Archive for April, 2007

Correcting Corruption (Part 2)

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

For the past three weeks, this column tackled two of the most serious problems that our country faces today, as cited in a survey: hunger and corruption; and, naturally for me, those issues were discussed in the context of entrepreneurship. Also, rather than dwell on the endless debates about the problem, I chose to focus more on the solutions.

In our last week’s issue on corruption, we stressed that corruption should not be associated with the level of poverty and stage of development. Rather, we see more of this issue in countries with relatively poorer socio-political structures and in regulated environment with vague rules and procedures which makes the system more vulnerable to abuse. It’s a good thing that in our country, there’s increasing consciousness on how to improve corporate governance, both in private and government sectors, and how rules and procedures are getting tightened to minimize rooms for corruption.

The reality however is that corruption still exists in almost all places in the world, although in varying degrees. Surveys on these issues should not at all discourage us but just to remind us of what we all need to do urgently so these problems are minimized. Problems should not get in the way of entrepreneurs in fulfilling their vision and ambitions. They should remain focus in seeing through the realization of their business ideas and plans. All successful entrepreneurs, and many are part of the Go Negosyo ecosystem, are living proofs that everything is possible. Once micro and small entrepreneurs, they have pursued their dreams and have grown in the past years, focus on their business models and unperturbed by any socio-political scenarios, facing constant challenges and seeking endless opportunities to become leading entrepreneurs of the country today. They are now the job and wealth creators of our country, helping uplift the economy and the condition of our people.

These are the people we need to encourage. They take control of their own destiny and not leave it to bahala na attitude nor just depend on others. This is what Go Negosyo is trying to change. So let’s get inspired with stories like these and not lose hope. I remember the Angel Story we featured in this column regarding Estrella Castillo. She is an example of a person wanting to take control of her life and who did not let her health and financial condition and other macro issues affect her vision. Mrs. Castillo is just one of the many aspiring entrepreneurs who sought business advise from Go Negosyo because she wanted to augment her family’s income to help sustain her family’s medical needs. She realized that the only way to overcome her financial obstacles was to improve on her existing business and pursue additional business opportunities. She has written me again to give an update. Because of her perseverance, remaining focused in growing her business, coupled with advise/assistance from Go Negosyo and mentor Butch Jimenez of PLDT, Estrella is now the proud owner of an internet café called the “East Station Internet Café”, aside from managing her salted egg and balut business, on which she is also doing some business repositioning and expansion, with the help of other Go Negosyo mentors.

Just recently, I also got an email from two young students in high school who want to be entrepreneurs. They are examples of how we want our nation of young kids to be. Let me share with you their letter:

Dear Mr. Concepcion:

Warm greetings! I and my high school student sister would like to ask your advice and assistance to be able to continue and expand our micro website and graphic designs service business for small and medium sized firms this summer.

So far we were already able to make five (5) websites and several graphic layouts through our dad’s assistance. Now it’s up for us to source out new clients on our own which we have done through Buy and Sell, Express Ads, mini-posters etc. We already have several inquiries but it seems they cannot yet afford our rate which we have already lowered down to Php 2,550 for a 10-page website.

Unfortunately we don’t know if we can survive on our own with the present market and economy set up. We hope you and your colleagues can help refer us to those who can afford websites otherwise we will be forced to shut down and just concentrate on our vacation and studies but first thank you for your encouragements to young people.

We really like the idea of doing business and earning even before finishing school and we are actually inspired by our dad who was already doing business while still a high school student in Don Bosco through the initial support of our grandfather lawyer turned businessman.

Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you and God bless all Filipino entrepreneurs!

Respectfully yours,
Zandro George V. Dadivas and Julienne Joyce V. Dadivas

We are providing them other potential clients, but let me invite and extend their offering to anyone out there who would need their services. Please email them at

Watch out too as we enhance the Forum section of our website where one can post products and services offered by any entrepreneur; as well as the other side of the coin, which are the raw material and service requirements of others.

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Here is the last batch of responses from entrepreneurs and their views on how to minimize corruption:

(CEO and Chairman, M&H Foods Corp./ Hen Lin)
Entrepreneurs can influence the government to address the issue of corruption by stressing to those concerned the need and importance for moral transformation and good governance. Good governance creates an environment of efficiency, orderliness and above all, it can minimize if not eradicate corruption. Corruption impedes progress. A progressive nation benefits its people.

The Philippines may be one of the most corrupt countries in Asia but this should not discourage investors to invest here because there are other positive factors that they can consider in making their investments viable and potentially profitable (and their stay here really enjoyable).

(Managing Director, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Inc.)
At the mutually reinforcing institutions of CARD, we wanted to help people who help themselves on the basis of sustainability. We give trust and confidence to our socially and economically challenged members and we have proven that for 20 years, we have assisted them to move out of poverty. We know that in making our members to be microentrepreneurs and employ people within their community, we help in minimizing the number of poor people solely dependent to the Philippine government. This situation minimized the opportunities of doing corruption among these societies as there are less room for dole-outs and government full intervention on the needs of the poor.

The experience of CARD may influence the government that in providing opportunities for the Filipino poor, we can build better societies and attract more investors since the poor have proven that they are also entrepreneurs in their own way.

Correcting Corruption

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

For the past two weeks, this column has discussed the issue on hunger and possible solutions to this problem. Eleven entreps gave their opinions on how we can fight hunger in this country and among those who replied were: Usec. Mel Alonzo of DTI, Santi Araneta of LBC Express, Dra. Vicky Belo of the Belo Medical Group, Nonoy Colayco of Level Up!, Joey Gurango of Webworks, Dr. Rolando Hortaleza of Splash Corporation, Butch Jimenez of PLDT, Johnlu Koa of French Baker, Manny Pangilinan of PLDT, Socorro Ramos of National Bookstore and Ardy Roberto of Salt & Light Ventures.

In summary, the solution to hunger is really about creating more enterprising Pinoys and teaching them how to fish. But the process will have to be a concerted effort between the private sector and government and getting big business people to create business models for the small entreps. While some banks have started, there is a need to get more banks to lend and support MSME’s so they can start to expand their businesses. I hope to see banks lending more aggressively not only to the successful corporations but to micro, small and medium entrepreneurs and in a way support in incubating these businesses. Banks can also increase loan allocations to rural banks and MFI’s who support micro financing programs.

These topics of hunger and corruption are somehow related. We have observed that corruption in a way is correlated with low level of economic development or where hunger could also be a national issue. While poverty is cited as a probable factor, I am not to say that hunger directly leads to corruption as we know a lot of less fortunate and financially-deprived Filipinos striving to make a clean and honest living, of high moral values and adhering to a God-centered way of life.

I guess the correlation could be attributed more to weaker control structures, jurassic rules and procedures, lack of transparency and the highly regulatory regime that are oftentimes associated with developing economies. As the country develops, and probably also true the other way around, controls are in place and there is better check and balance in the way things are run. We see more transparency and consciousness towards stronger corporate governance, both in the public and private sectors. Above all, there’s greater demand for moral leadership.

There must be political will to institute reforms, less regulatory and more promotional policies with clearer set of rules that leave no room for negotiations and discretions with rule-makers and implementors.

The overall policy environment and good governance culture set in a virtuous cycle that encourages more investments, entrepreneurship and job and wealth creation. So as we take this journey towards development, we build on a better conducive climate to build entrepreneurship. We now see corporate governance and more transparency enter into the private sector. Higher standards are now being asked of public companies, and we see more private companies become public.

In the public sector, we must bank on pro-economy, developmental and honest leaders that will help bring the country forward. As we get more enterprising leaders who have a clear vision of what they want to see their town, province and city either as a lawmaker or a hands-on local government official, then we can see a more progressive climate that can diminish further the areas for corruption.

It is also important to see our leaders become more frugal on spending, as this builds confidence on the part of the taxpayers that the money given to government are spent wisely. Seeing people’s money put to good use encourages more people to pay taxes that will fund more development projects benefiting the people and the economy.

Any remaining issue on corruption in fact should not influence entrepreneurs to see if they should invest or not. By getting into business, you contribute to the nation’s economy when you pay taxes and hire people and create business opportunities for others. As we see this positive cycle, together with the moral leadership and stronger good governance practices mentioned above, we can hope for a more conducive “cleaner” business environment in the near future.

Here are contributions from other entrepreneurs on how to minimize corruption:

(chairman and CEO, Toby’s Group of Companies)
The government must institute transparency in the procedures of complying with its rules and regulations. They must be printed and clearly seen and understood by all applicants. These should include the process, the paper flow and the rates to be paid. This should be very visible in the place of transaction. Government offices must also provide for “fast-tracked” processing for an additional fee. These should clearly be stated and made available as part of the menu of services in government agencies such as passport renewal, driver’s license renewal, business permit application, etc. In the past, facilitations like these were done unofficially and thus were construed as corrupt practices. If we legitimize the use of “Fast-tracked” services and publish rates for such, then the perception of corruption will be reduced.

As to foreign investors, my advice to them is: Ask all the foreign companies and multinationals operating in the Philippines why they are still doing business here if corruption is an issue to them? Ask especially those who have been doing business in the Philippines for more than 10 years.

(CEO and president, Chikka Asia)
Government should push for a campaign that talks about corruption – the common ones, the consequences, the effects on our youth, their future. They should create an incentive for watchdogs. The incentive is likely financial. Anonymity should be preserved. But a government, or third party body could be the investigators and auditors.

(founder and managing partner, Narra Venture Capital)
As entrepreneurs and investors in the field of information systems, the problems of corruption and all other inefficiencies are viewed by us in Narra Venture Capital as opportunities for new products and services. Examples are the use of internet watchdog and electronic procurement or bidding systems. Making information readily available is clearly great for transparency and accountability.

(president, Cebuana Lhuiller)
Asia remains as the dynamic engine of global free trade. Though corruption plagues a number of countries like the Philippines, investments help give the needed boost to improve living conditions. Our investments create jobs, improving living conditions, thereby putting a better chance for people to do good, and eradicating corruption in the long run.

(president, Zoobic Safari Corporation)
“Sa Kauunlad ng Bayan… Disiplina ang kailangan”… these are beautiful thoughts of Marcos during Martial Law! Unfortunately he couldn’t sustain it! But Singapore did!! Lee Kuan Yew then added one additional component (espaused by Michael Porter…a business guru) which is productivity! That made Singapore top 10 in GDP in the world…we are not yet late… we can still transform with a good benevolent and honest hardnose leader/s. The old concept/approach is “do it, you’ll have it and you’ll be it”… since we are kinda late (last 3 min)…Lets just be it, do it and we’ll have it!!

Solutions to Hunger (Part 2)

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

It seems my column entitled “God’s Greatest Gift” which was written two weeks ago when my daughter Maria Isabella Alexandria was born has elicited a lot of response. Thanks to those who sent kind emails/messages. In a way, I guess we have also inspired those still trying to have children above 40 years old. My wife mentioned to me that this is one gift that you cannot buy even if you wanted to. Seeing my newborn daughter every day is absolutely priceless.

I also discussed a very timely and important topic last week which was about hunger. To those who have not read that column that came out last Maundy Thursday, let me point out some key points.

Hunger is one of the most prevalent and age-old problems that our country is suffering until now. The root of the problem I believe is the lack of “responsible parenthood” where some would have too many kids, not knowing how they can adequately provide for their bright future like the right kinds of food, shelter and good education. I guess many still rely on others like government for support and doleouts from other sectors. While there are programs of government that take care of these, the number of dependents simply multiply geometrically that it would become impossible to service everyone. And it is also this practice that perpetuates that cycle. And to those not happy would simply complain and blame everyone except themselves.

Thus, it is this cycle that we must aim to break. We must create that mindset of optimism, a can do- winning attitude that would make them do something productive and take control of their lives, no longer relying on others for support. Spreading a culture of entrepreneurship I believe is one of the ways we can solve this problem. And as we advocate entrepreneurship, let it be not simply getting into business. I think we can see many Pinoy entreps but mostly considered survival entrepreneurs. What we must advocate is the kind of entrepreneurial mindset that always seeks for unserved demand, one that develops better concepts and innovations that have better market opportunities. Being different pays as long as their creativity translate to products or services that are very relevant to and affordable for the consumers. If we are able to create this generation of enterprising Pinoys, then I absolutely do not see any reason why Filipinos will go hungry.

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Here are other contributions from entrepreneurs on how we should solve the hunger problem in this country:

(Owner and Medical Director, Belo Medical Group)
It starts with family where an entrepreneurial mindset is molded by our parents. From the age of 5 my mother would bring cute things from the US for me to sell in school. It inculcated in me the joy of entrepreneurship.

Our educational system should also refocus its thrust and undergo a certain entrepreneurial renaissance. There should also be a major Government advocacy in encouraging and recognizing entrepreneurship.

Another way is to provide incentives and increase small and medium scale financing programs. We should move from a nation of managers to a nation of owners. Being entrepreneurs satisfies our personal needs for freedom, flexibility, variety, creativity, responsibility, control and authority.

(Founder and CEO, French Baker)
The development of a culture of entrepreneurship among Filipinos must begin with the belief that risks are attendant to any business venture. Failure should be taken as an opportunity for learning and not a reason for quitting. The Filipino entrepreneur must always be able to constantly draw insights from their target consumers on how to better serve their needs. Short-term benefits for himself must give way to long term goals of the enterprise such as ploughing back profits into the business for expansion. Finally, government must create an environment conducive for business. It should not only regulate but also promote business activities.

(DTI Undersecretary for Small and Medium Enterprises Development)
We should start with the youth: with the help of educators, especially entrepreneurship educators, we should make entrepreneurship a more popular option for the youth who are planning their future, and will be shaping our country’s future as well. We must stress the enormous potential of entrepreneurs to generate not only their own income but jobs for others as well. The DTI, for instance, through the SME Development Group, has partnered with colleges and universities for its Campus Tour—Entrepreneurship Series, which coaches student participants on the basics of entrepreneurship. We have also embarked on a project with the Department of Education’s Youth Entrepreneurship and Cooperativism in School. Although a module on entrepreneurship had already been included in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools to give students income options at an early stage, this module covered skills development, and not much emphasis was given to business management, business planning, work values and attitudes. So we seek to address this gap through the training of teachers, principals and division heads on these aspects of business, after which they are expected to turn around and pass on their learnings to their students under the existing class module on entrepreneurship.

MERNARDO “BUTCH” JIMENEZ (Senior Vice President, PLDT)
Entrepreneurship is a combination of good business sense and creativity. The first one can be learned, the second Filipinos are already born with. So definitely, Filipinos have what it takes to become entrepreneurs. Developing a culture is a long process, and experts will tell you the most effective way to develop a culture is to catch them while they are young. So in my view, if we want to develop a culture of entrepreneurs among Filipinos lets start exposing children now to the values of entrepreneurship and we will have a nation of entrepreneurs in less than a generation.

(Chairman and CEO, Splash Corporation)
I think we should start them young. Let entrepreneurial education be a part of our school curriculum – from elementary to college. Let’s have more universities offering courses on entrepreneurship. Let’s persuade our successful entrepreneurs to reach out to our young people so that they may become role models to them. Let us build the environment that will encourage our youth to consider entrepreneurship as career instead of just looking forward to being employed in some big firms. To develop a culture we have to plant seeds. And what better way to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship than in the hearts and minds of our future generation.

Solutions to Hunger and Corruption

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Upon hearing that the Philippines ranked pretty high up in terms of hunger and corruption made me think of possible solutions to the age-old problems that have been haunting our country up until now. Let us discuss hunger in this issue and corruption in next week’s column… I believe the solution to hunger is “to teach our nation how to fish” and all it takes is for all those successful entrepreneurs and business experts to share their time and expertise to mentor aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. It has been our advocacy, in our own little way, to reach out to others so that they can be inspired, empowered, be more informed and gain more confidence in enhancing their business.

To those who have traveled and have seen a hungry Pinoy in other countries, please let us know. To my knowledge, there has been no Pinoy that has gone hungry overseas. Pinoys are one of the most enterprising workers in any country they are in. They see opportunities for growth either in an office environment or in business. I believe they are the epitome of what our advocacy has been pushing all along. They maintain an entrepreneurial mindset in everything that they do which is basically having the right winning attitude, never ceasing to see opportunities, innovating on the status quo or creating something new for the market.

So why are Filipinos going hungry in our own country? Are they lazy? Or are they not entrepreneurial? Do they have so many children, more than what they can support? These questions are important because people who grow hungry out of laziness are probably those who deserve it. But we can see in some studies that our country actually has a high propensity for entrepreneurship but most are micro or small, often characterized as survival microentrepreneurs who have little or no innovations nor technology-use nor differentiation from other businesses, and therefore would often lead to mortality. We must therefore do our share to encourage, advise and empower our kababayans to be agents of innovations in any product or services that they provide.

I think it is equally important as well to promote responsible parenthood. Part of that is the simple logical belief that if one cannot afford to have so many children, then he must not do so. Lack of responsible family planning I believe is the greatest source of the hunger and poverty problems. Related consequences to this of course are the health, education and other social issues which I need not dwell on.

A related issue is the rural-to-urban migration, and hopefully it is a sustainable pattern of reversal as regional development efforts are taking effects with increased economic activity in the provinces. This is more evident with the continuous opening of provincial branches of super malls of SM, Robinsons and Ayala, the Puregold and Waltermart branches as well as homegrown regional malls and hypermarts. This means faster growth rate in the regions, which we know is further enhanced with the acceleration of infrastructure projects in the super regions. Now the speed and sustainability of this momentum would greatly depend on how enterprising and creative the local people are and also how proactive and supportive their respective local government officials, from the governor, to the mayors are and down to all local officials so that they can truly harness the potential of their regional competencies and resources.

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I asked some of our entrepreneurs on their thoughts on how we can create a spirit of enterprise in the Philippines and this is what they said…

(Chairman of the Board, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company)
I definitely believe we can develop a national culture of entrepreneurship – I certainly wouldn’t have moved back after so many in years in Hong Kong if I had doubts about our capacity to rise to our futures!

At its core, entrepreneurship is about individuality and responsibility. We must therefore inculcate a culture of responsible citizens, who seek healthy competition, and due to their creativity, innovation and determination to work hard and persevere, can win the confidence of consumers.

At PLDT and Smart we’ve actually grown many ancillary businesses due to a rebirth in entrepreneurial spirit amongst our managers. We encourage an open and honest style in how we deal with each other, which breeds accountability and transparency. It also means that we’re better prepared at recognizing our weaknesses and addressing them. Once we’ve addressed a problem we let that manager perform to the best of their ability — entrepreneurship is about taking responsibility and running with it!

A lot of progress has been made in recent years towards seeing more small and medium size businesses grow. We need a lot more of that to happen — and it has to start with building a strong work ethic and feeling of personal responsibility about one’s own destiny. I’ve found that more often than not, once someone feels empowered so that they are in charge of their life’s decisions, they often choose to make responsible, informed ones.

(General Manager, National Bookstore)
I think the key is education at all levels. For the youth, entrepreneurship should be discussed as early as high school or even at the elementary school level. We should not have to wait until they are in college before encouraging our children to start their own business. And take note, entrepreneurship is not only for the young. There should be an active program of education – perhaps at the barangay level – that can encourage and educate would-be entrepreneurs regardless of age or financial capability. After all, anyone who can cook or run even a small sari-sari store, as long as they are willing to work hard, is already an entrepreneur.

(Chairman, LBC Mabuhay USA Corporation)
Most Filipinos are siguristas than risk-takers. Risk is part of business. In order to attract more Filipinos to be entrepreneurs, it is important that the government, both at the national and local level, establish a climate that is business-friendly. Red tape should be cut and government workers should be trained to serve professionally. Government should be the first to show that it means business in order for Filipinos to have confidence to take risk and venture into business.

(President and Chairman, Level Up International)
Entrepreneurs are often born but can also be taught. The best teaching is by example—let’s publicize success, particularly by people who started with nothing or surmounted great obstacles on the way to building their businesses. Let’s show how they helped other people while making money for themselves. And by so doing, begin teaching our young people that there are many roads to a meaningful life. The “good” job with a big company is only one of them. A better one may be the road less traveled—of personal risk with no safety net, that may lead after much sacrifice and hard work, to the creation of value and jobs and wealth where there was none before.

(Chief Executive Officer, Webworks)
To succeed in any field of endeavor, we need role models. We need someone, whether we know them personally or from a distance, who we can look up to, edify, and emulate. To develop a culture of entrepreneurship among Filipinos, we need to see more successful Filipino entrepreneurs held up as role models by organizations such as the PCE. We need to see examples of seemingly ordinary Filipinos becoming successful entrepreneurs, so that we can believe that we can do it, too.

(Owner, Salt & Light Ventures Inc.)
Let’s start them young! Expose grade school and high school kids to entrepreneurs by integrating entrepreneurship into the curriculum. The government can also give special tax incentives to starting entrepreneurs (instead of harassing them!) by giving them tax holidays for the first 2 or three years of operations.