A Candid Interview With the “First American” Tony Salzman – How Did This Tiger Earn His Stripes?

As I sat across from Anthony Salzman, better known in the media as “The First American”, I couldn’t help but wonder what in the world could rattle such a charismatic, over-achieving, innovating man. Well, let me tell you not very much…

Having lived and worked in Vietnam for over 18 years, this native New Yorker is tough as nails. I mean how else could he have survived and succeeded in a country under U.S. embargo, with inexistant banking system, no cars and poor infrastructure?

When you search Salzman on the internet, you find out he played a key role in the normalization of the Vietnam-US relationship as well as the signing of the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement.

But, you also read he was “the first” at everything in Vietnam… Really? I ask him… the first at everything?

Any powerful man has his detractors, I argue, and those probably wonder if Salzman was indeed the first to ever issue a check… Wasn’t there a banking system in Vietnam before Salzman arrived in 1992? – Was Salzman really the first ever to own a car? that seems so unlikely that in the 90’s a country like Vietnam wouldn’t have cars? and then comes the biggie, the Chicago Tribune states that Salzman was “the first” American to ever do business in Vietnam. Come on! surely there were other Americans who flew to Vietnam with a dollar and a dream and somehow did business there in 1992, no?

Tony Salzman aka “Tony the tiger”, the chairman of V-TRAC Development Co. is a soft-spoken, charismatic (yes I already said that), almost humble man… As he sits across from me while I’m playing the devil’s advocate, he chuckles at my questions and smiles calmly… unbothered he explains:

T.S: “Banks. No, there were no foreign banks in this country when I arrived. No means zero. While I was here, sometime after I arrived, the ANZ bank Australia was the first. Citibank was the second. The country manager for the Australian bank was a wonderful guy named A.M. I chose to deliver the caterpillar banking business to him.

I ran one of the most successful and innovative marketing programs ever: it was a contest to find the oldest operating piece of caterpillar equipment in Vietnam. The reward was $1000. At that point in time the average monthly wage was $80. Submissions poured in from all over Vietnam. And, I thought it was high time that the first check be issued in Vietnam. It was after all a 100% cash society. A virgin banking market. So, we found the oldest caterpillar in the country that was still operating, a bulldozer built in 1937. The runner-up was 1939.

There ought to be some kind of archive photos of this someplace I’ll try to find them. When we announced the winner, it was a celebration attended by a lot of people, and the winner, who was an engineer who owned a tugboat. Sorry, the oldest engine was on the tugboat, the second oldest on the bulldozer. On the tugboat it was used for the propulsion. I remember having seen those huge checks when I was a kid on game shows. The ones the size of the bed. I decided that that was exactly what my company and the bank needed. A gigantic check with both of our logos on it made out to “bearer”. One of my staff members described the smile on the winners face as ear to ear Ivory! Well, the ivory disappeared when he saw this thing, the check, which I announced he had won. During the ceremony I proceeded to explain what a check is: a negotiable instrument. I told the audience that it was about time for Vietnam to start using negotiable instruments, and here is the first one! I invited the very perplexed men to come to the stage, and then I gave him a cheap plastic pen. He looked even more confused. The huge check was held by two bankers as backdrop to me and the very perplexed winner.

At this point in time I asked the bankers to turn the check around to show the blank side to the audience. They did this, and then I asked the winner to sign his name so as to endorse it. You can imagine, he looked even more perplexed then more perplexed then more perplexed! He did not want to sign. I then directed his attention to another representative from the bank who was holding two plastic shopping bags bearing the banks logo. The shopping bags were bursting full of cash. The ivory smile returned. He started to head for the bankers. I said no, you have to sign your name on the back of the check. He really did not know what I was talking about but he realized that he was not going to get near those bags of cash unless he signed his name

So, he signed his name. Then he headed for the bags of cash and once again I told him no, the two other bankers who were holding the gigantic check gave it to him to carry over to the guy holding the two bags of cash he carried the big check over to the other fellow, then an assistant took it from him, and the bags of cash were delivered into his hands. At that point in time probably only me, my wife, and the bankers understood what the heck was going on! Certainly nobody else did! Anyway, that was the first check negotiated in the history of Vietnam, regardless of which government regime one talks about.

Now, you have become the fifth or sixth person in the world to understand the nature of that ceremony and transaction. Unfortunately, I’ve never written any of this any place, or told any reporter. Eventually I’ll find the check picture I hope, in any case it’s quite a story.”

Quite a story indeed, and that takes care of how the tiger earned his stripe as “the first” American to ever issue a check in the history of Vietnam.

But how about being “the first” businessman to do business in Vietnam, that one is pretty preposterous I tell him, now how are you going to explain that Tony?

He smiles, and without a roar he says: “About being the First American doing business, here I confess that the media took some liberties. In fact, there were two others, neither of them had any employees, but there were two others. Oh yes, I am referring to two other Americans in Hanoi, there were some others in South Vietnam, I never knew who they were.”

So that settles it, Anthony Salzman may not have been the only ” first American” ever to do business in Vietnam, but he most certainly was “the first American” ever to have employees in Vietnam. And that is precisely why in 2010 he was bestowed with the most prestigious honor, by receiving the Vietnam Friendship Medal, from President Nguyễn Minh Triết, who recognized the American’s enormous contributions to Vietnam, principally as a pioneer whose personal and business commitment opened a new chapter of friendship and forged the way for others.

While I am impressed with all the anecdotes Salzman shared with me, I point out to him that the devil’s advocate is rarely satisfied…

IDG: I have to ask Tony, the “first” to own a car in Vietnam? Are you kidding? It was the 90’s, every somewhat civilized country had cars… really how could this be?

Without a pause Salzman explains: “NN-35-01, so 35 means United States,and 01 means the first person to register!

The problem arose when the first United States ambassador was appointed. According to protocol, he had to have the number one from the United States!

So I hated negotiation and sued during which I was told that I had to surrender my 01 license plate. There was a solution, typical Vietnamese style: I was given the license number 00 001!

There’s also a story about how I made the match between the ambassador, whose wife had tragically passed away due to terrible illness, and, you guessed it, the female banking officer from the Australia bank.

Now, if your friends the detractors do not believe that I introduced the first American ambassador to his wife, they need to read the next installment of the story!

Hint: The American ambassador had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam. And the lady banker was a Vietnamese immigrant to Australia. So, the Australian newspapers had headlines saying “U.S. ambassador marries Vietnamese girl”.

Well, this young woman was no slouch! She shot back to reporters saying the headline should have said “ex con Marries Australian diplomat”!

Hopes, I blew the punchline. She had been with the Australian aid organization in Vietnam before she joined the bank.”

That indeed takes care of the “First” to own a car in Vietnam, and of the best American matchmaker in Vietnam. Not only is the record straight but engraved in “steel” rather than stone, as Salzman tells me he still owns the older model Mercedes with its 00 001 Vietnam license plate.

As I thank Salzman for this rather uncanny interview, he graciously thanks me and adds: “When I was a kid there were these stories called “the just so stories” by Rudyard Kipling. My favorite was “how the elephant got its trunk”. I feel like I’ve explained a little bit the same way. [laughs]

In our Just So Story, I say this “tiger” has definitely explained how he has earned his stripes.

Are You a Reluctant Wanderlust in Business?

Are you a multi-talented, multi-passionate person who finds it hard to “commit” to doing “just one thing”?

Sometimes I feel like a loser when I couldn’t just “stick with it” when something ceases to give me a deep sense of excitement and purpose. Some may call it ADD.

Do you identify with being a “wanderlust” in life – not only having a desire to travel physically but also (and more importantly) to embark on a personal journey that involves experiencing all parts of SELF and all aspects of LIFE?

In different stages of my life, and especially in my own business, sometimes the tension between the strong pull to EXPERIMENT, to DARE, to chase FREEDOM, and the fear that comes up when I untether from the “known” would tear me apart.

Do you know the wanderlust part of you and the primal part of you may be at odds with each other, resulting in conflicting/self-sabotaging behaviors that hold of you back from soaring in your business?

Sometimes the restlessness eats me up as it turns into a nervous energy. Sometimes I fall into the comparison trap when I see my college classmates climb up the corporate ladder and score impressive titles. Sometimes I just feel plain lost and doubt… why can’t I just be everyone else and “settle down?”

***

COMMITMENT. FREEDOM. ANCHORED. EXPERIMENT.

HOME. WANDERLUST.

What some consider to be a daring experiment may be judged by others as “hopping from one thing to another” or being a flake.

It’s hard enough when the judgment comes from outside of us. But it can be downright self-sabotaging when the conflict comes from within ourselves.

The tension created by Commitment vs. Abandonment, the longing to Trust vs. the need for Certainty sends mix messages – to our selves, to others, and to the universe.

The conflict turns us into Reluctant Wanderlusts.

I don’t know about you but I have heard enough of those “free calls” to encounter quite a few of them talking about “commitment”… and, ha, to commit you just pull out your credit card and pay the money… only if it’s that easy!

“Commitment” on a superficial level can feel binding to us who has a fierce streak of wanderlust. How do we discern being committed from “staying put” out of fears or past/outdated conditioning?

When are we going to stop beating ourselves up from not being able to “stick with it”… just because others manage to stay in the same job for 10 years?

What is being daring, adventurous and open to experimenting to uncover a deeper part of us, to challenge the status quo and to stretch ourselves; and what is just plain “avoidance” – running away from what we have to face in order to expand and grow (but feel hard and gut-wrenching)?

The lower chakras’ need for certainty and safety fighting the upper chakras’ desire for inspiration and expansion creates conflicts that muddle up our energy and make everything feels like we have one foot on the gas and one foot on the break.

How do we commit, without feeling being tethered? How do we make the wanderlust in us and our need for certainty play nice together so we can finally lift the foot from the break?

With the propensity toward “freedom” also comes the intense desire to find “home.” Without properly defining what each one means, we fall prey to internal conflict that keeps us from moving forward.

***

Can “wanderlust” and “home” co-exist?

1. Accept

Accept that we have that wanderlust part in us, and we have the “cave(wo)men” part in us. They are all parts of us being us and denial or avoidance will only create more tension that triggers self-sabotaging behaviors.

We need to have ALL of us on board for the actions we need to take, in order for the actions to be aligned, meaningful and impactful.

2. Commit

Commit to BEING someone, not to DOING something.

Make that commitment to yourself, not to someone else.

Commit to an identity and use it to guide actions. This can be exceptionally freeing because there is room for possibilities, adventure and experiment.

3. Anchor

Life is dynamic, not static. To soar upward, there needs to be a grounded-ness.

We need some kind of reference point, or else we can be just plain lost.

But you are free to choose your anchor. What can give you an unwavering reference point so you can feel SAFE in the world?

If the “primal” part of you doesn’t feel its need for “safety” acknowledged, the subconscious mind (which affects 95% of our thoughts!) can throw a thousand “blocks” at you.

Is this anchor something you can hold onto, something you have “control” over? If it depends on other people or external circumstances, you can get into a shaky situation when the rug gets pulled out under you.

4. Find your place in the world

This is “home” (which doesn’t mean a physical location); this is your CORE message. When you know what you are about, you develop a deep Trust to give you a sense of Inevitability that serves as rocket fuel behind all your intentions and actions.

“Niching”, in its truest and broadest sense, is about finding our role in the community, our place in the world.

When you can articulate your core message into how you fit into the larger ecosystem (aka, how you create value and why you are relevant to the community you want to serve), you have found home through your business endeavor – a “home” that allows you to be YOU anywhere in the world.

When you find the WORDS to talk about how your conviction is translated into your work, you turn the inkling in your Guts into something your “logical mind” can get on board with.

When you find the WORDS so you can step up to own what you do, you voice it and set the intention for it to materialize.

When you get your entire SELF on board, you find a renewed excitement and commitment for your business.

Ling is an Intuitive Brainiac. Through her unique blend of Business + Marketing coaching with a Mindset + Psychic Twist, Ling Wong helps Maverick Entrepreneurs nail their message, claim their superpowers and muster up the GUTS to monetize their Truth.

Ling helps her clients find their Message, nail the WORDS that sell and design a Plan to work it, through her intuitive yet rigorous iterative process born out of her Harvard Design School training and 10 years of experience in the online marketing industry.

Relevance in Internet Marketing

Relevance is the key to Internet Marketing, but relevance to what and to whom? That is what I am going to be illuminating for you in this article.

The easy part of Internet Marketing is deciding what you are going to sell, basically you will pick a niche something that is of interest to you and something which you believe that there is a market for. If you are sensible you will at that point do further research and find out if there are forums relating to the product and what problems and issues people are having and, also the questions and answers they are raising. The next step after you have done this is to build an attractive website and drive traffic to it. It is at this stage that most Internet marketers go wrong. The problem is that they often build a site that is attractive to them, but that does not convert. The problem is they lost sight of relevance. In this case it is the relevance to the visitor that matters.

The average site visitor spends less than 15 seconds on assessing a new site and their eyes travel from left to right and then down the left most column first. You must capture their attention almost immediately and then keep it. This is where relevance comes in to play in a big way.

Your title must be large bold and related (i.e. relevant) to whatever the link was that they clicked on to reach your site for example I sell guitars and my keyword is Play Classical Guitar so they are expecting to see a site that offers them help to play classical guitar. I offer them free sheet music if they subscribe (give me their name and E mail address). The sheet music is relevant to anyone that plays Classical Guitar and I change the music each month so that it is appropriate for all levels of player. The offer is highly relevant and about 6% of all visitors give me this information. If I improve the wording by making it more relevant to my visitors it is possible to get up to 50% opting in, or sometimes more.

The same concept applies to Google AdSense advertising, only this time you have to capture the visitor’s attention in only a handful of words. If you can get a really relevant phrase and use this in the URL your advertisement and on your landing page then conversions will increase. It takes 5 to 6 touches to sell a person on a concept and they are more likely to stay if they recognize the relevance of the site to what they are looking for.

Summarizing we need to keep all aspects of Internet Marketing relevant to our visitor, the advertisement, the articles used to raise interest, the landing page and the call to action if we fail to do this then our visitor may leave and merely increase our bounce rate. I hope you see the need for relevance.

Kick Out Flashing – What It Is and Where It Should Be Installed

Several factors can lead to water intrusion, but a missing kick out flashing, often results in concentrated areas of water accumulation and can lead to severe damage to exterior walls. Home Inspectors should make sure that kick outs are present where they are needed and that they are installed correctly. Water damage in the cladding or siding can occasionally be observed on the exterior wall in the form of vertical stains, Home Inspectors should not completely rely on visual identification.

The following problems may be observed associated with kick out flashing:

Kick out Not Installed

The need for kick out flashing has developed fairly recently. The increased amount of insulation and building wrap used in modern construction makes buildings less breathable and more prone to sustain water damage. As a Home Inspector we see Kick Out Flashing not installed quite frequently. We hope that by the time we get to inspect the property there has not been excessive damage done to the siding, roofing or the structure of the home.

The following are locations where kick out flashing is needed:

Anywhere a roof and exterior wall intersect, where the wall continues past the lower roof-edge and gutter
Where gutters terminate at the side of the chimney

Kick out not properly installed:

The bottom seam of the flashing must be watertight
The angle of the diverter should never be less than 110 degrees
Another sign that Kick out flashing is not installed or installed improperly is that many home owners will opt for the DIY type of installation. This is when they simply install a flat piece of flashing at the eaves or the bottom area of the rooftop. As a Home Inspector we see this quite often. Homeowners install this and use a silicone based sealant around the area. Silicone is a “band-aid”. Also, they do not protect the entire area where the siding meets the roofing material. Thus making the rest of the area very susceptible for water or moisture damage.

Kick out has been modified by the Homeowner:

Many homeowners do not understand the importance of kick outs. For this reason, many choose to alter them due to cosmetic concerns. A common modification is to shorten their height to less than the standard six inches, which will greatly reduce their effectiveness.

Home owners may also make kick out flashings less conspicuous by cutting them flush with the wall

Getting Equipment Finance For Businesses

Have you tried running a business? It’s a hard job, isn’t it? If you have experience in this area, you might have already understood the function of finance. There isn’t any business out there that can roll or expand without money since there are certainly a lot of things to spend for in the business.

Money to spend for business is still a major concern of people. Entrepreneurs have recognized the role of planning so that money won’t so much become a problem. Getting loans for equipment finance purposes is all too tempting and many companies do this. What is great about this method is that, you know how much you are going to pay for several months or a couple of years maybe. The amount of money for amortization is the same month after month so there is no problem in issuing checks for the repayment of the equipment loan.

Having money allows a business to be more flexible and more people are looking for companies to give them adequate equipment financing. This is the reason why so many of these businesses are able to obtain new equipment, pay for overhead expenses or other things.

What makes these loans more attractive is due to the fact that there are online applications for people to use and they don’t have to wait in long queues to hand in their applications. The proper type of loan is available and clients are given coaching on what to do. This is so unlike the manner of most banks where you have to wait for a long time for approval and in the end, they may choose not to approve your application. Owners of small businesses stand with lesser chances of loan approval from banks and this has made them lose faith in the banking system. Banks on the other hand do not want to risk their money on small businesses because there is a greater percentage of having a bad credit case due to the erratic income of the self-employed sector.

Thus, the borrower obtains better advantage by obtaining the money needed to run the business. What these borrowers like about applying the equipment finance strategy is that, they can buy the right equipment and won’t have to settle for those with lesser quality.

It is vital that you create a list of equipment you would need and their suppliers. Make a comparison of the prices given by these suppliers for used and new equipment. Equipment financing can pay for your computers and other apparatuses. No matter how small or large the equipment is, there is a corresponding loan what would solve the requirement for the business. To be successful in making the business run, you need the help of machines. People will appreciate if you are using quality equipment and thus, will give more trust to you and even recommend your business to others.

Financing offers the payment terms that’s convenient for you, so that you would be able to play your resources and apply them for other things as well.