It only took 30 minutes for a Transformation — and here’s how…

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It only took 30 minutes for a Transformation — and here’s how…

Author: Truong Dieu Le, Partner, Mekong Capital
Jul 31, 2020


One day in April 2020, my beloved and beautiful mentee, Ai Huu, presented the 3D design for our brand new training room to the Management Committee. It was the first time that Ai Huu made such a presentation to the Management Committee, comprising of the top 5 powerful members who hold high standards and have high expectations for high-quality results.

Nguyen Ai Huu — Senior Admin Officer, Mekong Capital

I remembered Ai Huu’s voice was trembling. It was soft and light, like a baby bird perching on a broken branch, scaring of the strong wind keep coming to break her little wings. Her eyes covered with uncertainty when being asked of the details about the room design, wood material, lighting, capacity, etc. Questions after questions, mixed with concerns after concerns about the design. It seemed that it was too strong of wind for the baby bird, and I could feel the shaking bird’s little tiny legs were about to fall off.

This is nowhere near Mekong Capital’s standard! It’s a waste of time for us!” — input from the group at the end of her presentation. This last comment really shot down the bird, and I saw the darkening light in her eyes… My heart was sinking…

But the bird did not die.

It lived on.


Right after the meeting, Ai Huu scheduled a meeting with me to align on the next steps. I challenged her with a series of questions, such as: “Who were you being in this project?”, “Are you thinking you are the best person to do this project? Should we invite someone else to do this?” “What do you wish to achieve with this project?” etc. She persistently sat through the meeting, thinking for herself. She looked deep inside herself to search for the answer. Her eyebrows met each other. I saw she was struggling. She kept changing her sitting posture. I saw her feeling uncomfortable. Anyone knew her would understand that looking inside herself was not her strong suit. She was the type of person that got the energy from external sources, not within.

Yet she kept sitting there. My eyes witnessed a fighter fighting with herself. For me, fighting oneself is the hardest battle. It requires a person with a strong drive. It requires a person who is committed to something bigger than herself. In my heart, I felt respect for her for who she was being in such a struggle.

After some time through the self-battle, she acknowledged that she was just a messenger — a person who barely carried a message or goes on an errand for another. That did not work. Then she declared what she chose: She openly put herself on the line. She chose to make a new commitment. She chose to be the true owner of this project. Her voice sounded so determined that I knew that I can count on her. My heart wanted to jump out of my chest, reaching its hands to hug her.

Emerging out of that meeting, like a falcon, she flew from action after action. From time to time, she gave me a piece of good news on some small win-wins she got in negotiating with the service providers to deliver the best results. She was totally independent in managing all aspects of the projects. She proactively generated many new actions that I did not even think of.

And one month later, the bird soared back to the meeting room with the Management Committee. Her voice was no longer trembling or nervous, but loud and clear with confidence. She knew what she was talking about. She even prepared an excellent presentation, with a clear intention on top, and then each slide addressing each criterion, one by one. Again, making an organized presentation was not her strong suit, but she delivered it beautifully. And, as a result, her proposal was approved with some very minor changes.

My heart was full of little bubbles of joy, seeing a miracle happened in front of my eyes, from “nowhere close to our standard” to “yes” and “it’s beautiful.” This was one of the few moments in my life that I felt fulfilled, seeing someone I care about grown up and transformed. And I was so proud of her. Even though Huu did not have the title of a manager, she operated as the project manager and the ultimate person in charge of the fit-out project. The strength that she showed did not come from a position of authority, but came from a choice she made: “I choose to own this project as the project manager”. It only took one conversation — a 30-minute conversation — and her strong will to stay in the conversation to discover her commitment. Such a transformation!.

Now the training room fit-out was completed and put in use. I would say this room is a world-class level. And the energy of the room has been so positive that we feel really good when we are in there. Our most difficult Management Committee member said that “It was over-executed!.” The project manager, our lovely Ai Huu has demonstrated many of our core values in accomplishing this, especially Genesis:

“Choosing the view of life that we are the source of what we choose, what actions we take, what impact we have, and how the world materializes around us. Being the cause rather than the effect.”

The first draft design

The final on-site look

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Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.

In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.

The book is available on Tiki (Hard copy): (Vietnamese) and Amazon: (English)

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