This is a question I am asked on a very regular basis and Vietnam’s Entrepreneur Day, celebrated every October 13, feels like a good opportunity to pass on some of the lessons that I have learned. In doing so, I should also say that imparting information is not a one-way street.
I remain on the same learning curve that everyone else does. For one lesson that my parents taught me and I try to teach other people is that every great entrepreneur has a burning desire to learn and acquire new information.
Successful entrepreneurs know that they do not hold all the answers and nor does anyone else. They are, therefore, always on the look out for people who can provide new insights, bring new expertise to bear.
They are not afraid to admit that they do not know everything. In fact, they derive strength from it. They are good listeners.
They also have the confidence and willingness to take calculated risks and potentially face failure. This is a theme that I return to a lot in my writing and public speaking.
It is arguably the most valuable lesson that my parents taught me of all. These days we hear a lot about the “cotton wool” generation: young people whose parents cocooned them while they were growing up, protecting them from failure and continually emphasising success.
My parents were the opposite. My father worried if he thought I wasn’t failing enough because only then did he believe that I would learn valuable life lessons.
This made me a stronger person, whereas too often these days we hear about the young people’s mental health struggles, a situation partly attributed to overprotective parenting. Some young people are growing up without acquiring the resilience we all need to face life’s challenges.
I also consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in Vietnam. This is a country that is renowned for its entrepreneurship.
One of the reasons why we have this business culture is because of the hardships that my grandparents and parents’ generation faced during the 20th century. They learned to accept and even embrace risk and volatility.
I grew up during a more affluent period, but their experiences remained within living memory and they have passed them onto me. It still astounds me how far the country has come in just a few decades.
Private business was only legalised here in 1990 and during that decade, a total of 145,000 enterprises were established including my own family’s soft drinks business, Tan Hiep Phat. Then in 2000, the government enacted the Enterprise Law. This really enabled the private sector to flourish and in 2004 we started celebrating Vietnam Entrepreneur’s Day for the first time.
Today, there are more than 800,000 private sector companies in operationh, accounting for 43% of GDP in 2020. The future here remains very bright for anyone who has the appetite and ideas to establish their own company.
The World Bank recently revised its projection for Vietnam’s 2022 GDP growth from 5.3% to7.2%, the highest rate of any nation in East or South East Asia. The growth is here if you have the mindset to try and capture it.
And do not worry if takes more than one attempt. Many countries have their own proverbs about the power of failure. Here is Vietnam’s: Thất bại là mẹ thành công (failure is the mother of success). I could not agree more.