Dr. Trung Ly: “Bachelor is like riding a bicycle, MBA is like a motorbike”

In the ’90s, rare entrepreneurs held prestigious MBA degrees,” noted TS. Ly Qui Trung, compares, “If a career is a path, a Bachelor’s is riding a bicycle, while a Master’s in general or an MBA is like riding a motorcycle.

Dr. Trung Ly is a successful entrepreneur with various roles, from business owner, speaker, and lecturer, to author of many inspirational books. Many remember him for pioneering one of Vietnam’s earliest and most successful startups with the Pho 24 restaurant chain.

The journey to acquire knowledge for entrepreneur Ly Qui Trung was a quest

Speaking at the MBA For Success seminar, he reminisced about the difficulties of pursuing an MBA in the ’90s, especially studying abroad, which was extremely challenging. Studying in developed countries like Australia, the US, or the UK was even more daunting. Yet, his desire to tap into the Western knowledge system persisted, where market economies had long been shaped and developed.
Eventually, an Australian veteran opened a door of opportunity, guiding him to Australia with advice: “After studying, go back and do something!” With that in mind, after earning a Bachelor’s degree from Western Sydney University, entrepreneur Ly Qui Trung stayed an additional 18 months in the host country to enroll in an MBA program.
“Back then, I thought in about five to seven years, a Bachelor’s degree would become common and lose its competitive edge. That’s when an MBA would carry more weight and influence. Hence, the strategy of pursuing an MBA was indeed the right decision,” Trung remarked.
TS. Lý Quí Trung
Dr. Trung Ly – Co-founder of the Pho 24


Entrepreneur Ly Qui Trung stated, “It was the MBA that brought value to me back then. I believe, for employers, when they receive an MBA degree, they receive a belief that this person has a positive attitude towards education, aspirations, discipline, daring to act, and knowing how to manage time.” This belief was substantiated when he was immediately recruited as the Deputy General Director of Tecaworld, a prestigious joint venture at that time, upon completing his course and returning to his country.
Subsequently, he consistently held top managerial or leadership positions in prominent enterprises: as the CEO of Saigon Star Hotel, and CEO of the high-end furniture corporation AKA Furniture, which owns brands like Nhà Xinh, and various international brands such as Boconcept, Calligaris, Savio Fermino, Baxter, Ligne Roset, Arclinea, Ceccotti, Bellavita…
While Shark Thai Van Linh highly values the intangible value of the MBA’s “networking circle,” TS. Ly Qui Trung believes that a Master’s in Business Administration brings him tangible benefits: a higher salary, a more diverse application of skills, and numerous invaluable opportunities compared to having just a Bachelor’s degree at that time.

“Cruising on a bicycle with a Bachelor’s, riding a motorcycle with an MBA”

Ly Qui Trung believes that a Bachelor’s degree only provides basic knowledge, whereas a Master’s, particularly an MBA, is the “secret weapon,” offering profound knowledge applicable to one’s work.
He metaphorically compares, “If a career is a path, then with a Bachelor’s, you’re cycling. But with a Master’s in general or an MBA, you’re riding a motorcycle. Regardless of the mode of transport, we can all reach our destination. However, with the same cognitive foundation, riding a motorcycle will be quicker and more convenient!”
For Trung, the issue lies in each individual’s capacity to absorb knowledge; many people only apply a fraction of what they learn from an MBA. “But I strive to squeeze out every bit of knowledge gained from my MBA. Whatever I’ve learned, I use it all; there’s nothing I consider surplus,” emphasized TS. Trung.
Entrepreneur Ly Qui Trung also shared how when establishing the Pho 24 restaurant chain, there were no models to follow in Vietnam at that time, no guidance available. He had to be self-reliant, conducting research on his own. He expanded his knowledge through foreign textbooks and newspapers, and it was precisely during this time that the insights from his MBA studies proved immensely helpful.
“Without the knowledge from my MBA, I would have faced significant difficulties due to the specialized terminology, and academic language of in-depth materials. To fully digest that knowledge, I needed to comprehend it thoroughly to persuade shareholders, convince customers, build a brand…”
Even when transferring the Pho 24 chain, he faced a similar situation. He was uncertain about how to evaluate the brand. Purchasing a book from the UK, “How to Value Your Company,” once again, the knowledge from his MBA helped him thoroughly understand and accurately assess the value of the Pho 24 brand.
Ly Qui Trung concluded his story with sincere advice to young individuals, those on the path of learning and seeking knowledge: “You don’t have to pursue an MBA immediately, but if circumstances permit, arrange to pursue an MBA without delay. The knowledge from an MBA isn’t just horizontal, it’s also vertical. With that knowledge, we can use it for our entire lives, never exhausting its value.”
The information in the article was shared by guest speaker – Mr. Ly Qui Trung – at the event “MBA For Success” with the theme: “Discussion with Mr. Ly Qui Trung & Mr. Pham Anh Khoi.” MBA For Success is an online seminar series organized by ISB to connect high-level leaders and managers, providing a comprehensive perspective and valuable knowledge for Master of Business Administration program students and general audiences interested in the field.

Reference: ISB