeping up to date with the legal status as laws tend to change rapidly.

Minh also suggests foreigners be careful before entering deals. Many go well but if they go wrong it can take a long time to gain support for enforcement from local authorities in situations where parties cannot amicably settle disputes.

Minh also suggests budgeting up to 3 months for setting up a foreign invested company in Vietnam. He says that limited liability companies or joint stock companies are the most common choice of foreign investors because they are easier to manage and have more limited liability for debt and other financial obligations.

Another legal area to consider is understanding the labor law and the rights of employees, especially on termination of employment agreements.

All things considered, if you are looking for a place to expand or start your business, Vietnam could be the right destination for you.

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Marketing in Vietnam’s Digital Age

By: Keely Burkey and Paul Espinas

A lot of what you do focuses on the digital sphere. Are there still opportunities to market successfully on non-digital platforms?

For me, marketing is marketing. Online and offline are just means or platforms for me. At the end of the day, a brand is all about a promise and performance. And marketing's job is to make that promise so appealing that customers engage with the brand. With regards to whether using solely online or offline or a hybrid of the two, again it's about the product, the market and, of course, the resources the marketing team has. Many marketers, I guess, will relate to the fact that we don't have unlimited resources. So one of the key skills for a senior marketer is to be able to identify which channels or platforms will best serve their brand goals. I believe that businesses who are following a B2B model lean towards more offline marketing investment like events and activations where they can directly have a person-to-person touchpoint with the audience. But then again, as I said, it really depends on the product, market and budget, among many other things.

digital marketingImage source: scontent.fsgn8-1.fna.fbcdn.net

Are there any digital technologies currently being developed that you're excited to market with? How do you think digital marketing will change in the next year or two?

Digital technologies on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is what I'm really excited about. I think it's a completely different league, although challenges on the hardware side might limit mass access of a full-on VR experience. Big players like Apple are investing on mixed reality (MR) and AR, so I believe the next trend of marketing campaigns will be in this field. Here in Vietnam, however, there are still a lot of opportunities untapped in terms of the possibilities on video ads and the mobile ecosystem.

How do you communicate effectively with a millennial audience? What do they want to hear, and what pushes them away?

Communicating to millennials for me is all about a conversational approach. This I believe is the impact of more personal screens like our mobile phones and laptops, which this generation is accustomed to. Hence, we call them the digital natives. We say in marketing that the type of content we publish will also depend on the type of screen it will be placed on. Less personal skills like billboards or digital out-of-home (OOH) placements, which use more "announcement" type of content, while personal screens like our mobile phones use a more conversational approach. Millennials have a "Me, Me, Me" approach to the way they behave in the online ecosystem. Hence the birth of selfie and all those other apps and product features showcasing none other than "ME". This I believe translates to an approach in content writing where the reader, millennials in this case, can immediately relate to the subject. They have short attention spans and it gets shorter every year. So what they see, hear and experience in the first five seconds is crucial.

digital marketingImage source: pprww.com

The news is now talking about Generation Z, the younger generation after millennials. How does this younger generation differ from millennials in terms of optimal marketing strategies?

Generation Z is a target market for me, that will materialise a 100 percent digital-only funnel. This generation is so used to using and engaging through gadgets that the need for a phone call or a meeting with a sales rep won't be needed as much as with previous generations. This, however, poses a great challenge not only to marketers but product owners on how to make their websites or apps at their optimal level of UX/UI [user interface/user experience]. This also implies that marketers need to be, more than ever, digital savvy.

Engagement is a big issue in digital marketing. What incentives (emotional or physical) are necessary to drive up engagement, and how does this potentially translate to ROI?

So in my previous answers, I tapped product, placement, price... I guess this question falls under promotion. So we completed the basic 4Ps. Not the pizza! Promotion is part of the framing strategy in marketing. A campaign may or may not have it; it depends on how it will, as you said, engage users. Now there are different levels of engagement. One of the most basic and frequently used interpretation of this is Social Media Engagement, because Facebook labelled it as such and it is easily trackable. Engagement can also be a simple ad click by your audience or it can be an actual conversation you had with the audience on the forum discussion panel. So it varies. What's important is a positive touchpoint between the audience and the brand. And again, with or without incentives or promotions. Big brands like LV, Ferrari and all these top tier brands never use discounts as a promotion strategy, for example, because it goes against their brand positioning. Group buying sites, for example, like NhomMua or HotDeal use it on a regular basis because they use low prices to initiate sales. As to how engagement converts into an actual ROI, I suggest that brands should build a proper Funnel. From awareness to revenue and to repeat purchases. And this is not only a marketing job—sales and other senior leaders should be involved in this process.

digital marketingImage source: fangdigital.com

Your biggest advice for anyone trying to get into the digital marketing game?

For those folks wanting a career in digital marketing: don't rely on what's taught at school. This industry is very exciting but whatever we do today can be completely irrelevant tomorrow as technology and user behaviour change so quickly. Having said that, the possibilities of discovering and pioneering new things in this field are massive. Don't try to do what's already done. The rapid changes in the industry also mean opportunities for new bloods and the old to create and innovate new ways of communicating brand promise to your audience, be it digital or on another platform.

Banner Image source: culturetech.co


The Power of Effective Feedback

By: Victor Burrill

The best leaders are those who ask for feedback and initiate employee engagement.

The need to learn and grow should be put forward.

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill.

Effective Feedback within the workplace results in closer relationships, better collaboration and increased effectiveness in performance. Business performance trainer and executive coach, Victor Burill, shares some valuable insight.

The Importance of Feedback in High-Performing Teams

According to a recent Forbes article, one of the essential characteristics of a high-performing team is one where the team members cultivate and practice an open feedback culture. These teams should provide and receive feedback regularly, regardless of position and tenure, in a productive way that should also deepen their relationships. Leaders can set the example by asking for feedback from team members, and responding positively versus defensively, effectively integrating the feedback into work behaviors.

Building an Open Feedback Culture starts with the Leader

Stephen R. Covey, the world renowned author and keynote speaker says...

“Leaders beware! The higher you go in an organisation, the less likely people are to give you straight feedback. Feedback is your life-support system. Without it, you will eventually fail. Do everything you can to create a culture where it is safe to give you feedback.”​

This should be taken as a motivational warning for any leader into creating an open feedback culture in the workplace.

The best leaders ask for more feedback, according to a study done by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. In their research of over 50,000 executives they found that "Leaders who ranked at the top 10% in asking for feedback were rated much higher, on average, in overall leadership effectiveness."

Feedback is also linked to employee engagement. In another recent study of over 22,000 leaders, Zenger and Folkman found that there was a correlation between low ratings from direct reports about the leader's ability to give honest feedback and low engagement scores. Conversely, if a leader was rated in the top 10% at giving honest feedback, their reports ranked their engagement in the top 23%.

Business PerformanceImage source: dianegottsman.com

Courtney Seiter, Director of People at Buffer says inviting feedback often, especially from those you trust will help any leader see challenges ahead of time, and you’ll gain experience in responding positively to feedback. She suggests beginning with open-ended questions for those who know you well and can speak with confidence about your work. Here are some great example questions:

- If you had to make two suggestions for improving my work, what would they be?

- How could I handle my projects more effectively?

- What could I do to make your job easier?

- How could I do a better job of following through on commitments?

- If you were in my position, what would you do to show people more appreciation?

- When do I need to involve other people in my decisions?

- How could I do a better job of prioritising my activities?

Overcoming the Fear of Giving and Receiving Feedback

One of the roadblocks of an open feedback culture is fear. When team members are fearful of what type of reaction they might receive if they say what they see, they are less likely to share openly – especially with their superiors.

Business PerformanceImage source: applicantstack.com

Imagine if you have just been asked if you would be open to some feedback. What would your reaction be? Does your stomach tighten? Do you feel fear or anger? Do you anticipate that this feedback will be critical? Are you already feeling defensive and believe that you need to explain, rationalise and justify your actions? These feelings are similar to those felt by many leaders.

Many managers I know think they are open to feedback. They often tell employees that I had an open-door policy for everyone. Then they get frustrated when they hear backdoor gossip. If they tell employees that they can speak with them, why weren’t they all coming to them directly? The answer is often because of how they are expected to react when others hold opposing views.

Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone in a 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review say... 

“The [feedback] process strikes at the tension between two core human needs — the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are."

Providing Feedback isn’t Solely the Team Leader’s Responsibility

According to Mary Shapiro, who teaches organizational behavior at Simmons College and is the author of the HBR Guide to Leading Teams, leaders can’t be the only one holding everyone accountable because they can’t possibly observe everything that’s going on. If the boss is the only one praising or critiquing, group dynamics suffer. “You want to give everyone the opportunity to say their piece,” she says. “Your job as a manager is to ensure that team members are “providing regular constructive feedback,” says Roger Schwarz, an organizational psychologist and the author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams. “There needs to be an expectation within the team that this is a shared leadership responsibility,” he says.

How to Give and Receive Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill and most people are not naturally good at it, says Shapiro. “One of your goals is to develop your team’s capacity to give feedback and help people get used to articulating how they feel the team is doing.” Take baby steps. At the second or third check-in, ask the group general questions such as, “On a scale of one to five, how well is the team sharing the workload? What needs to change?”

Business PerformanceImage source: lutz.us

Courtney Seiter, Director of People at Buffer suggests the 7 Criteria for Effective Feedback are:

- The feedback provider is credible in the eyes of the feedback recipient

- The feedback provider is trusted by the feedback recipient

- The feedback is conveyed with good intentions

- The timing and the circumstances of giving the feedback are appropriate

- The feedback is given in an interactive manner

- The feedback message is clear

- The feedback is helpful to recipient

Final Tips of Giving & Receiving Feedback

Do:

- Make sure your team understands that feedback is a shared leadership responsibility

- Schedule routine check-in meetings where you encourage feedback

- Keep the tone positive by encouraging team members to say what they appreciate about others’ contributions

- Ask questions to get feedback on your feedback

Business PerformanceImage source: kuzabiashara.co.ke

Don’t:

- Start meetings with your own feedback for the team — allow everyone else to first express how they think they’re doing

- Shy away from performance issues — address them openly with the group

- Get in the middle of personality conflicts — help facilitate difficult conversations

- Don’t assume you’re always right

Good luck in your journey in building a safe, feedback rich environment with your teams! - Victor Burrill

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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


Building Workplace Performance Through Trust

By: Victor Burrill

What can you do to build trust in the workplace?

Trust increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses.

Building Trust with The Emotional Bank Account

‘You cannot prevent a major catastrophe but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, that has high morale, that knows how to behave and that trusts itself. One where people trust one another. In military training, the first rule is to instill soldiers with trust in their officers because without trust, they won’t fight.’  - Peter Drucker

One way you may consider building performance in your team is through building trust.

Teams and organizations that operate with high trust significantly outperform those who do not cultivate trust at the core of their culture. A Watson Wyatt study showed that high-trust companies outperformed low-trust companies in total return to shareholders — by 286%!

Building Workplace PerformanceImage source: business2community.com

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni says that the first of the five dysfunctions is the absence of trust among team members. Essentially, he says, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.

What can you do to build trust in the workplace?

“Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different.’’ - Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO

It is firmly believed by many that trust isn’t a quality you either have or you don’t, it’s a learnable skill that is developed with practice.

Stephen M. R. Covey in his book The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything explains the first step towards building trust is self-trust (trusting yourself) or credibility. As the writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Self trust is the essence of heroism.”

Credibility is about developing the integrity, intent, capabilities, and results that make you believable, both to yourself and to others. Essentially, it boils down to two simple questions... 

Question 1. “Do I trust myself?"
Question 2. “Am I someone others can trust?”

Building Workplace PerformanceImage source: miro.com

Research shows that many of us don’t follow through with the goals we set and don’t keep the promises and commitments we make to ourselves. For example, almost half of the western world set New Year’s resolutions, research shows that only 8 percent actually keep them. By doing this time after time the result will be repeated failure to make and keep commitments to ourselves which erodes our self-confidence and we lose trust in our ability to make and keep commitments. Thus, we fail to project the personal strength of character that inspires trust. We may try to borrow strength from position or association. But it’s not real. It’s not ours… and people know it. And whether we realize or not, that impacts the bottom line.

Although we all know it intuitively, research validates that a person’s self-confidence will affect his or her performance. This is one reason why Jack Welch of GE claimed that “building self-confidence in others is a huge part of leadership.”

The lack of Self Trust also undermines our ability to trust others. In the words of Cardinal de Retz, “A man who doesn’t trust himself can never really trust anyone else.”

The good news in all of this is that when we do make and keep a commitment to ourselves or set and achieve a meaningful goal, we build credibility and self-confidence within ourselves. The more we do it, the more confidence we have that we can achieve our goals, and are more likely to set new ones. The more we accomplish our goals, the more we trust ourselves.

Consider which ones of the following High Trust Behaviours would you like to change the most and why?

1. Straight Talking

8. Confront Reality

2. Demonstrate Respect

9. Clarify Expectations

3. Communicate with Transparency

10. Practice Accountability

4. Right Wrongs

11. Listen First

5. Show Loyalty

12. Keep Commitments

6. Deliver on Promises and Achieve Results

13. Extend Trust

7. Get Better

 

Trust increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses

The result from the 41 Country Study of Paul Zak and Stephen Knack also shows “In all cases, the countries with the highest trust levels have the highest per capita incomes and GDPs. Because trust reduces the cost of transactions, high-trust societies exhibit better economic performance than low-trust societies.”

High trust also increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses and organisations too. A lot of people around the world trust in FedEx to deliver them goods overnight. But have you considered that your trust in them is a major part of why they’re so fast at delivering in the first place? Since many people trust in FedEx to deliver the next day, they must move hundreds of thousands of packages and orders each day – as people buy, and they buy fast. The speed with which FedEx receives incoming orders at scale is what endows it with the flow of financial capital it needs to not only pay for overnight drivers or book special air freight services, but also create systems that will lower the average cost and time per delivery.

Building Workplace PerformanceImage source: news.com.au

Since 9/11 the average airport security checks take 90 minutes, as opposed to approximately 30 minutes before. The trust in airplane passengers has gone, making the whole process of checking each passenger slower, and leads to an increased cost for personnel and machinery.

Building Trust with The Emotional Bank Account

An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor describing the amount of trust that has been built up in any relationship. It represents how safe you feel with or around another person.

Much like the idea of having a savings accounts flood with cash or real estate investments with large equity balances – which are all great things – there is another type of account that probably affects your life much more significantly. This account is measured by your trust. It is an emotional bank account and we are regularly making deposits into it and take withdrawals when we need to. A deposit represents someone doing a caring act for us or making us feel safe and accepted. A withdrawal will be somebody showing us malice, bad intent or aggression and represents us losing trust in that person.

We make similar kinds of deposits and withdrawals in our relationships at work into our Emotional Bank Accounts. When the balance is high, so is the resulting level of trust, and so is your ability to achieve the results that you are measured by. When the balance is low, trust is low, the quality of your work will decrease and suffer, and ultimately your work relationships can suffer also.

Building Workplace PerformanceImage source: i.ytimg.com

To build a strong, healthy balance with the people with whom you work, follow these important points:

1. Never deposit to withdraw - While there are similarities between a traditional bank account and an Emotional Bank Account, you should never accumulate a high emotional balance in order to make planned withdrawals later. I know a colleague who kept a box of thank you notes in his office because he had developed an unhealthy habit of using them to build a reservoir of goodwill before dumping a big project on someone. This approach is exactly how not to utilize the Emotional Bank Account as your attempts to show good intent will be seen through quickly and will not be well received.

2. Know the other person’s currency - Like trying to deposit British Pounds into a Chinese bank account, you are sure to raise eyebrows and cause confusion. Understand how to change your tones and words to communicate with certain people and make an effort to ‘speak their language’. If done correctly this will instantly gain you their trust. Take time to learn what the important people in your workplace (aka your boss, your cubicle mate, your best clients) consider a deposit.

3. Communicate your own currency - You cannot expect people to read your mind. In the fast-paced world of work, it can cost you plenty if you do. Clarify and communicate your expectations before, during, and after every project. Doing so sets everyone up for success as showing trust in them builds rapport and understanding.

4. Small and consistent deposits over time are more powerful than occasional, large deposits - Relationships grow in security and trust when they are built with frequent, meaningful contributions rather than an occasional grand gesture. This stockpile can be invaluable when the unintentional but inevitable “you-know-what” hits the fan, and you need to draw from the deep well of deposits to turn a sticky situation around.

5. Right wrongs - A piece of Eastern wisdom says, “if you’re going to bow, bow low”. In other words, when you mess up, make a sincere apology. There is nothing more meaningful than admitting a mistake without making excuses for it. This shows humility and vulnerability, and will build strong trust.

Good luck with your journey in building performance in your workplace!

Banner Image source: betterthansuccess.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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