Mr. Tran Phu Son, a Partner of EY Vietnam (Ernst & Young) with 17 years of experience and commitment to the firm, shares his views on success and leadership.
■ Many people these days believe working in a senior position for a large corporation and earning a high salary represents success. What are your thoughts?
People usually see other’s success as something attractive. They tend to think it looks like a beautiful cherry blossom in the spring. However, for me, success starts three months before that, when the tree had no blossoms. During those three months the cherry tree had to face inclement weather of storms, sun, and dryness. Only by the spring do the petals start to appear. The point I want to make is that few people know about this three-month process; they only see the end result. Back in 1996, I never imagined I would one day be a Partner at EY, as at that time the positions of audit manager, senior audit manager, and head of department were all filled by foreigners. What matters to me in the end are the years of study and research - the knowledge and insights I gained.
■ What factors do you think are more important in success - an individual’s ability or assistance received from others?
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to talk to many successful business people. Whenever they share their stories, they always emphasize that their success is the result of teamwork. They never believe their individual role has been the driving force. No matter how long their road has been, or where it has taken them, they always remember who helped them at what exact moment. I think that any successful person cherishes help from their team members. Just like a football team, there must be strength in every position, with ability not only lying in a few players. Such strength is also sustainable. In my opinion an important element in success is who you work with, the people you need to achieve a goal. I think this is a fundamental truth.
When talking about teamwork, a question usually raised is: “What is the role of the leader?” The answer is normally: “Orientation, strategy, management, solidarity, and inspiration”. A question one must ask oneself as a leader is: “What are the benefits for those that follow the leader?” Leaders need to think about the goals of and benefits for their people. The most important trait in a leader is their ability to show the team what their individual roles and responsibilities are, and how to encourage the team to fulfill these roles and responsibilities.
■ As you’ve said, teamwork is important. What else defines the role of a leader in a group?
In my opinion, leaders must learn how to differentiate themselves and their business. This is the fundamental factor and the basis on which to find new paths and resolve problems. Each person has their own comfort zone; what that person likes to do, what he or she is at ease in doing. Making changes is always difficult, but overcoming those first steps makes a leader a true leader.
For example, for an audit firm like EY, the easiest thing for us auditors is working with data. However, the difficult yet extremely important thing is persuading clients, providing them with insights and gaining their trust. This is where the difference is made. A good leader will not only focus on the technical work, but will step out of their comfort zone to strive and thrive. At EY, our leaders and people strive to ask better questions to pinpoint the issues clients are facing, to find better solutions. This is the difference that helps us deliver exceptional client services.
■ In your opinion, what other things differentiate EY Vietnam?
EY is an international firm united by one purpose, one vision, one mission, and one strategy globally. As a member of EY’s network around the globe, EY Vietnam has inherited the strength of a global firm while localizing by using experienced domestic human resources and customizing our knowledge, products, and services to meet the needs of the local market. Our CEO was the first Vietnamese CEO of a Big Four firm in Vietnam. This and the combination of a diversified leadership team of Vietnamese and foreigners have boosted our business efficiency in the local market.
And as part of our corporate values and culture, we always embrace everyone’s differences and encourage our people to bring their unique perspective and new ideas to open discussions. We ask better questions every day to better help our clients.
Together we help to enhance trust in capital markets to build a better working world for our clients, our people, and our community.