Benjamin Poirrier is a resident from France who relocated to Vietnam in 2007. He is the Founder & CEO of Prodima. Arriving in Vietnam to validate a degree in Marketing and Communication, Benjamin soon immersed himself in the culture and community of Vietnam. With a bare minimum of 500 Euros to survive and a lack in the local culture, Benjamin explored the Vietnamese language and continues to practice it today. The ways of Vietnam resonate within Benjamin’s values, consistently drawing him to learn from Vietnamese people and Vietnamese mindsets – essential to success and growth in Vietnam.
Following years of global travel and local expertise gained through living in Vietnam, Benjamin has built Prodima based on the needs of the Vietnamese business community. Gaining insight through the digital market in Saigon, Benjamin has aligned the needs of the industry with Vietnam’s market for talent and online attraction.
Prodima leader and innovator Benjamin maintains a developed passion for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) based upon a foundation of years of digital marketing experience. He is also a passionate PPC (Pay Per Click) expert in media ads campaigns whose professional experience and success are valuable to all partners. Finally, Benjamin produces website development strategies alongside an experienced team to deliver professional and authentic results.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Benjamin Poirrier: What is a French entrepreneur doing in Vietnam? I am an economist & digital marketer. Right after getting my Master’s Degree, I decided to start my career in Vietnam.
Why Vietnam? Because, well, back in 2007, it was a promising country. It is still true today with its positive GDP despite the covid-19 pandemic. I surfed the wave & made myself. I had to learn the local language, the culture, and I don’t regret it. Vietnam is full of opportunities!
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Benjamin Poirrier: There is no such thing as “being born to do something.”
You choose what you become to be. Whatever your family environment, your financial situation, your physical condition. I am French. I strongly believe in the power of the brain. “Vouloir, c’est pouvoir” that you can translate by “When you want, you can.”
There is always a way to make it. There is nothing impossible (we also say “Impossible is not a French word”).
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Benjamin Poirrier: Dedicated. Perseverant. Honest. Open-minded.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Benjamin Poirrier: I have been working for digital companies for years, but Prodima Vietnam is my own agency. I launched it at the end of 2020. Prodima Vietnam is a full-service digital marketing agency based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
We deliver Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Paid Ads, Social Media, and Web Development services. We started focusing on the Vietnamese market. We are now opening to South-East Asia, as digital is needed everywhere.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Benjamin Poirrier: I do business in South-East Asia and I am not familiar with the U.S. market. However, I am pretty sure the problem is the same everywhere: most startups fail because of a lack of planning. Before listing what an entrepreneur must assume when starting a business, I think we should first ask what an entrepreneur shouldn’t assume.
And my answer is: the entrepreneur shouldn’t assume his/her products or services will “sell with 0 effort.” Most entrepreneurs think their products & services are “the best.” The reality is that it becomes more and more difficult to find the right niche in the market.
Many “good products” with a “high demand” have already been done. So, an entrepreneur should not go blindly before launching a business. There is some market survey work to do before. Data is available. Instead of running a business and “maybe succeed, maybe fail”, we should use this market information to estimate the potential market demand, expected sales, audience personas, competitive benchmark, etc.
Never start a business before doing this work. Don’t hit your head on the wall. Test then go.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Benjamin Poirrier: Yes. When launching Prodima, I was assuming that differentiating with a high-quality service would be enough to stand out from the crowd and win deals. The reality is that, in Vietnam, quality is not a priority at all. Locals are price-sensitive. Make a cheap offer and you will get clients.
Besides, high-quality service will never beat “word-of-mouth” (extremely powerful in Vietnam). People prefer to work with friends rather than strangers, whatever the quality of service is. It cost us lots of money (and time) to adapt our business strategy.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Benjamin Poirrier: The advice to myself would be:
“Focus on PR right away. Don’t assume people will work with you just because you provide great service.”
Vietnamese people must know you before they trust you. They do not care about your services. They care about how popular you are. Being “flashy” works well in Vietnam.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Benjamin Poirrier: The business owner of my previous digital agency (a famous Australian entrepreneur by the way) kept repeating me:
“Vietnam is the same as other countries.”
Well, I proved him wrong, because since I manage everything myself, my agency grows well. My advice is: never copy-paste techniques that may work well for others. Each market is unique and needs a custom strategy.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Benjamin Poirrier: What changed: you cannot underestimate or ignore digital anymore. E-commerce has been booming and people adapted themselves to a new connected life.
What hasn’t changed: you still need a market survey before getting started with your business.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Benjamin Poirrier: Common myth: raising funds make businesses successful. Do not believe everything you read on the internet. People love to auto-congratulate themselves. It does not make them successful. In parallel, many “unicorns” who raised seed, Series A, B, etc. do fail.
The goal is not to raise funds. The goal is to make your business successful. And money isn’t enough. By far.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Benjamin Poirrier: Use data. Figures do not lie. Listen to people. The more insights the better. Don’t give up. You will likely not become a millionaire in a matter of years. Love what you do. Because you are going to breathe that for a long time.
Hire good people = people having the right mindset. Everyone can learn new skills. Changing a bad mindset is much more challenging.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Benjamin Poirrier: Specialize in at least one important aspect of your business (ex: the product, the most important service, the sales, etc.) Have a passion for what you do. People will buy in if you are passionate.
Beware of YouTube videos in which you can learn “any skills in 15 minutes only.” Those are done by people who have no idea what they are doing (except monetizing their videos).
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Benjamin Poirrier: I would love to be a teacher because I believe we should never stop learning, and it should start from school.
There is so much we could tell to our children…
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Benjamin Poirrier: We should only put U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore, so I feel hard to choose a non-politician. If we can fantasize a little bit, I would put the greatest scientists of all time, like (in order) Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Nikola Tesla.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Benjamin Poirrier for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Benjamin Poirrier or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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