The Entrepreneur and His Fish: Lessons for Building Great Teams

Peg Breen: August 26, 201316 Comments

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.

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.

 Thanks Truong for sharing your story!

16 responses to The Entrepreneur and His Fish: Lessons for Building Great Teams

Great to know about Truong

Great to know about Truong Nguyen. This writing is very inspiring. I got enthusiasm to do something now. Thanks for sharing it.

Walks the Talk

I've enjoyed working with Joon on a recent project and he truly walks his talk. He is full of energy and has a smile to match it; which is catchy! Thank you Joon, for being such an inspiration...Amy

That is a very quality blog.

That is a very quality blog. Great content and a neat design. Please, keep creating such great posts, I am sure all user would find them as valuable as I did. Thanks.

Great story!

I have worked with Truong on several projects and he is awesome but I never knew his story. He is the poster child for customer service, project managment and work ethic. Great story Peg! Lynn B

Being part of a team...

Great story & I'm so glad I can call Truong my friend! He is a great asset to our CRMC team!

Great Post

This is a very inspiring story. I think trying to always keep a positive attitude helps maintain a healthy environment.Natalie

Great Story!

I believe that teamwork is critical factor to organization’s productivity and profitability. Teamwork is not just about people working together; it’s about people achieving desired results by supporting each other. And Joon is well known for his high level of teamwork. Thanks Joon!! Izabella

Simply put...INSPIRING

Joon is truly the epitome of positivity. After having the opportunity to work directly with him on a recent project I have seen directly his enthusiastic go getter attitude. Thank you Joon for sharing some of your inspirations and thanks for the SMILES! Stef, Med Staff

The healthy eco-system does

The healthy eco-system does apply to the work environment. Each department/team needs to create a healthy eco-system to thrive. From a person who grew up with an aquarium tank a toxic environment is never good for fish nor humans. Simplicity is the best approach. Yes, I too work with Joon and think that his upbeat personality does rub off on you. This is a great story. Thank you for sharing.

Awesome Post

Truong is really a great guy to be around, he always has a smile on his face and is so positive. This is a very inspiring story. Naomi V.

Inspiring and True

It was great to read about an individual who is so inspiring. Having worked directly with Joon on a project or two over the last year I must say he really lives and works with this great enthusiasm! Thanks for sharing this story.

Great personality in the workplace

Truong brings such a great personality to the workplace. His up-beat attitude and enthusiasm always brighten my day. We all need somebody like him around. He is hard working, and knows how to make work fun. Thank you Truong for being awesome!!!

Great Post

Great story Peg! Truong is indeed great to work with! As are all the others I have the pleasure of working with at CMC! Greg S.


We are all diverse we come from different backgrounds and yet whenever we need to work as a team. Everyone joins in and we do what we are here for-helping to save lives and assist providing the top most care for our patients.


Peg this is a great post considering whats been going on, on the forum. Thanks im going to recommend everyone in my "Eco System" to read this post. A.Pacheco Security Dispatch


I agree, with the recent environment on the Forum, the timing of this post couldn't be more perfect. I think we all forget that even the "less pretty" fish are just as important as the "trophy" fish.

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