This story is not about that popular cartoon character Felix the Cat, which was loved by children and adults back in the 90s. I am talking about Felix Ang of CATS Motors, Inc., who is known for providing a world-class automobile ownership experience in the Philippines. Just like his cartoon feline counterpart, he exhibited curiosity and an innovative character in running his business, which were the reasons why he propelled into success.

Felix is one of the entrepreneurs that I have always admired. He is the face of Mercedes-Benz in the Philippines, which is considered as one of the most luxurious car brands in the world. He may be a prominent figure in the automotive industry today, but this humble man never forgets where he came from and the steps that he took to where he is now.

Starting at 16 years old, Felix worked at a family friend’s trading company, counting jeepney spare parts. He worked in the afternoon after his English classes in the morning, but eventually he decided to drop out of school. To do this, he had to make a bargain with his parents to allow him one year to focus on working full-time.

After spending two years at the vehicle parts store, he and his elder brother Tony decided to put up their own trading company. Felix had built a good reputation when he was still with his former employer, so when he started his own trading company, the suppliers already knew him. He only had his face value as capital, but suppliers gave him their trust. They would give Felix the parts he needed on credit, and he will make sure that he pays them back on time.

From buy-and-sell, they set up their own car parts store in Araneta Avenue, until they started to offer car accessories. His age did not really pose as a challenge, and his determination and knowledge in car parts maintained their company’s growth. Looking back, it was fun for him to learn about the trading industry from experience, but had he went to school first to study business, Felix would have thought twice because it seemed too complicated.

However, Felix noticed that as time passed, the market started to shift. Unlike when he was still starting out, cars began to roll out with complete accessories. He thought that they needed to shift their focus from parts and accessories into something else. In response to this, he established Greenhills CATS Inc. in 1989, which is an acronym for Car Accessories, Tires and Servicenter, Inc.

At that point, he was really driven to succeed. In his mind, Felix thinks that the only way for him to make it was to get his own brand. After being a dealer with a couple of luxury vehicle brands, CATS Motors Inc. was appointed as a workshop, and then a dealer afterwards, for Mercedes-Benz. Years after, he became the importer of the brand, but he did not stop there.

In the early 2000s, the opportunity to be the general distributor of Mercedes-Benz in the Philippines opened, and everyone in the car industry wants to have it. Felix made sure that he had a good fighting chance by maintaining a good track record as a dealer, earning several recognitions along the way. Aside from that, he presented a good business plan for the brand. He got the vote of confidence from the brand’s regional manager in 2004, which paved the way for CATS Motors Inc. to become the general distributor of Mercedes-Benz, and later on Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge.

Carrying a brand that has been in the market for 125 years is a constant challenge for Felix to perform well. With the changing demands in the market and the growing number of competitors, he sees to it that his customer base is happy and satisfied. To do so, he trains his people and maintains a positive work environment for them to deliver the utmost customer service. He also makes his dealerships convenient and equipped to meet the needs of the customers.

Despite the demands of being the founder of the country’s prime automotive company, Felix personally believes in paying it forward. His name has been associated with various causes such as Habitat for Humanity and Gawad Kalinga. Aside from this, he is a trustee of Go Negosyo, because he shares our vision of helping Filipinos eliminate poverty through entrepreneurship. Corporate social responsibility is a part of the core business of CATS Motors Inc.

More than thirty years since he started as a part-time employee at a small trading company, Felix is now reaping the rewards of his hard work. CATS Motors Inc. is growing stronger than ever. Just last year, he was named as one of PLDT’s 2012 Bossings, a pool of business icons carefully selected for their dedication and contribution to their respective fields. His personal life has been wonderful as well, when he and his wife Grace had been blessed with a daughter last February, whom he named Francesca Grace.

If there was one thing that he would like to impart his children from his journey as an entrepreneur, Felix would teach the value of perseverance and hard work. Like him, he wants his children to learn from the lowest level and rise up the ranks by themselves. He feels that learning from experience will make his children successful not only in business but also in life, and I could not agree more.

Aside from his career and personal successes, Felix feels that things are changing in the country, for the better. Given his years in the auto industry, where he experienced many natural, man-made financial and political disasters, he felt that the Philippines is now at the period where business confidence is at an all-time high, and reforms instituted in all sectors of the government are becoming more apparent. In his own way, Felix wants to help this vision come to reality, which is why he made major investments in his business, from facilities to employee recognition and training.

Just like Felix, I believed that this is our best chance to turn the tables and be recognized as one of the economic forces to reckon with in Asia. As we move towards being rerated this year, hopefully towards Investment Grade, this will be a signal for more investments to come in the country. For entrepreneurs like Felix, today is not just a period of survival: this is the time where we should maximize our strategies and aim for growth.

Pilipinas: Now is our time!