Say Chinese and everyone assume that you have a family business to take over—more often than not it is actually the case if you are born to Chinese parents here. And rather than looking at it as a shortcut to having your own business, a number of Filipino-Chinese kids often look at it as a burden imposed upon them by their parents and ancestors.
However, Marcelo Ko, managing director of Consolidated Dairy and Frozen Foods Corp. (manufacturer of Milk Magic dairy beverages), asserts that his experience growing up is what actually trained him in business and has molded him into the successful businessman that he is now.
Here are some of the lessons he learned from his parents, which every Filipino entrepreneur must also keep in mind in running a business:
1. Customers take top priority.
Ko’s family lived in a two-story wooden house on Elcano Street. Like a lot of Filipino-Chinese homes, the ground floor was the store area, while the top floor served as the living quarters. "This set-up was quite convenient,” Ko notes. “Even on Sundays, if some customers knocked on our door, we were able to go down and serve their requirements.”
2. Start them young.
Experience is truly the best teacher. Ko and his brother were in their early teens when they began helping their parents run the store. “At that time, most of our customers still paid in cash. Sometimes the money was in bundles, but the bank only wanted to receive money that was neatly folded. I remember counting and arranging the cash into bundles of 100 pieces each. It was quite fun!”
3. No job is too menial, even if you are the CO (child of owner).
Ko took on more duties as he grew older. Sometimes he’d act as a checker in the warehouse or do delivery whenever one of their workers was absent. On Saturdays, he went out and collected payment from their customers. "Being able to do any task yourself—no matter how small—adds to an employer’s 'aura of respect,'" Ko advises. Such flexibility shows that you know what you’re doing and that you’re ready to pitch in when necessary.
4. Appearances can be deceiving.
Relationships are built on trust, so beware of letting down your guard. Clients with consistently good credit records are not exempt from wrongdoing. Ko points out that some customers can “build up their reputation by being good payers from the start, like always paying in cash for the first few orders.” Because they’ve secured your confidence, eventually you allow them to pay in check. But once they’ve accumulated a big amount of credit with you, that’s when “they will suddenly disappear and all their checks will bounce,” Ko warns.
5. Focus on things that matter.
If you want to guard against bad credit, don’t be a big spender, Ko suggests. Investments in equipment, infrastructure, and improvements are okay, but forego a holiday abroad or a costly car, especially if it’s beyond your means. More importantly, “keep a low profile, so as not to attract attention and avoid trouble,” he adds.
Say Chinese and everyone assume that you have a family business to take over–more often than not it is actually the case if you are born to Chinese parents here. And rather than looking at it as a shortcut to having your own business, a number of Filipino-Chinese kids often look at it as a burden imposed upon them by their parents and ancestors.