May 20, 2012

Thanh Nguyen — Leadership is About Love

“Deep down everyone loves to have others love them…love is the emotion of wanting to be together, wanting to unconditionally support each other, wanting to understand and empathize, wanting to be there when things are tough and to be there when things are fun.”

Thanh Nguyen, Founder & CEO of Anphabe.com

 

Welcome to my first video interview!

My guest was Thanh Nguyen, Founder & CEO of Anphabe.com, the leading “Share to Succeed” business community connecting thousands of leaders and experts in Vietnam.

Thanh is a passionate, highly spiritual leader.  She is talented at communicating vision and motivating others to achieve greatness.

My main takeaways from the interview:

  • Leadership is about love.
  • Entrepreneurs are motivated by following their passion and creating things their way.
  • Starting a company can seem scary — but fear is ok and normal.  “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”
  • Being an entrepreneur is like having a baby — very tough but also incredibly rewarding.
  • Cash is KING!  If you don’t have cash flow you don’t have a business.

Send a tweet to thank Thanh for a great interview by clicking here.

Chris: Hi, I am Chris F. Harvey. Welcome to another interview with a
dynamic business leader and entrepreneur. Today my guest is Thanh Nguyen.

Thanh: Hello.

Chris: Hi. Thanh is Founder and CEO of Anphabe.com, which is an online
and offline business community connecting thousands of leaders and experts
here in Vietnam. I asked Thanh to join me today, because of her unique
values and beliefs regarding leadership. I thought that you would have a
lot to share with our viewers.

Thanh: Thanks. My pleasure.

Chris: Okay, great. Let us get started. Thanh, can you tell me first about
the mission of Anphabe.com?

Thanh: The mission that we are aiming at is to help thousands of
professionals in Vietnam to be more successful through connecting them with
meaningful contacts, information and opportunities.

Chris: So you like helping people become more successful?

Thanh: Definitely.

Chris: And you have an online component and an offline component. Can you
talk about each of those?

Thanh: Yes. We all call that is a kind of share to succeed channels because I
am working with hundreds of speakers in Vietnam, all of us share the same
vision of wanting to share all we have done, all of the success that we
know to more people so that it can multiply our success. So my task at
Anphabe is to organize different channels, for them to share the success
tips. We have several channels including online forums, events, we have a
TV show and I have several business columns in several business magazines.

Chris: Whoa! Okay, a TV show even.

Thanh: Yes. And today is a great channel too.

Chris: Oh great, thank you.

Thanh: Yes, it is also a share to success channel, [inaudible 01:54]

Chris: Thanks. Thanks for coming. Thanh, one of the reasons that I really
admire you is that you have this philosophy about leadership and about life
and one of the elements of your philosophy about leadership is that
leadership is about love.

Thanh: Okay.

Chris: So what did you mean by that and how do you use that in your
everyday business with your team?

Thanh: I mean deep down everyone loves to have others love them so I know
that in business we don’t use that word. But think about love as just a
word you use to describe the emotion of wanting to be together, wanting to
unconditionally support each other, wanting to understand and empathize
with others, wanting to be there when things are tough and to be there when
things are fun. It is exactly what I want at work because I spend a lot of
time at work.

Chris: Well I agree with you, human beings are motivated by, people want to
feel appreciated, they want to feel like they are achieving, and they want
to feel loved.

Thanh: Exactly.

Chris: People want to feel part of a team. How do you create that?

Thanh: By giving love first.

Chris: What do you mean?

Thanh: By authentically caring about what people really care about, by
doing things that you are not required to do and by sincerely support your
team. Put their benefit before your benefits and take responsibility,
before they have to do.

Chris: Wait, you said put your teams benefit before your benefit?

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: I thought people work for you? What do you mean by that?

Thanh: People work for me but in order for them to work for me I have to
work for them. And believe me, a true leader has a lot to do behind the
scene. They all know, people know what you do for them. You don’t have to
tell them.

Chris: So people on your team believe that you have got their back?

Thanh: Yes. You should ask them but I am trying best to be at their back.

Chris: Okay and so a leader puts their people first?

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: Okay and what happens when you put your people first?

Thanh: I think they are good, because when you treat people the way you
want them to be they become that person. They become the bigger person.
They grow faster and quicker and they can deliver a much better result.

Chris: Can you give us an example of treating someone the way you want them
to be and then it happened?

Thanh: I will just give you one example. I have a lot of writing tasks and
sometimes I feel like I have to do it because it seems like it is only me
who has that knowledge and the relationship to the speakers, so after a while
it took me a lot of time and I felt like I should change the way I do it.
Then I started to have some interns and even though the interns are just
students, they are very junior, they don’t have any business experience
yet. But then I gave them some tasks, as if they are true writers. I gave
them a brief, I introduced them to the speakers and then I behave as if
they are my true PR managers.

Chris: So you take interns and you treat them like they are real PR
Managers?

Thanh: Yes. I don’t push them much to the extent of bringing them talking directly to

the press man to handle that relationship because it is a little bit too
early but to my speaker partner I introduce them, I bring them with me and
introduce them as my PR Assistant. And she would have to handle a lot of PR
tasks for the interview, for example, and she starts to feel as if she is
my real PR Assistant, and she grows that quick. When I give her some
writing tasks to try, she even can write with a much better result than I
ever expected. So I started to give, not only to her but to my other two
interns, some other tasks like that because I would like to train a people
to be a Project Manager of themselves.

Chris: So treat people as you want to be and they will become that way?

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: It is almost like giving people confidence.

Thanh: Yes. But it starts first with you. You have to believe in that first
before you make them believe. Because if you don’t believe there is no way
you can make them believe.

Chris: So how do you believe that an intern is going to be effective as a
PR person? What happens?

Thanh: I love the idea of having an intern performing at the PR Manager
level. And I love that girl because she is so eager to learn. She has a
great attitude, she is hard working and I love to give her that chance. And
I love her as a person.

Chris: You love her as a person?

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: Okay. And I bet she can feel that.

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: Thanh, another thing that I admired about you when I visited your
office late last year was all of your people, I could feel it, they really

love you, they love following you and they love working for you.

Thanh: I am happy to hear such things.

Chris: So do you think that it is partly because you are giving them
confidence and also loving them?

Thanh: Yes, I think that is one of the very important foundations of
Anphabe culture. We really love each other and we love working together. We
love creating things together.

Chris: You love creating together and that is what gives your team so much
motivation?

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: Great, thank you. I would like to ask a couple more questions that I
like to ask all of my guests. Because I think it is really interesting to
see how different people answer the same questions differently and then you
start to see patterns over time.

Thanh: Oh, interesting.

Chris: Yeah. So why did you decide to start your business?

Thanh: I think because I wanted to follow my passion my way.

Chris: I want to follow my passion my way. That sounds like a Frank Sinatra
song. What did you mean by that?

Thanh: There is a second part of that. Which is also I started the business
because I started to feel that I have enough courage to be fully
responsible for that decision. Because making that decision is difficult

but managing that decision is much more difficult.

Chris: Okay, so you wanted to create something that was yours?

Thanh: And my wayJ

Chris: And your way.

Thanh: A lot of people love to do things so they work for companies that
can allow them to do things. But actually after a while it is very easy for
you just to do things the normal processes and you jump into different
processes, you jump into different projects but actually, it is not
necessarily the exact way that you want to do it or what you want to do. So
having my own business allowed me to do that and in the case of Anphabe it
is connecting people, creating a platform of giving opportunity to people,
helping them connect better.

Chris

So it sounds like two things; the opportunity to create your own
organization your way, A, and B, doing something that you are passionate
about which is helping people connect and become more successful.

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: And you find value in that. Thanh, when we had lunch last weekend,
by the way everybody, Thanh has agreed to be my mentor as I am coming up
with my own business ideas so thank you Thanh.

Thanh: Again, my pleasure.

Chris: But you explained to me that your first year you started your
company, which you started what, about a year and a half ago now?

Thanh: Yes, around that.

Chris: You were up and down a lot.

Thanh: Very up and down.

Chris: Can you talk about what that experience was like and how you got
through that?

Thanh: I think, as I have mentioned is having the decision is difficult but
managing the decision is much more difficult because every day now you have to

face the realities of being an entrepreneur. There are a lot of resources
that you have to create for yourself, you cannot just tap into that easily
as you work for the big companies, so where you have that- you just simply
don’t have that. You have to find that. You have to create that.

Chris: So it is all yourself?

Thanh: It is myself. You have to either pay for it yourself or you have to
work yourself, you don’t have enough money to pay it, or you have to
motivate people to do the extra work for you. And there are thousands of
decisions to make because before you have other functions to help; you have
remember was about two years ago, as my previous venture with Caravat.com,
there was a time that was a really tough time, it was about
8 months after I created that business, and we almost ran out of cash. And
we hadn’t gotten the revenue yet so I had to secure the cash flow in order
to go longer so I decided to cut half of my own salary and the team’s by 20-
40%.

Chris: Wow.

Thanh: But it was a very tough decision because I knew everybody’s
situation. I knew how salary could impact them financially and especially
mentally. Because you know, you work for a big company, because we belonged
to a big group at that time, and your salary is cut, the future looked
black to them. That decision was very tough.

Chris: But you thought that decision was necessary at the time?

Thanh: I think it was very necessary. If I had to go back, I could probably
do a bit better in terms of communication, but I would still do it.

Chris: You would still do it?

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: Okay. You told me at that time that one of the lessons that you
learned was you would not cut salaries as much as you would cut people.

Thanh: I could, because by that time, it was a very standard situation of a
lot of entrepreneurs. You have a very small group of people and each person
is so important to the business and everybody is doing multi-tasking. So it
is very difficult to cut a person because it may impact, but if I look back
I probably could cut some person and reduce the salary of some person. Maybe
it is better that way. And definitely adjust the expectation when they join
the startup, it is very important. because it is the totally new [inaudible 00:16:08]
experience for me by that time too, and I tend to build the picture a
little bit too bright for them. And then when difficulty comes it is
harder for them to adjust. So now with Anphabe I am much more realistic in
terms of adjusting the expectations as they join my startup.

Chris: Okay. And you tell them that this might be tough, but that they also
have more opportunity to do more than they could do at a big company?

Thanh: Definitely and enjoy my love culture.

Chris: And enjoy your love culture?

Thanh: Yes.

Chris: Like your interns doing real PR, which is great experience for them.
Okay, good. So that was a difficult decision, what about a really rewarding
decision or a really rewarding moment that you have had as a manager?

Thanh: Honestly, that is also my most rewarding decision.

Chris: Really? Okay.

Thanh: I didn’t really see it until now.It is rewarding because it
helped me to see how strong I can be myself and the team can be themselves,
and thanks to that decision I see who is most loyal to me. I see very
clearly what drives the different people.

Chris: What are their motivations?

Thanh: Yes, what are their motivations. And most of my team now is the main

team who comes from the team that stayed during that time so I really think
that tough decision helped me to see the true self of myself and some key
people in my team now.

Chris: Okay, got it. What about your first job and what did you learn from
it?

Thanh: My first job was when I was in my second year of the University, so
I applied to be the part time seller[inaudible 00:18:56] at the flower boutiques. I loved

to arrange flowers, and that job allowed me to learn better skills
arranging flowers in weddings or bigger ceremonies, especially wedding
bouquets. Actually I learned a lot from that job, because with that job I
learned how to make my first money. Because at that time I also learned to
do makeup as a saloon and using that skill together with my flower
arrangements I made a small catalog to offer my service for makeup and
flower arranging to wedding couples. That job gave me the idea that I had
some entrepreneur traits, so it encouraged me to open my first
entrepreneurial venture which was a flower shop, which was very small, but
that led to the biggest lesson of entrepreneurship today, which was cash
flow.

Chris: Cash is king! That is the first lesson they taught me in business
school, cash is king. Cash is king.

Thanh: Yes, cash is king. After one year that business failed. Because my
ability to do service didn’t bring enough cash for me to pay my fix costs,

and that was profound.

Chris: Yes, when your expenses are higher than your revenue that can be a
problem. That is a good lesson.

Thanh: Yes, that is a great lesson.

Chris: Okay, great. Do you have a favorite business book?

Thanh: I do read a lot of business books. I read a lot of [John C.
Maxwell], Jack Canfield , Jack Welch[inaudible 00:19:42], etc. Actually my favorite

business book is not really business. It is more spiritual.

Chris: Okay.

Thanh: It is called “Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Chris: Okay.

Thanh: I did recommend it to you.

Chris: Yes, I read it. It was excellent, thank you.

Thanh: Yes, it is by Susan Jeffers.

Chris: So feel the fear and do it anyways. Feel the fear. What is the book
about? What does it mean?

Thanh: Basically it analyzes people’s fear. All of your negative emotions
come from some kind of fear. The deepest level of fear is that you cannot
handle the consequence of the situation. So as long as you can analyze the
consequence and you can motivate yourself that whatever happens you can
handle the consequence then the fear just disappears. So the title of the
book already says itself, when you feel some negative feeling ask yourself
what you are afraid of. Feel it.

Chris: Feel the fear. So it is okay to be afraid.

Thanh: It is okay to be afraid. Feel it. Think of what the worst scenario
is that can happen and think that whatever happens you can still handle it
and do it anyway.

Chris: This reminds me a lot of a Tweet that Anphabe did a few days ago,
which was a Shakespeare quote, “Your doubts are traitors.”

Thanh: It is.

Chris: And they prevent you from doing what you want to do.

Thanh: Yes. We love to send users motivational quotes very

often.

Chris: Okay, great. So feel the fear and then do it anyway.

Thanh: It is.

Chris: Love.

Thanh: Love as always.

Chris: And do your passion.

Thanh: Yes, follow your passion your way.

Chris: Well Thanh, I think we are out of time but I want to thank you for
joining us today and I really enjoyed our interview.

Thanh: It is my great honor and have a great day.

Chris: Thank you.

Thanh: Thank you for listening.

  • Chris,  [inaudible 01:54] is ” I hope “, right ? :-)

    By the way, I think this is a meaningful interview. it opens my eyes about leadership, love in leadership is an interesting ideal.

    • Yes, I think you’re right.

      Leadership really is about love.  The best leaders truly care about the well-being of their people and seek to help them at every turn.  You can’t fake that.

  • Swanxuan

    Really? Sometimes, you face with people who dont know exactly what they aim for. And being “for their benefits first” becomes your own trap. Leading people is not like managing people. And for me, managing people to gain the final benefits for the whole team and whole company is truly harder…

    • Hey Xuan,

      Thanh’s point is a leader cares about the interests and well-being of her people.  When people understand that you do care about them they will give you their full heart and commitment.

      Of course, a leader must take care that people understand that their interests are served by helping the team achieve its goals.  Otherwise, people might come to believe that the company exists only to advance their own personal interests which isn’t correct.  It’s more of a symbiotic relationship.

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