How do you fit a size 12 foot into a size 9 shoe? Sometimes we here at REI have so much going on that we can’t quite communicate everything that has been happening! The work of our Business Education Teams (or Business Teams, if you prefer) is an example. It has been nearly a year since we wrote about this work, but since then we have had 2 teams of skilled and experienced business practitioners serve in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, in November 2015 and again in March 2016. Why did they come? To help build up the future business leaders of Vietnam.
Building a nation includes building its economy. As the economy grows, individuals, communities, and the country as a whole enjoy a higher quality of life. The Vietnamese people are intelligent and industrious, and are working hard to secure a growing place in the world market. In 2015, for the first time, Vietnam enjoyed a trade surplus, and is justly proud of this accomplishment. It is to the credit of the Vietnamese people, their drive and effort, that they have achieved this milestone.
But groups such as REI-Vietnam can help. For over 12 years now, in the spring and the fall, REI has sent teams of business volunteers to give relevant presentations to students and faculty at a number of universities. In November our presentation team consisted of Chaz Seale, Mark Weldon, Bob and Suzanne Garrett, Steve Gierse, and Gail Jones, with Brian Teel and Randy and Jill Vernon assisting. This March our team consisted of John Scruton-Wilson, Del Goehner, James Kang, Gail again, Cheryl Meredith, Loren Lancaster, and Jen Knellinger (the last two here for their first time). Both Brian and Ginny Teel, as well as Randy and Jill Vernon, accompanied the team.
These business professionals gave presentations on a variety of subjects, including “Personal Leadership,” “Dealing with Problems Before They Happen,” “Your Personal Brand,” “Entrepreneurship,” “Strategic Planning,” “Project Management,” “Building Effective Teams,” “Marketing Secrets,” “Making the Sale,” “Motivation,” “Communicating across Cultures,” “Business Ethics,” “Emotional Intelligence,” “Creating Superior Performance,” and several others. Does that whet your appetite?
The variety of topics certainly seems to draw the students. Some universities require that their students attend our presentations, so maybe in that case the good turnout doesn’t count! But at other schools, attending our presentations is optional, and even then, we see classes with anywhere from 30 to over 120 eager learners.
We are happy to share business knowledge and experience with students. But according to Dr. Pham Le Thu Nga at Hanoi University (she’s just a whisker away from getting her Ph.D., so we’ll use “Doctor”!), REI does more. She writes, “I understand that the purpose of REI's Business Team visits is the bringing of practical business knowledge and experience to Vietnamese teachers and students. But over the years, I have realized that the teams have achieved much more than that.
“The teams have shown us (or in other words, we have learned from the teams):
• professionalism, passion and ethical leadership
• the need and the value of contributing/giving back to the community
• coaching for personal and professional development
• networking opportunities that, in many cases, have developed into lifelong friendships.”
These comments are encouraging and gratifying. We do want to help people in business. But we hope also to make a greater impact than simply contributing to business success. This month Dr. Gail Jones presented a class on “Motivation,” during which she challenged the students, “Do you just want to make money, or do you want to help change the world?” After the presentation, a young student made her way up to the front of the room and told Gail shyly, “I want to help change the world.”
This spring, in addition to the schools which have hosted us in the past, we launched a new partnership with the Academy of Policy and Development, and with the University of Economics and Law. Our presentations were warmly received by the students and faculty present, and our Q&A sessions were lively! We are delighted to enter into these new partnerships with new friends.
We also had the opportunity to meet with executives in the PetroVietnam Group in Hanoi. Our Team Leader, John Scruton-Wilson, spent more than 30 years in that industry, working with BP. He was invited to address the Hanoi leaders on strategies for change in an industry in crisis. He made a similar presentation to leaders of the Vinacapital Group in Ho Chi Minh City this past week.
And our spring team also had a panel discussion with business and entrepreneurial leaders in Ho Chi Minh City on “Strategic Planning and Change.” This last consists of a group of men and women in 2 organizations, the Saigon Entrepreneurs Club and CEO Coaching, who have already begun to make their mark in the business community but want our input on making continued progress in their endeavors. This lines up perfectly with our desires—to not only prepare the businessmen and businesswomen of the future, but to build as we can with those of the present.
Building in the present, building for the future—this is the role of REI’s Business Team. If you have a business specialty to share, we hope you will consider making a trip with us in the near future!