Neil U. Sison has gone from being an employee to a self-employed man to the head of a big group of companies built around his accounting and tax consulting practice.
But something more basic really spurred him to become an entrepreneur: he wanted to have children.
Sison, the co-founder and managing director of the SJC Group and Aktus Global Management Inc., was simply burned out in nearly eight years as an auditor with Sycip, Gorres and Velayo—or SGV, the country’s largest professional services firm—where he also met his wife, Alina, likewise an accountant and internal auditor.
They had been married five years, but owing to the stress of their jobs, they had failed to conceive a child during that time. Around March in the year 2000, Sison made plans to leave SGV. He had actually been hired by telecom giant Globe as a manager to handle its acquisition of some properties in the Visayas and Mindanao, but suddenly fell ill after a visit to Semirara, Antique.
The sickness kept him from joining Globe, as he had to recover for over a month. During that time, Sison thought about a lot of things, including the fact that he wanted a regular 8-to-5 job—a rarity given his constant overtime work at SGV.
Also, he and Alina had joined a Catholic charismatic community, and says he realized he had not been thanking God for the blessings he had been getting before that time.
“I’m not religious, but my faith is very strong,” says Sison, who then prayed for a sign that his wish to be his own boss would be fulfilled. The answers came in succession in December that same year: Alina got pregnant, and a friend had referred him to a client who offered to pay Sison P20,000 for a freelance accounting job.
It was just the amount he had prayed to receive for such a job, to help make up his mind of striking out on his own. Thanks to more referrals from his co-workers and friends, he had a steady stream of work from January to April, the peak season for accounting firms in the country.
But when that peak period passed and the jobs slowed to a trickle, Sison had trouble running his home-based business. He had hired as many as nine people to help him out in his first year of operation, but gradually three things happened: 1) His best staff resigned to look for better opportunities 2) Other staff quit citing health reasons, and 3) Sison fired people who were “not desirable” or were treating their jobs lightly, he says.
To remedy the situation, Sison relied on one thing: referrals. He says he only hired people who were referred to him personally by his friends at SGV and other co-workers from his previous job at Punongbayan and Araullo, another professional services firm.