Dream. Believe. Achieve.

Kung hei fat choi! Happy New Year to all the Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs. While I may not be a Filipino-Chinese, we are always mistaken to be one because my grandfather looked like Chinese. My dad says we are more Vietnamese. Whatever it is, I love Chinese food and I do listen to a number of Feng Shui consultants. It can be confusing at times when you listen to so many experts on how to become prosperous this year. One must remember that their advice is not a replacement for hardwork, passion and creativity which are the qualities needed to be a successful entrepreneur.

The year of the rat seems to be a good year for the Philippines and the rest of Asia according to Feng Shui expert Charlie Chao. There are two Charlie Chao’s, the one of Mandarin and the other one I know. They don’t have the same advice and differ in some points. During a dinner hosted by Tessa at her home last week, she had free Feng Shui advice from this lady protégé of Lilian Too and again the advice was different. Whatever their predictions are, this is not the cure to problems and cannot alter a person’s destiny.

The title of this column is Dream Believe Achieve. This is basically the slogan we adopted for the Concepcion Industries Shareholders planning session in Mactan Cebu, something we do annually in different parts of the country. Let me share with you the experience that we had, not to boast about the success of our corporation, but maybe to share something that will inspire other families especially in the light of so many family fights.

My grandfather Jose Concepcion Sr. started Concepcion Industries when he was in his late 60’s. Just like many Filipinos, he was a professional, working for Edward J. Nell Corporation for so many years until he became the first Filipino President of that multinational firm. My Tito Ronnie (Raul Concepcion) was quite instrumental in setting up and growing the business with my grandfather and was able to get the capital by being a flour dealer of RFM Corporation during the early years. This story was being told to us during the first evening session entitled Mga Kuwento ng 2G para sa 4G (2G refers to second generation, who are my Dad, uncle and auntie and 4G are the apo’s). It was a heartwarming session we had with our parents and uncles/aunties, to share how they started helping in the business, how they managed through some difficult years, and some funny stories along the way. In the end, we wanted them to share the values and legacy they want to leave behind to the succeeding generations. While my lolo was the professional, my lola was more the entrepreneur. She was in trading, selling goodies like cosmetic and beauty parlor supplies and she also set up National Business school, which also included courses on typing and short-hand. My father Joecon told us he was supposed to be a priest but he was not able to last long in the seminary. God probably had a different purpose for him.

As the second generation was recounting the hardships they went thru, you could feel their emotions. Both my dad and Tito Ronnie are now in their 70s, 76 to be exact , I am sure they wont like me mentioning their age. My Tita Mely is 75 and her husband Tito Paeng will turn 80 this year. Their touching stories captivated us the 3rd generation and the 4th generation, our kids. Looking at our clan today, we are now over 100 and we believe it is very important that thru sessions like this, we are able to share with the younger generations the values and principles of hard-work, integrity, and the more important things in life that should go beyond material things, and that is being God-centered and the love for family and other people, and these are what we want the younger generations in the family to have.

To be able to keep the participants interest in the conference high, we had videos done in almost every segment, which started with a video on our respective Dreams. Funny on how one of my cousins who is on the heavy side mentioned her dream which is to wear a size 6. One of the kids of my sister Liza mentioned that he wanted to be a billionaire, but one said he wanted to be a driver, so I guess they can just average out. While every child and grandchild has a dream that was attainable, what was key there was for everyone to really state what their dream is and if we look at most successful entrepreneurs, they start with a dream in their hearts, no matter how difficult it may be to attain.

One of my dreams before was to beat the big competitors we had when we bought Cosmos and Selecta. Our competitor in the end had to buy Cosmos as it became a very strong player especially in the sari- sari stores. Also today, Selecta has reached an unprecedented market leadership in the ice cream category with over 50 percent market share, from about 1 percent when we bought it in 1989. I credit the marketing savvy and untiring passion of my brother John, who propelled Selecta to where it is today. On the other side, Concepcion Industries is known for its Carrier and Condura Aircons, which also has managed to maintain a dominant market share of close to 70 percent for many years, led by my hardworking Tito Ronnie and my cousins Jojo and Raffy. The recent great turnaround story however came from Condura refrigerators with the very creative minds of cousins Ton Concepcion and Renna Hechanova-Angeles. It was suffering from big losses, but it has now become a profitable and fast growing division.

Concepcion Industries is controlled by 3 families today. My uncle Rene, who died a few years ago, sold his share in the business to grow in other businesses. He was a real entrepreneur at heart. He was the youngest of the siblings, and was close to his children.

During the session, we encouraged all members of the family to participate, from 7 year-old kids and up. We asked them to be active in the sessions and open forums and we made it interesting for them. The goal which I mentioned to my cousins is that since not everyone in the family can join in the corporation, it is very important to nurture the entrepreneurial mindset and empower them as they pursue their dreams and strike out on their own, and for those working in the company, to reignite the same entrepreneurial passion to help grow the businesses further. Thus, for the first time in our annual gathering, we set up an entrepreneurship forum and we invited some Go Negosyo partners who have entrepreneurship advocacy in their hearts. We are very thankful for the unselfish sharing of stories and advice from Justin Uy of Philippine brand mangoes, Bernie and Alice Liu of Penshoppe, Oxygen, ForMe and Memo, Vicky Belo of Belo medical clinics and Belo Essentials and of course our good friend Jay Aldeguer of Island Souvenirs. All of them gave very good advice, and shared openly their stories and struggles which captivated the interest of the clan, especially the 4th generation. Vicky Belo was emotional that she even got teary eyed when my Aunt asked her a question and she remembered how her mother helped her set up her business and built her confidence. Many thanks to our entrepreneurship advocates and to the vibrant Dean Pax Lapid of the Entrepreneurs School of Asia who was very kind enough to help handle the entrep forum.

I hope the readers won’t misunderstand this sharing as we see many families fight and break-up because of money and other petty issues. We are happy to see the big Concepcion family being able to reach this point and still united. It has taken us a lot of years to get to this level of relationship, not to say it is a perfect family relationship. It is natural to have the petty relationship problems but I guess in the end it is the solid bonding that will keep everyone together and within reach. As we say, what is all the wealth when you have a family that is destroyed, and for a family to continue to grow its business, you must have peace and understanding, a clear vision and roles and transparency. I know we are not the only family trying to achieve this. We see and admire the Ayala’s, the Aboitiz’s and many more, who how have lasted for so many generations, and it is our dream to have the same experience.

As our parents grow older, the real measure of their success is how they have lived their lives, what are the legacy and values they are leaving behind to the next generations that hopefully will also be able to build on it and pass on to the next generations, and in the end serve as catalysts for helping create a better negosyo climate for the Filipinos.

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My condolences to the family of Larry Cruz, owner of the LJC group of restaurants. He was a great entrepreneur with an inspiring story which we featured in the first Go Negosyo book.