Dr. Clāra Ly-Le is the managing director of EloQ Communications and took some time out to talk with The Industry Leaders and provide some golden rules for business owners in 2023.
What's your industry?
Public relations and communications
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
My name is Clāra Ly-Le, and I am the founder and managing director of EloQ Communications, a boutique PR and marketing agency in Vietnam. My journey began with formal education in the West, where I refined my skills and expertise in the U.S. and Australia. However, I always had a strong desire to develop my career in my home country.
My passion for the industry, Vietnam, and Southeast Asia led me to establish EloQ Communications, with the aim of promoting Vietnam's name globally and showcasing the professionalism of the Vietnamese in PR and marketing communications. With over a decade of experience in the field, I possess a deep understanding of the business and am committed to supporting businesses to achieve their communication goals.
Aside from my work at EloQ Communications, I am also the vice dean of the Faculty of Public Relations and Communications at Van Lang University, where I am challenging and redefining the conventional norms of the public relations and communications industry. My ultimate goal is to elevate the PR sector in Vietnam, provide hands-on learning opportunities for aspiring professionals, and foster a sense of pride in the next generation of PR practitioners.
In addition to my role at EloQ Communications and Van Lang University, I am also committed to making a positive impact and going above and beyond to achieve results. I believe that by doing so, I can help close the gap, cut through the noise, attract the audience businesses seek, and inspire loyalty and devotion. Overall, my journey has been driven by a passion for PR and marketing, a commitment to promoting Vietnam's capabilities in these fields, and a desire to challenge and redefine the norms of the industry.
What does an average day look like for you?
As the head of EloQ Communications, my day is often filled with a variety of tasks and responsibilities. A typical day for me involves overseeing the company's daily operations, strategic growth, and employee development programs. I'm also responsible for networking with our regional partners and different international PR and marketing associations to generate leads, learn from our peers, and integrate high-quality standards into our service offerings.
Networking and business development are crucial part of my daily routine, as it helps to keep EloQ Communications on top of industry trends and best practices. We have made significant progress along the way, including becoming a member of the prestigious Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and a founding member of PRCA Vietnam.
Additionally, I work closely with the team to execute daily client services, project planning, and implementation in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian markets. This involves working alongside the team on the front line to share my professional knowledge and passion, as well as staying alert on the latest trends and insights.
Overall, my day involves a mix of management, business development, and client service tasks. It is an exciting and challenging role that requires me to wear many hats and adapt to new challenges regularly.
How do you balance the needs of your business with the needs of your personal life?
It can be easy to get caught up in work and neglect personal responsibilities or relationships, but it's important to find a balance to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
One of the strategies that I use to balance my work and personal life is to ask for help when needed. As a business owner, it can be challenging to admit that you need assistance or guidance, but seeking advice or delegating tasks to colleagues can help alleviate stress and ensure that everything is getting done efficiently.
It's also crucial to prioritize and manage time effectively. I try to find solutions to problems during work hours so that I don't have to ponder them at home. This helps me to be present and fully engaged in my personal life and avoid bringing work-related stress into my home life.
Balancing the needs of a business and personal life can be challenging, but it's essential to find strategies that work for you. Asking for help, prioritizing, and managing time effectively can help maintain a healthy balance between work and personal responsibilities.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
The best advice that was given to me is about trust in oneself and not solely relying on external factors. It reminded me that I need to focus on my own abilities and strengths rather than depending on external resources or circumstances. This advice helped me maintain my faith in my own potential and abilities during challenging times in my entrepreneurial journey.
This advice could also help others who are starting their own business or going through a tough time. It's crucial to have self-belief, focus on your strengths, and work towards achieving your goals. The key to success is to stay resilient and not let setbacks demotivate you.
Remember, “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but on her own wings.”
What's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
The hardest part of my journey was the lack of business management and human resource management knowledge, which is a common problem for boutique PR agencies in Vietnam. Specifically, employee recruitment, retention, and conflict negotiation were the biggest challenges I faced in the early stages of the business.
The pressure of owning a business and being responsible for employees’ well-being was also a challenge, particularly in the face of market uncertainty and economic crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This insecurity affected my self-esteem, but I persevered by reminding myself of my passion for the industry, Vietnam, and Southeast Asia.
Three mistakes that I made early on were not delegating effectively, hiring too many staff, and over-promising to clients and stakeholders. I learned to delegate tasks more logically, which led to the recognition of my agency as the Best PR Agency at the 3rd ASEAN PR Excellence Award by The ASEAN PR Network, Agency of the year 2021 and 2022 by Ad World Masters, among others.
My advice to entrepreneurs facing similar challenges is to delegate effectively, hire the right number of staff, and manage client expectations by under-promising and over-delivering. Working as a team is key to success, and effective delegation can help alleviate burnout and facilitate growth. Remember why you started and persevere through challenges to achieve your dreams.
Are there any well-known Books, Podcasts, or Courses that you credit your current success to?
Yes, there are several resources that have contributed to my success as a PR practitioner and entrepreneur.
One book that I highly recommend is “The Art of Possibility” by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. This book explores how individuals can unlock their creativity and achieve success by changing their mindset. I found this book helpful in terms of learning how to approach problems in a more positive and creative way.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful business owner or executive to have?
Leadership, adaptability, and perseverance. I don't consider myself a successful businessperson yet, but I think a business owner or executive should be able to lead and inspire their team to achieve common goals. They should also be flexible and open-minded, and able to adjust their strategies to fit new circumstances. Most importantly, they should be able to stay focused on their goals, even when faced with obstacles or setbacks.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a business owner?
Remember why you started. Starting a business is a challenging and often stressful experience, so it's essential to focus on something that you're passionate about and that aligns with your strengths. It will help you stay motivated, energized, and committed to your goals.
Embrace innovation and adaptability. The business landscape is constantly evolving, so it's crucial to be adaptable and open to change. Don't be afraid to innovate, experiment, and try new things. Be willing to pivot your business model if needed and embrace new technologies, processes, and approaches that can help you stay ahead of the competition.
Stay focused, disciplined, and resilient: Starting a business can be a rollercoaster ride with many ups and downs, so it's important to stay focused, disciplined, and resilient. Stay committed to your goals, maintain a positive attitude, and be prepared to work hard and overcome obstacles. Celebrate your successes, learn from your failures, and keep pushing forward with determination and perseverance.
What are the top three things you think are essential for business success?
Human resource management. Having a strong understanding of human resource management is crucial for the success of any business. I found it the hard way that recruitment, retention, and conflict resolution are the key areas that need to be managed effectively to ensure the smooth running of the business. Business owners should take time to learn about human resource management and develop strategies to attract and retain top talent.
Effective delegation. Business owners should understand the importance of delegation and learn to delegate tasks to the right people. Overworking and trying to do everything yourself can lead to burnout and hinder the growth of your business. By delegating tasks effectively, you can free up your time to focus on the bigger picture and allow your team to take on more responsibility.
Adaptability and resilience. Market uncertainty is inevitable in any business, and it's essential to be adaptable and resilient to survive challenging times. Business owners should be prepared to pivot their strategies and be open to new opportunities as they arise. Building a resilient business also means having a strong support system and being able to bounce back from setbacks.
Do you think someone can be a great business owner without having many years of experience first?
I believe that it is possible. While having prior business experience can be helpful, it is not a prerequisite for success. As an incidental entrepreneur in the PR industry, I faced many challenges. However, they were able to learn and improve over time through on-the-job experience.
Therefore, my advice to someone starting out as a business owner would be to seize the opportunity if it presents itself. Becoming a leader requires courage and the willingness to develop technical expertise and managerial skills. While there may be difficulties and challenges along the way, it is possible to learn and improve over time.
In general, do you think the world is producing better business owners in 2023 than it was fifty years ago?
It is difficult to make a generalized statement about whether the world is producing better business owners in 2023 than it was fifty years ago based solely on my experience. However, I can say that the current business landscape is vastly different from what it was fifty years ago. With the advent of new technologies, globalization, and shifting consumer behaviors, business owners today face a whole different set of challenges than those in the past. Anyway, I believe that whether someone can be a great business owner depends less on the time period and more on their individual skills, mindset, and willingness to learn and adapt to changing circumstances.