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Archive for August, 2013

There are a lot of adjectives that could describe Truong Nguyen (pronounced Joon Win).  He is a clinical systems analyst at Community Regional, a former Asian vegetable farmer, a great father to daughter Jessica and twin boys Justin and Travis, an avid boating enthusiast, a cancer survivor and an expert in the eco system of salt-water aquariums.  So, in one all encompassing word – Truong is an entrepreneur. Image

He credits his work ethic and drive to his father Tho Van and his mother Quan.   “My mom is my hero,” he said as we sipped iced green tea at the Starbucks at Cedar and Shepherd.  She owned restaurants in Vietnam, but in 1980 when a new communist constitution was being adopted, the family decided to leave for the United States.  He arrived at the age of five along with his six brothers and sisters and his parents, who were expecting another child.  No one spoke English.  Shortly after arriving in San Francisco, they moved to Clovis and into a small three-bedroom house  near DeWitt and Sierra to be close to family.  “We had nine people sharing one bathroom,” Truong said with a smile.  “I remember being really happy there.”

To pay the bills, everybody worked.  “We were the Fresno Bee family,” Truong joked.  “At 4 a.m. everyone would get up to fold newspapers and then we’d all deliver.”  But the newspaper business didn’t provide enough cash to care for a large family, so his mother, whose keen eye saw a market niche, started growing Asian vegetables in their garage.  Veggies like bitter melon, which Truong said is ‘really really bitter,’ bok choy, Chinese okra, daikon, long beans, moqua, singua, Thai chili, and lemon grass.  Demand was so great; they outgrew the garage and built a greenhouse.  Then they outgrew the greenhouse and leased some land.  Until one day the Nguyen’s purchased a farm.

At the age of 17, Truong was managing the operation. At 19 he bought 15 acres from his parents and took over all the financial and operational duties, including daily and sometimes twice daily deliveries to Sacramento.  You’d think that this would keep him busy enough.  But in the winter, when things slowed down, Truong decided to take computer science classes.  As I listened to his story, I was awed by his humility, sense of humor, resilience and willingness to tackle big challenges.

“How did you get interested in tropical fish?” I asked.   Around the age of sixteen he fell in love with fishing when he accompanied his uncle to the pond at Woodward Park.  He also became mesmerized by salt-water aquariums, and explained, “This is an expensive hobby.”  So, in what seems to be a normal pattern of inventiveness, Truong discovered that he could buy used aquariums and then sell the parts for enough money to cover the cost of outfitting his entire tank.  “The ability to hammer a nickel into ten cents – I get that from my mom,” he said with a smile.

“I’ve heard it’s pretty tough to keep a salt water tank going”, I commented.   “Not really,” Truong responded.   What he explained next seems like a playbook for keeping clown fish and corals, but also to building healthy teams.

Steps to keeping your Eco-System healthy:

  • Keep it simple & create a consistent environment: “Consistent environments help fish thrive,” Truong said.  “Inconsistent environments wreak havoc.”  Teams also thrive in environments that are fair and consistent.
  • In a crisis, take it slow: “When a mistake happens, make small changes slowly versus big changes quickly,” counseled Truong.  That way the fish don’t get shocked and sickened by big chemical changes.  Coming from the Midwest, this advice also mirrors what my father told me to do if my car started to slide on ice.
  • Promote Diversity:  Truong said it’s best to keep multiple species with multiple colors and shapes together.  The more diversity, the less fighting over territory!  How true.  We all want to be valued for what we bring to the table.
  • Create a community of symbiotic relationships:  An eco system thrives when organisms depend on one another, Truong said.  As evidence of this he refers to his cleaner shrimp.  The other fish in the tank just instinctively sidle up to the cleaner shrimp when they get the disease called “ick”, so that the shrimp can scrub them clean.  Teams can also get “ick.”  We’ve all been there!  So we need to identify and stick close to the people in our groups who can rub off the bad stuff and get everyone smiling and engaged.

How healthy is your eco-system?  If you love the team you are on, share some of what makes your environment healthy and fun.  If you have suggestions about how to make teamwork better, let us know.  If you know Truong and just want to recognize him for his support of your team, you can add that too.  Add a reply with your name and you’ll receive a package of yummy goldfish crackers.Image

Thanks Truong for sharing your story!

(This post originally appeared on the Community Medical Centers website in a blog titled “It Takes Community”.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen

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July was a blissful month.  I had the opportunity to take a vacation and one of the highlights was my visit to Chamisal Vineyards in San Luis Obispo.   This little piece of heaven lies between San Francisco and Los Angeles, in rolling vineyards that imitate the Italian countryside.

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We drove up and opened our doors to a breeze that was “warm-cool.”  I’m trying to coin a new meteorological word – definition:  climate that is warmed by the sun to 69 degrees but cooled by the ocean breeze just five miles west.  It’s the kind of warm-cool that beckons you to an Adirondack chair to take a nap. The kind of weather than calms your mind, and raises your spirit.  The kind of weather that is absolutely not found in the Midwest where you either sweat or freeze.  You get the picture.

We ordered a wine flight and were delighted when we tasted a Pinot Noir called 8-N.   “That’s an unusual name,” I commented to our hostess.  “Is this a placeholder name?” I asked.   Sort of like naming a baby, “Baby Girl Smith,” just after the delivery and before you leave the hospital?   But our hostess explained that this wine was named after the exquisite little piece of soil that gave birth to it – 8 miles North of Chamisal Estate Vineyards.  How did it taste?   Conjure up the scene from the movie Sideways where Paul Giamotti’s character describes why he likes Pinot so much, and you can tell he’s really talking about himself.

On the label, as if written by Shakespeare, is the description of 8-N:

“This wine boasts of black cherry, raspberry compote and strawberry flavors, backed by supple tannins and salted dark chocolate on the sultry finish.”

As I sat under the orange awnings sipping 8-N, chatting with a friend and gazing out on the gentle curves of the vine-laced hills, I wondered what my label would read, if I were wine…  Maybe this:

  • Wine: Cloud 9
  • Where bottled:  Medical Center Drive Vineyard
  • Type of grape:  Pinot Noir
  • Vintage year:  2013
  • Wine description:  This wine boasts of sweet and nutty relationships with friends and co-workers, robust and full-bodied work accomplishments, velvety smooth project implementation, backed by an earthy vision and mission.

Think about your own work and home life.  What would your wine label read?

(This post originally appeared on the Community Medical Center Blog – It Takes Community.  Follow Peg on Twitter @peg_breen

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