In my life, I will never forget the moments of choices, and turns. When forcefully making important decisions, doubts, hesitations, worries and even regrets are unavoidable. Making choice requires a lot of wisdom, but above all, it is necessary to understand the world in which I live, to know what I want, and on the other hand, to be ready to take responsibility for the choice. After understanding my instincts and ego, I have found my appropriate direction with the spirit of being ready to confront the consequences of that choice, even if it is good or bad. From my perspective, leaving a stable job at a university to start a business was a landmark decision.
Decision to start a business when over 40 years old
In 2015, I was assigned to organize a study tour to Japan for a group of 20 businessmen. Dense working programs with famous businessmen, managers, and professors in Japan are continuous for 10 days. During the journey, despite being busy with coordination, I still kept an eye on the people, businesses, and Japan, which I have long admired. After listening to lectures from experts as well as directly visiting Japanese factories, construction sites, and supermarkets, I was able to discover the reason for the dramatical development of Japan. Always doing the best is the working motto of the Japanese. Each product reaching the consumer is the result of a rigorous and serious working process. “All thoughts for customers” is the principle and the art of Japanese business.
Credibility is a prominent feature in both business and daily lifestyle of Japanese people. It has brought the success and customers’ trust to the products of the land of cherry blossoms. The Japanese have done seemingly small things but profoundly and consistently. Businesses here not only have foresight, but also pay attention to every little detail. Their ambitions are sustainable development, not immediate profit. Therefore, there are many businesses in Japan that are at least a century old.
The learning trip about Japanese businesses had a strong impact on me. After observing and comparing with Vietnam, I realize that the majority of Vietnamese enterprises are small and medium sized with professional leadership; however, they are not thoroughly trained in business management. Due to the lack of management knowledge, as well as the thinking and ability to plan strategy, spontaneous business operations are based on responding to the situation, producing with profit and demands. They often run their business with experience instead of setting a vision and mapping out strategic direction for long-term success. Consequently, the role of the leader is very important while the business or organization is very passive in the long-term development.
Although small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) account for the majority of businesses in Vietnam, they have not had opportunities to consult in building a long-term and sustainable development strategy. Large consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG, Bain & Company all requires around 1 million USD per project for strategy consulting. Obviously, it’s impossible for SME with limited financial capacity to invest in a methodical strategy from the beginning. With these concerns, I was aware of the potentials in the field of corporate strategy consulting, thereby I seized this opportunity.
Seemingly, the important moment of life has come, I cannot pass up the opportunity for gaining greater achievements. At the age of over 40, the age of adulthood enables me to use the constant to improvise and penetrate everything in the world. “At forty-one has no more perplexities”, I must resolutely pursue clear direction without doubts. It was time to step out of my comfort zone and support entrepreneurs and leaders in developing their vision. Accordingly, the idea of founding an organization specializing in training and consulting strategies for businesses was raised. After receiving advice from leading experts on strategic management, the Institute for Strategic Leadership Development Research (SLEADER) was founded on 04/04/2017. The 5-year process of building Sleader has earned the trust of many Vietnamese businesses.
Challenges and opportunities intertwinement
At the beginning, difficulties followed difficulties even when it was identified as “Right path, bright future” such as unavailable reputation, impossible recruitment, personnel resignation, and demanding customers. Some associates expressed doubts and left SLEADER when confronting with hardship. However, I keep faith in my choice, determine to move forward step by step. Having received basic training in business administration, I decided to execute professionally from the start, including decorating the workspace, designing and operating the website, strategic planning, and operations, towards sustainable development.
I define a clear mission, vision, and strategic goals, develop the brand and organizational culture consistently, stick with the core business instead of running after income-generating operations without a trademark for SLEADER. Thanks to these effort, persistence, and perseverance, SLEADER got training and consulting contracts for both the public and corporate sectors. We have implemented not only training courses on Strategic Leadership, Effective Management Skills for many provinces, cities, and towns, but also strategic consulting for a wide range of companies in many different fields and sizes.
As an opportunity, in 2019, SLEADER signed a cooperation agreement with strategic partner, the Malik Institute, Switzerland, a world leading organization in cybernetics, governance and leadership. Malik Institute has headquarters in many countries around the world, providing consulting services to more than 1,000 organizations and businesses, including great names such as Airbus, Exxon Mobil, BMV, Volkswagen, Daimler, Siemens. It took about two years to find a strategic partner. Previously, I also contacted a few international organizations operating in the consulting field, but they are not the right partner. However, when we discussed with the Malik Institute, Switzerland, we realized that the two parties have very similar approaches, especially in terms of mission and path. Prof. Fredmund Malik, the founder of the Malik Institute, also decided to leave the university to implement new ideas and bring management models to organizations and businesses.
With intelligent management tools of Malik Institute such as Syntegration, Management Wheel, S-curves model, Integrated Management System combined with SLEADER\’s East-West harmony thinking approach, several different products and services for Vietnamese businesses were created. SLEADER provided consulting services and transferred management technology to famous customers in many fields such as: VNPT, PVN, DOJI, Tien Nong, Deo Ca, T&T, Doanh Sinh, Traphaco, GDC, PVChem, VAECO. As a result, SLEADER has affirmed its position in the strategy consulting market, and customers have started to propose cooperation.
Becoming National strategy consulting organization
From the very first day of foundation, I have established a clear vision for SLEADER: “Become a national organization in strategy consulting by 2025”. In order to turn this vision into reality, a strategic goal must be achieved, which is providing consultations to large and national economic groups.
To achieve this strategic goal, I decided to adopt a seemingly impossible strategy, which is combination of differentiation and cost leadership strategy. The Covid 19 pandemic has caused a lot of damage to humanity, but on the other hand, it has strongly promoted the implementation of smart management solutions in organizations and businesses. Therefore, with the strategy of adapting to the new context, SLEADER’s experts and I have created consulting products with “international” quality but “domestic” cost. With that approach, SLEADER has gradually persuaded large domestic enterprises to become a reputable strategic consultant.
Implementing the strategy advised by SLEADER lead to superior business results, greater cohesion, and remarkable increase in employee’s income. Therefore, the brand of Sleader is increasingly affirmed by partners and customers. In 2021, Sleader surpassed many domestic and foreign consultants to be selected by the Vietnam National Petroleum Group (PETROLIMEX) to advise on the development strategy to 2030, with a vision to 2045. I am personally very proud of this great result and realize that the path to becoming a national strategic consultant firm is not far away.
Dr. Duong Thu – Director of Institute for Strategic Leadership Development Research (Sleader)