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Politics beckons for ex-engineer turned Cambodia eyewear Don

Politics beckons for ex-engineer turned Cambodia eyewear Don

The managing director of Eye Care, Ung Dipola, has a vision for serving 'the people'

Photo by: Anne-Laure Poree

Eye Care managing director Ung Dipola says the key to success is to keep things simple and to be aware of your own capabilities.

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Ung Dipola, managing director of Eye Care

  • Born 1972 in Phnom Penh.
  • Education Ung Dipola graduated from the Ecole Speciale des Travaux Publics, du batiment et de l’industrie (ESTP), a civil engineering and construction technical college in Paris. He later studied at the Royal School of Administration in Phnom Penh.
  • Career He worked for two years in France as a construction engineer before returning to Cambodia, where he attended civil service school. After graduating, he became a civil servant at the National Audit Authority of Cambodia. He resigned and became the manager of Eye Care in 2004.

Ung Dipola is the managing director of Eye Care, one of the leading optician chains in Cambodia. He took over the business from his mother-in-law, who founded it in 1994. His empire now takes in seven shops in Phnom Penh, one in Siem Reap and one in Battambang. The 37-year-old recently became the new owner of five convenience stores in Phnom Penh, representing for him a new business challenge.

Tell us about your job. What do you do in an average day?

I take care of my daughter every morning and take her to school before having breakfast and starting work at 8.30. The first thing I do every morning is check my emails. During the day I place orders, sign documents and resolve the problems of the day or of the day before. I also look for new suppliers, for new products and I sometimes visit the shops.

What is your management style?

I would call it a democratic management style. I have a vision, a direction for the company. But I ask the employees to tell me what they think and to participate, to give their ideas, too. But I am not completely satisfied because they still need to be pushed to do that; it takes time. In the future I would like them to have a capital stake in the business.

This management pays attention to the employees: They have insurance, a 13th-month salary, a small allowance for their children, retirement contributions and they get double salary if they work during holidays. I also organise a trip for everybody once a year.

How did you get to where you are?

First, I would say thanks to patience and hard work. When I started managing Eye Care, I knew nothing about optometry and the employees gave me a funny look. I was used to supervising building sites, so I had to adapt myself and replace cement with glasses, steel with lenses. I worked hard in order to know the products; the challenge for me was to learn as quickly as possible. The rest was management, and I knew that. I think I also have this craving to learn and to understand. I learned this optometry job from my employees, from my suppliers and from the internet. And I have a wonderful wife who supports me in any situation.

What about luck?

I believe in luck, but according to me this is the last thing that carries some weight. The success of somebody is first based on his aptitude for study, for work, for listening... and on his attitude. Luck is the plus on top.

You are already at the top of the company. What personal challenges do you have for the future?

I would like to open a shop in every province of the country in order to be closer to my customers, but this is still a long way away. In 10 years when I don't have to worry anymore about the future of the company and the financial security of my family I would like to quit being the managing director. So, I still have 10 years to mature.

Today, I share my ideas and my vision for the betterment of the people with my employees. Later, I would like to share my experience with the rest of the people. I would like to take part in the political life of the country.

What advice do you have for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

I made many mistakes before becoming "successful". I ran different businesses: I managed Eye Care and at the same time I also founded a school, a design company, a drinking water reprocessing plant.... If we have the physical strength to do it, we have the mental strength. At the end, I noticed that I worked 15 percent of my time for Eye Care, 20 percent for another company, and so on. You will never succeed this way. That's why I would advise first to start working in a company in order to gain experience. If you have a project, try to do something simple, do not aim at something too high, be aware of your own capability. Be honest, too,  otherwise you will not succeed in the long term. And listen to the needs of the people - customers, employees, suppliers - and to advice from your circle of family and friends. Do not think alone. Young people fresh out of university often think they know everything. Believe me, I have been through that, too....

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