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These days, life moves at a frenzied pace and the same is true of the world of real estate. So, if there was one piece of advice General Manager of Industrial at Frasers Property Vietnam, Chong Chee Keong (aka CK), could share with those keen to advance in their careers, it would simply be to slow down.
“Slowing down doesn’t mean that we stop doing business but it is a chance for us to assess what we have done for the past six months and decide whether we should continue on the same path or revise and renew our strategy,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “It’s about how to get better.”
It’s an approach that has served CK well since he was appointed to his current role in 2019 to oversee industrial developments across Vietnam amid an influx of global manufacturers. With the pandemic arriving on the scene mere months after his appointment, his time in the role has also been beset by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the rising cost of logistics and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Slowing down doesn’t mean that we stop doing business but it is a chance for us to assess what we have done for the past six months and decide whether we should continue on the same path or revise and renew our strategy.
“It has really given us a lot of time to review our business strategies, how we’re going to move forward into the next few decades and how we can make sure that the business can be sustained for the next generation of employees,” CK says. “The investment atmosphere within the region keeps changing so we always need to be sensitive and aware of what’s happening within the regions and the world.”
While the stacking up of these world events has certainly made his time as General Manager of Industrial challenging, he has already notched up some big wins, such as the unveiling of the company’s first development, Binh Duong Industrial Park (BDIP) in 2021.
Built with Frasers’ overarching commitment to sustainability in mind (the company aims to produce net zero carbon emissions by 2030), the 106-hectare project has obtained Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification – a respected green building rating system that offers a framework for green buildings that are both healthy and highly efficient.
In recognition of its ambitious vision, BDIP won the Best Industrial Development Award at the PropertyGuru Vietnam Property Awards 2021.
Our employee is also our customer. So, number one, we need to listen to them, we need to communicate and listen to them both ways. At the management level, we need to always consult with our working level team.
The people that make up the Frasers team have, of course, played a critical role in bringing the project to life. There are now almost 30 employees in place who are continually trained and encouraged to learn to ensure they keep up with the evolving demands of the business. “We are still expanding our team because of all the expansion that is taking place within the development,” CK shares. “Of course, it doesn’t stop with a single project.”
Next on the agenda are projects in different parts of Vietnam, such as Hanoi and Hue. “These are the regions where we think there’s potential for us to grow our industrial platform for the next few decades,” he reveals.
CK admits that finding the right people with the necessary skills is a continual challenge, but he adds that the upside of having a new team is that it is easier to create a solid working culture – a task he is taking on with relish. He explains that at its heart is the customer experience.
“We need to know what our customer wants,” he stresses. “Our employee is also our customer. So, number one, we need to listen to them, we need to communicate and listen to them both ways. At management level, we need to always consult with our working level team.”
A strong culture will stand the company in good stead to face the rising levels of competition in the sector, according to CK, as a myriad of foreign developers enter Vietnam. But this is not the only competition to Frasers Property Vietnam – developments in neighbouring regions including Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia also vie for many of the same customers.
“So we need to always be up-to-date, aware and sensitive to the market, keep adjusting our business strategy to make sure that we continue to thrive within the market and retain our talent,” CK says.
Planning for the future is a big part of this, too. “I need to start looking at succession planning, so we need to train our team and our middle management level to make sure that this company will continue to sustain with the right skills.”
Meanwhile, CK believes that being open to collaboration and knowledge sharing will help keep the company on track. “It would be good for us to grow our knowledge, to learn new things, even at my age and at my level,” he explains. “We continue to learn new things from the market and from our business partners as well. We need to open our hearts to make sure that we’re really sincere to our business partners.”
Mistakes help us to grow, so I always advise our team that everyone makes mistakes, but you need to have good mentors and advisors to guide you through and show you the way to find the best solutions.
As a “foreign developer”, building these strong relationships with local partners is critical, with CK giving its partnership with beverage company Sabeco, which has resulted in a real estate joint venture, as an example.
This willingness to push the boundaries is evident throughout CK’s approach to business and is echoed in the sound advice he generously conveys. “We should not be afraid to make mistakes,” he reflects.
“Mistakes help us to grow, so I always advise our team that everyone makes mistakes, but you need to have good mentors and advisors to guide you through and show you the way to find the best solutions.”
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Words – Anne Majumdar
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