How to thrive despite crisis

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
How to thrive despite crisis
Fredley Group of Companies founder and CEO Avin Ong.

Avin Ong, the founder and CEO of Fredley Group of Companies, started out packing and assembling hangers to help his family make a living. He got himself into tutoring at the age of seven. He even dabbled in the F&B industry as early as high school, selling fruit shakes at the nearby wet market.

With an MBA degree from the Ateneo de Manila University and ESSCA-Ecolé de Management in Budapest, Hungary, an honors degree from De La Salle University, and global experience with Deutsche Bank, this 28-year-old self-made entrepreneur was adjudged as an Injap Sia Outstanding Young Entrepreneur in 2018. He was also hailed as a young visionary restaurateur in Asian Dragon Magazine and the CEO Magazine, among other features.

Today, he has 180 restaurants and café branches operating in the Philippines with over 1,000 employees and nine separate brands in the company portfolio including Macao Imperial Tea, Nabe Japanese Izakaya and Hot Pot, 107 Co-working, Mitasu Yakiniku, New York Fries and Dips, Liang Crispy Roll, and Hosaku International Buffet. Just recently, the group has acquired Café Kitsuné from Paris, France. Despite of the current worldwide pandemic, Avin still dreams of reaching his target of having a total of 250 branches operating by year 2021.

When asked how is he going to fare during the current pandemic, he said, “Businesses must innovate and adapt to the coronavirus disruption. We’ve seen our brands as game-changers, and our current strategy is not to push for sales, but to acknowledge the challenges and to focus on addressing such. Giving our stakeholders that level of confidence and assurance that we are on top of things. Our efforts would focus on making sure that our workplaces follow the guidelines given by the government authorities, and ensuring that our staff are healthy. Safety, at the moment, is our top priority.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic also implies that we all have to shift toward a cashless society. To be able to survive, companies must embrace digital transformation. This means that businesses should collaborate with e-money solutions providers as well as the food aggregators to ensure that its products are available to the customers, and that the food handling process is also seamless.”

Avin Ong

Here are some points from Avin Ong on how to become an entrepreneur.

1. Dream big and have a vision. There’s a beautiful lyric from the song A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman: “A million dreams are keeping me awake. I think of what the world could be. A vision of the one I see.” I love the song’s message as it encourages us to have big dreams. But before you can go anywhere, you have to know where you want to go — this is having a vision. Having a clear vision helps you evaluate your options in achieving the best results.

2. Extraordinary success is a process. I started as a dishwasher in my own restaurant and worked my way up to where I am now. No one learns how to bake overnight. As entrepreneurs, we are bound to make mistakes, but all of these are part of the process. Your failures mold your character. Thus, building a better version of yourself in the process.

3. Work with integrity. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going to, and there will always be challenges to go through. Do the hard work, build your character, and always take the moral high ground. Value the trust that’s given to you by everyone you encounter, because trust takes so much time to build, but only takes mere seconds to break.

4. It’s business. Leave your emotions at the door. I believe that the workplace has no room for drama, that I even tagged my office as a “No Drama Zone.” It is very important that we learn how to separate business with personal matters in order to be more productive and be able to make objective business decisions.

5. Practice tough love. In one of my favorite books Who Will Cry When You Die by Robin Sharma, he describes the habit of self-discipline as tough love, because being tough with yourself is a very loving gesture. When you finally reach the top, it’s never going to be easy staying there, but when you’re your biggest critic, you become more mindful. Self-discipline gives you the extra push to always power through.

6. Live a life. It helps to stop and smell the roses. You must appreciate how far you’ve come and the people who have been a part of the journey. This would give you a sense of purpose and pace you in conquering the challenges ahead. Celebrate small wins!

7. Travel and meet new people. I was introduced to my brands while travelling. I never thought that a family trip to Macau would give me the opportunity to franchise and grow one of the leading milk tea concepts in the Philippines. There are so many things you can learn when you travel and explore, so make sure to always maximize your opportunities, build your network, and be bold enough to introduce yourself to new people and experiences.

8. Go outside your comfort zone. Never settle for your normal routine. There are more opportunities waiting for you when you put yourself in unfamiliar situations. From a Japanese restaurant to a chain of milk tea shops, and now venturing into the international buffet scene — I’ve been so lucky to keep on learning each day. It’s just a matter of challenging yourself to become hungrier.

9. No pain. No gain. As an old Chinese saying goes: “One minute of performance on stage, 10 years of hard work off stage.” It’s only natural for us to notice the medals and laurels first, but there will always be sleepless nights, countless meetings, and a roller coaster of emotions that go with it. It takes all mental, physical, and emotional toughness to carry yourself throughout the climb, but everything is well worth the effort when you get to the top.

10. Keep your feet on the ground. Every time I reach home from work, I would always spend a few minutes sharing how my day went to my mom. She may not have a business background, but she listens and always tells me to always keep my feet on the ground. This reminds me that no matter how far we’ve come, we should never forget to look back andappreciate where we came from — the humble beginnings. *

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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