Purchasing managers are the unsung heroes of the hotel and restaurant business. While chefs get TV shows and mixologists dominate social media posts, the procurement department toils in obscurity. The objective of KAMEREO, Vietnam’s first comprehensive platform for HORECA businesses, is to make the department that is the backbone of the industry more efficient (if not more glamorous). By connecting hotels and restaurants directly with suppliers, KAMEREO helps them to save time and money, as well as pooling purchasing data for better analytics.
As the company is preparing to go global (they have already expanded their product offering with the launch of eCommerce and eGrocery sites earlier this year), we sit down with KAMEREO’s business development manager Khang Pham.
Khang got the job after reaching out to Taku Tanaka, the founder, on LinkedIn and engaged him in a vigorous conversation about the future of Vietnam’s F&B industry and KAMEREO’s role in it. Today, Khang manages a B2B sales team and keeps an eye out for growth opportunities.
What are some of the misconceptions people have about working in startups?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that at startups you are burning the midnight oil and grinding until you hit the wall, while big companies are all about yoga classes, life-work balance, and leaving at 5 pm sharp. In reality, while you might have to work long hours sometimes, that’s just the nature of the job when building something new and trying to get traction. You have to be committed to the job and obsessed with getting the end product right. But there is an upside to all of this too: you are likely to have more control over your life and more independence.
People working at startups have families, hobbies, and social lives. And many enjoy the flexibility and the tradeoffs that the startup environment offers — leaving the office early on Friday and getting in a few hours of work on Sunday morning — which might be impossible to pull off at a big company.
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What makes a good salesperson?
First and foremost, a good salesperson knows how to ask the right questions to get their prospect to talk openly, and listens carefully. Another important characteristic is resilience. Rather than being discouraged and pessimistic during a period of low sales, a pro keeps looking for ways to innovate and make those hard-to-close sales.
I would also highlight confidence; in themselves as well as in the quality of the product or serving they are selling. Clients recognize confidence and tend to mirror it, they associate confidence with trustworthiness and tend to make the purchase decision quicker. And if the client is hesitant, a salesperson with high emotional intelligence will be able to quickly identify the pain points and propose the best possible solution.
Being charming also helps. Far from being a superficial quality, it’s the basis of likeability. It is possible for a person who is not particularly charming to be well-liked, but it is almost impossible not to like someone who is truly charming. Charm, however, is most effective in sales when it is accompanied by such qualities as empathy, honesty, and generosity.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
I make sure my morning has a routine, and then the rest of the day just follows. So after taking a shower, stretching, and having breakfast, I read the news online and make a rough plan noting the things I wish to achieve that day. And with a plan in hand, I am more likely to push myself to achieve it.
Any surprising facts you learned about Vietnam's F&B industry since joining Kamereo?
It’s a well-established fact that Vietnam offers a fertile ground for F&B businesses thanks to a stable political and economic situation, young population and a growing middle class. However, if we look closely at how these restaurants and bars run their daily operations and organize their supply chains, it is shocking how few of them use technology. Most rely on manual processes.
That's why I see tremendous potential for KAMEREO to redefine Vietnam’s F&B business. We offer an all-in-one solution powered by technology that is the simplest and most affordable way for restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, and other players to get their daily supplies sorted out. As a result, operational costs go down.
Do you have any advice for a young person looking to start a career in this field?
I am a co-owner of a small restaurant that opened over seven years ago. Sounds sexy, doesn't it? But what you don’t know are all the restaurants of mine that have failed and friendships that I lost as a result and mourn to this day.
So, whenever I am asked for advice on opening a restaurant, my answer is always “don't”. Unless you are passionate, fearless, and willing to lose all of your money, don’t do it. Opening a restaurant is easy but keeping it going is hard. Only open a restaurant if you're ready to give up all personal time, personal space, and sanity. You must also be prepared to handle every position in the restaurant and learn to wear all hats, especially at the early stages: one day you are mopping floors, unclogging toilets, and washing dishes, and the next you are preparing food and serving the guests.
It is hard for me to be telling anyone not to pursue their own dreams, because if you don't have a dream, you don't have much. At the end of the day, there is only one type of success, and that is to be able to live your life your own way, on your own terms.