I’m sitting in the great hall of the Reunification Palace, the landmark building in former Saigon where the war officially ended when the North Vietnamese crashed through its gates declaring victory.
Our tour guide — a short, slight-of-build, 20-something Vietnamese man — is explaining with great passion the history of Ho Chi Minh and the socialist party’s rise to power in modern-day Vietnam.
I listen to the guide’s well-rehearsed rhetoric as the bust of Ho Chi Minh looms large behind him and the blood-red, five-pointed star — the pentagram, symbol of communism — frames the bust’s background. I notice he’s been glancing down at something sporadically, which I assume to be his notes.
Suddenly he stops midpoint in his discourse on America’s role in the war and holds up an iPad showing the famous and moving photo of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, who immolated himself. Ahh, his message may be of the socialist persuasion, but his note-taking technology is decidedly capitalist in nature.
Without skipping a beat, my fellow American on the right says matter-of-factly, “Steve Job’s-style socialism,” while the gentlemen on my left weighs in with “It’s a different world.”
They are both right. For the past several decades, Vietnam has been engaged in what they call Doi Moi, the name given to economic reforms, the goal of which is to create an economic system of capitalism, guided by the hand of socialism.
As a result of Doi Moi, privately owned enterprises have been encouraged, and the Vietnamese’s enthusiastic embrace of entrepreneurship has played a significant role in the country’s 7.1 percent growth rate, in line just behind China and India.
Enthusiasm. I’ve seen it in abundance over the past few days. Enthusiasm for service in the hotels and for the shoes and purses made by the family of the vendor — the relentless eagerness to make a better life for one’s self and one’s family. All this enthusiasm has led me to consider the state of small business marketing at home.
As small business owners, we have become so overburdened and overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of our marketing to-do list and social media strategies, I think we sometimes forget that what should ultimately drive our small businesses is enthusiasm.
• A passion to find a gap and fill it.
• A desire to make an opportunity where one did not exist previously.
• The commitment to make manifest our good ideas.
I’m yanked back from my reflection on these things when the tour guide’s phone rings and he unceremoniously answers it and walks off to the side to have a discussion with whoever has called. When he’s done, he steps back to the front of the room and picks up just as passionately where he left off. A different world indeed.
What role does enthusiasm play in your small business day-to-day? I would love to hear your comments.
This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.