“I used to be extremely anxious about pitching. I had to remind myself that the worst could happen was just a no from a client, in which case I could still go back to my office and find out how to do it better next time,” says Yenly Tran, Founder and CEO of Etík Academy.
It has been two years since Vietcetera had a conversation with Yenly about etiquette and the importance of social manners in the age of globalization. Today we sit down with her to learn from her experience of building and managing one of the first etiquette academies in Vietnam.
What are three core values that you would never compromise?
Integrity, honesty, and creating real values. As an etiquette teacher, being a small support system to my student’s social and professional life, I believe these values should be the foundation to my interaction with them.
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Which personal strengths have helped you move forward in your career?
I have always been very curious. I’d like to believe this is a strength of mine as it has pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to take on new challenges, though at times naively.
Self-awareness is another strength that has helped me build and manage Etík Academy effectively. I know what I’m good at but I also recognize what I need to work on, and when I need to get help. For instance, I’m good at looking ahead so I take care of vision and strategy. But when it comes to execution, I definitely could use some help from my team.
What has been your most memorable experience since you founded Etík?
When I pitched Etík to potential customers at our launch, no one signed up for our courses. Even my family and friends weren’t convinced enough. Self-doubt and frustration would’ve been an understatement of what I went through. I remember feeling so defeated.
On the same day, a stranger happened to pass by our standee and decided to approach us. He became our very first student. He then went on to refer us to a few more clients. 3 months later, we signed with a big corporation. That was a turning point for us.
Can you share some valuable lessons you’ve learned in your career?
I’m a perfectionist. Unfortunately, I’ve learnt the hard way that what I want to make 100% perfect may not be what my clients need. Sometimes what they need is for our project to move forward as soon as possible, and not getting caught up in the small details.
I had to get my head around the notion of “Good is better than perfect.” Sometimes it doesn’t matter how perfect you’ve tried to make a product before its launch, unexpected problems will come up. And so I learned how to twitch and fix ideas as we move along.
Another lesson I’ve learned is to be mindful and honest with myself about my capacity.
Right after I gave birth to my baby, a big opportunity came to me. Being my ambitious self, I decided to get back to the game earlier than I should have. I rushed into making a pitch to the client, just to end up getting painfully rejected.
My hasty decision not only hurt my work, but also my personal life and my family. I realized how important it is to have my priorities in check and manage my capacity better.
Do Vietnamese nowadays pay more attention to etiquette than they used to?
The term “etiquette” has been used more widely these days. Back when I started out, the word itself wasn’t even popular.
But there are still a lot of misunderstandings about etiquette. For instance, many people think the point of learning etiquette is to appear more sophisticated or associated to a certain class. In reality, that is usually not the case. Humility and respect is at the core of etiquette. The art of etiquette is all about knowing how to present yourself and communicate with courtesy in different social settings.
How do you and Etík convince people of the importance of etiquette education?
When I was a university student, I attended a lot of talks and events where seasoned entrepreneurs and business people shared the kind of lessons you couldn’t get from books. I’ve always wanted to host similar events.
So besides our courses, Etík is rolling out an on-going project called Etik for Community. In this project, we hold free talks at schools, offering an educational space where students get to approach etiquette. Through this initiative, we hope to help them develop their communication skills and a proactive, thoughtful mindset.
Do you have any startup advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Have confidence in your ideas. Work hard and always strive for improvement. If you get discouraged along the way, which you will, try to remember the reasons why you started. Stay curious, there’s so much more to find out.