Thana “Jo” Thienachariya has worked in a diverse variety of business sectors, including finance, telecoms, banking and retail.
Well known for his expertise in management and marketing, the 55-year-old has served as director and adviser of many prominent corporations. He organized business training courses attended by thousands, worked as a motivational speaker, and started writing articles during the Covid-19 crisis – drawing over 120,000 followers to his Facebook account.
His reputation is comparable to that of a favourite brand. However, when asked about his secret, the seasoned executive admitted that his successes were not planned. He was simply “going with the flow”.
Thana rarely declines job offers. As a result, he has learned many new things while accumulating experiences. He has known many people, which allows him to build a strong network of connections beyond his expectation.
Learning from successes and failures
Thana is currently chairman of the board of directors at Bluebik Group PLC, a consultancy on digital transformation.
On a recent hot summer night, following a press conference hosted by the company, he talked to The Story Thailand about his sweet and bitter past in the business world.
“I’m a very average guy – a rural boy from Korat [Nakhon Ratchasima province]. My academic performance was okay, but my athletic skills sucked. I had no clearly outstanding skills,” Thana said.
He was not good at running a business and got stressed easily, so he opted to be an employee rather than an entrepreneur.
Thana got his bachelor’s degree in economics from Chulalongkorn University and a master’s in business administration from Washington State University in the US.
He started his career at the finance firm Securities One before moving to Dtac telecommunications company. Here he became a star marketer after creating the brand Happy with a unique marketing strategy two decades ago. Happy allowed him to employ his financial skills to create new marketing campaigns.
During almost a decade that he worked for the telecom company, Thana came under media attention and became known as a “marketing god”.
“I didn’t feel I was that good. I was just lucky to be able to work in the telecom industry while it was booming,” Thana said.
He added that he often avoided media interviews and preferred to be a reliable news source for journalists who helped create an “overly good image” for him.
Such a reputation made him believe that he was actually a “marketing god”. That was why he left Dtac shortly after being offered a new job at Mc Jeans although he was unfamiliar with the clothing business.
He failed at his new job and quit after six months. “I couldn’t find a new job. My children were still young at that time. It was a period of suffering for me,” he said.
Thana later got his new job at Grammy, Thailand’s entertainment company, when it launched a satellite-based television business. However, his poor health forced him to quit shortly afterwards.
His repeated job failures with an uncertain future gave him stress. But positive thinking allowed him to move on. Also, that “big stumble” in his life helped him restrain his ego.
Meanwhile, the various experiences helped him enrich his multiple skills with no prior planning.
“There are ups and downs in life. But what you get in return is a great variety of experiences from the many people that you met,” Thana said.
Going with the flow
“I have never had any plan for my life. I prefer to go with the flow, and I don’t think too much. At some point when there’s something interesting, I just dive in without any plan. This is my strange quality that has brought my life to this point,” he said.
And Thana often learned new things with the new jobs and new businesses he was involved in.
He compares himself to a chef who always cooks without weighing the ingredients.
“In real life, you can’t be completely sure about anything. We don’t know what the future holds. If you go with the flow, you get more experience and more skills while improving your luck,” Thana said.
By “luck”, he refers to new opportunities that come when you are ready with experience and skills.
Thana gave as an example his involvement with Sripatum University’s Academy of Business Creativity (ABC), which he founded and served as its director. He was persuaded by a university lecturer he knew to start the ABC, so he asked newspaper columnist Sorakol Adulyanon to help him design and manage the project.
From an unplanned project in his life, the ABC grew to become a popular course with over 1,000 participants over the past decade between 2013 and 2022.
His success with the ABC project led him to start the BJC Big C Academy of Smart Entrepreneurs, or BASE, at the invitation of Boonklee Plangsiri, a key adviser to the BJC Big C Group. Boonklee was a speaker at the ABC.
Path to becoming a ‘connector’
Thana said that his frequent job changes, involvement with many courses, and acquaintance with several people have created a lot of “dots” for him. Those provide good resources for his daily Facebook articles – and for him, it is like “connecting the dots”.
“If you ask me are my strengths that can benefit other people, I think of two things. First, I am a good communicator and storyteller. And secondly, I have a big network of connections from those in the financial sector to showbiz celebrities,” he said.
Thana’s multiple skills and his large network of connections have made him attractive to many organizations looking to make use of his diverse experiences. That is why he is an executive for hire at several businesses.
He is currently the chairman of Bluebik and a director at five other companies – TQM Corporation PLC, Sappe PLC, Aksorn Education PLC, Builk One Group Co Ltd, and SCB Group’s Purple Ventures Co Ltd, the operator of Robinhood food delivery platform (his brainchild business in which he once served as chairman).
“I choose to serve as a director in companies where I know the owners well. They have transparency and there’s nothing I must worry about them. To serve as a company director, you need a high degree of credibility,” the executive says.
His definition of ‘connector’
Thana said that the term “connector” is more meaningful to him than its literal meaning. For him, the connector is not just about people, it also involves sharing knowledge and experiences through training courses, through the role of a company board director, and through business matchmaking.
“For me, connectors mean network. On many occasions, ‘thank you’ is enough to make me happy. During my years of work, I have collected money, memories, experiences, and thankyous.” Thana said.
He also gives thankyous to people who help him, building connections and a network in the process.
The Bluebik chairman says he has no in-depth knowledge of marketing and finance. But his strength is a large network of people he is connected with. That’s why he describes himself as a “connector”.
“People often ask me if I know this person or that person. They want me to introduce them to those people. Others ask for contact numbers, and I am just like Yellow Pages,” he said, referring to telephone directories of businesses.
Thana said he believes in the power of giving. “People in a sharing society will grow together. Giving is like growing trees. You can do it little by little. You will feel really good when people thank you for your help. I learned this from my own experience. My little help to other people came back to me in a big way when I was in trouble.”
Writer also counts as connector
Thana wrote articles on his Facebook page “Khien Wai Hai Ther” (My Writings for You), which was created during the Covid-19 crisis and now has about 120,000 followers. He said that his posts were originally meant for his two daughters.
“During the pandemic, I started posting my past writings on the Facebook page. After 500 followers, I felt that I had to be serious with the writing,” Thana said.
Due to plenty of free time during that period, he challenged himself to write a post every day. Writing was difficult for him. While working at Dtac, he had to contribute two articles every week to the Prachachat newspaper.
“Writing was like torture for me. I stopped writing after two tormenting years. But my memoir writing this time is a success. I have written every day for over a year already.”
It was difficult for him in the beginning. But after writing daily for four consecutive months, he could do it more easily and smoothly. “Writing makes me happy,” he said.
That was also the case for public speaking, which he dreaded when he was young. However, he learned to improve his public speaking skills after doing it repeatedly.
For him, being a writer also counts as a connector as it involves a network of fellow writers.
Useful work brings value to life
When in his late 40s, Thana opted to spend a slow life, but he felt something was missing in his life. He found out later that one has a meaningful life when they make themselves useful. For him, this is an important value in life.
“When I did the Robinhood project at SCB, I felt that I did something useful. I got the same feeling when I started the ABC course and the participants thanked me,” he said.
Serving as an executive or director at several companies also makes him feel that he is useful to other people, in addition to the happiness that he gets, Thana added.
View on life’s success
According to him, he has spent three stages in his working life. The first stage when he was aged 24-36 involved the cumulation of knowledge, particularly in finance and telecoms. The second stage, at the ages of 37-48, was a period of adventures during which he faced health issues and work failures. At this stage, his ego could be restrained, and he knew himself better. This was when he evolved to become a connector. In the third stage of his working life, aged 48-54, he joined the bank SCB. It was when he enjoyed a stable life with the freedom to choose what to do.
Now at 55, he is happy with what he is today. “I can choose what I want to do. I do things I think are fun and useful.”
For him, people need to collect three things on their way to success – experiences, good friendships, and good memories.
“I believe in the accumulation of the currency, which comes in many forms. Money is a type of currency, and so do thankyous and good memories,” Thana said.