Monday, December 29, 2003

New Year's Resolutions for Entrepreneurs

Business Times p.B2
Monday, December 29, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
New Year’s resolutions for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs and their organizations can benefit from committing to New Year’s resolutions. Here are some suggestions inspired by the book If I really Wanted to Simplify My Life I Would (Lighthouse Books, 2000). This column will come in two installments: today and January 9, which coincides with the start of the Management page’s transfer to Fridays.

Recharge. Spending this week in Bagalangit, Mabini, Batangas, is my most relaxing Christmas ever. That’s because I bought my Christmas gifts for clients, friends and relatives at every opportunity I had all throughout the year. Come December, I only needed to buy a few additional pieces and sent them out early in the month. By the week of Christmas, my hands were free.

I also kept out of parties where my absence would not be noticeable. That gave me time to recharge, enjoy Christmas with my family and get ready for next year’s business.

Encourage your employees to do the same. No need to work them to exhaustion. You and they are more productive when rested and relaxed. When you can appreciate the beauty of the rising and setting sun, you can appreciate life and business better.

Revisit your strategy. Are you happy where and how your business is going? A strategy, no matter how strategic, is not written in stone. You may reword, revise, refit, even change it altogether. Create your own identity. But give it chance to bloom first. If after doing everything, nothing happens, then it is time to go back to the drawing board and review your strategic plans. Don’t change your strategic intent at a whim, though.

Implement your strategy. Stop just trying to keep up with competition. Plan your implementation and act on your strategy. Do keep up with the needs of your clients. Involve your employees in planning, particularly those who will eventually do the job. Set up realistic goals. Determine performance measures and milestones.

Reward your top performers. Set up a system for recognizing and rewarding your top performers. Reward them generously. You’ll get it back with their loyalty and higher productivity.

In the same breath, say goodbye to your slackers. You can’t afford deadwoods and those who simply mark time. Business is not usual. Give them early retirement. Maintain their self-esteem and friendship.

Clean and clear up. Keep a live and up-to-the-minute inventory of your materials, supplies, equipment, etc. An old computer will only slow your business down and will cost you a lot in maintenance and lost man-hours due to machine downtime.

A friend of mine discovered to her horror that she had expensive goods that must have been sat in her warehouse for at least five years. There are no more buyers for such equipment parts because her client had changed machineries some time ago.

The saying “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is true in personal life and in business. Do general housekeeping regularly and get rid of unnecessary materials, supplies or equipment you might have. Keeping them will not save you anything because they only take up expensive office space.

Set yourself free with the truth. Speak the truth and nothing but. Maintain only one truthful book of accounts. Remember Enron. Remember the Law of Karma.

Truth establishes the integrity of your business as well as your personal integrity. It makes for lasting business relationships with your clients, creditors and employees.

Get regular organizational check-ups. Have regular meetings with your staff to assess not only your bottom line but also how well your organization is functioning in terms of your strategy, businesses systems and processes, leadership style, structure, teamwork and the general culture of your organization.

If you have more than fifty employees, hire professionals to do a climate survey for you. It will be worth your investment. You may also want to do a customer satisfaction survey. Likewise, it will be wise to keep a running dialog with your own suppliers.

Choose employees who do not need much supervision. Attract employees who are more intelligent than you, more organized than you, more innovative than you, etc.

Hire them, give them a good job orientation, pay them the higher-than-industry average or your nearest competition’s compensation, give them the requisite tools and supplies, train and develop them, talk to them not only about business but also about everything else, get to know more about them especially where they tickle, give them challenging tasks, reward them for good performance.

Presto, your business is in good hands and you can play golf as much as you want.

Put things back where they belong. There is this admonition posted at the WWF Staff House in Batangas: Don’t take anything and don’t leave anything behind you.

That’s a good rule to adapt in business, too. If they are not consumable, put things back where you got them. Confusion in the work area arises when things are misplaced and cannot be located when needed. Plan your workplace, every single part of it including people, furniture, files, fixtures, equipment, tools, supplies and others. Plan space and ambiance for productive interactions with clients and among employees.

Keep photocopies of important documents and keep the original in a safe place. Most companies you deal with--government regulatory bodies, customers, creditors, even suppliers--would invariably ask for your business papers. Be prepared with extra hard copies or electronic copies of your SEC or DTI registration, city or municipal mayor’s permit, income tax return, community tax receipt, and others.

Do the same for your personal driver’s license, credit cards, SSS & BIR IDs, and passport. In case you lose them, it is easier to get a replacement if you have the duplicate copy.

Trust God. Nothing is done without His permission. Helen Armstrong wrote, “Coincidence is the pseudonym God uses when He doesn’t want to sign His name.”

Let’s celebrate and enjoy the New Year festivities safely in the love of our family and friends.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino believes in honoring and keeping Christmas in her heart for everybody all days of her life. Her email address is

Monday, December 22, 2003

Winners cultivate core competencies

Business Times p.B5
Monday, December 22, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Winners cultivate core competencies

THIS past two weeks have been very hectic for me—last minute shopping, wrapping gifts, rounds of early parties, setting up our Christmas tree and other decorations, keeping doctor appointments, tying up loose ends that were kept hanging the whole year, beating deadlines, entertaining a guest from South Africa and relatives from Bicol, meetings with clients, and a thousand others. Hingal!

Organizations, I presume, are a hundredfold more busy.

McGraw-Hill executives Estela Khan, Jenny Javier and Myla Gonzales say they are running after their sales target, which seems to outrun them at every bend. Even the bakeshop and sari-sari (retail) stores in our Sta. Mesa neighborhood are very active.

Yet, some business organizations seem to be less popular than others.

In rows and rows of stores inside the malls and tiangges, people seem to flock to certain shops while they shun others. These shops carry the same products as the others. They are also dressed for Christmas. They even offer special discounts and promos. Yet… Bakit kaya?

Organizations whether business, social, religious or others, have good, albeit strategic, intent. Everybody is excited and everyone is go, go, go.

Best time to settle down and identify what will set them apart from other organizations. These distinctive competencies are what “Mastering Strategy” (McGraw-Hill, 2003) authors Jeffrey Rigsby and Guy Greco refer to as creating competitive advantage, enhancing customer value and expanding market position.

Mulco Manyama from South Africa was here to meet with the Asian Institute of Management for possible partnership to bring AIM to Africa.

I posed several questions for him: Why do you have to go into business when you already have a steady executive job compared to the risks of owning a business? Why AIM? Why come here all the way from South Africa for a one-hour meeting when you can do it over the telephone? Why invest so much for business operations?

His only reply was: “We are in business to win.”

What makes some businesses win and others lose?

Christmas brings with it a season of songs. I am happy to listen to two impeccable musical groups. One is the internationally acclaimed Loboc Children’s Choir from Bohol and the other is the newly formed John Y Cash & the Jukebox Band of Metro Manila.

The Loboc Children’s Choir (LCC) bested 12 adult choirs from USA and Europe and came home with two gold medals at the recently concluded Europe and its Songs 6th International Folksong Choir Festival, which was held this year in Barcelona, Spain, from September 17 to 21, 2003.

The international jury awarded the LCC the Europe and its Songs 2003 Cup for having achieved the overall highest mark in all categories, surpassing the marks of twelve other international choirs.

This year, the LCC is composed of 26 kids ages 10 to 13 from the Loboc Central Elementary School. The choir is under the musical direction of Madam Alma Fernando Taldo and is accompanied on the piano by Madam Baby Lina Jala.

The Jukebox is composed of Cash Manalang (broker, soloist and basist), John Lesaca (accomplished musician, musical director and soloist), Roddy Peñalosa (chairman of the Professional Regulatory Board for Electrical Engineers, soloist and drummer), Tony Sabalza (professional singer, soloist and percussionist), Carlo Gaa (drummer), Lauro Alcala (drummer), Roy Marinduque (voice and lead guitarist) and Leo Ibarra (keyboard player)

Both musical groups claim that their only reason for being is to achieve excellence in the music they love. They are driven by their product—music.

To hone their music to excellence and make them winners, they cultivate their core competences. As musical groups, it is a given that they have to have good musical voice.

As a requirement, the competing choirs sang one country folksong and one European folksong. Loboc parish priest Fr. Desiderio Magdoza said that one of their distinct advantage over the other choirs is that they sang La Pastoreta, a Catalan folksong, knowing that the competition will be watched mostly by Catalan-speaking audience because the venue of the competition was in Barcelona Spain. The other choirs sang folksongs from various parts of Europe, not Spain.

Attention to customer uniqueness and needs is one of their unique capability. No wonder the LCC is a winner.

Customer intimacy is what the Jukebox also want to develop as their core competence. That is why Roddy, Tony, John and Cash kept on prodding their audience for their requested songs. Cash says, “Thank you for your requests. We need them. They give us ideas.”

They don’t just communicate with their audience, they engage them in a dialogue all night. The Co-Intelligence Institute declares that not all communication is dialogue.

Dialogue is shared exploration towards greater understanding, connection, or possibility.

The Jukebox band members actually converse with their audience and dissolves the boundaries between performer and audience. It is like you are part of their group and they are singing with you.

Likewise, Roddy says that one of their distinct advantage over other bands is their detailed rendition of the songs, i.e. voicing in accordance almost to the original music including background voices, solo and musical background. They render the true sounds of whatever retro songs they are singing—Beatles, Chicago, Ides of March, Association, Lettermen, Beach Boys and other popular songs of the 60s and 70s.

The Loboc Children’s Choir performs the following repertoire of songs: Ampeu Se-lo by James Swu; Ugoy sa Duyan by Lucio San Pedro; La Pastoreta a Catalan folksong arranged by Ed Manguiat; Leron Leron Sinta, a Tagalog Folk song; and Ave Maria by Gustav Holst, among others.

Like the Loboc Children’s Choir, John Y Cash and the Jukebox are very selective of the songs they sing. These songs are easy on the ears and the psyche. They are melodious. Makes you feel like dancing and celebrating, too.

Catch the children of Loboc in Loboc Central Elementary School, Bohol, when they are not touring. They are worth the trip.

See you at Bykes Café, Pasong Tamo, Makati, on December 30 for a night of excellent music, lively company and good food.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones from all of us—my sons Ronjie and Adrian, brothers Jess and Jimmy and Nanay Ning. My next song…

Moje Ramos-Aquino honors and keeps Christmas in her heart all days of her life. Her email address is

Monday, December 15, 2003

Best leaders are good servants

Business Times pB.5
Monday, December 15, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Best leaders are good servants: Most are found in soup kitchens

IN Barangay Commonwealth on Saturday, 250 elementary pupils and preschoolers, their teachers and administrators played hosts to their visiting benefactors from Japan. These are Messrs. Masahiko Fujii and Yoshio Nakajima from the Rotary Club of Tokyo-Koto.

The children and teachers expressed their wholehearted gratitude to the visiting Rotarians by way of a medley of Filipino and Japanese songs and dances. Fujii-san and Nakajima-san responded with a $30,000-donation to the Light House Center for Children Foundation Inc., (actually the fourth donation totaling US$120,000) and gifts of cash and goodies for each student.

Light House is one of the many service and fund-raising organizations under the Rotary Soup Kitchen, Food Bank and Training Center Inc. This is a project of the Rotary Club of Quezon City North under the indefatigable leadership of Charter president Judge Lore Veneracion.

The Soup Kitchen is a service concept-driven organization. It’s sole purpose is to serve the community, especially the young ones. As such, they have various services that cater to children’s needs such education, counseling, food, water and shelter.

Their major headquarters and facilities are in the NGC Housing Project, Barangay Commonwealth. They also extend their services to the children of Payatas District.

To grow their commitment and remain financially viable, they focus on three areas of excellence: servant-leadership, quality of service and fund sourcing and management.

The Soup Kitchen started from the heart of Judge Lore nurtured with big doses of financial help from his various friends and the members of RCQC-North. Judge Lore, some Rotarians and the Soup Kitchen employees are volunteers, albeit servant-leaders all.

As Robert Greenleaf, the man who coined the phrase, described servant-leadership: “Servant-Leadership is a practical philo-sophy which supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions. Servant-leaders may or may not hold formal leadership positions. Servant-leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment.

“The best test of a servant leader, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived?”

Judge Lore and his team seem to heed the advise of Muriel Siebert, founder of Muriel Siebert and Co. Inc., “when good things happen, you owe.”

Serving the poor among us does not mean giving them leftovers or rendering sloppy service. The Soup Kitchen provides quality service and products. Among the educational assistance they offer are elementary and high school instruction, short-term courses such as basic computing, computer technician course, programming and web design and college scholarship program. They have state-of-the-art computers, thousands of textbooks and reference books and other amenities.

These services are not for free. They are subsidized, i.e. offered at about one-twentieth of the commercial price. The Soup Kitchen is a helping organization; it’s not a dole-out outfit. They want to give the poor the dignity to rise above their situation. For meritorious cases, they waive their meager fee.

They have a daily feeding for free for 645 very young kids from various barangays in Payatas. The Light House, when fully constructed, will serve as classrooms and half-way house for street children. They also serve the kids’ moms by way of a revolving fund to assist them acquire sewing machine in a lease-to-own basis plus free sewing and mothering lessons.

I’ve heard Judge Lore say many times over the years: “We need money for salaries and wages, building construction and repairs, facilities upkeep, utilities and many, many other expenses; but I don’t worry. I just look up and ask Him to take charge and send me the money in His own way and His own time. He always delivers on time through our various donors and patrons. We are blessed.”

Not to burden Him a lot, the Soup Kitchen also do income-generating ventures like water refilling stations, bakery (their cheese bread and monay are terrific), mami house, canteen service and waste management venture that produces organic fertilizer.

All their major donors are from Japan, USA and Australia, mostly Rotarians. These are the network of friends of Judge Lore. Some, like Messrs. Fujii and Nakajima, heard about the good judge when the story of his refusal to impose the death penalty landed in the front page of major dailies all over the world. He lost the chance of promotion because of pro-death politicians; but he gained a big number of admirers all over the world for his firm pro-life stand.

The lost of our judiciary is the gain of the poor. Noel Tichy, professor at the University of Michigan Business School, said, “the most effective leaders are in touch with their personal stories.” And these stories earn for Judge Lore and the Soup Kitchen the trust and money of kind-hearted donors.

You, too, may get involved and contribute in your own way to make the Soup Kitchen a growing success. You may donate your time, effort and/or money, whichever you have in abundance and will lovingly give. You may buy their products. Their telephone number is 930-4262 and 430-7666.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino endeavors to honor and keep Christmas in her heart all days of her life. Her email address is

Monday, December 8, 2003

Divisoria cuts across the market divide

Business Times p.B5
Monday, December 8, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Divisoria cuts across the market divide

I’VE been to Divisoria thrice to shop for some Christmas gifts. And really, the prices of goods sold there are amazingly low and affordable. Plus, the variety is wide-ranging.

There is no place in Metro Manila that offers such diverse and low-priced products. When you are in Divi, you don’t think of the peso as equal to $55.40. It is a place where you could literally stretch your hard-earned money.

They normally quote two prices, one for retail and another for wholesale. If you get three or more, you get the wholesale price. But with some lambing, you could get one piece for the price of wholesale.

My experience is that the best time to go there, especially nowadays, is in the morning. Some shops open as early as 7 o’clock. If you go there by noon or in the afternoon, you could hardly walk around because the place swarms with people, goods, and vehicles.

While in other places, businessmen are taking advantage of the season and the generosity of people, Divisoria prices remain as low as can be all year round. No wonder people enjoy going there notwithstanding the hassle. Go there in walking clothes and shoes minus your trinkets.

The shop owners at Divisoria are real entrepreneurs. They have the hearts of their customers in their minds. They know the latest trends in toys, clothes, footwear, decors, foods, gift items, etcetera, etcetera. I enjoy checking out the goods they sell and how they go about their business.

As Elaine Dundon, author of Seeds of Innovation says: “The most innovative organizations are focused on high impact projects that strengthen their competitive advantage.”

They say yes to projects that support their unique strategic direction and say no to “low impact” projects that waste valuable resources that could otherwise be applied to more important projects. Strategically speaking, they know that it is better to focus their resources on the completion of 5 high impact initiatives rather than on 15 medium or low impact projects.

As Sun Tzu once advised, “You need to narrow your focus in order to be strong.”

Elaine asks: “In this connection, has your team determined which projects to fund and, importantly, which to discontinue?”

“Has your team determined which products and services should receive maximum support and which to eliminate; which customer groups to support and which to ignore; and which regions to support and which to ignore?,” she added. “Or, is your team trying to do too much and, in doing so, diluting the effect(s) of its efforts?”

The Divi entrepreneurs do not pretend to offer high-end products nor do they deliberately attract the moneyed class. But it is not surprising to find people there from all economic strata standing shoulder-to-shoulder engage in the wonderful game of haggling unmindful of each other’s economic, social, political and other status.

Most shops in Divi are production capacity/capability-driven. Anything that they could sell in their stall, averaging 3 meter by 5 meter, they sell. The idea is to offer as many products or variations of the same products and keep on replenishing their display to attract customers.

My friend is arguing that these Divi entrepreneurs are driven by market or user type. But looking at their product offerings at, say Divisoria Mall, they answer to a variety of needs of a variety of customers, not just one category of customers.

You don’t hear the word suki anymore. They don’t seem to want to cultivate customer loyalty as an area of excellence. Neither do customers want to go back to the same store again, with a hundred other stores offering the same products at the same or, maybe lower prices.

They maximize their profits by filling their stalls with all sorts of goodies and selling them as quickly as they could.

Tara na sa Divisoria.

Moje enjoys Christmas and endeavors to keep it everyday of the year. You may email her at

Monday, December 1, 2003

Prioritize Critical Skills

Monday, December 1, 2003
Business Times p.B5

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Prioritize critical skills

MICHEL Robert writes that one strategic decision that management must wrestle with, once the driving force has been identified, is to clearly identify those two or three skills that are critical and to give those areas preferential resources.

In good times, he says in his book Strategy Pure & Simple, these areas receive additional resources; in bad times they are the last areas you cut.

Robert gave as an example technology-driven company 3M. When Alan Jacobsen took over as chief executive, he set about to improve 3M's profitability and asked all his division heads to cut expenses by as much as 35 percent. But he spared R&D expenditures.

"In fact, he increased R&D from 4.5 percent of sales to 6.6 percent," Robert wrote. "The reason given was that research is a required area of excellence for a technology-driven company."

"Ever since then, 3M has been on a roll, spitting out 300 to 400 new products each year, and its stock has more than doubled in the last five years," Robert added.

My own example is a very young and robust organization at the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ): DevCo Philippines Inc. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Wallem Group, which is headquartered at Taikoo Place, Hong Kong. To all shipping companies in the world, Wallem is known for its agency network covering all major ports in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and, soon, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Wallem Group's information services department is one of maritime industry's leading technology groups. In 1999, Wallem's executive board decided to relocate this ISD's development effort to a local that was more cost effective and more scalable in terms of development throughput. DevCo was incorporated in the Philippines in October 2000.

DevCo is a technology-driven organization toward application development and support, presently as they relate to the maritime industry. As such two of their areas of excellence are technical skills and project management skills.

DevCo's technical skills on software development are predominantly Microsoft-based with specialization on Internet and PKI technologies. They chose to locate in the Philippines, particularly in CSEZ, because of its proximity to four of the Philippines major universities, vast pool of skilled technology professionals and the English proficiency of Filipinos. They consider the Philippines as having an extremely deep pool of skilled technical resources. With the correct leadtime, almost any technical requirement could be satisfied.

DevCo's team is made up of young, enthusiastic and dynamic professions who are amongst the best available in the Philippines. A seasoned management team complements this young team. All 46 technical and support staff are trained formally and on-the-job on leadership and project management skills with coaching from the senior managers.

To ensure that projects are managed efficiently and effectively, DevCo is in the process of formulating SEI-CMM compliant software Policy centered key process areas of project management: requirements management, software project planning, software project tracking and oversight, software quality assurance, software subcontract management and software configuration management.

They are focused on their two areas of excellence in order to push themselves to higher levels of proficiency. They intend to double their operations in their current facility soon while maximizing their resources and taking their technology into new applications and new clients.

One other technology-driven company which is fueled by research, one of its core competences, is the current number one search engine in the Internet today. To quote Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president of Google "Everyone spends a fraction of their day on R&D."

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp and assists organizations in their Strategic Thinking and Planning Initiatives. Her email address is

Monday, November 24, 2003

Hope is not a strategy

Monday, November 24, 2003
Business Times p.B5

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Hope is not a strategy

HOPE is not a Strategy. I am struck by the title of this book by Rick Page (Nautilus Press). It is not about strategic thinking and planning. It is about competitive selling. And we shall discuss this topic some other time.

Let me take off from there: hope is not a strategy. I have facilitated a number of strategic thinking and planning workshops and I have observed participants' mood change from anxious and tentative (at the briefing to start the process) to hopeful and eager (at the workshop proper and the ensuing consultation sessions).

Hope is not the strategy, but the strategy itself raises hope, albeit amid great difficulties, in the mind and heart of everyone. Having a strategy is the strategy at which everybody in the organization hitches their personal and organizational aspirations. The strategy gives everybody a sense of direction and guides them marching happily to the same beat. Your strategy also allows you to control competition.

Jim Mooney, chief executive officer of OM Group, said, "It's probably the greatest war game in the world."

"You create a vision, develop a strong army, bring on new weapons and bring on new growth. You don't let any of your people get hurt and it's all nonviolent," Mooney said. "How much more fun can you have?" Once you know exactly what you are in business for, it is time to deploy it. It is equally important that your primary stakeholders know clearly your strategic driver. They are your investors, employees, customers, suppliers and the community where you operate. You need them to go along with you all the way."

You need to build your strong organization and not leave anything to chance. You need to determine, and develop over time, your core competencies or areas of excellence to sustain your strategy successfully for the long haul. Your strategy could become stronger or weaker depending on how you act on it.

These areas of excellence are what author Michel Robert defines as describable skill, competence or capability that a company cultivates to a level of proficiency greater than anything else it does and particularly better than any competitor does.

In his book, Strategy Pure & Simple (McGraw-Hill Inc.) Robert suggests the following areas of excellence for each of the 10 driving forces that we discussed in this column early on: product and process development and service (product/service concept-driven strategy); market or user research and user loyalty (market/user class-driven strategy); manufacturing or plant efficiency and substitute marketing (production capacity/capability-driven strategy); research and application marketing (technology/know-how-driven strategy); recruitment of sales people and effectiveness of the selling method (sales/marketing-driven strategy); product and services that use or enhance distribution system and optimize effectiveness of system (distribution method-driven strategy); exploration and recovery (natural resources-driven strategy) and; portfolio management and information systems (size/growth or return/profit-driven strategy).

Robert says that the deliberate cultivation of strategically important capabilities, usually two or three of them, keeps an organization's strategy strong and healthy and gives it an edge over its competitors. Losing these areas of excellence weakens the strategy and eliminates your competitive edge. And of course, you don't want your people to lose that hopeful and eager outlook and go back to their anxious and tentative mood.

If I may add, the sooner you develop these strategic capabilities, the more formidable your organization becomes. As Regis McKenna says, "Speed has become an important element of strategy."

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation and facilitates Strategic Thinking and Planning programs. Her email address is

Monday, November 17, 2003

Strategy: Creating value for stakeholders

Business Times p.B5
Monday, November 17, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Strategy: Creating value for stakeholders

IS your strategy creating value for your stakeholders and marketing your products and services? Or is it simply telling you how to run your business or how to play ball with your competitor? If it is either of the last two, you don’t have a strategy. What you have is a short-term plan.

According to John W. Teets, chairman of Greyhound, Inc., a stategist’s job is “to see the company not as it is . . . but as it can become.”

During the Ayala Shares forum held recently at On Stage, Greenbelt, Ramon “Mon” Medina, managing director of the Ayala Corp., said that they continuously question their business decisions: Is Ayala Corp. necessary to add unique value to the continuous operations of its subsidiaries so that they become number one or number two in their industry?

If the answer is negative, they let go of the subsidiary. For example, RFM/Purefoods. Although it was making lots of profits, it was sold because, after managing RFM/Purefoods for a while, the Ayala Corp. realized it couldn’t be number one or two in the food business.

Like any holding or managing organization, the Ayala Corp. is driven by profit and growth. Being number one or two means optimum profitability.

Ayala Corp. consists of 64 companies in the areas of banking and finance services, telecom, real estate, international trade, utilities, electronics, information technology, automotive and others.

It was a closed family-owned corporation until 1974. In 1976, it went public and listed at the Makati Stock Exchange.

It has approximately 25, 0000 managers and employees. All their operating companies have been managed by professional managers since 1956.

Mon revealed that over the last 45 years, the Ayala Corp. has undergone at least three major organizational transformations, namely:

• Professionalization of the management—started in 1956 up to the present.
• Going public and promoting good governance—late 1970’s up to present.
• Sustaining the Flow of River Ayala, a metaphor they use to describe their transformation into the 21st century. It was begun in the mid-90s and continues to the present. Their business transformation was done through strategic partnerships while the human resource transformation was done through rigorous talent management.

In all these transformations, they were always deliberate and purposive. They would always ask themselves: “What business are we to be the ‘natural owners’ (a parent company that can contribute unique value to a subsidiary) of?” This question connects the dots between Ayala Corp. and its subsidiaries. It is the very question that keeps them true to their strategic business idea.

Having a clear positive answer to that all-important question, they proceed to ask themselves:

• How do we do business?
• Where do we do business?
• With whom do we do business?
• How relevant is Ayala Corp. as a holding company?
• What role should Ayala Corp. pursue as a holding company?

What gives a company a strategic advantage is their difference from other companies that puts them above the rest, particularly competition. Ayala, indeed, is unique and is a trusted business organization.

Mon said that the Ayala name has become synonymous to the word “trust” through its 169 years of existence. They take care not to break that trust bestowed on them by their various stakeholders and business partners. Trust, indeed, takes time and effort to establish, but takes only one small incident to lose.

Indeed, as Jeffrey Rigsby and Guy Greco wrote in their book, Mastering Strategy (McGraw-Hill), “An organization’s competitive advantage must be rooted in its strategic thought process and strategic positioning. It must be consistently challenged and refined to respond ahead of the competition.”

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and assists companies in their Strategic Thinking and Planning initiatives. Her email address is

Monday, November 10, 2003

Journey on entrepreneurship: Constant reinvention

Business Times. P.B5
Monday, November 10, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Journey on entrepreneurship: Constant reinvention

HAVING clearly delineated your strategic driving force, how do you use it to survive, compete and, eventually, lead in your business arena?

On Friday, at a forum sponsored by Ayala Corp., Cesar Manreal and Oscar “Nonong” Contreras, Jr., shared with us their Globe Telecom Journey to success. Their story is a very good example of how to pursue what is driving the business.

Nonong is now managing director of Ayala Corp. and consultant at Globe. He said that in Globe, they have defined their strategic context as operational excellence, customer intimacy and product leadership. Having done that, in 1999, they identified their core business competences. These are business acumen/knowledge, communication, customer focus, decision-making and accountability, leadership, teamwork, creativity and innovation, planning and organizing and results orientation.

To push their strategy and to effect and manage change, Globe embarked on a master implementation plan that they labeled as “Advance.” They concentrated on improving the competencies of their people, on performance management, on career and succession management, on rewards and recognition system and on relentless communication to all stakeholders.

As a result of this conscious effort, Nonong said that the culture and environment of Globe has positively changed. Their structure has become more efficient. Their operation has become very profitable.

Cesar, for the most part, shared his experience in Silicon Valley, California, which he is now bringing to Globe as the new head of Human Resources Group. He discussed some best practices for focus, speed and flexibility of successful Silicon Valley companies.

One of the significant findings of a study of these companies showed that all of them excelled in all four of these competencies—strategy, execution, culture and structure. Also they mastered at least two of these other competencies—talent management, innovation, leadership, and mergers and partnerships. This is part of the Daniel’s Method called 4 x 2.

Globe has achieved excellence in these four core competencies and has mastered talent management and mergers and partnership. No wonder, as Nonong said, they are now earning more than their sister company, Bank of the Philippine Islands.

Many companies seem to have very viable strategies, but after a while, they disappear as quickly as they appear in the business horizon or they are bought by competition. Some have endured through decades and centuries of robust operations pursuing their vision and mission while religiously living their core values and enhancing their capabilities. Examples are those that Jim Collins wrote about in his books Built to Last and Good to Great (HarperBusiness), like Abbott, Gillette, Pitney Bowes and Walgreens.

Here in the Philippines, we have ABS-CBN, which recently celebrated its golden anniversary. We also have the University of Santo Tomas, which is older than Harvard. There is Max’s Chicken and BPIs all over the place, Alpha School Supplies in Davao, Philippine Airlines, Biscocho House in Iloilo, Session Café in Baguio City, and many others. First Philippine Industrial Corp. and Union Galvasteel Corp. have not only survived competition and various economic and political crises, but they continue to lead in their respective industries.

Please take note that all these organizations have stuck to their original business idea while constantly reinventing themselves through technology and talent management. Reminds me of what Seth Godin, Idea Merchant, said, “an idea that wins ultimately does so because of intelligent seeding.”

Personal. Prayers for a blissful married life to Vladimir Tuazon and Abigail Mustard who are tying the knot this November 15 at the Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church and Jeff Pecaña and Ginny Cabalu, on November 29 at the Archbishop’s Palace.

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., and assists companies in their Strategic Thinking and Planning. She awaits your feedback at

Monday, November 3, 2003

Making Big Decisions

Business Times p.B5
Monday, November 3, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Journey on entrepreneurship: Making big decisions

In his book Strategy Pure & Simple, Michel Robert wrote: “Once a company’s management understands which driving force is at the root of the company’s strategy, decisions about the types of products, markets and users that will bring competitive advantage are made more successfully.”

You can’t be and you can’t sell everything to all possible markets and users at the same time. There is no Jack of all-trade company. Even variety stores don’t carry everything. If they carry a lot of things, they are still known for one particular line of products or service. Otherwise, they are carrying a lot of non-moving goods and a huge inventory, which represents sank costs and losses.

Even variety shows on television and radio are focused on a certain aspect of the show, mostly the host/s or a certain attractive segment that appeal to most fans. That is why variety shows try to present a single theme for its regular presentations. They can’t be all things to all fans. David Letterman is the single, most important factor in the success of The Late Show. His guests add spice and glitter to his repertoire of gigs. People will continue to watch Dave with or without the Top Ten List. Dave provides the strategic heartbeat of the show and everything about the show revolves around him. Without him, there is no Late Show.

This is what is termed strategic driver that establishes the parameters by which critical decisions are made. Over time this driver shapes the landscape where the business operates and determines the identity of the organization. We have discussed eight such most important strategies. We are down to two as we move on our Journey on Entrepreneurship. These last two are return/profit driven strategy and size/growth-driven strategy.

All business organizations are organized for profit but they are not necessarily driven by profit. Even so-called nonprofit organizations need to realize some profits to cover expenses for their day-to-day operation and their projects—especially these days when traditional fund sources are scarce, if not totally unavailable. However, although these organizations desire profit, they do not necessarily exist for profit only.

The Rotary Foundation for Soup Kitchen, Food Bank and Training Center managed by Judge Lore Veneracion under the auspices of the Rotary Club of Quezon City North is reeling under the rising cost of operations and increasing number of recipients for their charities. There are no new donations coming in. The Foundation is raising funds through its various money-making ventures like water filtration, bakery, candle-making, cafeteria and catering services, etc. (If you need any of these products and services for your Christmas give-aways or parties, please call them at 939-8288.)

There is no mistaking, though, that conglomerates or holding companies are there to increase shareholders’ value. The only reason it does business is to earn profit. They form, buy or sell subsidiaries on the basis of return or profit. They even go into unrelated business and acquisition binges for the money. Their driving force is purely profit. Financial institutions such as banks, investment houses, lending companies and pawnshops are similarly driven.

Finally, some businesses are driven by size or growth strategy. Simply for growth’s sake or for economies of scale, they expand and diversify. They probably coined buzzwords such as lateral diversification and backward integration. Sometimes these activities are done without regard for financial gains. Big is beautiful is their motto.

At this point, maybe you have been through several ways of assessing opportunities for your business. You have revisited your goals and objectives for the coming years in your annual planning workshop. You have reviewed the performance of your operating and administrative units. If you are a small enterprise, you review your overall performance.

Having done all that, if you are still finding it difficult to make those big decisions about your products, markets and users, then, you have no strategy in the first place and the future of your enterprise is nowhere in sight.

Moje Ramos-Aquino is the president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and assists companies in their strategic thinking and planning. Her email is

Monday, October 27, 2003

(Untitled and unpublished article on business competition)

By Moje Ramos-Aquino

Remember when a Coca Cola changed its formulation approximating Pepsi’s sweetish taste? It was a big flop. Immediately, Coca Cola switched back to its old and trusted formula and put back Classic Coke into the market. This illustrates the danger of playing by the rules of a competitor and abandoning your own competitive drive.

Splash Holdings, Inc., did not attempt to come up with a Dove-like or Palmolive-like soap. They came out with their own papaya-based soap. It rode on the aspiration of many Filipinas to have smooth white skin. Splash came out a winner with its Hiyas soap. Hiyas was sold at reasonable price unlike earlier papaya soaps that were sold with high price tags.

It is the same with their other products. They stick to their strategic heartbeat—The Filipina’s quest for beauty at affordable price. From a company that started modestly with a capital of Php12,000, Splash is now a billion-peso organization.

We’re back to our continuing Journey on Entrepreneurship. Just to refresh your mind, we were discussing about your company’s strategic driving force. It is that single strategic force that propels or drives your company to success.

From the book of Michel Robert, Strategy Pure & Simple (McGraw Hills), we learned about ten important areas a company might adapt to give it its strategic edge.

Product / service concept
User / customer class
Market type / category
Production capacity / capability
Technology / know-how
Sales / marketing method
Distribution method
Natural resources
Size / growth
Return / profit

We have so far discussed the first six. We shall now focus on distribution method and natural resources.

Bayantel, Globe, Smart and PLDT have one thing in common. They have one unique way of delivering their products to their customer. They use their network of wires, switches, cell sites to reach your telephone set at home or your handheld phone. Meralco has a massive distribution system to sell electricity in their franchise area. Rustan’s, Shopwise, SM, Pricemart, Sta. Lucia, Makro, Robinson’s will sell any product that they could push through their stores.

These companies will only sell products that will optimize the use of their distribution system. Globe sells Nokia phones at discounted price only to lure users and make it easier for them to use their distribution system. They are not in the business of selling telephone sets.

On the other hand, oil and mining companies are classic example of natural-resources driven company. They derive business from their access to and pursuit of natural resources. The big mining companies in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, all folded up when the earth beneath them failed to yield profitable quantities of gold and other minerals.

What is the key to your company’s survival, competitive advantage and success?

(Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and helps companies in their strategic thinking and planning initiatives. She receives feedback at

Monday, October 20, 2003

Filipinos in the US: Business opportunities

Business Times p.B5
Monday, October 20, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Filipinos in the US: Business opportunities

It is always exhilarating to come home from a trip abroad. There is really nothing like living in the Philippines for me. Other countries like the US of A for us are just for visiting for business or leisure.

Next column, we shall continue our discussion of strategic drivers for our continuing Workshop on Entrepeneurship. Let me just wrap up my insights from my meandering in the Americas. Look out for business opportunities as my story unfolds.

One of the points that I will never forget from Dr. F. Landa Jocano’s lectures about Filipino values goes like this: At work during the day, the Filipina may wear make up such as foundation by Lancôme, rouge by Esteé Lauder, lipstick by Clarins, mascara by Clinique and eyebrows by Mongol. But home at night, she removes this external mask and what is left is the real Filipina—loving, caring and family-focused. The made­up face is for the outside world, the naturally clear face is for family and loved ones. No matter what she puts on her face underneath that is the Filipina olive skin, Filipina values and the Filipina dream.

So are Filipinas (and Filipinos) anywhere. In San Diego, California, outwardly our fellow Filipinos have definitely embraced the American life and love for consumer products. Their houses look just like any American house, outside and inside. But if you look closely inside their refrigerator and pantry (and I suppose elsewhere in the world), you will find bagoong, tuyo, tamarind soup base, hopia, Marca Piña Soy Sauce, Jufran Catsup and other Filipino favorites. They even grow calamansi and Philippine guava trees in their backyards. My sister-in law, Ate Prima Aquino, said they regret that kamias tree and other Philippine fruit-bearing trees do not seem to thrive in the cool climate of San Diego County. Otherwise, their backyards would have been full of them.

No wonder that Jollibee is so successful in the US—they are setting up several new outlets. Goldilocks and other Filipino restaurants and stores are thriving, as well.

At work and in public places, Filipinos all over the United States might sound like Americans, but at home they speak their first language—Tagalog, Visayan, Pangalatok and Ilocano. When speaking one’s first language, one is able to express emotions better. How do you say sayang in English? The English words regret, unfortunate, pity don’t actually express what it means.

Filipinos know how to create happiness. Filipinos in San Diego don’t need any occasion to be merry – they create the situation. They work in earnest from Monday to Friday. Partying starts on Friday evening until Sunday evening—birthday, baptisms, house blessing, wedding, reunion and all sorts of parties. In one such party given by the Aquinos for their grandson Joshua, they served 25 different viands and 15 kinds of desserts. Plus a variety of sodas, juices and wines. The party started at lunch and on to dinner and midnight snack. Pig-out talaga!

At the birthday party of Lenie Velasco, she had 14 viands, 6 salads and 10 desserts for her ballroom dancing friends. Lenie and her husband run the Bert Velasco Dance-O-Rama. For $5, you gain entrance to dance lessons, ballroom dancing and a plateful of pancit from 6-10 p.m. on Fridays. The day we were there, the lesson was on American jazz. Filipinos love to dance and they do it very well. Con todo acción y emoción. Cha-cha, tango, swing, reggae, curacha, salsa, mambo, foxtrot, you name it. Fellow Manila Times columnist Becky Garcia, Hi Society, will enjoy it there.

San Diego county is sprawling and vast—if you don’t have a proper map or don’t know how to use a map, it is difficult to go places. And, for more than an hour, we cruised the area of Chula Vista looking for the house of Zeny Macaoay because the sketch given was a little off. But the warm hospitality of the Macaoay family and the array of food served more than compensated for the gallons of gas and patience used to find their place. The Macaoays are in the habit of collecting houses. Zeny says she is tired of working 8-5 and wants to pursue a real estate career. I must thank Zeny for bringing me to Tijuana, Mexico.

There are numerous Filipino associations in San Diego. They even have an association of Filipinos who have retired from their jobs. I went to their well-attended (more than 500 people) ballroom party and coronation of their queen and princesses. As usual, the night was filled with long-winded speeches. Pinoy na Pinoy talaga!

I gained a total of 15 pounds in my two-week stay in San Diego. In all these parties, there is always lechon, halabos na hipon, dinuguan, barbecue, kaldereta, menudo, puto, suman, a variety of Filipino rice cakes, maja blanca and others. The Pangasinenses and Ilocanos will always serve pinapaitan and kinilaw na kambing. The Bicolanos, their laing and other food cooked in coconut milk. The Visayans, their kinilaw na isda and sinugba.

Darwin Ferrer, the only son of Ate Lily and Kuya Alex Ferrer opted to celebrate the party of their daughter, Jackie, at the Italian restaurant, Buca. Darwin, Josephine, Alexander and Jackie don’t speak Tagalog or Pangalatok. Darwin has not been back to the Philippines since he left at 3 years old. Josephine, Alexander and Jackie were born in the US and have never been to the Philippines. Theirs is already an American family pursuing the American dream living life the American way. However, they definitely look Filipinos and exhibit Filipino values like family centeredness. Jackie and Alexander are still living in the family home and are being sent to college by their parents.

Filipinos are longing to come back or even just visit the Philippines. They nurture their ties with remaining members of their family here—aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces with remittance to help in their daily subsistence, education and emergency. The umbilical cord of Fil-San Diegans is very much connected to their roots here in the Philippines. Even Darwin, when he sets foot here in the Philippines, I am sure, will find his heart beating for his fellow Filipinos.

Now, since we are in the subject of entrepreneurship, what are business opportunities here? In San Diego—money remittance, balikbayan-box shipment, Filipino food and restaurant, party organizing, and anything that reminds Filipinos of home. Here in the Philippines—English language and American accent tutorial for immigrating Filipinos, money remittance, alisbayan box, export of anything that will remind Filipinos there of home.

They are building a Filipino Village (similar to Chinatown and Little Saigon) in National City to honor the more than a million Filipinos in San Diego.

Moje Ramos-Aquino is President of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and she loves to travel, around the Philippines and abroad. Her email address is

Monday, October 13, 2003

(Untitled and unpublished article on innovation)

LEARNING & INN0VATI0N { October 13, 2003}
By Moje Ramos-Aquino

Innovation is not just a buzzword. Companies use and benefit from innovative ideas. Here in Santee Library in San Diego, I have the opportunity to read through three newspapers {The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Financial Times} and I notice that advertisements share one theme: innovation. The ad headlines and copy by themselves are very innovative.

Consider these advertising headlines:
- Singapore Airlines: Space bed. The biggest business class bed in the sky.
- British Airways: Rarely has sleeping on the job been so well rewarded.
- Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts: You don’t find peace of mind. You arrive at it.
- Volvo: 5-star luxury. 5-star safety.
- Societe Generale Group: Innovative banking creates value. Profit from it.
- Dassault Falcon: Celebrating 40 years of helping CE0s make their wisest decisions. Falcon isn’t a plane, it’s a decision.
- Radisson Edwardian Hotels: Free to be.
- HSBC: In Korea red is an unlucky color.
- American Century, investment managers: American Possibilities. You didn’t think we go there. Guess what? We do.
- Bear Stearns: Throw us your toughest curve. The harder they come, the farther we go. A great deal depends on working with the right people.
- Reuters: Rule #8—to find the right partner play the field.
- Microsoft Business Solutions: Questions are everywhere. Insight is not.
- Hudson Global Resources: Our resources. Your expertise. Where can we take you?
- Tiffany & Co.: For your children’s children.
- American Electric Power: Focus is the mark of an experienced performer.
- Solectron, an electronic manufacturing and supply-chain services company: You spoke, we listened.
- Smith Barney Citigroup: A job well done is a job that’s never really done.
- SAAB: Rain can’t hit what rain can’t catch.
- Mercedes-Benz: If only there were a passing lane for the passing lane. The C230 Sport Sedan with a supercharged kompressor engine.
- Starwood Preferred Guest: True redemption defined—No blackouts. No limits. No hassles.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb Company: The tour of Hope--the race never stops.
- Principal Financial Group: Why do we work?
- Northwest Airlines: You used to wait in line. Now you’re flying smart.

A recruitment ad by Common Fund, an endowment investment management firm, goes: Wanted Managing Director/Relationship Officer. Will have sales/service responsibilities for current relationships in the North/East region. Will have actively develop new business as well as interface effectively with institutional investors using consultative sales approaches. Ability to manage/contribute to the evolution of change in client service and sales essential. {Surely, this job profile would require not the usual job skills, but new competencies such as innovation, consultative and facilitative skills, and others.),

What they said and why Ahh-nold won as governor of California in their recent recall election:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: It is a about the people vs the government—the people vs the politicians.
- Gray Davis: I’m optimistic that things will go well. I trust the voters. I believe in them. I know they’ll do the right thing.
- Cruz Bustamante: we’re hoping for a big turnout.
- Tm McClintock: I think we have the makings for an upset.

My biggest insights from these ads are:
- People’s {and clients’} needs have changed and are changing.
- Those who profess to serve these needs need to be innovative both with their products and the way they present these products to their customers.
- These needs are centered at the heart of the customers and the Fannie Mae ad said it best: You’re looking at the most powerful economic force in the country-- the American dream. Entrenched in the heart of every Filipino, wherever we are, is that Filipino dream: house of our own Di ba? In San Diego County, for example, Fil-Ams work two or three jobs to fulfill this dream. The success of every Filipino is based on the size and location of their house. San Diegan-Filipinos are very successful, indeed.

Conoco Phillips says it all: Elevate performance. “It can’t be done.” “You’re crazy.” “Never.” “No.” These are the words that come in the beginning. 0nly to be proven wrong in the end. We realize that impossibilities sometimes yield the best opportunities. So where the others see an obstacle, we see a chance to elevate.

It is now Autumn and the climate here in San Diego is wonderfully cool. I am blessed to have wonderful hosts: Ate Prima Ferrer-Aquino in Santee and Kuya Alex and Ate Lily Ferrer in San Diego. San Diego is a super vacation destination—vast, not thickly populated and well planned. There are many public libraries that offer free use of computers and the internet. There are successful Filipino entrepreneurs here.

{Moje Ramos-Aquino is president f Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. She designs and facilitates innovation interventions for companies. Her email address is}

Monday, October 6, 2003

Panamá time or American time?

Monday, October 6, 2003
Business Times p.B5

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Panamá time or American time?

Now I fully agree with Prof. Poch Macaranas of the Asian Institute of Management that Filipinos are more like the Latinos than Asians not only in terms of our time­keeping but also in many more ways. ASTD Network Panamá President Mayra Banez, conference workhorse Liliana de Duque, ASTD stalwart Carol Susan Davauney and tourism expert Pascual Calvosa and the members and staff of ASTD Panamá showered us with Panamanian hospitality to the max on top of the well organized and superbly run Congreso Internacional, ASTD Red Global Panamá. There were speakers from all over Latin America, US, Europe, India and the Philippines.

I had the opportunity to go around Panamá City and observe Panamanians at work and at play. It was like being in the Philippines except for the language spoken. Panamanian lives, like ours, are intertwined with their religion-Roman Catholicism. There are churches and religious icons everywhere. Likewise, the influence of Hollywood Americans is very visible in their aspirations. After all, they use US dollars more than their currency, Balboas.

The days of the conference were packed with learning sessions and the evenings were receptions. One of the interesting sessions in the conference was led by K. Jayshankar of India's Empowered Learning Systems. Jay spoke about the challenge of leading change in India. There are many lessons for entrepreneurs from their experiences.

* India is experiencing shifts in business: From protectionism to competition, the era of industrial relations is over. Days of job security are over. We see the collapse of hierarchy. Right sizing has become common. There is increased focus on the untapped and hidden rural market. The growth of the services sector and India as the new back office of the world are notable.

* The Indian Institute of Technologies is now attempting to bridge the gap between scientific and technical domain by incubating companies.

* For the family enterprise: Liberalization has spelt doom for many businesses. However, it has created new global first generation entrepreneurs (Infosys, Satyam, Zee, etc.) who no longer seek political favors. The family business has been reshaped with the induction of professional managers-family members need to prove that they are eligible for the job. Increasingly, active investor capitalism is required.

* The new market is the great leveler. Quo vadis is the dilemma for the new leader.

* Leadership and managerial skills matter. The need to have strong "leaders" and the tendency to worship them is a strong current in India.

* Corporate governance and accountability issues are at the forefront.

* The vision of the global Indian enterprise: daring to dream. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be the change that you want to create."

* Changes in business organizations include reforms in managerial styles and physical changes in workplaces. Compensation practices including stock options are now linked to performance. Individual brilliance has given way to the language of teams. There is an increasing number of women in the workplace.

* The Nirma success: this reduced the market price of detergents to levels affordable to many-this enlarged the market size for detergents. This has become an eye-opener and inspiration to many Indian entrepreneurs.

* AT Tata Steel, former managing director Dr. J. J. Irani says, "the physical changes of technology are being augmented by the liberation of the mind. With the modernization of the mind, each individual is elevated to a plane where he is comfortable with responsibility and complex ideas, who reasons every choice before him with a free mind, who has aspirations for himself, his family and society. A company with such a workforce shall, without doubt, reach the peak of achievement and success."

* The current leadership initiatives in India are centered on investing in people and calling upon their skills and ideas, creating an inclusive, challenging and nurturing environment that enables employees to develop their fullest potential through participating fully in the life of the organization, creating workplaces that inspire and motivate and emphasizing teamwork and interpersonal skills as against the obsession for analytical skills and tools.

* Infosys managing director Nandan M. Nilekani has this to say: "Downturn or not, we believe that talent finds its own level. If efforts are not made to attract, retain and nurture it, talent will walk out of the front door."

* The challenges facing business in India today include initiating and managing change, managing and developing talent, generating the spirit of innovation and adventure and resolving the issue of employability, no longer employment.

Jay ends his talk with his own quotable quote: "If you are the best or want to be the best, you can not wait for change to happen. Go and create it!"

I am missing Manila but there are miles to go and promises to keep. See you in San Diego, California.

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and facilitates the creation and management of change. You may email her at

Monday, September 29, 2003

Panama Canal: Lessons for the entrepreneur

Monday, September 29, 2003
Business Times p.B5

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Panamá Canal: Lessons for the entrepreneur

I wish I had my civil engineer son, Ronwaldo, with me when I crossed El Canal de Panamá from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. It is, indeed,one of the engineering marvels of all time. It took the Americans more than 10 years (1903-1914), a workforce of 75,000 men and women and US$400MM to construct this inter-oceanic canal across the Isthmus of Panamá. Awesome!

Every entrepreneur would also learn from the determination, will and teamwork of the people who built the canal and left an invaluable legacy to mankind. They are credited for eradicating yellow fever and malaria, setting up the towns and the supply system, organizing the all-important train system to haul rocky materials, pushing through the construction of the locks, Gatun Dam and excavation of the Cut, and for the final engineering designs. Groundbreaking!

Today the Canal's operation is a major contributor to the Panamá economy. Its watershed of treasured forests is of extraordinary biodiversity that serves as the primary fresh water source for the efficient operation of the canal and the supply of water for consumption by cities and communities. Captivating!

If there are metal elevators for people and goods, the Canal uses water elevators (52 million gallons of water per ship per crossing) to raise the ship in transit of the channel through the continental divide. The Canal is 26 meters above sea level. Wow!

More importantly, I was in the enthusiastic company of brilliant conversationalists K. Jayshankar of Empowered Learning Systems of India and Kathy Shurtee and Susan DellCioppia of Broward County Commission of Florida, USA.The three made very interesting presentations at the just-concluded ASTD Panamá Conference in Panamá City. We'll talk about that next column. We also traveled with this amiable couple Lucio and Terry Chueca from Peru and USA.

Some nuggets of innovation that I picked up mostly from Terry are:

* Don't be neutral. You may not change the world, but you can change something in your proximate environment. Don't be afraid to speak out what is in your mind and heart.
* Accept mediocrity. This will make you do things you want to do but you are not good at or to do things for the first time. Nobody will ever be perfect.
* In Peru, people express their anger with exclamation marks!!!!! They raise their voice, gesture emphatically or overemphasize certain words. But in the US, people use a lot of cuss words whether they are angry or happy. Terry feels it very disconcerting and bad for her spirit. So she banned the use of cuss words in her office. If they want to curse or express strong emotions, they can say "cacawaca!" Everybody knows what it means but nobody is offended.
* There is always a business opportunity wherever you are, if only you looked around. There was this immigrant from Japan who had practically nothing when they arrived in Peru. They settled in an area populated by the poorest of the poor Peruvians who could not even afford to take a decent bath as necessary. This Japanese family put up simple cubicle bathhouses that not only helped a lot of people maintain hygiene but also made them financially prosperous over a short period of time.

These immigrants used their experience of bathhouses in Japan. For affordable cents, one is given a small bar of soap, a sachet of shampoo and the use of clean, sweet-smelling towels and a shower of fresh, clean water. Innovative!

* Kathy talked about a creative way of having a car without spending so much. This new car-sharing program is becoming popular in the US. You pay a $20-a-year membership and you pay per hour every time you use the car. You call a certain telephone number to reserve a car and the operator tells you where to get the car nearest your location. After use, you can leave car at designated places or in your garage. You can't use the car one minute before or after your time slot. At the exact time, you can unlock the car and at the appointed time, the car locks.
* Kathy and Jay shared their experience in an ice bar in Sweden. When you enter the shop, you get a leather overcoat and a pair of mittens. Everything inside is made of ice-tables, chairs, glasses, mugs, plates, decors, etc. This idea might just work in the Philippines where already ice-skating has a big following. Any interested entrepreneur?
* Parents should love their children; but not necessarily like them.
* Don't take short cuts. Don't make corners round.
* Pray wherever you are, what ever you are doing.

There are lots more to share. Just wait for the Innovation Camp reopening early next year in Manila. Abangan!

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and designs & facilitates innovation initiatives. She awaits your email at

Monday, September 22, 2003

Flexibility and human interaction

Business Times p.B5
Monday, September 22, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Flexibility and human interaction

IT WAS a big relief to savor adobo, sinigang, paksiw and Selecta Ice Cream again after several days of tacos, burritos, green chilis, red chilis, Haagen Daz y algunas otra comidas Mexicana in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Thanks to relatives in Berkeley, California, for their usual hospitality. These are the Aquinos: Joven, Gemma, Jennifer, John and Joseph and the Jacobs: Manang Nena, Tatang Jose, Liza, Beth, Jojo, Gus and Gooby. Gilman, Nielson and Peralta Streets in Berkeley are their territory and Tagalog is spoken there. It is heartening to know that people could change without changing. They are Americans outside, but remain Filipinos to the core. Uh-huh.

Let me share some more innovative ideas from the Seeds of Innovation Trainer´s Training Program I attended in Santa Fe, conducted by The Innovation Group led by Innovation Guru and author Elaine Dundon (Seeds of Innovation, AMA, 2002) and Dr./Prof. Alex Pattakos. I hope this would lead you into the road of innovation.

• The primary basis for creativity is a curious mind. The three curiosity questions that push individuals the farthest into new territory are: “Why?,” “What if?” and “What else?.”

• You must believe that everyone is creative because without it, there is no innovation. Some traits of the creative thinker are: willingness to challenge the status quo, curiosity, being adventurous, imaginative, able to make connections, observant, flexible, reflective, playful, tolerates being in the unknown, continuously learning, enjoys complexity and others.

• Try these creative-thinking exercises: Your budget has been cut in half, what would you do? Your budget has been doubled, what would you do?

• In today’s world, demanding customers are always looking for the extraordinary or the exceptional, surprising or unusually great. To shift from the ordinary to the extraordinary, these strategies could be used: target the most profitable customers, offer something distinctly new and better, set your innovation priorities, make sure it is easy, pick up the pace, systematize with modules, profit from the power of branding, add credibility and create magnet-works.

• Innovation is a transformational challenge as well as a creative and strategic one. It is not about statistical process control; it is about flexibility and human interaction.

• Some characteristics of an innovative organizations are: they encourage all employees, partners and suppliers to take an active role in innovation, they welcome new ideas and new approaches, they look to the future to anticipate the customers’ future needs, they redefine the rules of the game and challenge complacent competitors, they empower their customers with information and more control over the purchasing process, they embrace new technology to strengthen their competitive advantage and others.

• Your company is in Innovation Rut and needs to take corrective action immediately if: your products and services have lost their competitive edge, you lack consensus on what you would like to see happen within your organization in the next few years, you spend more time discussing the present and the past than you do on looking to the future, you spend more time on internal issues than in pleasing your external customers, you rarely discuss and acknowledge your weaknesses, valuable information is being held too tightly and not shared, innovation efforts are not rewarded or recognized, people are not really enjoying their work and others.

• The three P’s of innovation are passion, patience and perseverance.

• Remember, if you want others to believe in your idea, you need to be passionate about it yourself.

• Innovation is about the courage to stand alone for a while until others catch up. Do you ever wonder how Alexander Graham Bell felt when he invented the telephone and people criticized his idea. People then thought he was crazy when he said that voices could travel through a wire. Thanks to the passion, patience and perseverance of Mr. Bell we are now enjoying our mobile phones. Thanks to its international roaming capability I am in touch with my family and friends anytime, anywhere I am. (Unless very important, don´t start sending text or calling me because that could send me to the poorhouse.)

• Finally, here´s a list of what innovation is not: just a new technology, sector-specific, just for the research and development department, isolated to special teams or “skunkworks,” a creative playroom, a one-off event, just a creativity training and just applicable to new products.
I am excited to do another “Innovation Camp” again when I am back in Manila. Let me put on my creative, strategic and transformational thinking cap to enable me to bring the Innovation Group to Manila. Abangan!

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and designs and facilitates interventions for innovative organizations. She awaits your reaction and comments on the topic of innovation at

Monday, September 15, 2003

Innovation is successful only if implemented

Business Times p.B5
Monday, September 15, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Innovation only successful if implemented

If you are going to the US, be sure to spend ample time in Sta. Fe, New Mexico. It is indeed an apt venue for an innovation workshop. Life here is serene and laidback. No rush, no stress. People walk leisurely at any time of the day. No traffic. There seems to be more art pieces in so many museums, galleries and craft shops than people and cars. The most famous is the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. And the best place to stay is the Hotel St. Francis on San Gaspar Street.

Walking the streets of Sta. Fe is like feeding the soul. It heightens your spiritual feelings.

The real reason I am here, though, is to attend the “Seeds of Innovation” Trainor Certification Workshop. We have outstanding program designers, facilitators and resource persons from the Innovation Group. They are innovation guru and author (Seeds of Innovation, American Management Association, 2002) Elaine Dundon, Dr. Alex Pattakos and Kathy Trickey.

My fellow participants were innovation leaders of Cargill Sweeteners North America, Thomas Ryba; Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., Lori Gandy; University of California in San Bernardino Clifford Young and Kraft Foods R&D: Kari Kunath, Colleen Carey, Ellen Chamberlain, Bill Croasmun, Leslie Hasbrouck and Ray Laudano (fondly called Peter “Sparky” Louisiana).

One interesting thing about the innovators from Kraft is their position titles. They don’t hold traditional position titles such as manager or engineer. They get to give themselves their own title, e.g. energized innovator, heightened sense for innovation, innovative product designer.

In two days that we were together, I could not tell who is boss or subordinate because they personified their preferred titles rather than their hierarchical positions. Amazing, how labels can really change people.

I learned a lot from all of them as much as I learned from the workshop itself. Our discussions were intense and passionate. New, better ideas and insights filled our room and eclipsed the bad service at the Hilton of Sta. Fe.

We experienced a variety of creative activities. On two occasions we were made to walk the streets of downtown Sta. Fe, in pairs, lugging Polaroid cameras. We took shots of people, things, plants and others that represent own passion and connectivity. The debriefing of these exercises were profound and very personal.

We studied and practiced the seeds of innovation—creative thinking, strategic thinking and transformational thinking.

Some of things I learned are:
• great ideas are not innovative unless they are successfully implemented;
• when we benchmark, we don’t just look for best practices, but more of possible next practices;
• when we just look intently, there are many positives from negative people, things and events;
• an organization can be innovative even if the industry or sector in which it competes is not typically known for innovation;
• what got accompany where it is today might not get it through the next few years;
• innovation is the discipline and practice of cultivating, supporting and sustaining innovation at the individual, team and organization levels;
• we look at innovation management in two distinct categories—business strategy and organizational design; and
• innovation is a combination of four building blocks: creativity or identification of a new idea; strategy or identification of useful idea; implementation or putting this new and useful idea into action and; profitable implementation or maximizing the added value from the implementation of this new and useful idea.

This is all for now. I am catching a flight to San Francisco and Berkeley to visit some friends. When I am back in Manila, I shall revive my workshop called Innovation Camp. Abangan.

Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp and designs and facilitates innovation interventions. She awaits your emails at

Monday, September 8, 2003

Choose your driving force--Part II

Business Times, p.B5

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Choose your driving force--Part II

Shepherd’s Law of Economics states that behind each corporation must be a singular force, or motive, that sets it apart from any other corporate structure and gives it its particular identity. Author Michel Robert says that it is the identification of what drives and gives the organization its momentum in a certain direction that is the key element of strategic thinking.

This singular motive is what is generally known in business parlance as driving force. It is that one key element of the organization that pulls the organization to where it wants to go. Having identified it, organizational leaders will find it satisfying from here on to lead the current situation and manage eventual changes. Having understood it, the rest of the organization could confidently march together to the same beat while they innovate along the way. When you know where you are coming from, it is easy to go where you want to be.

Last column we identified three driving forces:

· product/service concept
· user/customer class
· market type/category

Today, in our Journey on Entrepreneurship, let us discuss three more strategic drivers identified by Michel Robert in his book, Strategy Pure & Simple (McGraw Hill):

Production Capacity/Capability-Driven Strategy

An organization might invest heavily in its physical assets and production facility. Therefore, they want to keep this facility running on full capacity. Such a company will attract all takers to optimize such facility. Examples are hotels and airlines. Once an airplane takes off, that’s it. It could not anymore take in passengers while in flight. But who knows that in future there might be air stations for changing flights or taking connecting flights without the hassle of tedious airport procedures. Anyways, everything the airline spent to put that plane in flight is sank cost that cannot be recovered anymore.

Airlines endeavor, therefore, to fill every flight. So everything these airlines do is towards keeping their airplane flying at full capacity for passenger and cargo. Airlines are production capacity/capability-driven organizations.

Technology/Know-How-Driven Strategy
To my mind, the business of 3M is adhesive technology and its many applications. 3M adhesive-based products are in business, medicine, engineering, practically everywhere. They provide solutions for seemingly unrelated problems. You buy a pad of Post-it and soon enough you find a million and one ways you could use them. Soon or late, your whole desk or cubicle or room is grandly decorated with Post-it reminders, quotes, markers, instructions, etc.

Clearly, 3M is a technology/know-how-driven organization. Same with Microsoft, Dupont, Sony, Sharp, Xerox, HP, Polaroid, IBM, and many other companies offering “solutions looking for problems.” These companies create or acquire hard and soft technology and go looking out for applications of that technology. They normally offer an array of products and services and serve a broad spectrum of end users and market segments.

Sales/Marketing Method-Driven Strategy
So-called-dirty ice cream companies thrive because of their sales method which is peddling ice cream in carts along streets, narrow and wide, particularly in residential areas. You will never see a dirty ice cream company selling its products in supermarket or malls or variety stores. They will not also sell any product that can not fit in their cart and can not be peddled in the streets. You can’t find these ice cream vendors in places where they are not allowed, such as along streets in the busy financial district of Makati. They sell ice cream in cones, in cups or as ice cream sandwiches. They do not sell them by the pint or half gallon or gallon. Otherwise, they lose their identity—ambulant ice cream retail selling method.

This unique way of order taking and selling to customers is employed by sales/marketing method-driven companies. Avon, Tupperware, Amway and Fortune Selling use the door-to-door direct selling. They will only sell products that could be sold by this method. They prohibit their sales crew from selling their products from a stationary venue like a store.

Take note that for the example companies given here, their respective driving force guides all their strategic decisions regarding products, customers, markets and use of resources. It makes them focus their energies and resources to most important elements of the organization and forget about the “noise” around them. It is their not-so-secret weapon that gives them the “magic” competitive edge.

Next column we will discuss the last four possible strategic drivers an organization could pursue.

Final call. You still have a week to prepare to go to Panama and attend the First ASTD Global Network Conference and Exposition on linking training and performance. This will be held on Sept 17-19, 2003 at Hotel Riande Intercontinental, Panama City. Call GraceVictoriano at telephone 715-9332 for details. See you there.

(Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and facilitates strategic thinking process. Email your comments and questions for her at

Monday, September 1, 2003

Choose your driving force

Monday, September 01, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Choose your driving force

How do you swat a fly or a mosquito?

No, you don’t swat at where they are because by the time your swatter reaches its target area, the fly or mosquito would have happily moved away and buzzed your eardrums in retaliation. This is reactive. That’s akin to fire, ready, aim!

Rather, you get ready and aim at where they are going first. You anticipate and pro-act.

That might as well be the basis for our planning which is defined as not about what you will do in the future; it is about what you will do now to make the future all you want it to be. It is acting in advance of critical change. But thinking precedes planning.

My friend Liza Hizon asks how will you know where they are going? How will you know which is their tail and which is their head? Well, you observe. Watch. Scan your environment. You think ahead before you attack. In business, we do strategic thinking first. It is not just a matter of swatting one lonesome fly or mosquito, but it is exterminating the whole swarm and their habitat.

Strategic thinking is done by maintaining focus, thinking long terms, sorting out which is important versus what is ‘noise’ and acting accordingly. It is deciding on your driving force and areas of excellence, scanning the environment (internal and external), defining your vision, mission and values, exploiting your positives, and determining your strategic goals for the long haul. It precedes any planning—strategic, operational/tactical or action planning. Strategic thinking is opportunistic and exploitative.

Why are flies and mosquitoes still thriving today while the dinosaur is now extinct? What makes them tick? What drives them to pursue life relentlessly?

We focus on your driving force in this leg of your journey on entrepreneurship.

Some strategic questions you might ask of your business: What determines which users/customers are sought and which are not? What determines which products and services are offered and which are not? What determines which market segments are pursued and which are not? The answer to these important questions are critical factor in thinking strategically. It is called your driving force.

The driving force of your business is your final filter when deciding which of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are most critical to your business.

Michel Robert writes in his book, Strategy Pure & Simple: “What is it that determines the nature of the products, customers, market segments and geographic areas that a company pursues and those that it does not? How does management decide which of these it seeks to pursue and not to pursue?” The answer to these vital questions, Robert said is the concept of driving force, which is the most important element of thinking strategically.

The driving force is what motivates your organization to do what it has to do, to pursue specific products and services, customers and markets and eventually evolve into that distinct identity and acquire a certain personality of its own. It is what gives your business the momentum, the push to seek its preferred direction.

Robert asserts that an organization has only one driving force. This key component of your business is the heart of your organization’s business that gives it an edge in the market place.

In the said book he listed 10 important and strategic areas of your organization. He said that although all 10 of these components are present in most organizations, only one of these are strategically most important to your company and the engine that propels or drives your company forward to success. For today’s column we shall mention three of the strategic organizational drivers.

Product/service concept-driven strategy
This is the driving force of a company whose whole business revolves around one single product. Although this company might have several product lines, they are the simply variations or modifications of derivatives of the same product. Car companies are the best example. Toyota, Volvo, Honda and others produce nothing but automobiles. Different make and models; but still they are all automobiles with the same look and function. Its line of food products are what drives Mekeni Food Products to success.

User/customer class-driven strategy
A user/customer class-driven company is one that tries to satisfy the related needs of the class of end users that it wants to pursue. Johnson & Johnson has pledged to serve the health-related needs of its chosen customers—doctors, patients and mothers. J&J products might seem varied and unrelated, but they are all made for their preferred customers. Recently, they have added a new group of users to this list–babies, all ages and sizes. Therefore, they have added new products like face powder.

Market type/Category-driven strategy
Unlike the user-customer class-driven company, market-type/category-driven companies pursue specific market category, not a set of end-users. From its name alone, American Hospital Supply, you can already tell that its business is tied to hospitals. They endeavor to satisfy the varied needs of its chosen market. Their product range is wide and equally varied from bedpans to sutures to gauze pads to electronic imaging systems and others.

We shall discuss the seven other possible strategic drivers of organizations next columns.

Call 7890 or 027890. This is the 24-hour hotline to report erring or abusive drivers of taxis, FXs, buses, jeepneys and tricycles. I assure you the men and women manning this government service are doing their job well.

Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and helps companies develop and implement strategies and plans. She could be reached at

Monday, August 25, 2003

Sifting through tons of data for useful information

Monday, August 25, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Sifting through tons of data for useful information

Author Richard Pas­cale warns that when the world around you changes, maintaining your equilibrium is a threat to your future existence. There is a need to continuously do strategic thinking and rethinking part of which is scanning your internal and external business environment.

Previously, in our Journey on Entrepreneurship, we brainstormed on your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats or what we call SWOT, in and around your internal and external environments. Are you overwhelmed by so much data? What do you do with all these valuable information? You actually only need just enough data to make good decisions toward where you want to bring your business in the short-, mid- and long-term horizon.

First, you convert those data into useful information. Pass them through a sifter to separate what is important from what is noise. What are your filters?

If you are a big company, you probably need to focus on strategic and corporate issues. But let your functional or geographical units you are presently structured do the subsequent downstream planning. Thus, you need to identify your priorities in the areas of organization development and change, market leadership, competition, competitive positioning and measure of customer satisfaction.

If you are a small company, you will probably do better to focus on innovation and creativity to overcome the tendency to think day-to-day. Keep an eye on unproductive organizational elements like people, costs, systems and resources. Being small means you have limited resources that you need to maximize. Being small does not mean to have small ideas. You need to watch out for improving profitability of your existing business, penetrating new or other markets and sourcing new funding.

If you are a rapidly growing company, sift through issues that will help you consolidate or increase market share and gain competitive advantage in your present and target market segments. It will also help to further analyze your operations, cost and quality to stay in business in the long haul. Sharpen your analyses for issues on broadening your market base, developing new products, expanding distribution. Is there a window for you to open your business to franchising?

If you have been in business for quite a while and now feeling comfortable and smug, what is your situation analysis telling you? Are you a mature and stable industry? What are the contribution and profit margins of individual products or operational areas in your company? Are your facts and figures showing you organizational incompetence, complacency and lethargy? Where can you be more efficient and make more money? What is competition doing?

If you are a troubled company, there is no time to lose in over analysis. Focus on management, leadership processes and styles for telltale signs of poor management. Zero in immediately on your operations, financials, products and services, people and marketplace problems. At the same time be sure to be very clear about future targets and objectives. Ask yourself what are your organizational strengths that you could capitalize on to assert your competitive presence in the market?

If you are a family company, you can be any of the above companies. Your problem, though, is the nature of your being a family corporation. This might hamper you from doing a real, honest-to-goodness business analysis because your organization might be internally oriented, paternalistic, dominated from the top. Your thinkers probably presented you with a sanitized SWOT analysis to please or to protect you. You may not have the mechanism to allow flow of information from below because of your "ever loyal and protective" cordon sanitaire or your army of AVPs (alalay ng vice president), FOBs (friends of the boss), COBs (children of the boss), FOSOB (friends of the sons/daughters of the boss) and others. You may also be slow in bringing in outside people and ideas that are "contrary" to your internal culture. My advise to you is that before you even say think or plan, hire professional operations persons first. You can continue to be chairman or chief executive officer anytime.

Garen Staglin of Staglin Family vineyard reminds you that when you're in your car looking straight ahead, you miss a whole lot of the beauty of the valley.

1st Congreso Internacional 2003 Panama. Do you know that you could travel from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in eight leisurely hours? Join us at the ASTD Global Network Panama Conference and Expo on September 17 to 19, 2003, at the Hotel Riande Continental, Panama City, Panama. Conference languages are both Spanish and English. Speakers from Africa, Australia, India, the Philippines, United States, Europe and Central and South American countries will truly give this conference an international perspective. This columnist will be speaking on the topic "Leadership and Develop­ment." For details and brochures, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332.

Call 7890 or 027890. This is the 24-hour hotline to report erring or abusive drivers of taxis, FXs, buses, jeepneys and tricycles. I assure you the men and women manning this government service are doing their job well.

Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and helps companies develop and implement strategies and plans. She could be reached at