Sonatus, a new premium office building in Saigon’s CBD, has some of the highest concentration of multinationals and Vietnam’s industry champions. Over the next few weeks, as part of our Voices from Sonatus series, we will be interviewing CEOs and executives about what it’s like to work at one of Saigon’s most prestigious addresses.
Today, we take you behind the scenes of Au Chau Fashion And Cosmetic (ACFC) headquarters with Kien Nguyen Chi, the company’s Human Resources Director.
Founded in 2010 as a subsidiary of Imex Pan Pacific Group (IPPG), ACFC represents some of the world’s top international brands such as Nike, Levi’s, GAP, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, FCUK, Dune, Fitflop, Owndays, Cotton On, Typo, Parfois, Mother Care and OVS. Offering full-service retail management across the country, the company is considered a market leader in the fashion retail industry.
Can you tell us about yourself and your role in the company?
I joined the organization as the Human Resources Director for ACFC and IPP F&B just over six months ago. Prior to that, I worked for a number of multinationals in Vietnam, such as Unilever, and Philip Morris; most recently in the banking and consumer finance sectors.
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How does ACFC position itself in the market?
ACFC is a fashion and cosmetics retailer specializing in Vietnam market distribution. We focus on bringing premium and reputable international brands to fulfill increasing needs of the Vietnamese people. You could say we cover all bases of domestic retail: from fashion and cosmetics to Mom & Baby products.
Our mission is to bring major international brands to Vietnam and act as their representative here, as well as introducing Vietnamese consumers to new brands and new trends.
Today, the company has over 200 stores all over the country in cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Nha Trang – both shopfronts on the main streets and stores in major shopping malls; operating with a young and dynamic workforce of close to 2,200 employees.
How would you describe the work culture at ACFC?
We are a key player in Vietnam’s fashion retail industry. Especially with fast-fashion brands, trends change very quickly and you need to stay ahead of them. So it’s hardly surprising that our workforce is very young (the average age is 31, including for senior management) and very dynamic. But the real glue that holds us together are our core values: integrity, respect for each other, focus on people and full transparency in everything we do. That’s what every single team member lives and breathes at ACFC.
With the headcount growing, how do you ensure employee happiness and satisfaction?
First, we communicate our core values to encourage employees to voice their ideas and concerns, so that they feel heard and cared for. It is an integral part of the new employee orientation. We hold regular onboarding sessions, 3-5 times a month, where ACFC managers and brand representatives talk about the organization, our values, mission, vision and commitment to employees, customers and business partners. We want them to feel proud to be part of ACFC from day one.
It is the role of all the managers here to make sure that they create a work environment where team members can bond. We are also introducing new technology to improve employee experience, such as our new sales platform, automated self-service Human Capital Management platform, etc. Last but not least, we take care of our team members by building modern and comfortable workplaces for them, like the Sonatus office we are sitting in right now.
For new graduates, where is the best place to prepare for leadership: education or on the job?
From my point of view, education is very important, but it’s not everything. Education will give you a foundation, an understanding of knowledge acquisition and will teach you logical thinking. But it’s on the job that you will learn through daily interactions with your team, through practicing your skills.
Real life is more complicated than your university study group where everyone is working hard towards a common goal: to get the best possible GPA, to graduate with a high score. In the office, the environment is much more competitive; which sometimes leads to conflict. On the job, you quickly learn new ways of interacting with various stakeholders, of doing things.
How long have you been at Sonatus and why did you move in the first place?
We were one of the first two tenants to move into the building. Right in the city center, same as our previous office, but Sonatus is more convenient for us in terms of commuting and getting to our stores. On the other hand, the building provides us with modern amenities. It was important for us to provide our employees with the best working experience, and with Sonatus we had the opportunity to merge teams and create an open space where people can interact with each other with ease. It really helped us boost employee engagement and productivity.
How has your team responded to the move to Sonatus?
It was a very exciting time: moving into a brand-new office with new fittings, furniture, equipment. Most importantly, we had full control of the office layout, so we made sure the teams that often collaborate were sitting next to each other. It felt like a new chapter for the company and everyone shared in the excitement.