Successful entrepreneur Allen Dodgson Tan last Saturday launched his new book Essential Cambodia, an indispensable guide offering tips for investors and business managers on how to navigate the sharp corners of Cambodia’s corporate scene to achieve success.
Tan already boasted an eye-catching CV – entrepreneur, corporate figure, product designer and former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, while his early career is particularly adventurous, having served in the US Army for seven years, with postings in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 40-year-old Cambodian-American now has another feather in his cap as author, with his experience and insights guiding the reader through the cultural complexities that can be faced when doing business in the Kingdom.
“I decided to write Essential Cambodia after my time as president at the American Chamber of Commerce, where I observed that many foreign investors, managers and workers have the same types of difficulties understanding how to work in the Kingdom.
“While there are excellent books on the legal aspects of doing business in Cambodia, I thought a hands-on cultural guide for business practitioners was missing. This book hopes to fill that gap, complementing the other great resources that exist,” Tan told The Post.
And the debut author has a valid point. International investors and business managers operating in diverse environments often grapple to find a one-size-fits-all solution to run their businesses productively in the highly globalised economy, where cultures, linguistics, work ethics and social mores can sometimes be imposing, particularly in developing economies.
Cambodia has its own peculiarities too. In Essential Cambodia, Tan uses his vast corporate experience to capture these cultural complexities to explain ways to resolve ambiguous situations.
“My sole aim is to help the reader be successful in Cambodia. While there are many specific examples and situations explained in the book, the overarching idea is that foreign guests should spend their energy working to understand Cambodia better, instead of complaining about how things are being done. This is a productive mindset and one that will yield much greater chances for success.
“The genesis for this book came from precisely this idea – that there was an opportunity to provide a resource to assist foreign investors, businesspeople and managers to find success in the Kingdom.
“The hope is that this book will guide newcomers to greater understanding, thereby lessening the potential for frustration. Ultimately, the more successful our foreign guests are in conducting business in Cambodia, the more successful our Kingdom will be,” he said.
Allen holds a Master’s of Science in Business Risk Management from Boston University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Franklin University.
He worked as an infantryman and explosive ordnance disposal operator for combat duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he was decorated with a Bronze Star medal for actions in the last battle of Sadr City in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
After living in the Kingdom for some 12 years now, Tan observes that Cambodia is buzzing with entrepreneurial energy as it is stamping its own mark in the global economy.
“The reason we have seen an influx of returning overseas Cambodians and foreign businesspeople is absolutely because of the incredible energy and dynamism of the Cambodian economy.
“There are opportunities everywhere you turn to create new value in the Kingdom. It is true we also have challenges and risks, but these can be balanced with the correct approach,” he said.
The book’s cover – designed by Cambodia resident Chifumi, a French artist and student of Khmer traditional aesthetics – depicts in the kbach-style an ancient temple gate and a hand holding a key.
The cover art signifies the wisdom that comes from working to understand the culture of Cambodia, that stepping through the gates – making an effort to learn about the culture deeply – will yield precious knowledge.
After the Covid-19 pandemic that pummelled the global economy, Tan said Cambodia is set for a “massive” rebound, with his book serving as a helpful resource for investors.
“While the pandemic did make me consider the financial profitability of the project, I also thought that there was a particularly potent opportunity to make an impact during this time.
“Inspired by the incredible investments in infrastructure made in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, I thought there was an opportunity to use the down time to create a resource that could help enable business once the engine of our tiger economy is restarted.
“I believe there will be another wave of massive investment in Cambodia, and hopefully, my book will help a few people along the way,” Tan said.
The launch of Essential Cambodia took place at the Sosoro Museum in Phnom Penh on April 9.
Essential Cambodia is available at Monument Books on Norodom Boulevard and at the RELAY stores in the international departure terminals of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports. The book is also available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09V39PSP5.