There’s nothing like flying through the streets of Hanoi on the back of a scooter with no helmet to get the heart racing. My driver, a young woman who works in the media industry, weaves in and out of traffic like a Formula 1 racer, all cool confidence. We narrowly avoid a head on collision with a taxi before pulling into the old town for an experience unlike any other. “Beer corner” is an intersection that literally spills hundreds of people into the streets, all sitting on 1 foot stools while the world passes by.
It’s an unusual culmination to a thrilling week of business development and workshops in Vietnam.
The next generation of leaders
It started like many others, arriving by plane in a far flung part of the Far East. Monday morning I visited a Big 4 consulting firm in Hochiminh City (Saigon), famous for its French colonial architecture.
We talked about coaching leadership to be more effective communicators, then brainstorm about how to train the next generation of high potentials in Vietnam’s consulting world. Next I met with an old friend that I trained at the International Center for Journalists in Phnom Penh in the early 2000s. She’s moved onto an investor relations role with a local listed company. We talked about the strengths and weakness of her senior management, as well as editing and writing projects in Vietnam.
In the evening I met with an interesting character from one of the chambers of commerce. He’s a lifelong expat who developed research businesses in Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar and offered great counsel on building our business in the country. Like my experience earlier in my career in mainland China, he cautions against local partners unless there is a great level of trust and respect.
The need for executive coaching
The next day I met with the head of another chamber of commerce. She’s been in Vietnam for more than a decade and has built several human resource firms. She offered critical insights into the need for management skills in the country, particularly among senior leadership and new graduates, many of whom haven’t been exposed to working in a global economy.
Vietnam’s GDP growth is expected to average 5.6 percent through 2017, according to the OECD. The country is expected to grow stronger if the country improves its competitiveness (which will speed up if the TPP goes ahead).
I also met with a local conglomerate involved in everything from beverages to mining. It was a revealing meeting as they are growing rapidly but have a very lean management structure, relying almost entirely on agencies and consultants for functional expertise. Next onto a meeting with the CEO of a major life insurance company. He’s a returning Vietnamese, which means he left Vietnam as a refugee to Canada and returned as a businessman. We discussed the differences between doing business in the other parts of Asia vs. Vietnam, executive coaching, as well as biking, a mutual passion.
The striking contrasts of Asia
In the evening, a client and friend took me to the new nightspot called M Galleries in the Hotel Des Arts. It’s a striking contrast to leave the busy streets of Hochiminh, where you dodge one of the more than 7 million scooters on the roads and sidewalks, to look out from the luxurious rooftop with the city’s beautiful people.
Wednesday I have an important call with a regional bank in Singapore, then a meeting with an energy sector client. At night I travel to Hanoi, rich in French, Chinese and Southeast Asian culture, where I conduct a one day workshop on internal communications and employee engagement. We look at two interesting case studies and relate them to the unique challenges faced by a bank undergoing a major global restructuring.
With development comes change
On Friday I meet with an American leader of the new British University in Vietnam. He and his wife have made Vietnam home for six years and love its rough charm. Like what I experienced living in China in the early 2000s, they fear development and the commercialism it will bring, though the economic benefits are many.
Finally, I meet a local brand building expert. Educated in the U.K., she’s the epitome of Vietnam’s young generation of business people – smart, aggressive, well-connected and looking forward to a bright future.
Interested to learn more? Contact Wylie Rogers.