Published: 22/10/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business
Upon arrival at the head office of Banpu Plc, I noticed four small symbols everywhere. From my conversation with CEO Chanin Vongkusolkit, I learned these symbols represent Banpu's corporate values or "Banpu Spirit": Innovation, Integrity, Care and Synergy. These are considered the foundation of Banpu's business practice.
"We identified the Banpu Spirit back in 2004. Since then, we have worked hard to embed the Banpu Spirit in our team members at all locations," Mr Chanin told me.
Growth strategy through partnership: Mr Chanin is concerned about three challenges in the future: regulations, market demand and asset prices. "In the past, we grew by taking over other power plants and mining businesses. However, lately investors are more interested in commodities because of higher asset prices. Hence, it is not as easy to expand as before".
Through the years, Banpu has been involved in business partnerships with both Asian and Western countries. "In 1996, we got permission under the IPP (Independent Power Producer) programme for the 1,400-megawatt BCLP power plant at Rayong. The project was delayed by the 1997 economic crisis, but is now running smoothly after opening in 2006. Integrity is the key to a good working relationship with partners," he said.
Diversity is also an issue when expanding regionally. Banpu has more than 4,000 employees in Australia, China, Indonesia and Thailand, but only 10% of its workforce is in Thailand. "In order to manage a diverse workplace, you have to respect differences and have a proper business planning process that uses the same terminology for effective communication. Secondly, you have to properly measure business results. Finally, you have to have a reward system that is competitive within the industry."
Social contribution is a way of life: Banpu has been recognised for continuous social engagement before CSR was widely publicised. Banpu also claims its Thai operations have never caused a dispute with surrounding communities.
"Global warming is a major concern not only for senior management but also for me," said Mr Chanin. Both coal mining and coal-fired power plants cause a hot debate on the topic.
"It is the nature of our business to have gained some knowledge on this subject because we have to properly manage our operations. We wish to contribute to society by sharing what we have done."
When entering the Chinese market, Banpu set working conditions that have avoided the frequent incidents seen elsewhere in the Chinese mining industry. "We see room for improvement on environmental issues related to our business in China," he added.
Together everyone achieves more: Mr Chanin also believes a clear organisational chart supports effective operations and leads to team-building as employees increase their skills. New initiatives such as "knowledge-sharing sessions" can also mould everyone together as a team.
"Management must set an example with a high level of discipline and fairness toward subordinates. At the end of the day, everyone should hold the same beliefs and attitudes reflected in Banpu Spirit," he said.
Executive Briefcase has begun a series called "Executive Mind", sharing experiences from chief executives who have successfully managed their organisations. The author is a former CEO of the Thailand Management Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org