AT TIENDESITAS along C-5 near Ortigas Avenue, parking becomes a problem especially at dinnertime on weekends. Filipino families, balikbayans, and tourists flock to this shopping and entertainment village to buy locally made items (handicrafts, clothes, and more) and to eat. The choices are varied—you can have sisig, inasal, bibingka, Cebu lechon, tuna panga, kare-kare and more at the many stalls and restaurants. At the Activity Center, there is even a cultural dance presentation, with dancers showing off the traditional dances of the Igorots, Tagalogs, Visayans and Muslims. Recently, there seems to be a boom in restaurants specializing in Filipino cuisine in the country. On the fine dining and casual dining side, we have Abe and Fely J of the LJC Group; Chef Laudico’s Bistro Filipino at the Fort; Travel Café Philippines, Café Bola, and Sentro 1771 in Greenbelt; Adarna on Kalayaan Avenue in Quezon City; KKK at SM North Edsa Annex and Mall of Asia; Serye in Parañaque and Quezon City Circle; Pamana in Tagaytay; and so much more. On the fast-food side, Davao Tuna Grill is attracting loyal diners. In her talk “Next Big Thing in the Foodservice Industry” given at the Top Menu Masters 2009 Foodservice Conference at Blue Leaf Pavilion in Taguig, Nana Ozaeta, editor-in-chief of F&B World magazine, said Filipino cuisine is one of the next big things to watch out for. “Filipino is finally in,” she said. “There is more variety and sophistication. Filipino cuisine is not taken for granted anymore.” She noted too that a lot of Filipinos are now more interested in Pinoy food, and there is much research and media coverage (both local and international) being done now on Filipino food. In 2007, Andrew Zimmern featured Filipino food in his show Bizarre Foods. And last year, celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations and Bobby Chinn of World Café Asia went to the country to shoot and sample our dishes. The Philippines also made it to international food magazine Saveur’s December 2008 issue. So finally Filipino food is getting the attention it deserves. Good news for Filipino entrepreneurs in the food business and for all Filipinos as well :)
February 2009 Archives
THERE REALLY is no easy way to break somebody’s heart (just ask James Ingram and all the sawi sa pag-ibig right now), and this is true too in the corporate world. My balikbayan friend from the US was just telling me last Sunday how her friend, also a Pinay, agonized going to work every day at Lehman Brothers before the big collapse, not knowing if she would still have a job the next day. I also heard of another friend who worked at a California bank which has closed shop last year, and yes, it is hard to be told you just lost your job. But just as it is so heartbreaking to be told you have been fired or have lost your job through no fault of your own, it is equally, if not more, heartbreaking to be the boss having to decide a subordinate’s fate and tell him about it. A 41-year-old software engineer in Manila remembers having been asked by his former employer to draft a list of 10 to 15 people to be fired as a result of a merger with a bigger company. “I made a list, but I never sent it until I just resigned. It was hard as some of those people were my friends,” he says. “When they greet you ‘Hi, sir’ I get guilty because I am in effect sharpening the axe and they have no idea. Plus you know that if these people lose their jobs, their families will be in a dire financial crisis.” But sometimes the axe has to fall. If you have exhausted all means and have no recourse but to fire someone, follow these tips: 1. Make sure you have a solid case. The same software engineer had to fire someone recently after gathering solid evidence and following due process. “The offenses were failure to deliver (which by itself, I would’ve had more patience), and worse, chronic dishonesty. Her dishonesty ranged from questionable expenses to saying she’s working at home when she’s somewhere else. When she discovered that she would be fired in a day or two, inunahan ako and she resigned,” he explains. 2. Have everything about the case put down in writing. 3. Talk with a lawyer to cover all possible legal loopholes. 4. Call the employee to a private meeting and state the case. According to about.com, be straightforward, civil, concise and compassionate. Give the person a chance to talk. 5. Offer advice such as what kind of job would suit the person better. 6. Have the Human Resources Department brief the employee on what to do (exit interview, turnover of company property, clearance procedure) and when to expect final payout of salary and benefits.
WITH THE expected slowdown in the Philippine economy this year as confirmed by the International Monetary Fund, entrepreneurs are finding ways to deal with the global financial crisis. “When the economy is down, nobody spends,” says Karat World top man Felix Gorriceta III. The times thus call for streamlining of inventory. “Stock up on what sells. We don’t experiment much on new merchandise, which we had the luxury of doing so before,” he says. At publishing company Adarna House, Emelina Almario, president, shares these strategies: 1. Streamline business processes. “We are auditing current business processes and looking at ways to improve them in terms of cutting costs.” 2. Manage risks. “Our various sales channels present different levels and types of risks and we are also looking into these.” 3. Practice prudence with resources. This goes for “electricity, paper and gas (even the small things count!).” Her daughter, Ani Rosa Almario, who co-owns The Raya School with partners, reveals they are holding off on tuition fee hikes “so as not to add to [the parents’] financial woes.” But there’s always opportunity in tough times. Gorriceta cites Henry Sy, who built his very first SM mall when the economy was hard up in the ‘80s. “Spaces are being offered now and it’s a good idea to grab them. But don’t just open [a store] anywhere. Choose places where you think you will profit, where business will prosper,” he advises. Indeed, during tough times, the tough gets going.
I WAS buying a loaf of bread from the bakeshop on the way home today. After I picked my choice loaf and added a small tub of herb cream cheese to go with it, I fell in line. Well what do you know, two big men came in, grabbed a couple of chocolate soy milk and some bread, and plopped them all on the counter. So when the guy ahead of me finished paying for his purchase, I stepped up and stopped the cashier from punching in the two big men’s purchases. I came in first and lined up first, I said, so isn’t it just fair that I be served first? I know it may sound like just a petty little thing, but I don’t know if I’m incensed more at the fact that the cashier didn’t notice who’s next in queue, or that chivalry is dead. My top 3 pet peeves as a customer are: 1. Not getting fair treatment 2. Not receiving the P0.25 change due me because the cashier is short of coins. (Yeah, right. Multiply P0.25 by 100 customers a day by 365 days a year, and that’s a whopping P9,125 additional income for the store.) 3. Long lines and long waiting time (especially at doctors’ clinics) Last year, author Clark Howard wrote in GJSentinel.com about a study made by the Wharton School of Business. In that study, researchers found out that in 60 percent of the cases they scrutinized, customers weren’t treated right. The respondents’ top 3 pet peeves were: 1. No employees to help customers 2. Long checkout lines 3. When employees are present but don’t offer a smile, greeting or eye contact Good customer service keeps customers going back to your establishment and would love you for it. Last year, one person I know was so happy about a cellphone company's speedy assistance in helping him get a new phone (his old unit got stolen) that he treated them all to lunch. Bad customer service, on the other hand, makes them tell other people about it. Food for thought.
RECENT CHATS with family and friends based abroad revealed that one of the foremost things in the minds of most people these days is how the crisis is affecting us. My friend Sean based in Australia asked me if it is true that companies based here in the Philippines are laying off people. Another friend, Cheryl based in the US, wanted to know how the Philippine economy is doing. On the other hand, we here in the Philippines are curious to know how life is abroad. My sister based in the US reported that home stores are closing, and car dealerships are not doing well. Publishing companies abroad are discontinuing titles. On the other hand, my friend Nenette said her brother-in-law in the US is not affected by the crisis—since he is in the auto repair business, business is booming with lesser people buying cars and more people just opting to have their old cars repaired. Health care is not as hit by other industries because, well, people get sick whether or not there is a crisis. Entrepreneurs are coping with the global financial crisis in their own ways wherever they may be. Rossana Llenado, president Ahead Learning Systems, Inc., the company behind Ahead Tutorial and Review Center in the Philippines, reveals they are very much aware of what is happening, but are not quite as frazzled about the crisis as most. “We try to remain as optimistic as possible, always searching for the silver lining behind the dark clouds. I remind my staff that we had already been in this kind of situation during the Asian financial crisis so I am very confident that we will be able to weather this storm. We recall what we learned in the past and apply those lessons in the present situation. I'll make sure as well that we all learn more from this experience,” she says. Ahead employs precautionary measures to make sure that they don't close shop or lay people off. Rossana’s prime consideration, after all, is their market—the students, who are greatly helped by the review center in preparing for college entrance exams and in getting better grades in school. To cope with the crisis, Rossana says, “I try to keep all our employees well-informed so that they have a better understanding of the decisions being made in the company. I advise them to work even harder and be more cost-efficient in order to maximize our resources.” These are the specific ways Ahead has adopted to cope with the global financial crisis: * OPERATIONS: Instead of cutting costs, resolve to perform even better than before. a. Beef up customer service. b. Involve all employees in the planning process so that they will be able to fully understand and assist in the implementation. c. Have everyone be more proactive in sales and marketing activities to make people more aware of Ahead’s services and ultimately convince them to choose to be ‘ahead.’ “We have a lot of training lined up for this purpose,” says Rossana. * RECRUITMENT: Don’t fire people; hire more to help in doing the job even better. a. Maximize current workforce by placing people in other positions where they displayed greater efficiency and effectivity. b. Give staff more paid vacations rather than provide increase in pay. * SALES AND MARKETING: Be more aggressive. a. Go to schools to promote services, not wait for people to line up at the doors. b. Set specific quotas. c. Maintain advertising budget to match last year's. d. Add below-the-line ‘zero budget’ activities to remind clients about Ahead without spending so much. e. Develop new designs for marketing materials using students as models. “We have been doing this since we started almost 14 years ago. Since they are happy with our services, they are very willing to endorse our services and pose as models for our flyers, brochures, and ads,” says Rossana. * BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: Continue to prioritize. a. Innovate offerings. b. Develop products and services. Six books will be published this year following the success of Ahead’s books in previous years. c. Forge partnerships with business allies. Ahead will host an event gathering the university presidents of UP, Ateneo, and UST in a conference to share their learnings and plans. They will also partner with Salt and Light Ventures to bring speaker Tony Buzan to talk about mind mapping for the academe. d. Utilize developments in technology. The company now employs computer-assisted registration, enrollment and payment; text and e-mail blasting; use of bar codes and LCD projectors; and acceptance of credit card payments at zero percent interest for three months. They also improved their website. And they now offer online learning by partnering with IT company BC Net. * ADMINISTRATIVE: Remain vigilant in implementing more systematic administrative processes in order to maximize efficiency. To do this, they find ways to save on costs: get better suppliers, ask for more discounts, request for longer credit lines, buy in bulk and follow a budget. “Before, we never followed a budget. Now, it has become a necessity to stick to a set plan, with ours being to spend less than the previous year,” says Rossana. “One way we are cutting down costs is by buying a new copier in order to lower our expenses in material production.” How about you? What are you doing to cope with the global financial crisis?
Family businesses aren’t a sure thing. Some last for many decades, while others go pffft when the second or third generation members take the helm. One family business that’s gaining strength as the years go by is the jewelry business of the Sarabia-Gorriceta family of Iloilo. Amparo Sarabia started a jewelry store in Iloilo. Later on, her eldest daughter, Dr. Sandra Sarabia-Gorriceta (an optometrist following the footsteps of her grandfather, Dr. Federico Sarabia, the first optometrist in the Philippines), also went into the jewelry/pawnshop business with her own shop, the SS Gorriceta, which now has three stores in Iloilo. Now Dr. Sandra’s son, Felix Gorriceta III, is following tradition, heading the jewelry chain store Karat World. “Growing up in Iloilo, I was exposed early to the business. I have a brother and a sister, but I was the only one interested in the jewelry business,” shares Felix. He recounts that when he was in grade 1 or 2, he already knew how to open the store vault. In high school, he helped out in the store, and listened in when his mom talked with suppliers. At first, Felix thought he could be a lawyer or go into politics like his father Felix Gorriceta, Jr., who became mayor of the town of Pavia in Iloilo. Felix studied Legal Management in De La Salle University in Manila to prepare for this. But during school breaks, he would help out at the jewelry store his mom put up in the early 90s in Harrison Plaza. While Felix was in college, his father became ill and his mom had to take care of him more. It was at this point that Felix decided to go into the jewelry business as a career. He went to London to study gemology after college, and when he came back, his father passed away. Since Felix was the eldest, he had to take care of his father’s business, a sugar plantation. “I tried to take care of it but my heart was not into it,” Felix said. After some time, the family decided to have the sugar plantation just rented out. Felix then focused on Karat World, the jewelry business. Innovations Felix lost no time in introducing innovations to the way the family ran the jewelry business. “I made Karat World a brand, not just a jewelry store,” says Felix. From that one store in Harrison Plaza, Felix grew the business. By the end of this year, Karat World will have 16 stores nationwide, with three stores slated to open this year outside Manila (at the Marquee, an Ayala Mall set to open in May in Clark, Pampanga; in Robinsons Dumaguete; and in Cebu). How did he do it? It started with knowing his market. “Karat World’s market is the working woman of today. And so we offer basic jewelry that can be worn every day from morning until night,” shares Felix. The store carries a wide assortment of items with a prices ranging from the reasonable to the high end. “We want to tell people that not all jewelry stores are expensive, and that a woman need not wait for a man to buy her jewelry. She can afford to buy it herself!” says Felix. Based on this profile of their target market, Felix introduced the following innovations to further strengthen his market position: 1. Take out the door in shops to entice customers to come in the stores. “A door creates a barrier between the person and the store. It’s intimidating, not inviting,” he says. At first, his mom was concerned about security, but Felix won her over. Now, Karat World stores are open in front from end to end in the lease area. 2. Create awareness about the brand through the use of media. Felix made sure Karat World’s jewelry are worn by the leading actresses in local teleseryes, and there have been in fact customers coming in asking for the jewelry worn by actresses on Betty La Fea. Felix also mounted advertising campaigns and granted press interviews. 3. Come up with up-to-date designs. “This is very important,” says Felix. But even with modern designs, the jewelry should still be wearable and be attractive to his target market. To ensure this, he observes his clientele and notes what they want. It’s surprising that the tastes of his market vary per location. “In some provinces, people are more conservative and would go for gold jewelry even if white gold is in fashion. In other areas, if you go downtown, conservative designs are in demand. If you go uptown, the experimental designs are what people prefer,” says Felix. He makes sure to stock up on items his market would want in that area. For instance, in Robinsons Galleria, clients are mostly working women. Their bestseller in this location are earrings, and so the store has a minimum of 200 designs on stock, starting at a reasonable price of P1,250 per pair. 4. Introduce a Wedding Station. To make brides-to-be and their fiancés feel extra special, Felix made sure there is a special section in every Karat World that is dedicated to wedding and engagement rings alone. This area also has comfortable chairs where couples can sit and take their time choosing their rings. 5. Offer promotions. Karat World will have a big promotion coming up soon where clients can win a diamond ring. 6. Listen to the staff. “This is to make sure that we hear what they think would be good for the business, what would sell or not sell,” says Felix. He also keeps an open line with the staff, meeting all staff personally upon hiring and telling them that they can write him a note or e-mail him or HR to tell them anything. “We want to help them the best way possible. They can air out anything, be it a grievance or not,” says Felix. 7. Be open to change, even in terms of supply. “We want to give customers the best possible price and so we try to source the best products,” shares Felix. About 80 percent of their merchandise are sourced from Italy and Hong Kong, while 20 percent are made locally—Karat World’s wedding ring line designed by Felix himself. “Here is where my creative streak shines through. I like doing designs for wedding rings,” he says. 8. Try to please customers as much as possible. Felix tells his staff that people use their hard-earned money to buy their merchandise so they deserve the best. And so the store will go out of its way to serve customers, even to make arrangements for the delivery of an engagement ring abroad if the customer wants. 9. Have a website to let people know about the store and its offerings. Selling online is not a possibility given that jewelry is a personal thing, but the website is a way to clue the customer in on what they can see at Karat World stores. Felix’s mom is still involved in Karat World while still overseeing her SS Gorriceta shops. She is head of finance of Karat World, while Felix is in charge of the creative side. It is interesting to note that Felix’s wife is also in the jewelry business but in another chain, F&C. But everything’s going well in the family and in the business. The innovations are working well, and looks like the business will survive and be passed on to succeeding generations.
IT ALL started with a dream among friends. Karen Marek, Cielo Bulos, and Maya Madarang-Tababa were âhopeless romantics.â âCielo and I were not married yet at the time and we had ideas of what we wanted for our weddings,â says Karen, a former TV and movie star with the screen name Karen Timbol. Since Karen and her then boyfriend (now husband) Ariel Atendido were mounting fashion shows and corporate events through their company Exuberance, it wasnât far-fetched for them to venture into wedding planning and coordination as well. Karen broached the idea to Cielo and Maya who were with her in the single parents ministry of Christâs Commission Fellowship, and the two agreed to join her and Ariel in a wedding planning business, after they prayed about it. When they told people about their plans, many discouraged them in pursuing the business. ââItâs very detailed,â they said. But the desire was there,â says Karen. Soon Blushing Bride the business was born in October 2005 with the tagline âWe do your I do.â From only one wedding they coordinated in the last quarter of 2005, Blushing Bride has done more than 50 weddings and debuts to date. The company participates in bridal fairs to get the word out. Ariel reveals they get inquiries every day from people who check out their website and are referred by clients and friends. Majority of their clients are based abroad, and they make sure everything is ironed out for these clients by the time they arrive for their wedding day. Blushing Bride can do the full coordination from booking the venue to choosing a florist to conceptualizing invitations and putting together a delectable menu, etcetera. They also offer coordination services for the wedding day only for brides and grooms who want to take care of all other arrangements themselves. Wedding day coordination services cost about P25,000, while the full coordination fee is about P45,000. Karen stresses that they can work with clientsâ budgets. âWe will find and negotiate with suitable vendors based on their budget and preferences.â For full coordination, the Blushing Bride partners are very hands-on in conceptualization. âThe wedding should reflect the coupleâs personalities,â says Karen. The concept is incorporated in the invitations, reception program, and the total look of the place resulting in a unique wedding that suits the new bride and groom. âSome brides and grooms are clueless while others are OC. It would be helpful if they know what they want. But when clients trust us to take care of everything, our creativity shines through,â shares Karen. Blushing Brideâs services go beyond choosing the vendors. They also encourage couples to undergo premarital counseling. âOne of our goals is to reach out to couples. Some of them donât know what they are going into. We encourage them to undergo counseling to see if they are meant to be together or not,â says Karen. Ariel and Karen share their experience with counseling to the clients, and this has proved helpful to a lot of them. âWe want them to not just have a beautiful wedding but a beautiful marriage too,â says Ariel, who is also a model and the current president of the Professional Model Association of the Philippines. Blushing Brideâs start-up capital was minimal. Initial cash outlay went to booth rentals in bridal fairs, fliers, website design, etcetera. They work from their homes and meet their clients outside. The partners are happy with how their business is going. âIn every wedding, we learn something new,â says Karen. âAnd itâs very rewarding when clients are happy and refer us to other people.â Some of their wedding clients have become corporate events clients too. While it may be easy to set up such a business, success doesnât come to every wedding planner. To succeed, Karen and Ariel say you should have these: 1. Passion. âIf you donât have the passion for it, you wonât last,â says Ariel. âYou deal with people who have different personalities. Some clients demand too much.â 2. Organization skills 3. Patience 4. Love for people. âYou must be a people person,â says Karen.
Sorry for the delay, guys. Here is the second installment of the 12 Rules for Microenterprise Success that the Academy of Creating Enterprise (based in Cebu City) teaches its students. I find that these principles are short and sweet and very much adapted to the Filipino setting (like “Don’t “eat” your inventory”). Students of ACE know these by heart; they memorize them and have a little pamphlet of this in their wallets. If you are interested in part 1, click on this link. 7. Keep good records One of the important ways to grow a business is to keep simple records. A small business should keep track of five things everyday: cash-on-hand, money you owe, the amount people owe you, sales for the day and the value of your inventory. “Winners keep track of results, losers keep track of excuses.” 8. Increase sales, decrease costs Smart business owners work hard to increase sales, while carefully watching costs. This requires keeping records so you can track sales and understand costs. Some don’t want to offend customers by being pushy or negotiating with suppliers—better to offend than to starve. “Lots of people confuse bad management with destiny.” 9. Make a profit every day. Ask a business owner if he made a profit today and you might be faced with a blank stare. The goal in business is to make a profit everyday—to do that you must buy right, add value, and do correct pricing. Suggestive selling as a way to increase the size of each sale and leads to increased profits. “Winning is a habit, just like losing.” 10. Value your customers. For many businesses, the most valuable asset they have is their customers. If you can build up a group of loyal and repeat customers, then you can count on that much repeat income. You then must concentrate on keeping them happy, plus attracting new ones. “The purpose of an enterprise is to create and keep customers.” 11. Pay yourself a livable salary. One of the biggest reasons small microenterprise owners fail is they take some of their working capital out of their business almost daily, depending on personal needs, without keeping records. This is not good! We suggest that each owner takes a specific amount out each day or week as salary. “We can’t change the results without changing the behavior.” 12. Don’t “eat” your inventory. Eating, giving away or letting others “borrow” your inventory are all ways to lose money and therefore could cost you or your business. Not selling pershable items fast enough is also a way of “eating” your inventory. Never let anyone take inventory without paying. “Poverty needs no plan. Success requires one.”