Why I got into Business

A high school student came the other day and asked me about my experience as a businesswoman. His comments made me reflect on the decisions that I’ve made and why I actually got into business.

My parents were both businessman. My father was an engineer who never practiced while my mom was a calculus for engineering students for a decade before joining my father grow his failing business. When my mom met my dad, he was living with his mother and she remembers caged chickens inside his home.

My dad didn’t have anything when he met my mom.

He was living in a car,” she said. “All his belongings can fit one car. But I thought it was challenging so I married him.”

They tried to sell pencils and export bananas. They had many failed ventures and experienced hardship. When I was born, they got into a business which generated them enough income to give us a comfortable life and put me and my brother through schools.

Ever since I was young, my dad ingrained in me to be a businessman. No matter how high the salary, I should be a businessman to be considered successful.

If you are brilliant, why work for someone else? Why not be your own boss?” Said my father who has apparently forgotten his years of hardship and poverty.

Ironically, because he gave me the opportunity to go to good schools, I was trained to be marketable in the corporate world.

That’s what happens when you have good grades, held leadership positions in college and graduated from a good school — big companies like you.

The university I went to churned out graduates that were very hireable to the multinational companies.

I was active in leadership roles and had a very attractive resume. I already had a nice offer working for the largest oil company after graduation despite not applying for the job.

Life however brought me to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and London where my degree was useless.

I did however lucked out and was hired by another corporation, and did pretty well in the corporate world. Prior to quitting, I had a job that I loved in one of the best (at least in my own very biased opinion) companies in the world. My salary was a few hundred thousand pesos, enough to give me a comfortable life at a young age of 29.

I learned working for a company is not a bad thing.

My dad wasn’t really correct — I was earning a lot working for someone else. When I traveled, I experienced business class and five-star hotels. I loved my intelligent coworkers, and I was learning something new every week.

Even today, nobody has yet to beat my salary. Who can also beat 20-25 days paid vacation leaves per year?

Working for someone else doesn’t mean you’re a loser.

Actually a lot of senior corporate leaders earn a lot of money. Just check out some of the sweet salaries senior executives can make.

My boss had his four kids in international school and a beautiful stay at home wife with expensive tastes. He was doing well so long as he kept a job.

It was a great thing to be IF you can get it. Such a plush job is reachable if you study and work hard enough. Goldman Sachs and P&G will only hire you if you are the best in a top prestigious school.

If that is what you want, study hard, be on top of your class, join an organization and be the president.

Groom yourself to get the best corporate job there is.

You can do it. You just have to ensure that you prove it to the recruiter that you’re creme of the creme.

Ironically, I did end up in entrepreneurship.

Long story short, I got married to a family who gave us a business.

My husband’s parents offered us, and it was crazy not to take it.

It was small, kinda unprofitable, and I had no clue what to do. They kinda gave us lemons and to be honest, we were expected to make lemonade from it.

But I remembered my dad’s words, “It’s better to be a businessman than working for corporate.”

I did the math —- sure, the business could work if we could scale up. The roots were there already and most of the hard work of setting it up was done. All we had to do was to stabilize and grow it.

I got into business because I knew it could work. Not just because of my talent but rather because we had sufficient capital to grow it and outlast the bad days.

This is important guys — many people want to be in business so they can get rich.

I entered into business knowing I need to be poor first before I maybe get rich.

I computed it: With costs so high nowadays, to make a store required over a million pesos investment, most of it in security deposit and construction.

We doubled our number of stores, taking out loans. I was worried about money the first two years.

It’s payroll and rent season again,” I would complain to my husband as I’d get depressed. All the hard work we made went into paying our overhead and investing it back in expensive stores. I wasn’t rich because I had a business. We were rich with problems because we had a business!

But that’s business — Once you start, you can’t stop. Even when the going gets tough.

I worried a lot. Our strategy was working but I was worried it wasn’t good enough. I was scared of disappointing a lot of people, people who trusted us.

A few of our stores were duds. The profit I made in the first few years were used to pay off the loans that built those duds. We took a risk and we lost. We had to close some unprofitable stores.

But some became winners. Some stores had sales that were low but slowly grew.

Everyone worked tirelessly to build the company up. I shared with them the dream and many people helped.

Our business is now stable, more or less.

I worry less during payroll and rent season. The system is built and the team is more or less complete. All I have to do is complete the team and perfect the system.

I now have more time thinking about succession and other business. As the business grows, you need to pass it on to others. So that you will have more time in other income generating endeavours.

While the road was a bit long, I can now proudly say I am a businesswoman.

In a way dad is right. If you have the talent, be in business. Work for yourself.

But I think he forgot to mention why you should be in business.

People foolishly think that you should be in business to get rich.

Honestly, we are not rich yet.

I was actually earning more in a monthly basis in the corporate world than having my own business. In fact, my own salary now is a mere 8% of my salary then.

Yes, it’s that bad.

But as I look at my team and what we’ve accomplished together so far, I cannot help but beam with pride.

With our business, we are helping people.

I have more or less 50 people in my employ.

That’s 50 breadwinners supporting 50 families. All with stable jobs who can support their kids’ housing, food and education.

Sure, I make less now.

But the money I used to make is now shared with 50 different families and more. And the people I employ grows as the business grows.

So while I am poorer now, my heart is still rich. Because I believe creating jobs is as noble as teaching kids, and I believe that if we do this further, we can help even more people sustain even more families.

And hopefully, one day, I can get rich too. Richer than my corporate counterpart I hope.

So why did I become a businessman?

It started with my father’s dream.

Then fate brought me here when I married my husband.

But I get it now.

Being a businessman is my calling — To create jobs and to help others.

And if together, we can increase everyone’s income, then why not?

Do you want to be a businessman?

Please make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into and that your heart is in the right place.

Have a good weekend!

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