He cried at the age of 10 because of penetrating the shame of poverty, being a “huckster” at the age of 14, having a rather big capital due to many “tricks” at the age of 18, from the age of 25 and later formally rushing forward the professional environment of business to become one of the great businessman of the textile & garment industry in Vietnam. That is the outlined portrait of the General Director of Thai Tuan Textile & Garment Company. His full name is Thai Tuan Chi.
Reporter: It is known that you were so poor during your childhood, exactly you lived in penury. Please tell me about that period first.
Mr. Thai Tuan Chi (TTC): I would like to talk about my father first.
He was an oriental medicine doctor majoring in barrenness treatment. He had over 100 grand children, many of them were adoptive or moral ones due to the barrenness treatment for many people, and 11 natural children. Formerly, my father practised oriental medicine but he had a narrow practice. Because of the poverty, people didn’t have enough food and garments so how they could worry about their barrenness and children. It is difficult to describe the poverty of my household in words because taking care of 11 children was a burden of my father.
The price of his treatment was so cheap because the treatment was a charity practice. The penury in that period caused me to weep softly night after night. Seeing my friends of the same age in easier circumstances, I felt self-pity and loved my father more and more. The professional ethics which had been given to many people by my father reduced my household to be in needy circumstance. However, my father always exerted himself outstandingly for his children’s study. That virtue followed me later, even in the business.
I knew that I was the poor one so my need to escape from the penury rose early. I started working when I was 14, and I did mass of work. Girdle cake, soya-sauce, soda, sandal and mosquito-net and blanket sale to make money.
Until the age of 18, a sum of capital was in my process. I traded in numerous kinds of goods for seeking profit. Finally, I stopped doing that business to major in 01 kind of business, did it carefully and spent all my life to follow it. At that time, I chose fabric because I realized that it ... was light and very profitable. That’s all, very simple.
Reporter: The ethics in business? Many people think that business, businessman is attached to tricks, ruthless and cunning and ... even a litle mafia. What do you say about this?
TTC: It is difficult to avoid this for the thought of retail traders. Looking back on my business process before I chose this fabric way, it was similar to a way of management. I did it only because it was not bad, not illegal and it was profitable. However, once my thought of business and integration had been determined, it must be different. There needs to have a scope, a mission, a determined and an obvious long-term plan and a long-term human resources investment to survive and to develop. The way of thought and business procedures should be renewed to suit the situation. There should be or needs to be the long-term working plan and target.
During the era of information and integration, nothing can be hidden, including the business world or any social relationship. I think that: “ Do not let someone who comes to me leave without being satisfied. My experience is to take all the good things from life and learn from the failures of others to seek the path to success.”
Repoter: You seem to be so self-confident?
TTC: certainly! Once one has confidence in himself, others may trust in him.
Last year the turnover of our company rose 24% and 42% of profit risen, and we were amongst the top-ten on profit of the textile & garment industry. It is good to be proud of. My objective of the next strategy is to direct at the balance of home and abroad export. That is a long-term process. I myself have a litle success is because I realized that I am poor. That is I created pressure for myself and I had to endeavour to overcome it.
Reporter: Being self-confident to overcome the pressure, not everybody can do it easily, you may believe that but what do your employees think about it?
TTC: My employees have to stand a rather big pressure and they... prefer that pressure .
Reporter: It seems to be rather illogical?
TTC: My employees have been educated by the stories. There was no blaming but detailed explanations. For example: on a Saturday during 2006, I asked all employees to attend a meeting on the 13th floor in Diamond Plaza. A big envelope, like those used for keeping the documents, was given to each employee and they were required to open it at the regulated time only. What were in these envelopes? It was difficult to guess. There were ... the cinema tickets only. Tran Chau Port film. After watching the film, the employees came to my house to have a party and I listened to them discussing about the film. That was the way they talked about our company. I questioned them about the subjectivity of the United States of America, the bravery of the Japanese, the consequence after the attack, the love in the film,... I want my employees know how to renew themselves in working. I want them to have the Iron will
They must not be subjective in all cases. And they were satisfied with that.
Reporter: Were you well schooled in that way?
TTC: I have learnt through books, life and I gained knowledge from the experts in homeland as well as in foreign countries. I have learnt what is the good thing and I have not hesitated to invest in that. I always “restructure the thought” because I think that what belongs to the opportunity and the defiance, then we should consider it under the most positive direction. When we see the opportunity, it means that we are optimistic, self-confident and we should take it at ease. If we are so worried about being unsuccessful the opportunity may slip out.
A pessimistic prisoner who just sees 04 walls of the stockade, then how can he keep his mind on his undergoing re-education, working to wait for the day of going back to the normal life? My experiences and learning from books showed me that: Should not break the rule!
I work 10 hours everyday but my work is quite easy. Most of my time is spent reading books and thinking about the strategy to develop the company. My employees have been trained how to concretize that strategy at the optimality. My company hired many things from foreign countries, like consultants. That is the way of learning!
Reporter: Integrating into WTO, the firms and the economy of Vietnam face many difficulties from the defiance,and the pressure of the foreign corporations. You just see the opportunity, is it the untruth?
TTC: There was a fable like this: A group of people were attacked by tigers, and they ran. There were 02 people who ran together, one of them took off the shoes while running. The other questioned about it, and the person who took off their shoes answered that he simply needed to run more quickly. My company also has a private strategy for integration, that is to prevent the confrontation directly with the big corporations and to seek a private direction. We will not run but we will advance forward our direction. To the “Under the Blue Ocean” Strategy, there are many spaces in the market inland and oversea. The important thing is to find those spaces to worm into. Why we seek in the distant markets in the world while Vietnam is the big potential market.
I think, I am aware, I decide and I do. That is my business principle which I learnt from the Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet. Thinking carefully, doing fiercely and if you dared to think and dared to take the challenge, then it will become the opportunity.
Reporter: How do you comment on the indispensable development in the integration with the needful and sufficient problems for the firms of Vietnam?
TTC: Politics is attached to the economy, international economy is attached to the regional economy which is attached to Vietnam one and Vietnam economy is effected by the business strategy of Vietnam firms,... these relationships need to be oriented by the State and there should be a plan to build a strategy “ National Trade Names”. Communication world contributes to rouse the patriotism of the people by supporting and using the Vietnam high quality goods with good trade names.
I think that the relationship among the government -firms-communication world will decide every thing. A firm that wants to develop strongly must be supported by the State in mechanism, the back up of the communication world in information, products popularization and the firm has to exert itself to improve the quality of products in order to be corresponding to that interest.
However, “the love triangle” must be on the basis of a national strategy, it cannot be completed by narrow scale. It means that the union which based on science and economy have to be closed and thothrough.
Reporter: It is not easy at all, could you explain more clearly, please?
TTC: I think that each firm has to have the sense of restructure in its thought process so that we can do, even do better the things that the Western countries have done. Once everyone is too satisfied with himself , he will not strive very hard any more. There must be a new thought and target after completion of the mission to push the working morale in each firm and in the economy.
Skill and spirit of firm or skill and spirit of each person in this integration age is indispensable.. For the firms, it is the strategical visibility, long-term plan, the investment in the human resources inside and outside the company, suggestion contribution for building the policy of the State, co-ordination, support of and from the communication world,...
Improving the qualifications of the current employees and talent attraction must be parallel. After the talent attraction we need to know how to keep the talents and develop their working capacity. The things we do not know, we may consult the foreign consulting companies. We must not hide our ignorance because of vain honour, we must not be afraid of spending expenses on inviting the experts.
Reporter: The matters you mentioned are closed to the common problems of the firms of Vietnam in particular and the firms of the developing countries in general. May you generalize in a sentence from your experience?
TTC: (Think for a moment) The thought of a huckster must be thrown away to move forward to the thought of a busnessman, I think that.
When I was young, I did any thing to make profit provided that it was legal. That way of doing business made profit easily but it was not lasting because there was not a lasting direction. When I realized that I need to invest money, time and effort into the textile & garment industry, then I tried all the best to follow that objective, my choice was right.
Reporter: Considering business as the principal way of direction and the way of doing business is the private way of each person, what do you say to the young businessmen?
TTC: To study. Studying strictly the thing you chose. If you do not have condition to learn at school, you may learn from the life, from the people who were successful. If you can not study oversea, you may study in land. For the older generations, the current youth has many convenient conditions for studying. Use it absolutely to realize your dream.
From my experience, I will share a book that I have read with you. It is call “ Mind Map” of Tony Buzan. This book is not thick, it is not very difficult to understand. Please read it and it will be useful for you.
Reporter: Thank you sincerely!
Mai Quoc An (VieTimes)