About the picture

Building a Dream

Picture1At Merck Thailand, we used to hold every year about the third week of January an Annual Take-Off Meeting for all our employees (about 150). The meeting, typically held from Friday to Sunday in a nice location outside of Bangkok, aimed to communicate to our employees the company’s direction for the forthcoming year(s) and to foster team spirit. All sessions of the meeting were centered on our company’s “4 stakeholders approach” and our core value “care”: care for our employees, care for our customers, care for the Thai society and care for our shareholders.

For Saturday afternoon, January 21, 2006 a session had been scheduled titled in the original meeting program as “Care for Society  -  Surprise Session”. However, when our employees came back from lunch to the big conference room in the Dusit Hotel, Cha-Am (about 180 km outside of Bangkok), Mrs. Pattaraporn, our Communications Manager, informed our staff that the session had been renamed in “Building a Dream: Team Building Exercise” in order to purposely mislead our staff to think it’s only about team building. The contents of the whole afternoon session had been kept top secret and only Mrs. Pattaraporn and myself knew about it.

Picture3Our employees were divided in 15 groups with 10 people each. Every group got one unassembled bicycle in several parts which Mrs. Pattaraporn had bought earlier on from a Toys R Us – store in Bangkok. After the starting signal from our Communications Manager, our employees, in a typical display of the ever competitive spirit at Merck Thailand, fitted all bicycles parts together in their usual high energy style.

By the time our staff had completed assembling the bikes, our Communications Manager announced that the bicycles will be donated to a school nearby, the Petchaburi  Special School for disabled children. At the same time, the doors of the big meeting room were opened. 15 physically and partially mentally handicapped children were invited to come in along with their 15 guides from the school to receive the bicycles. All employees were stunned; the room was filled with silence for many seconds. It was a highly emotional moment. Three quarters of our staff, including myself, had tears in our eyes. Soon after, spontaneous loud applause aroused while many of Merck Thailand’s employees secretly wiped off their tears. After the 15 bicycles had been officially handed over to the children, our staff created a spontaneous and touching scene by rechecking all the bicycles for the safety of the children, without anybody having urged them to do so.

Picture4It was an unforgettable experience which will stay in our heart and mind forever. Suddenly, it made all of us realize how privileged in life we are when not suffering from any serious illness.

Two weeks after the event, I received a Thank You Letter from the Head of Petchaburi Special School  along with an awesome picture showing 15 cheerful children standing proudly next to their bicycles wearing their safety gear.

Until today, this photograph is still my most favourite picture of my whole career and the picture I am most proud of.

It helps to put things into perspective. This ever inspiring picture also serves as a great visualization of “caring leadership” and reminds us that business does not have to be only about high sales and profits.