Proof of Hope

Last week, I attended two of our companies’ sales convention. One was in Manila, which was for Selecta (Ice Cream). The other was in Boracay for RFM. Both companies did very well. Selecta is now, by far, the Number One ice cream brand in the Philippines, while RFM almost doubled its sales in the last quarter, which is why we held the sales convention in Boracay.

As I gave my message in both events, I explained what I wrote in last week’s column on bringing about the YES attitude in the Philippines. The Philippines is in a unique situation. There will be no recession in the Philippines. Many factors still point to positive growth in consumption spending. New opportunities arise. People’s attitudes towards the country are gradually changing. Finally, they are seeing the light. Complaining does not get us anywhere. People now know what they have to do and that they have to take control of their own destiny.

Those who are discouraged about the politics and corruption in the Philippines should be realistic. It will take generations to change these problems. Steps have to be taken in the right direction. But the country can still move forward in spite of these. In time, through tighter controls, checks and balance, and good values reformation, we can see an improvement in good governance.

Our biggest challenge today is to help people not lose hope. Religious leaders, like Brother Mike or Brother Eddie, are able to give hope to people through spirituality. We can also give hope by helping people develop the right attitude – the YES attitude that has driven people to success. Prayers are important and primarily the source of hope for millions of Filipino church goers. But, transforming people’s attitude in life into the right and positive one is the most challenging. A lot of self-help books on how to improve oneself have been written. The bestsellers like Purpose Driven Life and even Go Negosyo’s inspiring stories of entrepreneurs are what people hold on to, because these books give hope and advice towards self-improvement.

While prayers strengthen our faith as a source of hope, we still need our brains to think about what is right and wrong. We need to think about what skills do we need to help us land a job or even pursue a negosyo. Prayers that are strengthened with hope will bring about a YES attitude. All these will give a clear vision of what a person wants in life and the skills he needs in order to succeed.

Having said all these, in the two years that we have been working with PGMA and Secretary Cerge Remonde who was former Head of the Presidential Management Staff and the Cabinet Oversight Committee for MSME Development, we present our scorecard. For the year 2004 to 2010, the target for job creation is three million new jobs for MSMEs, and a tripling of loan releases to MSMEs. From 2004 to October 2008, Microloans and SME credit releases reached close to P300 billion. Even the One Town One Product (OTOP) project of the DTI assisted 30 thousand MSMEs since 2005. For the year 2007 alone, joint MSME development activities have served more than half a million Filipinos through trainings and seminars. We have worked with the committee for an intensified advocacy through information and communication campaigns on MSME programs. We have also started on strongly pushing for a government-private sector partnership towards MSME development. With these accomplishments, we are looking forward to doing more.

The Philippines also participated in a study that assessed the level of entrepreneurship in a country. Through the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship – Go Negosyo, the Philippines participated in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor or GEM report that was based on a survey of 2,000 adult Filipinos. According to this 2006 survey, four out of 10 Filipinos are entrepreneurially active, and this ranks the Philippines as second among the 42 countries with most individuals owning a business. However many businesses remain small and are motivated by necessity (54% as against 37% of opportunity motivations). Many are survival microentrepreneurs, mostly lacking novelty (71%), so these are the generic sari-sari stores or lechon manoks and vendors we see around.

The continuing challenge is on how we can change the mindset of all the existing and aspiring entrepreneurs to become ‘real’ entrepreneurs who are continuously innovating or at least trying to differentiate their products and services to be better than their competition. The challenge is on how we can inspire many aspiring or existing microentrepreneurs to think big, but start small, to have a vision and understand the need to have monthly and yearly goals, to move up. It has to start with the right attitude and then empowerment through skills training, technical and financial assistance. As we do these, we also make available the community of entrepreneurs to serve as their mentors as many successful entrepreneurs, and even individuals look up to their mentors for constant guidance and advice. This is the reason why we have to rally all those successful mentors to help in the cause, to have Go Negosyo regular forums and venues for interactions and consultations. Our cause is to help the micros become bigger and more innovative, to have a sustained businesses. We have the positive energy we need for entrepreneurship. What we need to do now is to integrate all our efforts, from government, from private sectors, from the academe to help develop entrepreneurship. Part of the program this year is to cascade this working framework and replicate in as many provinces as possible, and we shall encourage all our local government officials like governors and mayors to become the negosyo champions in their areas. These will be a big boost in their local economies, as it will increase employment and income levels, reducing poverty in the end.

Going back to our out of town sales convention, I decided to stay through Valentine’s Day in Bora with my wife. We had no friends with us. Instead, we brought along our youngest child Isabella, who had her own room anyway.

It was funny to see some old friends with their wives. It is surprising that many people still take Valentines seriously these days. Some decided to spend it as one whole family, like Ramon Garcia who is a pretty successful entrepreneur. I used to borrow his yacht when I was 20 years old.

Annabella Santos-Wisniewski, also a very successful entrepreneur, treated us to dinner. She is one of the women entrepreneurs featured in our third book on women entrepreneurs to be launch on Feb. 26 at the National Book Store Rockwell branch. Annabella is an entrepreneur who has combined the right attitude with the right skill. The result is success. Her chain of hotels, Discovery, is definitely world class. And soon, she will be launching a new resort in Bicol with another entrepreneur Zaldy Co, who we awarded in Camarines Sur three weeks ago. She says it will become a small leading world hotel. Hopefully, we will see more successful entrepreneurs in the area of tourism. I, myself, am building a dive boat just with seven rooms, but will cater to a market who loves the Philippine seas. It will have the amenities that people will find in any land hotel.

As I have mentioned, we will be launching the Go Negosyo book on the 55 Inspiring Stories of Women Entrepreneurs on Feb. 26, at National Book Store Rockwell. After this, we will be launching the biggest women entrepreneurship event of the year – the Go Negosyo: Babae Yaman Ka ng Bayan – on March 2, at the World Trade Center. This is Go Negosyo’s way of celebrating the month of March as the month for women.