Working the Vietnamese way
By Ngoc Tran in HCMC
Though he was born and raised in Malaysia and his family is residing in Singapore, Yip Hoong Mun, deputy CEO of the real estate company CapitaLand Vietnam, considers Vietnam his second home. He sees similarities between Vietnam and his homeland and moreover, he has many good friends who at first were merely business partners.
Having had a strong connection with Vietnam for a long time now, Yip understands that one must think like the Vietnamese and that the best way to work is “the Vietnamese way.” To him, Vietnamese people are very flexible and prefer to resolve issues via dialog. For this reason, in his opinion, foreign companies entering Vietnam to do business must “sit down with their partners” – they mustn’t be rigid. And sometimes you have to “follow your heart.”
The time necessary to acquire a license to carry out a real estate project in Singapore is one year and in China two years, but in Vietnam the required waiting time is four years. Although doing business in Vietnam is never easy, especially for foreigners, Yip still sees Vietnam as a market rich in potential with a young, dynamic population. The Vietnamese economy has many growth opportunities. So he revealed that he has bought a 130-square-meter apartment in the Mulberry Lane project (Hanoi) that his company developed at an approximate price of VND4 billion.
When asked whether he bought the apartment because of a reduced price, Yip said, “I was not given any discount. Moreover, according to our company policy, I can’t resell the apartment within two years of taking possession of the apartment. Even if it increases in value during that time, I’m not allowed to sell it for a profit.”
He highly values relationships, saying this is the most important thing in life. “Relationships. You have to build relationships with your family, friends, employees and partners.” In order to build solid relationships, he believes, one must always be sincere with and concerned about everyone. Vietnamese entrepreneurs have partnered with CapitaLand in the past, thereafter becoming his true friends. Though busy, he still makes time to see friends, drinking coffee and having dinner with them every weekend.
He always supports his employees, most of them young. Working in the competitive business environment, in his opinion, if you aren’t concerned about and supportive of employees, then it’s hard to work together well. Additionally, young employees very much need attention and guidance from their superiors so that they can get better in their jobs.
Moreover, he said, the secret to the success of a company lies not only in increasing its assets; of primary importance is adding more and more skilled people to the company’s workforce. For this reason, Yip remains very concerned about the nurturing and training of talented people.
He makes it clear that he feels satisfied because all the young employees in his company are active and eager to improve and because he has helped them daily grow in their careers. Also, he often tells them stories about himself to help them learn lessons. Duong Thuy Phuong Khanh, an office manager at CapitaLand Vietnam, recounts, “I think he’s very easy to understand and tolerant when talking with employees. Whenever a problem arises, we can always speak directly with him.”
With the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” in mind, he always tries to understand the local culture and fit in well with the daily life of Vietnamese people. He even has a Vietnamese name: Diep Khanh Van (a Vietnamese translation of Yip Hoong Mun).
For over a year now, this business executive has been having a Vietnamese language teacher come to his company office to teach him. He also learns Vietnamese from his employees. His studies, however, are frequently interrupted by his work, so his Vietnamese is still limited. He wishes to be a skilled speaker of Vietnamese in order to better understand the culture and people of Vietnam, to converse more easily with everyone, and not to get lost every time he travels.
He has been to many places in Vietnam and nearly every one of them has made wonderful impressions on him. For him, Phu Quoc is an island full of potential. Danang is on the path to become an international city. Halong Bay has also become a landmark well known throughout the world. And his place of business, HCMC, is a lively place. Hanoi, where he also has an office, is quiet and intimate.
Not only interested in discovering new places in Vietnam, Yip also likes Vietnamese cuisine very much. As he sees it, nearly all Vietnamese dishes are good for one’s health. His favorite dishes are pho (rice noodle soup served with sliced beef from Hanoi) and bun bo (rice noodle soup served with sliced beef from Hue City). Along with other dishes from Hue such as banh beo (steamed round and flat rice cakes), banh nam (flat rice flour dumpling with pork wrapped in banana leaf), banh it (small stuffed balls made of sticky rice) and banh bot loc (cassava flour cake stuffed with shrimp).
Regarding his future intentions, after retirement he wants to go back to university to study philosophy or politics and enjoy once more the life of a university student. He would also like to teach in order to share the experience he has accumulated throughout his career.
He is unsure of when he will leave Vietnam, but if he should leave, “I want to be remembered as a friend of Vietnam – not a company leader,” Yip confided. As for now, he will continue trying to contribute to the development of CapitaLand in Vietnam and hoping that, through this contribution, he will also lend a hand to the development of Vietnam.
“Though facing economic difficulties, Vietnam will continue to make advances and develop in line with its potential,” he said.
The Saigon Times Daily