Business is for the adventurous

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Businesspersons must be adventurous and explore new opportunities every day, says Dang Thanh Tam, Vietnam's third richest businessman in the stock market in 2010.

In an exclusive interview with Thanh Nien Weekly, Tam said that businesspersons must be determined, expand their knowledge, and grab opportunities.

Thanh Nien Weekly: How do you feel about being among the richest persons in Vietnam?

Dang Thanh Tam: It's an honor to be recognized as the third richest person in the country. It's also a great example for the youth. But I am third richest person only in Vietnam's stock market.

In reality, there are many successful firms not listed in the stock market, so there may be many others more successful than me. As our economy grows, many firms across sectors will see stronger growth. Only when businesses are not afraid of declaring their assets in the open market will we have a clearer idea about the wealth and poverty in society.

Frankly, it would be untrue to say I'm not happy (on being among the richest persons in Vietnam). But with public acknowledgement comes responsibility. I have to work harder, draw from the experience of my predecessors and create more opportunities for the next generation. Individual pride is transient, but I have a big responsibility toward the society.

Some say that business needs an adventurous spirit. Do you think it helps you become successful?

Businesspersons must be adventurous by nature. They should chart new territory and open new avenues. Those who are determined and expand their knowledge can seize opportunities.

PROFILE

Dang Thanh Tam, born in 1964, is the chairman of Kinh Bac City Development, Tan Tao Investment and Industry Corporation, and Saigon Telecommunication and Technologies Corporation.

Tam started off as a marine engineer, but moved on to business investing in finance, real estate, and industrial park development. Tam, who holds stocks worth more than VND4 trillion (US$190.5 million), was the richest businessman in Vietnam's stock market in 2007, and the third richest in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

He first ventured into business by investing in the Tan Tao Industrial Park in 1996. Now, the Tan Tao Corporation has expanded to 40 member companies, and operates in the fields of real estate, construction, finance, banking, telecommunications, and energy.

Some people think business is an innate talent. There are, of course, people around the world who have become highly successful without qualifications but these are the exceptions.

Our youth should always try to improve and expand their knowledge, and increase the opportunities available to them. The Internet has brought information to our fingertips; it's now a matter of taking advantage of the technology and using it for personal and professional development.

In business, which is more important, the heart or the head?

Even the brightest minds need to be enthusiastic about their goals in order to achieve them. I listen carefully to my heart, my instincts. The heart is always right and reflects your true desires and passions. When starting a new venture, young persons must listen to the voice in their heart.

What is the biggest milestone in your career?

The most important milestone was when I became a member of the APEC business advisory council (in 2007). Earlier, my firm operated and was known within the domestic market only. Through dialogues (with other members), I have been able to expand my knowledge and the scope of my business. When I was selected as a representative of Vietnamese firms, I had to make sure I read up before participating in any dialogues so that I don't let down the Vietnamese business community.

What do you think about enterprises' morals?

It is very important for companies to develop a business culture. Without an environment fostering healthy competition, our growth will be stunted and dubious.

It is easy to differentiate between the morals of Vietnamese firms and their western counterparts based on the culture within organizations. For example, Vietnamese firms may sign contracts based on verbal agreements alone, but they will never use the lack of written agreements against each other.

There is also a lot of solidarity within the business community in the country, which could boost its growth further.

You are the third richest person in Vietnam now. What do you see for yourself and your country in the future?

I grew up in a very poor family in Hai Phong City. I used to wish my children would not see the kind of poverty I did.

As my firm began to grow, I tried to implement projects in rural areas instead of in big cities to provide employment opportunities to those living outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Thousands of rural Vietnamese are very poor. In some areas, there has been no infrastructure development in decades.

In peacetime, businesspersons are the soldiers (in an economic battle). It is our responsibility to provide a better economic climate for the next generation.

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