Last July 24, Globe myBusiness in cooperation with CHiNOY TV organized this wonderful talk featuring four entrepreneurs in three distinct businesses:
Hosted by Ms. Valerie Tan, this Modern Taoke episode featured the following entrepreneurs:
1. Ms. Myrna Yao of Rich Fund Global
2. Mr. Jacinto Ng Jr., Owner of the Joy Nostalg Hotel, whose family operates a powerplant in Ilo-Ilo, Bukidnon and another city. They also do low-cost and socialized housing.
3. Mr. Dioceldo Sy, President and CEO, and Ms. Denice Sy Munez, Head of Marketing, Ever Bilena
Myrna Yao, Richprime Global President and CEO
Mrs. Yao has been in the business for over 30 years, handling over 40 brands including Barbie, Fisher Price, HotWheels, VTech Toys, Fisher Price, Thomas & Friends, and UNO.
Started her own business after her conservative father gave their family business to the son, her brother. Given the family hierarchy, Ms. Yao had to turn over the business to the brother after he graduated. However, because of this, Ms. Yao had to start her own business, which grew to be very successful. Now, her business is now being turned over to her daughters and her grandchildren — no more discrimination against females!
Training of her daughters to do business started when they were young. When they were 10 years old, Ms. Yao brought them on business trips. She told them, “Always look deeper in everything that you see so that you can be creative. You don’t accept just what you see. You think beyond.”
In other words, “Think out of the box.”
Due to COVID-19, sales has been down 50%. It’s still better than expecting as Ms. Myrna has projected sales of only 30%.
People are still buying toys. Floatables sold well over the summer. The only ones affected are the shoes since children cannot go out. They were able to expand the online business. Her daughter Laiza is focusing on internet sales. So this COVID-19 gave them the opportunity to pivot.
Innovations during the Pandemic
The last few months were a time to strengthen the company’s online and Facebook marketing arms. Traditionally, the company predominantly promoted their products via TV and events. Now, online is becoming 70% of the marketing budget. This is not really a bad thing as Ms. Myrna sees online as being the future. So COVID-19 was able to give an opportunity for them to develop their online footprint.
Biggest takeaway in managing a family business
You can’t remove work from Ms. Myrna’s DNA. Before COVID-19, she reflected on whether she should retire or not. However, she found herself still going to the office 3x a week. But on her spare time, she has promised herself that she will devote some time to doing agriculture in a piece of land in Bulacan. While they do have some pockets of land in Bicol, her land in Bulacan is more convenient to develop.
The key thing is that a business should know how to innovate and be ahead of the competitors. 50% of the business come from the toys, 10% of which is baby products. As the captain of the ship, Ms. Myrna want new things every year, as this is one catalyst for the business to grow. Richwell tries to be innovative all the time. They cannot go through what they did like last year and any other year. They need to be way ahead of the market.
Even when building things away from online, the business always has to look for opportunity. Even in digital world, the company needs to find something that’s not there, and be ahead of the game. Even with retail, managers must seek to make the most of every opportunity.
Mr. Jacinto Ng Jr., Joy-Nostalg CEO
Mr. Jacinto Jr. worked with his father for 15 years while in a partnership with other people. However, after seeing that the industry and the company was slowing down, the father talked to the son and prodded him to start a business of their own, just the two of them. With the guidance of his father, Mr. Jacinto was able to chart the course of the company.
The entrepreneur talked about the pros and cons of following your parents’ footsteps, or doing your own.
“Continuing your parents’ business is a way of honoring them,” he respectfully said. “It’s a way of honoring people who have helped you build the business and raised you as a child and your family. Even if the revenues go down, you have networks of suppliers, banks and professionals who depend on your reputation for you to go on.”
Mr. Jacinto recommended only following your path if you have talents. In a way, a business of your own is a way of diversifying a family business. So if in case one business falls, another business is still there to survive.
This advice is most critical as the family is in the hotel business, and hotels, travel and leisure are the industries most affected from COVID-19. As early as January 2020, the team already had their health and safety protocols are set. It was scary because people were dying as early as January 2020. In the beginning, it did not feel it was a pandemic. But when China shutdown Wuhan and some Chinese cities, the Joy-Nostalg team took the cue from there, they knew that the traveling be severely impacted in the next coming months.
Despite the challenges they have right now, the business is still designing ways to redesign and pivot. It is a relief that they believe that traveling will still be around. Even when it’s restricted, you can’t remove traveling from people’s bucket list. Hotels and restaurants will still exist, even if it’s in another form. They just need to pivot and adjust short-term wise to survive until a vaccine is found.
Currently, they are focused on transferring the knowledge to all their people. To understand what this disease is all about and to protect each other better. They have Viber communities so they can communicate to their staff properly.
So far, work has resumed since mid-May. There were a lot of pending house turnovers, so when they started working, they also invested in testing. They tested their workers every 2 weeks. All guests were rapid tested. If anyone was positive, they have to take a confirmatory RT-PCR test. This ensures that the site is “clean.” They are also refurbishing their office to accommodate the people to work at fuller capacity but still maintaining the distancing.
Coming Up With New Ways to Navigate the Crisis
Internet-wise, they have increased their client engagement online. They have made “online tripping” possible, where someone from their team is showing off the subdivisions online. There’s online payments.
Since a lot of their customers were in the marginalized low-income market with lower resources to travel, they built up their own logistics service and called it, “Joy Joy Move.” Through their own logistics service, they can get the documents back and forth easily. They need these documents to properly file a loan with Pag-Ibig.
Wearing PPEs, their people at Joy Joy Move will bring the contracts and documents to customers. They can have the customers fill up on the spot and bring the documents timely back to the office.
Everyone knows how to chat via Messenger. So another low-tech innovation was to pay for their customer’s communication. The business bought loads for the customer so they have the Internet to transact with the company so the transactions will push through.
To start a business, important things to consider…
You need to understand the market, competition and have a unique advantage on how to compete. That should be very basic and cannot be overstated.
Beyond that, it’s important that you can define the business mission — what the business is all about. If the business cannot state its mission, the business may be short lived. it is the mission that determines the business’ relevance.
If you want to start and sustain a business, you must identify what the mission is all about. One of the favorite examples is a business selling candles who went out of business once light bulbs were created. However, when you think about candles, the product is actually light. When you realize your mission, you can easily pivot.
The company also views their people as their partners. If you’re having a hard time, then they’re also having a harder time. If your people are giving their all, you can come up with better strategies and execute them better. So you need to look at your people as partners.
Ms. Dioceldo Sy and Ms. Denice Sy Munez, Ever Bilena
Ever Bilena started in 1983, around the time Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. With a lot of businessmen ran away to safety, Mr. Dioceldo stayed behind and built Ever Bilena. It is because of this courage and grit that enabled them to build the makeup company they know today.
After graduating in 2014, daughter Denice started as a key accounts supervisor handling their chain of convenience stores. She was then promoted to handle supermarket, drugstores, and Watsons. From then on, Denice got involved in marketing and product development. Denice has been actively pushing online to the company, and has quite successful with it:
Sir Dioceldo admitted that this pandemic had no precedent. However, the effect is huge both locally and globally. This is a different scenario vs. the previous crisis the world has experienced. Hence, we have to throw away what’s normal in managing business operations.
When they restarted in mid-May, they have to start from scratch again. Mr. Dioceldo and Ms. Denice have to check the situation and adapt to the current situation. Every time a new government came out, everyone had to adjust.
Innovations amidst the Pandemic
In the midst of pandemic, Denice did field work. Throughout this pandemic, they’ve pivoted to work on new channels — adding direct selling and online networking channel to their retail channel. Online selling is their contingency in case traffic in retail don’t recover soon.
Online platform is totally new to Ever Bilena. It took Denice two weeks to convince her father to focus on the online business. However, after launching, it has had an impressive result.
As Head of Marketing, Denice knows that you need to aggressively convince customers to buy despite lower spending power. Offering boosters is common. Boosters are small promotions to entice dealers to buy more.
For retail, while mark down is discouraged, they added value by bundling products together. This ensures they can push more products and offer clients better value.
For online selling, Ever Bilena has created a lot of different products include cheap masks. While other retail stores are closing, Ever Bilena is motivated to develop new products at this time to grab market share. On retail stores, they offered acetate swatches to prevent COVID-19 infection
Denice admits that the road to working with her father is not always smooth. It took her 2 weeks of discussion to convince her father to focus on online marketing.
“It’s okay to have disagreements as long as your heart is genuinely for the company,” Denice shared. “We talk about work every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since we live together, we talk about work 24/7.”
Since Denice is a workaholic, she finds it fun to brainstorm and generate more data with her father/boss. The process of arguing helps her hone her business idea further, and makes her more bought into her ideas. To convince management, she needs to ensure her presentations are data driven and factual.
The senior Sy admitted, “Always trust in God. I thought when I hit 60, I thought I would work less. But now, I work more, grabbing opportunities when they knock on their door. There’s projects in Guam. The building in Ayala in the Arca South Building, the first earthquake proof in building. So it keeps me very busy.”
While the father and daughter argue at times, once outside the boardroom, the idea they agreed on must be fully supported by everyone. This helps Denice on her toes and challenged as she continues to help her dad in the family business.