The E-Factor

For the next 2 weeks, this column will talk about entrepreneurship education in the Philippines. Can running a negosyo really be taught and is a diploma important as one graduates in an entrepreneurship course? What is the right approach in teaching entrepreneurship? More and more schools have started to include entrepreneurship in its curriculum with CHED Memorandum Order 27, mandating all higher education institutions to offer entrepreneurship programs. DEPED has also required the inclusion of entrepreneurship as a subject at the high school level, in an effort to start our students young with the concept of entrepreneurship.

Recently, I also met with the top entrepreneurship professors from the Asian Institute of Management such as Andy Ferreria, Ed Morato, Jay Bernardo, Tommy Lopez and Danny Antonio. I know all of them quite well as I had been interacting with the academic community, being our partners in this advocacy. We usually discuss how negosyo is being and should be taught in school. These professors who I know are entrepreneurs by heart and have different ways in developing entrepreneurs probably found it difficult to fit in an AIM structure so they moved on to run the Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE) program. I am told a happy solution was reached where they purchased ACE and gave AIM a seat on the Board. Now I am told they are going to be a part of a reality TV show similar to “Fab 5” and do makeovers for negosyos. That would be an interesting format. But more importantly, these “Fab 5” have seen a golden opportunity to reach out to the general public and elevate the awareness and understanding on entrepreneurship. In doing this, they will use their negosyo talents to complement what the other schools are doing in offering an entrepreneurship program.

Even Lucio Tan’s famous daughter, Vivienne Tan, a trustee of PCE whom I have known for some time, is pursuing a mission to teach negosyo. She has put up the Entrepreneurs School of Asia which only teaches entrepreneurship. As the negosyo fever gets stronger, more and more schools will put greater emphasis on entrepreneurship in its curriculum.

Some schools and institutions have started to give more attention in harnessing the “e-factor” of students. During our student years some decades ago, I would say schools were more rigid in sticking to standard curricula with little or no weight at all in developing the e-factor. In fact, a number of very successful entrepreneurs today are not at all embarrassed to say that they did not do well in school or were even drop-outs. Typical examples are some of the richest men on earth like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. In the Philippines, there are the very inspiring and successful entrepreneurs like Fred Yao of the Zesto group, Nanay Coring of National Bookstore and Rey Lapid of Lapid’s Chicharon. And funny I myself who is involved with the brightest professors in town and leading a crusade on Negosyo have yet to get my diploma form La Salle with one subject, Quatech to go. My good friend Ricky Razon, who also had to transfer from La Salle to Aquinas for his high school studies, started working at a young age in the North Harbor and learned from his father the ropes in running a port operation business. The International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) today under the leadership of Ricky has almost a billion dollars in market cap. Talk about someone who did not excel in school.

This is not to say that school is not important. There are also a number of leading CEO’s and successful entrepreneurs who excelled in their studies and graduated top of the class like Lance Gokongwei who graduated summa cum laude with a double degree from University of Pennsylvania, and named 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year. There is Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala who is an Economics cum laude graduate from Harvard and Paco Sandejas whom we call the “nerd IT entrepreneur” who graduated summa cum laude from UP with an MS and PhD from Stanford University and Dennis Mendiola of Chikka Asia who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with MBA in Harvard. Gaita Fores of Cibo finished Magna Cum Laude from Assumption and passed the CPA, Ray Gapuz, a summa cum laude nursing graduate of UST, French Baker’s Johnlu Koa who is a cum laude and MBA from UP, Chowking founder Robert Kuan from UP Business school and an AIM MBA outstanding alumnus, Gov. Lray Villafuerte who topped his Political Science class in La Salle, celebrity Paolo Bediones of 1-Tech group who was a Deans lister from Ateneo, Richie Cuna of Fiorgelato who was a consistent honor student from San Beda with post graduate degree from Ateneo and Pennsylvania State University and Myrna Yao of Richwell who is a Dean’s lister from UE Business and Masteral school. We also have Illac Diaz of My Shelter Foundation who is an MIT graduate and is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

There are also other successful entreps who fared well in school like Vivienne Tan from University of San Francisco, Myla Villanueva from Sta. Clara University, Chit Juan from UP, Vicky Belo from UP and UST Medicine school, Philippine Brand Mango’s Justin Uy from University of San Carlos, Bobson Jean’s Victor Tan from PSBA, Island Souvenir’s Jay Aldeguer from Ateneo, Ronald Pineda of Folded and Hung who graduated from UE Dentistry, Lisa Gokongwei from Ateneo and Columbia University for journalism post grad studies and Level-Up’s Ben Colayco from New York University.

We can say that school plays a very important role, but more than the standard curricula, attention must be given to courses and activities that can develop the “e-factor”. Schools should help in harnessing your “e-factor” or I would say the mindset, the attitude and character of being entrepreneurial, even if in the end, you do not end up as an entrepreneur. As I always stress, entrepreneurship is a mindset, a positive can-do winning attitude, always looking for growth opportunities and better ways of doing things. He is someone with a clear vision of where he will bring his business idea, with strong passion to grow, to excel and be the best that he can be considering all his strengths and weaknesses. He is continuously searching, screening and seizing opportunities, harnessing creativity and is always in search for innovations to fill in gaps in the market… I guess these are the common traits of successful entrepreneurs and individuals, whose e-factors are either in-born or have been harnessed fully in school, and by mentors and, more often than not, through experience.

I would say that the e-factor is a character present in many of us, stronger though for some, while needing enhancements for others. Education and training are therefore vital to bring out the best of these entrep qualities in a person. Schools and institutions can provide the necessary framework, techniques and tools, but must also provide the needed exposure to actual projects and ventures, and interaction with other entrepreneur-mentors, which the Go Negosyo advocacy on the other hand, is trying to gather and be made accessible to the public.

That is why we continue to encourage those who have been successful entrepreneurs to give back and share to the society their time and talent and be the source of inspiration and to be a mentor to give advise to the thousands of aspiring entreps in the country in our drive to become an entrepreneurial country, hopefully a few years from now.

On a final note, let me pose a question: “What is the best way to teach entrepreneurship?”, and we shall have this answered by top Negosyo educators/mentors next week.