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The Filipino entrepreneur

FINALLY, we have an entrepreneurship textbook by a Filipino for Filipinos. This is the main objective for the book The Filipino Entrepreneur – Opportunities and Strategies in a Growth Economy by Deogracias “Sonny” Vistan. Sonny is a professional banker, my colleague in Citibank and Philippine National Bank. He was president of Land Bank of the Philippines and the Bankers Association of the Philippines. In 2002, he became an entrepreneur when he set up a successful ice cream business, Creamline, which was later purchased by a large conglomerate in 2015.

Part one of the book focused on entrepreneurs and on entrepreneurial principles, strategies, and risks and how to address them. The main topics are:

o To be or not to be an entrepreneur, the different kinds of entrepreneurs (the born entrepreneur, children of successful entrepreneurs, wealthy children of parents that owned considerable financial and or property assets, individuals that have investible funds for business, retired career professionals, the franchise specialist) experience, management skills and scale of business, capital required, risks and rewards, and the importance of commitment

o Preparing yourself for entrepreneurship, or how the entrepreneurs prepare themselves for the opportunities and the challenges

o Product or service, competition, brands and slogans. He discussed product differentiation, market niche, brand importance, logos, and taglines. He even let us guess popular taglines, both local and international.

o Production, service delivery and logistics, mainly about plant location, power supply, outsourcing, inventory management, regular overtime, and the importance of logistics

o Pricing strategies: cost, competition and price demand elasticity

o Channels of distribution, wholesalers and retailers, dealers and distributors, your own sales force, online retailing

o Traditional and digital advertising, or the advantages of digital versus traditional advertising, the benefits of using Facebook, Google ads, YouTube and Instagram. The top Facebook influencer is actress Marian Rivera with 26.6 million followers. On Instagram, it’s actress Anne Curtis with 18.8 million followers.

o Financial management, namely the responsibilities of the chief financial officers, relationships with banks and the importance of financial ratios. On relationships with banks, communication is important. It is best to be upfront with challenges faced and to come up with solutions together. He also talked baout the importance of matching needs with funding tenors. Do not make the mistake of getting short-term loans for long-term needs.

Incidentally, the FINEX academy offers “The CFO Masterclass,” a two-month course with 12 sessions with a faculty of distinguished CFOs. The CFO course is chaired by Jeng Pascual, 2014 ING FINEX CFO of the Year.

o Human resources, internal audit and legal, or the importance of recruiting, training, compensation, labor union, the internal audit and legal environment. Is your HR still using traditional versus modern media such as LinkedIn or the Philippines HR Group?

o On the future of entrepreneurship, he talked about long-term opportunities and threats and industries with potential and limitations, the digital age, cashless/paperless environment, and the growth of online retailing.

The second part of the book containes case studies and real life scenarios of 15 medium-scale companies in various industries. Some of the featured companies aside from Creamline are:

o Jun and Pat Pacheco’s virgin coconut oil products under the brand name Cocolicious;

o Krie Lopez’s Messy Bessy household cleaning products and personal care items;

o Kenneth Cobonpue Designer Furniture based in Cebu;

o Gerald Castillo’s Eight Media Online Solutions on digital communications;

o Willy Soong, the “born entrepreneur,” Jaguar, sports cars and Racks Prime Ribs restaurant;

o Marjorie Aviso and Teleworks Philippines, a business processing outsourcing company;

o Danny Ignacio’s dormitory and condo real estate development; and

o Julio Sy, Jr.’s Tao Corp., an unusual conglomerate.

It was a privilege to attend Sonny’s book launch at the Manila Golf, which had the added bonus of meeting the entrepreneurs featured in the book. It was like attending a free training session in Entrepreneurship 101 as he explained the different principles and told the amazing stories of each of the 15 cases. It may also help to say a prayer to make Him a partner in your business.

The views expressed herein are her own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of her office as well as FINEX.

Flor G. Tarriela is a FINEX trustee, was former chairman of Philippine National Bank, former Undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A. A gardener and an environmentalist, she founded Flor’s Garden in Antipolo.

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