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

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