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Phuong Uyen Tran's mother idea behind Zero Degree Green Tea

January 26, 2021 | 11:16

"Her solution was to apply the personal touch. She always remembered her customers' names. No sound is sweeter to most people", Phuong talked about her mother's contribution behind THP's Zero Green Tea.

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Zero degree green tea
Phuong Uyen Tran and her father

Zero Degree Green Tea (Trà Xanh Không Độ) changed the tea-drinking habits of the Vietnamese people when it was launched in 2006, creating new demand. It was also one of the pioneering brands in the fast-growing ready-to-drink (RTD) tea segment, which has become increasingly popular.

Indeed, the growth of this industry subsector underlines the growing impact Asian history and culture is having on global consumers. As the region's companies develop an international footprint, they are bringing Asian tastes to a Western audience rather than the other way around.

When THP started developing a bottled cold tea, many industry observers thought the company was onto a loser. PepsiCo and Lipton had already collaborated on bottled green tea products in 2000 and again in 2002. But neither had worked and in 2005, they withdrew from the market.

Many of our businesses can be traced back to one or two founding individuals. As these ventures grow, however, more family members may get involved to help fulfill the mission and vision of the business. With growth comes inevitable challenges and growing pains as initial processes need to scale and adapt. I’ve learned from personal experience, watching my father and mother grow THP, that family businesses can succeed, but not without struggling at times. One of my father’s favorite sayings speaks to this; “When the boat sets out to sea, it is likely to encounter storms. The challenge is learning to control the boat when that storm comes.

In 1979, yeast prices also collapsed, forcing my father to pivot his business to a sugar-and-fructose-processing operation instead. And this is how my mother's experience came into her's play; her first job had been selling, sugar at a local wet market in Saigon.

One of the key issues in marketing is branding a product that is essentially, no different from any other. Sugar is a commodity, and my mother was faced with numerous other stalls selling it at the same price as her.

Phuong uyen tran's mother (in red) had made key decisions behind the company's success.
Phuong Uyen Tran's mother (in red) had made key decisions behind the company's success.

She also made a note of how much sugar they bought and asked them whether they were satisfied with her service. From the surprised looks on their faces, she gathered she was alone in trying to forge a personal connection.Her solution was to apply the personal touch. She always remembered her customers' names. No sound is sweeter to most people.

Later, she upgraded this into a proto customer-loyalty program. If they were loyal customers, she would give them a little extra sugar or a free sample of something else. Soon she was selling out her entire inventory every day.

It was my mother's idea to move from yeast to sugar after my parents got together. She was also the one who found the broken-down machinery my father was able to repair. Neither of them knew anything about sugar processing, but like all great entrepreneurs, they viewed this as a challenge they could take apart and solve.

Zero degree green tea

As writtern in Business Insider, storms will come as you grow any business, particularly if it is cultivated by family. However, those storms can be navigated successfully by understanding the following principles:

Embrace effective communication. Communication is critical no matter the situation, but when you have personal and business lives overlapping, emphasis on good communication is extremely important. Transparency and better communication empower every individual involved in the business — especially family members — to exercise better judgment and to take ownership over their part in the process. A shared understanding of expectations allows everyone to be unified in purpose, goals, and tasks. Family-owned businesses only work well when there is good communication between different family members and across the generations.

Listen to one another. An integral part of communication is listening. A family must learn to listen to each other fully and to be generous. This results in giving others the space to express an opinion without butting in or mentally preparing our own retort. Doing this as a family helps free us from our prejudices about who we are and what we are capable of — it gives each individual the space to reveal their best self.

Create and adhere to boundaries. When family members are involved in the business, it is important that boundaries are created both inside and out of the working environment. The potential for broken boundaries and inter-marital, or inter-generational, conflict is practically limitless. When THP was first established, we had no boundaries at all — we literally lived in the factory. My father’s office was also our family’s living room. Logistics have changed over the years, but despite the change in living quarters, it is important to acknowledge boundaries in the work environment. For example, in the workplace, I need to respect my father as my boss, but he also needs to respect my professional opinion even if it differs from his. He talks to me as a valued colleague and supervisor, not as a father talking to a daughter.

Be a family first. Your familial relationships are the most important. It is vital to do what is necessary to keep them intact and strong. Our family has its own mission statement and a set of core values just like our company does. We regularly re-visit these values, discuss them at family meetings, and then refine them. We all agree to abide by them. We have found them an indispensable checklist. They bound us together at a time when we were fraying at the seams. They have helped keep us close-knit and made our working life far more straightforward.

About author Phuong Uyen Tran

Phuong Uyen Tran is the author of “Competing with Giants: How One Family-Owned Company Took on the Multinationals and Won” (www.competingwithgiants.net). She is the deputy CEO of the THP Beverage Group, a leading beverage company in Vietnam that was founded by her father. Tran is responsible for the company’s marketing, public relations, and CSR programs nationally and across Vietnam’s 63 provinces. She also leads THP’s international marketing programs across 16 countries where THP’s products are distributed including Canada and China.

Working as a powerful business woman, Forbes published author, Phuong Uyen Tran is a model of success in Vietnam. Phuong Uyen Tran is also a special contributor for Vietnam Times. Her writing, including “Competing with Giant” book, and her latest articles are to advise and inspire young people to start-up, overcome challenges and reach out to the world. It is the story of a little girl taking the great responsibilities for a corporation and devoting herself to society.

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