Developing Appropriate Work Culture — In Vietnam

I just spent a week at our Ho Chi Minh office, aligning our company’s vision with the research team there. It was fun and rewarding.

First of all, young people all around the world understand the potential marketing power hidden inside the walls of social media sites. Social media is intuitive to all people exposed to it. That’s why its adoption is growing at such a phenomenal global rate.

The Vietnamese team needed just some clarification to be fully aligned. Having all employees who believe in a shared vision is a huge step toward our eventual success.

Research work, however, can be demanding and at times somewhat tedious. Building a work culture that is conducive to creativity, collaboration and high production requires some thoughtful planning and constant tweaking.

In my other ventures, our teams had built employee-driven work environments that resulted in high retention rates and high output. At ZeroDash1, for example, we had competitive video game matches to break up the days. Because the staff enjoyed those matches, they made sure that deadlines were always met, so that the matches would continue. However, in other cultures, trash talking video matches with one’s manager may be counter productive, as “saving face” and respecting elders trump an appreciation for  “fun-loving” bosses. This would certainly be the case in the Korean culture, for example.

In the Vietnam office, we want to bring over the “spirit” of our headquarters in Seattle. But we also want a local favor to creating a nurturing, collaborating, and rewarding environment.

I don’t have all the answers as how to create such an environment in Vietnam yet. Acknowledging that, however, is the first critical step. We expect to turn to our local employees for input. They will be the ones to create such an environment WITH our support.

On this trip, I learned a lot spending time with the team. I know that they believe in our vision and have the same passion for life and work as I do.

On my last day, we went out to a group dinner at a “local” restaurant, owned by a friend of one of the team members. It’s a covered patio-style restaurant that specialized in a certain fish (looked like smelts). The place was packed with loud chatter of people enjoying meals with their friends and family. It excited me to be off the beaten path of tourists and in such an authentic environment.

We first got some deep-fried fish (smelts), then some grilled ones. We topped off the meal with a delicious community hot pot of fish soup.

I’m certain that I would not have wondered into this restaurant alone. The experience is one that I will keep for a lifetime. In the end, the meal symbolized how we can learn so much from each other. We are not there thinking we will be only teaching our business methods, but that we will be learning much as well and tasting the local culture.