November 19, 2012

An Entrepreneurial Story

Sometimes you have a conversation that makes everything so clear.

Earlier this year I consulted with an attorney, Nam*, about legal structures in Vietnam.  Nam owned his own successful law firm.  Our conversation wandered into motivations of starting a business.  Nam shared with me his entrepreneurial story.

“Ten years ago I was working for a big European bank in Saigon,” he began.  “I had a good salary and excellent benefits.  I had just gotten married.  I was comfortable.  I decided to spend my career there as an in-house lawyer.”

“Then one day a senior executive at the bank’s home office in Holland was looking at a report comparing the margins of the bank’s operations in Vietnam to other countries in Asia.”

“He thought that his overall Asia numbers would look better if Vietnam were no longer included in the calculation.  So he decided to shut down the bank’s operations in Vietnam, just like that.”

Nam snapped his fingers.

“This executive who lived halfway around the world, whom I had never met, who had never been to Vietnam, made a decision that turned my life upside down.”

Nam paused for effect.

“I decided then and there that I never wanted somebody else to control my life in that way again.  So the next day I began planning to open my own law firm.”

“It was hard at first.  I didn’t know anything about managing people, accounting or cash flow.  I made a lot of mistakes.  I had to figure everything out on my own.  But it worked.  Now I’m doing better than I ever have, on my own terms.”

Nam paused again and looked me in the eye.

“You’ve been a CEO for years!  You know how to recruit and manage people.  You know about accounting and cash flow.  You know marketing.”

“There’s no reason why you shouldn’t begin right now!”

Yes, Nam.  You are absolutely right.

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