TRAVELS IN A 'PERFECT STORM'
As the head of a company with annual revenue of more than Bt100 billion, Thiraphong Chansiri, president and chief executive of Thai Union Frozen Products (TUF), has had to travel a lot.
In previous years, such trips were made to explore overseas business opportunities, as he has said mergers and acquisitions were the foundation of the company's growth.
But despite owning brands in many countries including the United States, Britain, France and Italy, the company's market coverage is rather limited from a global perspective. In the first half of this year, Africa contributed only 3 per cent of TUF's sales. Meanwhile the contribution from South America was even lower at 1 per cent, while the Middle East and Asia contributed 3 and 4 per cent respectively.
This year, as the company has had to struggle through what Thiraphong calls a "perfect storm" of currency volatility, the rise in the minimum wage, higher costs of raw materials, and a shrimp disease that has killed off much of TUF's supply of that seafood, shopping trips for overseas acquisitions have had to wait.
Still, we know from the tone of his voice that he is not discouraged by such ill winds. Instead, he has used this time to help Minor International. As a director of the hospitality company, he recently joined a trip to Abu Dhabi. On his return, he proudly announced that the capital of the United Arab Emirates now has a fine Thai restaurant.
He must be glad. As only 3 per cent of TUF's sales revenue comes from the Middle East, he will need to travel there more often.
GOOD BEHAVIOUR BRINGS BRIGHT FUTURE
Early this month, the Thaicom Foundation hosted a big event called "This Is My Future".
One of the guest speakers was Anant Asavabhokin, chief of Land & Houses. He was not there to share business tips, but how he - a boy in a family of 31 members - was brought up, and how the disciplined behaviour he acquired has benefited him.
He explained that the five most basic components of any modern home - bedroom, toilet, wardrobe, dining room and office - have their own lessons on disciplined behaviour.
Bedrooms must be tidy, so their occupants can sleep well and get up with clear mind.
Toilets must be kept clean, as anyone who can delve into such dirty work can do anything. He has even cleaned toilets on a plane if he found they were dirty. To him, keeping toilets clean means efficient water usage and care for others - that was a norm in his family of 31.
Regularly clean out your wardrobe, he said. Give away any items you have not used for two months. A lesson to learn from this is that you shouldn't live beyond your means. With only two legs, why should a man have 20 pairs of shoes?
In the dining room, as a boy he was told to share food with others. The sharing concept taught him to be the last to enter the elevator.
One's office should be tidy, as piles of paper show that the person is indecisive, lacking the ability to prioritise tasks, and insecure. Tablets and smartphones can help a person get more organised.
He said the lessons were that we should be clean, disciplined, punctual and polite. And these lessons can start at home, not school.
"The world sucks, not because people don't have knowledge but because most knowledgeable people have bad behaviour," he concluded.
LESSON BORROWED FROM THE PAST
At that same event, Anant fielded a question from the floor on how he handled failures. Rather than answering directly, he recounted a bad experience he had back in 1997.
He admitted that he made a mistake when he allowed Land & Houses to take on huge dollar-denominated loans, at a time when the company's revenue was entirely in baht. The firm was consequently saddled with huge debts after the currency was devalued.
He recalled that in a discussion with creditors, he managed to smile, which surprised them. When asked how he could keep smiling in such a distressing time, he said the discussion reminded him of the old days. A neighbour boy had a toy he liked. When Anant borrowed the toy, it was the boy who was no longer happy.
Likewise, he understood why the creditors were unhappy, now that "their borrowed toys" had not been returned.