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From Refugee to the American Dream

Jonathan Phan addressed a meeting of the Retired Military Officers Association (RMOA) Saturday, April 5, 2014. RMOA membership includes successful and start-up entrepreneurs. Retired Admiral Tony Watson, a member of RMOA, invited Mr. Phan to speak because of his exemplary story of going from a Vietnam refugee to a successful American entrepreneur.

Mr. Phan was born in Saigon, South Vietnam and raised there during the war until he was sixteen. Due to his father’s service in the South Vietnamese Special Police Force, his family was targeted for retaliation by the North Vietnamese. In spite of the threat, Mr. Phan’s father remained in Vietnam and was captured by the North Vietnamese Army and imprisoned for the twenty years. The decision of Jonathan Phan’s father to remain in Vietnam provided a key lesson to him on the impact and significance of personal decisions. This was reinforced by a critical decision made by Jonathan’s mother that changed his life. Young Jonathan Phan had the option to join the North Vietnamese Army but his mother arranged for him to escape on a motorcycle in the middle of the night. He traveled in two different fishing boats during his weeklong dangerous voyage to a refugee camp in Indonesia, where he spent seven months before being permitted to come to the U.S. in a Catholic Church sponsored program.

He landed in Everett, MA and for years slept on couches of his numerous foster homes, while his family of four siblings, his mother, and an imprisoned father remained in Vietnam. He waited tables and served as a busboy in a prestigious club in Boston, graduated from UMass, and then went to work for a major financial firm where in his twenties he became the top sales manager in the nation. He came to Virginia, started and built his own financial business from scratch, merged it with Mass Mutual, and today owns and operates the multimillion dollar Asset Management Group, Inc., providing an array of financial and consulting services, including sourcing of capital, HR, legal, and cash flow strategies particularly for IT professionals and government contractors. In 2011 and 2012 the Agency earned the highest agency honor at MassMutual - The Chairman's Trophy, Gold Bowl. The Agency was also recognized in both 2011 and 2012 for having an agent earn of the Freshman Five award.

During a short but inspirational speech to the Retired Military Officers Association, Mr. Phan provided some sound business advice on how to achieve entrepreneurial success against all odds. He concluded his speech with, “I believe to succeed in business or in life, you need to make a conscious decision of who you want to be and what you believe. You either stand for something or fall for everything, and when you have a passion about what you believe in, you just need to work it, sleep it and breathe it every single minute, and be willing to do what it takes to achieve what your ultimate goal."

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