Your success starts here: Khiem Vu
“Success for me is to face challenges and overcome them.”
Listen to your heart
For Khiem Vu, the talented young Hinrich scholar based in Vietnam, the road to success is never-ending. He has always set new goals at every point in his life, and has achieved them despite obstacles and failure.
Talent and tenacity are two traits that have always held him in good stead. Khiem is passionate about giving his 100% to any task he undertakes, however big or small it may be in magnitude. Although he prefers ‘listening to his heart’ in order to achieve his goals, Khiem possesses a keen, analytical mind that helps him to analyze his failure as well as success to derive better learning for himself and his teams.
Communication is the key
Khiem Vu is a ‘double’ Hinrich Foundation scholar: The Foundation awarded a scholarship to him twice. He represents the very first batch of Vietnamese scholars, studying Master of Arts in International Journalism Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University in 2007. His second postgraduate degree is Master of Business Administration in General Management from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
After graduating from the first scholarship course, Khiem Vu led the Hinrich Foundation’s Export Assistance Program for seven years where he proudly engaged with a number of young talents ranging from fellow scholars and alumni to export suppliers and government organizations across Asia. Then, the Foundation awarded a 2nd Hinrich Foundation scholarship to him. At the Hong Kong Chinese University (CUHK), Vu was a part of the organizing team of the 2015 CUHK CSR Conference and formed a team that raised HK$ 40,000 for poor residents in HK through Swire Properties’ annual charity campaign to raise funds, also known as Operation Santa Claus. Vu then completed his final term through an exchange program at the University of Michigan.
‘Communication is the key. Journalism can really train you to become a critical thinker, to develop interviewing and interpersonal skills, mold your conversations to ensure the usage of right lingo for the right people. The first degree helped me in connecting to the export producers across Asia. It gave me a foothold into the trade industry while at the time of the second scholarship, I was a mature learner and it helped me consolidate my learning and explore the international corporate arena.’
Ever the learner
‘We are the new blood of the industry,’ proudly proclaims Khiem, ‘we are on our way to explore, still battling out there to prove ourselves!’ He is now the Chief Representative of Global Sources Vietnam Office in charge of sales and ensuring his partners are best serviced.
Humble to the core, he still regards himself as a learner. ‘I lead a team yet some of them have far more experience than me.’ He thinks being a Trade Facilitator is his USP (Unique Selling Point) as he and his team have been instrumental in creating the first generation of Global sources trade links with Vietnam suppliers and import buyers.
He talks of the time when he went back to source imports on Lacquer ware in Vietnam. ‘It was weird!’ says Khiem, ‘On one hand, I had to have some tough conversations with tough buyers. On the other hand, the producers were not friendly either. The producers in Vietnam are mainly farmers and not professionals who understand the basics of promoting their product. They hated the free support I was offering because they did not understand the process and the benefits it would bring them!’ Looking for new products for buyers, he even tried to help the local producers to engage in free export promotion and market hand-made Vietnamese products internationally. ‘There was no infrastructure, no Internet, some of the producers had no cellphones,’ he recalls the time when he tried to offer the first turnkey solution to market Vietnamese products in international markets.
He had to break the communication barrier and speak the language of the craftsmen to form a rapport and open channels of communication. His perseverance paid off in the long run and he feels great satisfaction today for crossing all obstacles and helping to connect more Vietnamese producers to the global economy.
Every new goal becomes a winning moment
‘At Global Sources, we try not to live in comfort zones. We don’t like to do normal things, we like to do extraordinary things. And that’s why we can grow as team members as every goal becomes an opportunity for a winning moment. And we keep tweaking our goals to find what we can do next to make Global Sources a top choice in the industry, how we can further inspire customers and how we can sustain our trade goals.’
Khiem feels that he has many more winning moments in store for him. His most victorious moment has been the time he held two positions at the same time during his tenure at the Export assistance program.
‘I was challenged to scale up the program, to double its footprint in new countries where the team needed to curate more qualified SME exporter beneficiaries. Specifically those producers with the need, mentality and production capacity for export,’ he emphasizes, ‘I had to hatch and connect them to global buyers, so to speak! At the same time, I had the dual responsibility of overseeing the social enterprise at Cambodia, comprised of distributing handmade Cambodian products worldwide for securing jobs for disabled workers. The continued employment of those workers became a winning moment for me.’
Focus on innovation
Between study periods, he undertook an internship at Global Sources in Hong Kong, where he worked in sales on a new initiative called Startup Launchpad. It engaged him with the helping hardware startup community in Hong Kong and China’s Pearl River Delta to scale up and stay sustainable through global trade.
His focus was showcasing the products from start-up companies and to promote new ideas and connect them with investors. It gives him acute satisfaction to make the product commercially viable, launch it in the market and give the producers a platform to sell it internationally.
He enjoyed being involved with the Startup Launchpad, which, in 2017, was Asia’s largest hardware trade show that facilitates global distribution between startups and renowned online and offline retailers. The event showcases 300 startups to more than 63,000 global buyers from 149 countries and territories. Held twice a year in Hong Kong – Asia’s trade hub – the Startup Launchpad showcases ideas, innovations and a plethora of educational seminars that go into a successful startup covered by industry experts.
A great team works as one
‘Sometimes, I lead from the front, at other times I let them lead,’ speaks the man who has been responsible for the Vietnam GS teams’ exemplary performance at the Hong Kong trade show in July 2017. The team was expected to showcase 15 booths at the International trade show but went on to secure 22 booths for the event.
An able leader, he knows the strengths and weaknesses of his team and tries to supplement them in the best way possible and motivate them to aim higher. He leads by example and is eager to get in the field with his team to offer best support possible. ‘What connects us together are our common goals and our hearts!’
Important to be part of a system
Khiem is most thankful to be a part of Hinrich scholar alumni. ‘The Hinrich Foundation has shaped my personality, my career as well as my attitude towards work,’ says an emotional Khiem. He feels that being part of the scholarship program exposed him to a very high standard of education, the kind he may not have availed otherwise. He feels that that the opportunities that surround him today are all thanks to the Foundation. He finds strong commitment in his relationship with the Foundation as they keep lending resources and support to its scholars even when they become alumni.
Creating new platforms, new jobs, new opportunities
“I think my path is connected to global trade.” Khiem stresses the important role trade plays in creating jobs and wants to facilitate and be part of this meaningful mission. “I am happy to be part of an industry that can create more opportunities for producers and create jobs and fresh opportunities for more and more people!”
Great men make way for small things
A true follower of the old adage, ‘God is in details’, Khiem urges future Hinrich scholars to pay attention to the smallest of things that are sometimes too tedious and frustrating to do. ‘It’s important to find the passion to be engaged in the smallest of unnamed, tedious jobs. It may sometimes become frustrating to achieve little things, but in their completion lays the key to achieving bigger things.’
‘Everyone wants to make a difference as soon as possible. It’s always logical to find bigger things to do, so we can satisfy our urge for achievement. But sometimes, we forget that the success of big transformations lie in the efficient execution of smaller things!’
Khiem believes that when a leader commits to taking care of the smallest of details to pave his way towards bigger things, he embraces privilege as well as responsibility. And that is the making of a true leader.
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