“A Working Woman” is a title that fits Linh Dang perfectly. A mother of three and the founder of Godmother Bake & Brunch, a trendy eatery in downtown Saigon, she’s also the co-owner and the only female manager at HypeAsia – a restaurant group behind such innovative dining and nightlife concepts as Octo Tapas Restobar, Godmother Bake & Brunch, Roka Fella, Bam Bam, and Commas Saigon.
They’ve gone regional too, with projects including The Penthouse, The Breakfast Club and Commas Singapore.
For Linh and her husband, the group’s other founder, it all started with a shared passion for traveling, dining and fashion. “While my husband was bringing 15 years of F&B experience to the table, I was rather wet behind the ears,” says Linh about the joining of forces with someone much more experienced than her.
What are your three core work and life values?
I would say responsibility, collaboration and happiness. These values are intertwined and support each other.
The key to staying happy while doing what you’re doing is by being responsible with yourself. And collaboration is definitely needed to materialize your vision and dreams.
Just like husbands and wives maintain harmony in family life, business partnerships require a solid foundation of collaborative values and a long-term, balanced friendship. It always takes contribution from both sides.
How would you define “happiness”?
For me, this is actually a simple question to answer. Happiness is being able to live my life the way I want while sharing positive values with people I love. And it is through work that I obtain happiness.
What’s it like being a female rookie at the all-male managing board?
I’ve been asked so many times whether I feel pressured or feel the need to prove my worth to those men at my workplace. My answer is always “Never”. Here’s the thing. In business, you are evaluated based on your abilities and performance. Other things don’t matter that much.
I might not be a business woman in a traditional sense, yet I’m quite confident in my marketing skills. As a keen observer who loves new experiences, I’ve always been curious about the innovative ways trendy restaurants advertize. I watch and I learn.
Opening Octo Tapas Restobar was my first professional milestone in F&B. When taking on the supporting role in building the restaurant’s brand and developing marketing plans, I realized how much unlocked potential I had.
However, learning something and successfully applying your knowledge are two different things. It takes lots of experience to be able to turn your learnings into reality. Keep in mind that you are going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. And that’s totally okay.
When it comes to my managing style, as a woman, I embrace the likeable, soft and foresighted sides of mine, together with my other strength - seeing things from a realistic point of view. Right now, my role at HypeAsia is to establish internal and external relations and to lead projects.
And have you ever had to tone down any personality traits?
I have! My hot temper and my competitiveness. It’s easy to become a stubborn and defensive person at work when you’re very proud of your ideas and the things you do. But without objectivity, you are running the risk of negatively affecting your collaborations. Not to mention the damage to your reputation as an effective manager.
So instead, I’ve learned to remain calm, listen, and sympathize more with people around me while constantly reminding myself to keep my cool.
How different is your relationship with your husband at work and at home?
My husband is a typical thinker. He’s good at being creative and generating new ideas. I’m more of a do-er who focuses on bringing those initiatives to life.
That’s why arguments happen quite often between us, mostly about the practicality of ideas, or the reality not meeting expectations. We even used to avoid having face-to-face conversations for weeks.
As time went by, we both got to the point where we realized that we shouldn’t be bringing unfinished work home and agreed to focus on the final result rather than the process. So we found a compromise and learned to be more patient with each other.
The way I am at home isn’t all that different from me at work. At home, I’m still a do-er, and how I take care of my children might be different from the traditional approaches.
I come up with detailed plans for my kids, including meals and diets, as well as daily routines. When I’m at work, I’ll have someone help me look after the kids and keep me posted.
My husband often has business meetings that run late into the night. He is a very loving father but work being so hectic, he doesn't see the kids as often as he’d love to and tends to spoil them terribly. That’s why in their eyes, he is the angel and I’m the devil!
What is the order of your priorities?
At the moment, children and work matter the most to me. Let's hope that after we’ve successfully expanded Godmother, it changes to my children, myself, then then work.
What will your 2021 look like?
Last year taught me to plan better, including thinking of crisis management solutions.
In 2021, Vietnamese customers can expect a whole collection of new Godmother venues, not just around Saigon in D1, D2 and D7, but also in Hanoi.
In the meantime, HypeAsia is going to work relentlessly on franchising a well-known Thai restaurant called Amdangtyphoon, as well as a hotpot restaurant named Beauty in the Pot.
This article is adapted by Lam Nguyen