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Some things you don't just change

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SOMEWHERE in Binondo, in an upstairs room, mami noodles are still made fresh the old way every day. Dough is made from flour, water and egg, and kneaded with the use of a long rolling pin--so long in fact that you can ride on one end literally, which is what the workers at that restaurant, Masuki, do every day. Willen Ma, who oversees this family business started by her father in the sixties, says they call the rolling pin kabayo, the Filipino word for horse, since workers have to ride that long rolling pin to knead the dough. Why have they not upgraded to a more modern way of doing things? Willen says this old-style method is what gives their mami noodles the makunat texture. "If we do it by machine, they will come out with a fine texture. Customers can tell the difference. Lagot kami." Some 200 kilos of mami noodles are made here every day at Masuki, and these are sliced by machine after the kneading with the kabayo. The noodles are served at Masuki restaurants in Binondo and Greenhills, and are also supplied to institutional customers. It has been more than 40 years and Masuki is still around. Willen, named one of the inspiring women entrepreneurs by GoNegosyo, says their secrets just boil down to the quality of food and service. The menu is still the same, and they make sure the mami, asado chicken, tai pao, siomai, and siopao remain consistent in quality. And they plan to uphold the same consistent quality of food throughout the coming years. So if that means still doing the kneading kabayo-style, then kabayo-style it is. Some things you don't just change.

Promote your resto online

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WITH A lot of people turning more and more to the Internet for information, restaurant owners would be wise to tap online options to promote their restaurants. At the Restaurant Marketing Reloaded Summit 2009, an event organized by Courage Asia this year, online marketing experts shared their views on how this can be done. 1. Have your own website. “Make sure you have a good website,” said Edward David, director for business development at clickthecity.com. The site has to have the necessary useful information, from menu to contact details, and the content should be updated regularly. “Choose a content management system your people can be familiar with.” 2. Integrate online initiatives with your offline efforts. David advised entrepreneurs to promote their website address or URL in all their collaterals. Also, get listed in free online listings, explore priority and enhanced listings offered by online directories, and request to be featured in these websites. 3. Build communities; create followers. According to David, “Newsletters are becoming a thing of the past. Focus on growing your ‘followers’ instead of newsletter subscribers.” He recommended social networking sites Facebook and Multiply and microblogging site Twitter in doing this. 4. Explore and experiment with other options. Here’s where online advertising will come in and David suggested looking into pay-per-click, display advertising, pay-per-action, network buys and ad network options. In addition, Michael Rastas, consultant of myfoodtrip.com, mentioned joining forums and exploring iPhone applications to promote one’s restaurant. 5. Do your research. Howell Hay, managing director of munchpunch.com, said resto-preneurs should find out what their customers are searching for and reach the right audience. 6. Manage your reputation. Rastas said, “People will voluntarily tell you about a bad restaurant, but often will only talk about a good restaurant when asked.” Bad reviews of restaurants do get published online in blogs, but Hay offered hope by saying, “One bad review does not destroy your business for as long as there are plenty of people saying good things as well.” Hay advised, “Embrace reviews. They make us aware and provide us with an opportunity to fix a genuine problem.”

GUEST POST: Stressed at work? Game on!

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By Carmie Dulguime* AT LEAST 50 percent of my daily news feed from my Facebook “friends” is about their games updates. Someone just bought a harvester in Farm Ville. Another one needs help in ordering a hit on Mafia Wars. Yet another one took a photo of her pet in Pet Society and made it her profile pic (uhrm, that would be me). Time stamps of these feeds indicate that these games are being played during office hours. Talk about stress-busting at work! Playing online games during office hours were frowned upon in offices about six years ago. Today, the atmosphere has changed radically. Companies are beginning to embrace the idea of letting their employees play at work for, believe it or not, productivity and motivation purposes. Perhaps these companies realized they could not stop their employees from stealing company time by playing online even with sophisticated software installed in the system to monitor employees’ activities online. Thanks to companies like Snowfly, Inc., online gaming during office hours are now legitimized because of the advantageous effects of its web-based incentive software programs. It developed a gaming program called Capstone which rewards employees for playing. In return, the company gets real-time results that help determine the productivity and morale level of its workforce. Too good to be true? It’s a win-win situation for both employees and the company, if you ask me. Aside from incentives, online gaming in the workplace is now also being used as training aides. At Novartis in London, employees play interactive games online in order to familiarize themselves with company policies and code of ethics. This most certainly makes seminars and workshops a lot more exciting than merely looking at Powerpoint presentations, watching videos, or performing skits. This should not, however, provide employees with a convenient excuse to become a slacker at work. Games, in any form, are addicting. It can defeat the purpose of de-stressing and/or learning through online games. All work and no play can make you dull, but more play and less work may make you lose your job. *Carmie Dulguime is a corporate editor in a multinational public relations company. Her work encourages actual participation in social networking through the Internet, including online gaming.

Leadership skills for women

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A new book released in the Philippines tackles leadership skills women should develop. 5 Leadership Essentials for Women compiled by Linda Clark (distributed by OMF Literature Inc.) was written by women in leadership roles with fellow women in mind. According to the book, these are the five skills women need to hone: 1. Communication 2. Relationship 3. Time management 4. Group building 5. Conflict management One aspect of good communication is effective listening. To do so, Dr. Harriet Harral, a communications professional and the writer of the chapter on communication, says one should take out the barriers to effective listening: focus on self, wandering mind, leveling (simplifying the message to the point that critical details may be omitted), sharpening (emphasizing some points leaving out other important details), assimilation (shaping messages to confirm our opinions or attitudes), hearing what is expected that your mind is not open, passive listening, and missing the meaning. A relationship, to be healthy, needs three elements, according to psychologist Roberta M. Damon: mutuality, initiative and respect. “On a human level, there is no perfect relationship, but good, solid healthy relationships do exist,” she writes in the relationship chapter. In the chapter on time management, pastor's wife and educator Debbie Lloyd has advice for women who find themselves suffering from the pinball syndrome—when they bounce from task to task leading to unfinished projects: Have a schedule, have a system, and keep it simple. Dr. Judy Hamlin, author and ministry consultant, lists down the attributes of a healthy group and shares “prescription” for groups that want to be healthy. Lastly, Dr. Shirley Schooley, university professor and pastor's wife, takes us through the stages groups go through from forming to performing and imparts strategies on dealing with conflict that may come. Full of tips and examples both from the Bible and from everyday life, the book can be helpful to women in various leadership positions—at work, in business, in church, and in organizational settings.

Want to know the latest in the food industry?

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By Karen Galarpe IF YOU'RE in the food and beverage industry, you might want to set aside some time this month to check out the latest trends and innovations in the F&B industry. At the upcoming AsiaFood Expo (AFEX), Filipino and international players in the food industry are expected to converge at the World Trade Center on Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City to showcase new technology in food processing, packaging, machinery and equipment, and more. “AsiaFood Expo has remained an undisputed venue to showcase the Philippine competitiveness in the food sector as well as bring into the country the latest innovations and developments in the food packaging and processing sectors,” said Elmer C. Hernandez, Trade and Industry undersecretary and managing head of the Board of Investments. AFEX has been around for the past 18 years. This year, though, the organizer of the event, Trade Information Marketing & Exhibitions, Inc. (TIME Inc.) decided to split the event into three “so visitors will have more time to go around and discuss with exhibitors,” said Josephine P. Miranda, executive vice president of TIME Inc. The first event is the Food and Drinks Asia 2009, a full-scale expo that will show finished goods and introduce the business of finished food products and beverages to growing SMEs and potential entrepreneurs. The second event is the Food Franchising Asia 2009, which will present the newest ideas and solutions in the food franchising business. AFEX 2009 and FoodServe Asia is the third and culminating event. FoodServe Asia will be of interest to those in the catering and food service industry. All events will be held at the World Trade Center. Food and Drinks Asia and Food Franchising Asia will be held on September 17 to 20, while AFEX will be held on September 23 to 26. Product demos, business seminars, and cooking demos will also mostly be offered for free. Tickets are priced at P100 each. According to Miranda, they thought that there will be fewer exhibitors this year due to the global recession. However, feedback has been very good. Aside from participation by industry associations such as the Philippine Franchising Association, Philippine Food Exporters Association, Food Cart Association, Philippine Coffee Board, and private companies, foreign countries are also participating in the event. In fact, the U.S., France, and Taiwan will have pavilions showcasing their countries' products. Companies from Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia will showcase machinery. Some 38,000 visitors went to last year's AFEX. TIME Inc. is expecting this number to increase by 10 to 15 percent this year. “The Philippines is not lagging behind when it comes to trends. Sumasabay na rin tayo,” said Miranda.

Reward programs bring customer loyalty

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I JUST came from National Bookstore, where I bought two black pens. My receipt showed that I have 565 points in my e-purse, which translate to P80.00. That put a smile on my face. You see, I am a frequent shopper of that bookstore, and I have already claimed a lot of discounts on my purchases using the points in my e-purse. The P100 renewal fee of the Laking National card is really worth it for a frequent shopper like me. Name it, I probably have it – SM Advantage card, Powerbooks' Powercard, BDO Rewards card, Bench Lifestyle Card, Mercury Drug Suki card, South Star Drug's Tipid Card and MedExpress's card, among others. Yes, I'm a sucker for reward cards that earn points leading to discounts. In fact, last year, when I was paying my son's tuition, the cashier asked me if I would be paying by cash, check or credit card. When she said “credit card,” I said, “Hmmm.” And the cashier gleefully said, “Sayang ang miles!!!” We both laughed, and I handed over my credit card so I can earn more reward points. Reward programs please both the customer and the store. Customers can look forward to earning more points to get discounts on future purchases, while stores get assured of customer loyalty. An added plus: stores get access to customer profiles and buying habits, which may help them in making their business strategies. But not all reward programs work. Customers hate it when terms and conditions are revised without adequate information dissemination (remember SM Advantage card's accident insurance automatic enrollment? Read about it in the Money Smarts archives here). Customers also don't like it when it takes so long for points to be earned and redeemed. Sales and marketing speaker Robin Johnston, in an article entitled “Using reward programs to create loyal customers” which came out on www.evancarmichael.com, says a good reward program tells customers how they will be rewarded, gives appropriate rewards, gives the best rewards to the best customers, and considers timing carefully. I'm still evaluating whether my other reward cards are worth renewing. I think if I can redeem as much discounts as the renewal fee, it's definitely worth keeping the reward card.

Reseller shows how to succeed online

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WOMEN the world over have been keeping a fashionable secret for so long now. Well it’s not really so much a secret that only a few people know about it. The fact is, thousands of women have been quietly buying online a self-adhesive backless and strapless brassiere called NuBra. It is made of silicone and with adhesive, sticks to skin well so it’s not a problem to wear clothes that are backless or are more revealing up front. Hollywood celebrities have been patronizing NuBra, and even Oprah Winfrey endorsed it. While there are a few resellers of NuBra online, one reseller particularly stands out. Digital Web Group, Inc., which runs three e-commerce stores exclusively selling Nubra (www.nubra.net, www.nu-bra.com, and www.siliconeworks.com), sells the most and is topmost in search engines. According to Fil-Am Diana Limjoco, one of GoNegosyo’s most inspiring entrepreneurs and one of the founders of Digital Web Group, “Revenue from the NuBra alone is about $500K annually. We do not advertise and sales come only from search engine placement and word of mouth. Also occasionally, a magazine, newspaper and TV show will feature the bra.” The group started selling one style of NuBra in 2002. Now there are three styles being sold on their websites. “We use a professional e-commerce cart (www.searchfit.com), which allows one to use just one control panel for many stores), and accept all credits cards as well as PayPal, Google Checkout, checks and money order,” says Limjoco. Customers can view photos of the product online, click “Buy now,” and by putting in the country code and address, the cart will automatically estimate the shipping fees. They ship globally. Online selling is highly competitive, so what is the secret to their success? Limjoco says, “Our placement ranks high in search engines and NuBra is a unique one of a kind patented product. Although many knock-offs have come and gone, no one has been able to duplicate the special self-healing adhesive. We have good customer support and it’s easy for people to buy from our store with most major credit cards, PayPal and Google Checkout. We answer e-mail from customers in a timely fashion. Also, we ship as soon as we get the order and if it’s a shipper cut off, we ship the next day.” Limjoco offers eight tips for those seeking success in online sales: 1. Do your market research. “We did research before we sold NuBra and found only one other store selling online. Since we had no competition to speak of, we went for it,” says Limjoco. 2. Have your online store named as close as possible to what you are selling. Aside from NuBra, Digital Web Group also sells motorcycle speakers online at www.motorcyclespeakers.net. 3. Make sure your store is on the first page of Google or Yahoo search for the item you are selling. 4. Buy the .com and .net address of your store to keep competition from buying the name and competing with you. 5. Make it easy for customers to buy. Provide customer support. Answer e-mail queries within hours if possible. “We have made many sales by having an agent e-mail back within minutes!” adds Limjoco. 6. Get a good credit card processor, professional shopping cart, and PayPal, which now accepts payments from customers in the Philippines. 7. Put prices and cost of shipping next to the product. Limjoco tried buying at Multiply sites, but found that most sellers do not put prices and cost of shipping on their websites. “This means I have to write to someone to get the cost and shipping. As an avid online shopper myself, I will not usually bother to do this. I will just move on to someone else where I can pay online and shipping costs are estimated online as well,” says Limjoco. 8. Ship goods in a timely fashion once you get an order.
A TOTAL of three—that was the number of enrollees R. A. Gapuz Review Center (RAGRC) had back in 1994 when they opened, offering review classes for those taking government board exams. But this did not deter founder Ray Gapuz from persevering in his then newly established business. Nowadays, their number of enrollees are in the thousands, so much so, that review and coaching sessions have to be scheduled in hotel ballrooms, mall cinemas and even big events places such as the Philippine International Convention Center and Araneta Coliseum. And get this—review classes are also beamed via satellite to other venues in the country. Of course, online review courses are also offered. Today RAGRC is the market leader among nursing review centers, getting the lion's share of 40 percent of the market among 55 documented review centers, according to its website. Just how did RAGRC succeed? Josiah Go, marketing guru and chairman of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., points to market-driving strategies applied by the company. “Market-driving strategies define how a firm will embrace innovative changes in the industry logic and business system to grow its profit and industry’s demand from marginal and non-customers,” says Go. To do this, innovations may be implemented in the value proposition (what the company may offer customers), the business system, or both. Here are steps RAGRC took to succeed: 1. Give a new value proposition by: - Offering an intensive 10-day review course at 8 hours a day aside from the traditional 6-month review course at 3 times a week. The shorter review course allows nursing graduates to find work while providing RAGRC faster turnaround. - Holding review classes in hotels and malls instead of cramped classrooms. - Presenting the curriculum according to diseases regardless of age to remove any duplication encountered when doing it by specialization. This is well appreciated by the reviewees. 2. Innovate the business system by: - Going high tech and livening up review classes by holding it game show style and offering stimulating card games as reinforcement. This prevents boredom from setting in. Market-driving strategies are all about changing the rules of the game in order to attract new demand. They may just be what your company needs to be profitable and stay profitable. Josiah Go is conducting a seminar dubbed "Market-Driving Strategies: Executive Workout" on June 25-26 in Makati City and on July 14-15 in Cebu City. E-mail info@mansmith.net for details.
BY this time, most of my friends have already made their pick among the Selecta Gold flavors: Berry Strawberry, Chocolate Truffles, or Hazelnut Brownie. Which one is the best? We each had our own favorites. The three flavors are concocted by renowned Filipino chefs: J Gamboa of Cirkulo for Berry Strawberry, Rolando Laudico of Bistro Filipino for Chocolate Truffles and Sau del Rosario of Chelsea for Hazelnut Brownie. To find out which one is best, my brother-in-law bought all three. I bought a couple of pints too, when I’m not really a regular ice cream buyer (and if I do buy, it’s not Selecta). The thought, though, of having gourmet ice cream done by chefs was irresistible. Red Ribbon did the same thing, but with fashion designers. Rajo Laurel and Frederick Peralta designed beautiful tiered wedding cakes for brides-to-be to choose. Imagine saying, “My cake designer is Rajo Laurel.” Cool. HP also came out with a Vivienne Tam HP mini notebook that looks like a sleek designer clutch bag (in chic red!). Bring this to Starbucks and check your e-mail and you’ll be the envy of many. Tapping well-known designers and experts (like chefs) to collaborate on making your product may be more effective than getting a celebrity endorser. The expert, by working with you, gives the message that your brand is worth having an alliance with. You get to see how the expert can play with your product and improve it. And the customer gets the feeling that this is a limited edition of your product and so he has to get it. Result: product image gets a boost and sales may increase. Nice move.

Don't judge a customer by the way he looks

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ONE of my close friends is a very simple person. An engineer and head of her own trading company, she is most at home in jeans and casual shirts, and can live without makeup or flashy jewelry. She was just telling me a few days ago how some business establishments could be so judgmental. Recently, she went to a high-end department store because she needed to buy a whole new set of makeup to replace her whole kit. She went to the counter of a well-known international brand. Another customer, a woman who was dressed well, was there too and asked about lipsticks. The counter personnel kept on attending to the woman, showing her all the different colors of lipstick they have and encouraging her to try them on. My friend would ask for some items, which they would give her, but they did not really attend to her in the same way or offered to put on makeup on her. In the end, my friend bought a whole set of cosmetics from that brand while the woman left with just one lipstick purchase. “I told them they should have attended to me with the same level of attention they gave the other woman. It turned out I bought more than she did,” my friend said. “I could relate to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she was discriminated on in a Beverly Hills store because of how she looked.” In another incident, my friend and her husband used the valet service at the five-star hotel they go to regularly for the buffet. Now her husband is the more “maporma” between them and would always be the one to hand over the car keys to the valet and claim the car. One time, her husband had to talk to someone, and so my friend gave the claim stub to the valet counter. Other wealthy-looking people also came to claim their cars after her. My friend did not say anything but noticed that the other people were serviced first. After what seemed like thirty minutes later, she was still waiting for their car when her husband came out and wondered why it is taking so long. When the valet, who knew my friend’s husband by this time, saw him, he greeted my friend’s husband, “O boss, kayo pala. Yung claim stub niyo po?” My friend’s husband told him that his wife has been there a long time waiting for their car. The valet said they should have been informed that it is for him so they would get their car first. My friend could not let this pass and asked the valet if this is how they service customers – favoritism for the wealthier-looking ones? And so she told them that from then on, they should not expect a tip from them. They have been back to that hotel a number of times but my friend still refuses to give the valets a tip. Another friend of mine who used to work in the administration office of a bargain center in Divisoria told me how interesting it is to see people in plain shirts and tsinelas coming in and paying their leases in cash by the bayong. “They are the unassuming rich. It’s true—you should never judge a book by its cover,” she said.