Established in 1878, B Grimm has grown to become a leading worldwide conglomerate. When the company decided to try its hand in the energy sector, B Grimm Power emerged during an economically tumultuous time in Thailand. Yet not only was the business able to survive the 1997 Asian financial crisis, it was able to prosper to the point where today it is one of the country’s leading private power producers.
The person at the helm of the company through these trying times was Preeyanart Soontornwata. Behind her soft and graceful demeanour is a strong and determined businesswoman who has played a pivotal role in the growth and success of the conglomerate over the years. Preeyanart highlights the importance of teamwork.
“I joined the company about five years before the so-called Tom Yum Goong crisis struck. We overcame that period of uncertainty as a team and I am fortunate to be working with a group of people who share the same dedication and passion for the company and the drive for success,” says the executive.
As president of the company Preeyanart bears numerous responsibilities, overseeing everything from engineering aspects to finance, legal affairs and environmental impact assessments. And while she admits engineering is not her area of expertise, her leadership skills and her ability to listen and effectively negotiate with the aim of a win-win situation for all has paid off. Success is something achieved through hard work and perseverance.
This is something Preeyanart knows only too well. Born and raised in Petchburi province, she is the eldest of four children. As a student she earned a bachelor’s degree in banking and finance and a master’s degree in business administration from Chulalongkorn University and has overcome many professional and personal challenges to get to where she is today. A tragedy that shaped her early adult life was the assassination of her father, Proong, in 1973. A lawyer and regional newspaper publisher who spoke out bravely against corruption, he was killed when Preeyanart was 20 years old. His passing helped to create a deep sense of duty and responsibility in his eldest daughter and a determination to take care of her family and succeed in life. “It was a shocking time for us all,” she recalls. “It turned the shy and timid younger me into the strong individual that I am today.”
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“Business with compassion is our motto,” Preeyanart says. “I truly believe this way of conducting business is why B Grimm has lasted for 140 years.” This ethic, along with the utmost professionalism and transparency, is something that fits with her own moral code. Doing things the right way and with compassion were values instilled in her as a child. “In my family integrity, transparency and loyalty have always been of great importance,” she explains. “We were taught to fight for the poor and for a better society.”
For the self-confessed workaholic, raising two children has also presented its challenges. “There’s definitely room for improvement when it comes to time management between my work and personal life,” she laughs. “Even when my eyes are closed, my mind is still at work. My friends and family often complain that I work too much.”
When she has free time, Preeyanart enjoys visits to the spa and walks with her children, but her “happy dilemma” is that B Grimm Power is expanding at a rate that will see 10 new power generation facilities added in the coming months. So the 65-year-old executive is not ready to let go of the reigns just yet, although the idea of having more time to travel and discover the world is increasingly appealing to her.
“I really want to go on an African safari,” she smiles. “And there are so many lesser known corners of Thailand that I want to explore.” In the meantime, she is searching for a successor that she can groom and even after her retirement she plans to continue as an adviser to the company that she has come to love so dearly.