For Pily Wong, who represents global brand names including Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, sending Cambodians overseas for training is definitely worth the money.
“I think it brings back a lot of benefits not only the company but also to Cambodians themselves as well,” Wong said. “This is part of corporate social responsibility because we are building a generation that has been lost in Cambodia.”
Wong’s family-owned Hung Hiep Group, for which he serves as CEO, is the authorised distributor of both Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz in Cambodia. Wong also is the country manager for Microsoft, a member of the board governors on the American Cambodia Business Council, the President of the ITC Business Association and the vice president of the Cambodia Automotive Industry Federation (CAIF).
Wong sees the need to rebuild a whole generation of Cambodians because of what happened in the past, the destruction of the civil war and the lack of exposure to the outside world.
“The question is how can we rebuild a generation,” he said. “When I first came here, it was quite tough to find highly educated workers and was really challenging to find people who had been exposed to the outside world. I’m dealing with international corporations and I need people who know about what is outside, what products there are and the level of service and standards that are expected from the outside world.”
One of Wong’s employees in the Hung Hiep Group, Khun Chantha, recently went to Alicante, Spain, to attend a “Euro Training” with Mercedes-Benz.
Khun Chantha, 37, had previously worked for a trading company and had visited Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Singapore before joining Hung Hiep in 2010.
He said the training in Spain helped him understand the vehicles, enabling him to test drive them so he could honestly describe to potential customers the differences between the Mercedes-Benz and those made by competing manufacturers.
“Before I went to Euro Training, I learned from the book. Since Euro Training, I began to fully understand the car in the big picture and became able to confidently explain it to the customer,” he said.
Wong said sending Khun Chantha to Spain was cost effective, even with air tickets, hotels and expenses because it compared favourably with the import duty cost of bringing in a car to Cambodia, which can be about $100,000.
“Sending him to Spain is cheaper,” Wong said.“When he comes back, after having driven the car, he has a totally different feeling. When he talks to a customer, he can give him an accurate feeling about the car.”
Khun Chantha said he drove models from Mercedes-Benz, from Audi and from BMW and was able to compare the differences. He says it is harder to sell a car that you have not driven.
“Now I can say yes, I have driven this car.”
The training paid off for Khun Chantha and Wong when a customer came in and bought a white Mercedes-Benz for his daughter, a 2012 model of the E-250 Coupe.
“I took him inside the car and told him about the safety features. He wanted the car for his daughter while she was studying for her bachelor’s degree.”
Another of Wong’s associates is Piseth Chhourm, who has worked as a technology specialist for Microsoft’s market development program for the last two and a half years. Prior to that, he was a senior web architect for an Australian company. His first trip outside Cambodia was for Microsoft, to attend what’s called an ISU Summit, an internal meeting for regional Microsoft people for the Asia Pacific region.
“The key thing I remember is return on investment. They were teaching us on how to approach software to help with customer problems and how we approach return on investment.”
Since then, Piseth Chhourm has stayed in touch with the people he met. He says the trip itself and meeting people face to face made a big difference.
“You can hear something one thousand times, but it is not like seeing one time.”
Piseth Chhourm says Singapore was very different than Phnom Penh, very busy and with the tendency that Singapore people use their brains for their careers.
His next trip was to Kuala Lumpur in December 2010, followed by Ho Chi Minh City in May, 2010, twice back to Malaysia, again back to Vietnam and a total of four trips to Singapore since he joined Microsoft.
“For me travel there is mainly to gain knowledge and experience from experts,” he said. “The travel to these meetings has changed the experience in the way we understand the technology. When I come back to Cambodia, I notice it is far different, and if I compare local practices from what they do overseas.”
Wong says he doesn’t look so much at a person’s CV when he hires them, but rather their attitude and personality. He said the experience of travel helps change personalities for the better.
“Training is worth it. It helps the business to be more efficient, also from a human perspective. When people travel overseas, they come with a different vision and their personalities change. They understand better what is standard, and they have higher expectations not only on their work but also on themselves. People become more productive. Automatically they are more demanding on output they can contribute more to the company,” Wong said.