What Johnlu Koa learned from Henry Sy Sr.
BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - September 30, 2013 - 12:00am

I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. —Steve Jobs

Finance Minister of the Year awardee for 2012 Secretary Cesar V. Purisima has recovered well from the recent demise of his father, the late Justice Fidel Purisima. He is also looking remarkably younger and fitter, telling me that he lost 30 pounds. When asked how he did it, Secretary Purisima jokingly replied: “My calorie intake is similar to the level of my salary.”

Purisima’s De La Salle University batch-mate Joselito H. Sibayan, president of Mabuhay Capital, told me: “Secretary Purisima has lost weight due to badminton, diet and hard work.” Philippine STAR president and CEO Miguel G. Belmonte also said: “Purisima has a gym right bedside his bedroom.”

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French Baker founder, Chatime master franchise holder and former University of the Philippines College of Business teacher of organization and marketing management Johnlu G. Koa told me that a person he looks up to as a mentor is SM Group founder Henry Sy Sr. When Koa was starting his bakeshop venture, which now has 51 stores, Sy through the years gave him three pieces of advice he couldn’t forget:

• First, don’t worry about politics. “Just go straight with your business and plans, work hard on your business, because the Filipino will always be eating, wearing clothes and using things.”

• Second, expand your product offerings. “He advised me in 1989 that I shouldn’t just limit French Baker to selling only breads, that I should add foods in order to grow big.”

• Third, don’t forget the big, untapped potential of Philippine tourism. “Henry Sy Sr. told me that in 1998, when our Philippine tourism industry was still very quiet. He really has foresight.”

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Success stories from different schools

The Philippines’ most successful architect today, with his own modern showcase energy-efficient building in the Manila Bay reclamation area, is Albert S. Yu of Asya Design. He designs the condominiums of the country’s top developers SMDC, Robinsons Land, Anchor Land, Manny Villar, Century Properties and many others.

One of Albert Yu’s latest projects is the 22-story Bench Tower situated at 30th Street, Rizal Drive of Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

Once, when the brothers John Gokongwei Jr. and James L. Go of Robinsons Land asked him where he studied, Albert Yu replied: “UE.” Gokongwei responded: “Ah, the school of Lucio Tan.” Albert quickly clarified: “No, University of Experience.”

Actually the young and brilliant Albert Yu studied at the University of Santo Tomas (UST); he was a working student for the famous architect William Coscoluella. Why is he so popular with the tycoons? He has a reputation for designing realty projects that become bestsellers. 

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Student entrepreneurs to compete in Kuala Lumpur & Washington

Years ago, a top corporate lawyer recounted to me that when “rags-to-riches” Philtrust Bank boss and media tycoon Emilio T. Yap was once getting a loan from a big Canadian bank and being asked to sign numerous pages of legal contracts, he half-jokingly told the Western financiers that Chinatown entrepreneurs like him who graduated from the School of Hard Knocks require no legal contracts; that their word or promise is their irrevocable bond. He joked that Western bankers like them should be careful of Ivy League graduates like Dewey Dee, who escaped the country in 1980 with over P600 million in unpaid loans.

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For years, there has been some debate and discussion on whether entrepreneurship can be taught in schools or not. There are people who say that as more sophisticated research and data on entrepreneurs are gathered and better analyzed, entrepreneurship can now be taught to students in classrooms and seminars.

Some top businessmen I’ve talked to disagree, saying that many entrepreneurship techniques and strategies can only be learned through actual life experiences as well as people-to-people interactions, similar to learning to surf on the sea waves, which can only be taught in the ocean and not in classrooms.

Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) Philippines is a group that believes that entrepreneurship can be taught in schools and encouraged through projects like their first EO Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) in the Philippines, which on Sept. 21 at F1 Hotel in The Fort selected five student entrepreneurs to represent the Philippines on Oct. 5 in the GSEA Regional Competition. Winners there will go to the GSEA Finals in Washington in November to compete with 30 student entrepreneurs from all over the world. Over US$150,000 in cash and donated business services are the prizes.

The five local winners are: Benjamin Ilagan (Ateneo de Manila University) of Amaize, the first and only supplier of all-natural corn fiber clothing in the Philippines; Mary Anne Collantes (Ateneo de Manila University) of Kultura Kamp, a social enterprise that sets up cultural excursions that promote the protection and cultures of partner tribes; Crisanto Flores IV (Polytechnic University) of Wear His Word, creating and distributing clothing that share God’s Word through quality shirts; Mark Kevin Nuñez (University of Asia and The Pacific) of MKNUNEZ Entreprises, an online business in the trading of unique corporate giveaways; and Kristal Leen de Guzman (The One School) of Risqué Designs, a Filipino brand that focuses on customized and limited artisan footwear, incorporating the use of local materials and artisan skills.

Among the judges were Ramon Rufino, EO president and VP of The Net Group; Cristalle Belo Henares, managing director, Intelligent Skin Care, Inc.; Benjamin So, managing director, Philchema, Inc.; Kenneth Liotongco, managing partner, Outsourcing & Manufacturing Solutions, Inc.; Joanna Duarte, president, The Big and Small Mktg. Co.; Tirso Jesus Parpan III, managing director, Hot Air Balloon Group; Gene Arthur T. Go, EVP, G.T.Go Enterprises, Inc.; Eileen Grey, president, The Picture Co., Family Fun Portrait Studios, Inc., and Andrew Albert , managing director, 24/7 International Corp.

Mark Yu, CFO of Seaoil, EO member, was the master mentor for EO-GSEA, while Steve Benitez, founder of Bo’s Coffee, headed the judges’ panel. Others active in EO include Manny Ayala and footwear entrepreneur Richard Tiu.

GSEA Philippines chairperson is Sheila Inez Ramos, granddaughter-in-law of National Book Store founder Socorro C. Ramos and former owner of the Tokyo Tokyo fast-food chain, which her family sold in 2008 to the Manny Agustines family of Ramcar Group and KFC.          

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Thanks for your feedback! E-mail willsoonflourish@gmail.com. or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Twitter, Facebook and http://willsoonflourish.blogspot.com/.

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