From “King of Junk” to “King of Northland Air” – A life-changing journey through the CEO, Tran Van Le’s do-or-die contract

Before becoming famous in the industrial fan manufacturing industry and being known as the "King of Fans in the North", Mr. Tran Van Le had experienced challenging days in his entrepreneurial journey. He faced four instances of returned products, depleted funds, mounting debts, and demotivated workers. The future seemed bleak, with the possibility of either jumping off a building or abandoning the country if there was another product return...

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CEO Tran Van Le: from “King of junk” to “King of fans”

“King of fans in North Vietnam” is the nickname that many people call Mr. Tran Van Le, Director of Phuong Linh Mechanical and Trading Production Company Limited.

He earned this nickname because Mr. Le is the founder and the manager of Phuong Linh Mechanical and Trading Production Company Limited, an industrial fan manufacturing company that started in the early days of the market and has built a reputation and a brand over the years.

Phuong Linh was established in 2000 and is now one of the leading companies in the industrial fan and environmental treatment market. Phuong Linh currently has 2 large production plants at the gateway to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, along with 4 offices in Danang, Hanoi, Vinh and Ho Chi Minh City.

Phuong Linh Company (photo on the company’s website)

Mr. Tran Van Le was born into a poor family in Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An province. After completing high school, like many young people at that time, he joined the military. Then, due to difficult economic conditions, Mr. Le asked for discharge and worked various jobs to make a living.

A turning point came when Mr. Le started working for a boss who specialized in selling used machinery and electrical equipment. During his trips to pick up goods, he built relationships and gained a deeper understanding of machinery and technology. After the boss quit the business, Mr. Le became the heir to the “junk fortune”.

At that time, many people became wealthy by selling and reselling used items for a profit, but Mr. Le had a different mindset. He took the initiative to study and learn, combining his knowledge with hands-on experience to repair and increase the value of the goods. This is how his business career began with pumps, fans, and used motors.

While buying and reselling, CEO Tran Van Le realized the increasing demand of the market for various types of industrial fans. From there, he went further and ventured into production, creating “Made in Vietnam” industrial fan products.

A life-changing turning point from a life-or-death contract

To achieve the success he has today, Phuong Linh had to go through a life-or-death situation in 2005.

It all started when the director of a large tea company in Son La province approached Phuong Linh to order 7 industrial fans with a diameter of 0.7 meters to be installed in the tea drying process (to remove hot air and blow it into the drying trays before moving to the next stage).

Receiving the biggest order at that time, CEO Tran Van Le was very excited. Although he didn’t have enough capital and only received a deposit, Mr. Le was determined to borrow money to fulfill the order.

However, after delivering the products, the tea company notified Phuong Linh that the fans did not fit the drying trays and could not be used. The customer returned the fans and requested 7 different fans with a diameter of 0.8 meters.

In order to keep the customer, Mr. Le gritted his teeth, borrowed more money, found new motors, and produced blades and fan housings to meet the new requirements. But for the second time, the customer returned the fans and requested fans with a diameter of 0.9 meters.

Mr. Le calculated that if he continued the production, he could recover part of the capital and establish a reputation to tap into a larger market. Therefore, even though the capital was running out, Mr. Le mobilized funds to produce the order and pay the employees’ salaries.

One month later, the fans were delivered on time, and the customer happily received the 7 fans with a diameter of 0.9 meters, promising early payment. But for the third time, the customers turned around and made a request, “This time, the fans must be 1 meter in diameter for sure!”

Faced with this situation, Mr. Le visited the tea company, directly went to the production workshop, and personally examined the size of industrial fans. Mr. Le determined that the diameter of the fans had to be 1.2 meters instead of the previous numbers.

Back at home, Mr. Le was determined to succeed. Once again, he gathered funds to produce the fans for the fifth time and personally installed them on the tea factory. As Mr. Le calculated, the fans worked well and operated stably. Phuong Linh received payment for the 7 fans with a diameter of 1.2 meters and received compensation for the costs of the previous failures.

Mr. Tran Van Le – Director of Phuong Linh Mechanical and Trading Production Company Limited shares his business startup story in the CEO – The Key to Success program.

Finally, Mr. Le decided to have a discussion with the tea company, went to the production workshop, and directly surveyed the size of the industrial fans. Mr. Le determined that the fan diameter had to be 1.2 meters instead of the previous dimensions.

Looking at 4 lots of goods including 28 fans lying in disarray in the small and simple store cum assembly workshop, CEO Tran Van Le felt desperate and bitter. He blamed himself for being hasty and not thoroughly discussing the requirements when receiving the order. At that time, Mr. Le still lacked knowledge and business experience.

With limited funds, unpaid debts, and demotivated workers, Mr. Le felt desperate: “If we continue production, where will the capital come from? If the goods are returned again, the only option is to jump off a building or leave the country because it would take forever to repay everyone and the workers,” Mr. Le recalled.

Inside the Phuong Linh factory today – Image from the company’s introduction clip, Phuong Linh’s website.

Eventually, Mr. Le decided to negotiate with the tea company, went to the production workshop, and directly surveyed the size of the industrial fans. Mr. Le determined that the fans had to be 1.2 meters in diameter instead of the previously ordered dimensions.

Back at home, Mr. Le was determined to make it happen. Once again, he scrambled to gather funds to produce the order for the fifth time and personally installed the fans at the tea factory. True to Mr. Le’s calculations, the fans ran well and operated steadily. Phuong Linh received payment for the 7 fans with a diameter of 1.2 meters and partial compensation for the costs of the previous failures.

On the path to success, Phuong Linh continued to research and release hundreds of models of fans with different designs and sizes, as well as industrial dust suction and filtering machines. Currently, Phuong Linh’s industrial fans are present across the country, especially in national key projects, and are trusted by foreign customers in Vietnam such as Japan, South Korea, China, and major domestic investors.

From a small-scale handicraft workshop more than 20 years ago, Phuong Linh is now equipped with modern machinery like CNC machining centers with European imported machines, aiming to introduce and produce synchronized products with high precision and material savings.

SOURCEcafef
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