Friday, May 9, 2008

Working in a Cambodian company

Since August 2007 I am working in a Cambodian company, called Monument Books and Toys. Since January 2008 I am the manager of the toys department, responsible for the shop development and the distribution development as well as advertising and staff training.
When I started, my biggest concern was that I never worked at a retail shop, I never had anything to do with orders from overseas, with minimum order quantity and 20 feet containers. But I was learning my whole life (and still go on), so that was a learnign process too - but I made it.
Another concern (I am german, we always have concerns), was about culture. We are just two foreigners, our GM is French, so how would it be working together in English, which isn't the mother tongue of any of us. Actually that led to the most problems - mainly simple misunderstanding. I was again surprised about differences between the french and the German culture (it seems Germany is much more focused on international business). so what about the Cambodian-German conflicts? In my daily experience there where only a few. I tried to understand as much as possible how people here are thinking. Its different: some, so called well educated collegues with some experience in other countries or at least foreigners) are able to work very professional. Others are missing basics in knowledge about the outside world.
Thats seems to be the biggest obstancles for Cambodian owned companies: to except the lack of knowledge and experience.
Regarding markets, it seems that people first try to control a market instead of facing competition. Also I learned that strategy doesn't see to be important as well as plans, concepts, even budgests. Many companies are still structured like a family business.
At least, the relationship between boss and employee seems often still like in the colonial time. But as there are not a lot qualified people in this country, companies have to understand about how important human ressources are.

Why I am writing this? Because I will leave Cambodia in June. My wife got a new job in Vietnam (not far, right?) and I will follow her of course.

I met wonderful people here, and I will miss them, but I also learned my lessons. The cultural difference seems to be a problem more in business than in daily life. Cambodia ist still undeveloped, and its sad to see, how some people selling this country for their own profits. I hope one day, the Cambodian people are able to get the power back in their own hands.


Andy Brouwer said...

best wishes in Vietnam Thomas. i wish you well.

Norman Groß said...


Ich lese Ihren BLOG seit einiger Zeit mit großem Interesse. Ich finde es gut, dass Sie den Mut gefasst haben, "working in a cambodian company" auch kritisch zu schreiben. Oft erscheint mir beim Lesen der BLOGs von Auswanderern, Weltenbummlern & Co. die Welt doch sehr einfach und fast zu schön, um wahr zu sein. Natürlich hat jedes Land seine Vorzüge. Leider wird nur allzu oft vergessen, was eventuelle Nachteile sind. Ich bedanke mich auf jeden Fall für das ehrliche Wort und die interessanten Meldungen und werde, selbstverständlich, Ihren BLOG aus Vietnam lesen.

Gruß aus dem grünen Herzen Deutschlands
Norman Groß

Thomas Wanhoff said...

@ Andy: Thanks and take care!
@ Norman: und ich danke für den netten Kommentar. Ich gebe Ihnen recht, es wird vieles beschönt. Da wollte ich mal gegensteuern!