Thursday, January 29, 2004

Knowing which road to take

Business Times p.B8
Friday, January 29, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Knowing which road to take

IT’S been said again and again to worry only about today because yesterday is gone and tomorrow is yet to come. So why plan? Why set goals?

Let me refresh your mind on this conversation between the Cat and Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“As long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

The world of business is no wonderland if you don’t know where you are going and what you want out of it. You need to be decisive on what you want to achieve guided by your Vision, Mission and Values or VMV.

Your VMV are the lifetime goals of your enterprise. You need to set long-term and short-term goals to reach your lifetime goals. Then your objectives and action plans to realize your big and small goals. As Celia Tejada, senior vice president of Pottery Barn, remarked: “How can you be a big company if you don’t own your own destiny?”

By knowing what you want to achieve, you can optimize your limited resources and concentrate on the more important aspects of your business. By having goals, you and your employees are constantly achieving, renewing your motivation, developing your capabilities, improving your productivity, gaining more self-confidence, increasing your self-satisfaction, overcoming your obstacles, sharpening your managerial and leadership competencies, gaining momentum for bigger and higher goals.

Your long-and short-term goals are Outcome or End Goals. At the end of the day, what do you want to attain? What tangible results do you want to spend your resources and energies on? For example, “By the end of this year, to reduce operating expense from 10 percent to 5 percent of sales with the current manpower complement and without lowering existing product and service standards.” “To realize an increase in net profit of 5 percent per annum.”

Your long-term goals are those that are worth pursuing, motivating, purpo­sive and have a probability of success given sufficient time, effort and resources. These goals are something that you could hold, see, smell, taste, feel and hear. They should be something that you could store in your memory and play again and again in your mind as you go through your daily business and act on your short term-goals.

You tell me not to count the chicks before the eggs are hatched. So you don’t want to plan because your hens might not even lay eggs. So you are not doing anything until you actually see those eggs and in fact hear chicks chirping. When these happen, then that’s the time you act—you run around, you prepare all the necessary materials, you construct a bigger poultry house, you hire the needed people, etc. Imagine all these things happening. Imagine the stress, anxiety, the wishy-washy performance because of lack of focus and concentration, the feeling of being overwhelmed with a million things to do at the same time.

Picture your 30 hens laying 100 eggs. Picture 70 chicks coming out of eggshells. With that picture in mind, you start to prepare your poultry business. That’s planning. You are determining the futurity of your actions today. It is not a dream or a simple wish. It is a calculated risk. Drew Neisser, president of Renegade Marketing Group, warns: “To not take risk is to risk being ignored.”

Next Friday, we’ll discuss how to set goals. Hang on.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., facilitates Strategic Thinking and Planning Workshops, among others. Her email address is moje@­

Friday, January 23, 2004

Ready, aim, fire!

Business Times p.B8
Friday, January 23, 2004

Learning & Innovation
By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Ready, Aim, Fire!

Ready, aim, fire!

You are more than ready now. You have done your homework; done your strategic thinking; identified your strategic driver and core competencies; and articulated them in your vision, mission and values statements. You have also energetically communicated these statements to your stakeholders—financiers, customers, employees, creditors, suppliers, community and significant others.

Hoy, gising! (Hey, wake up!) You now have to wake up from your reverie and face reality. Author Rosabeth Moss Kanter said, “No lasting achievement is possible without a vision. No dream can become real without action and responsibilities.”

Let’s again revisit your vision, mission and values statements. This exercise will also prepare you in our next process which is strategic planning, the “aim” part.

I have facilitated a number of Strategic Thinking & Planning Workshops and have been frustrated many times over. I noticed that supposed thinkers and planners of organizations don’t really like to think and plan. They simply document what they are already doing. They plan for more of the same or, on rare occasion, plan for incremental changes. They concentrate on simply making better, bigger, improved, but it is still the same, product, process, system, customer, etc. They protect their comfort zone. They bring with them to the planning session a virtual arsenal of excuses and defenses.

For a starter, let us stretch our mind and excite our brain cells. Don’t even consider if our plans are achievable or realistic at this point. Don’t just think out of the box, go out of your box and forget about the box. There is no box; it is all in your mind. Just make your brain cells work. A quote from Seneca: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”

Think about this:

Step 1: Start with one simple goal. For example, for USA, Inc., one car company committed: “To mass produce cars by using the assembly line.”

Step 2: One American president made that bigger: “To have a car in every garage.”

Step 3: Americans dreamed on and made it as big as they could: “To be the first to set foot on the moon.”

Step 4: Finally they proved that the outrageous is possible: “To be the world’s greatest superpower.”

If you have a dart board, Step 4 would be in your bull’s eye. It is your general intent, your purpose. It is the reason for your being. It is what you want to do best with your core competencies. It is your mission

Steps 2 and 3 are your short- and long-term goals within your planning horizon. They are your specific and measurable results to be achieved.

Step 1 is what you are going to do in the immediate future to reach and achieve your goals.

When you have achieved Step 4, where do you go? You raise the bar, you set your eyes at much higher targets along the path of your vision. Your vision guides and directs you. For USA, Inc. it seems “To be Number One and the only one.”

That is why the United States of America is so powerful. They fastidiously get ready, they single-mindedly focus on their aim and relentlessly fire with fire and move on without looking back. They are in a continuous cycle of think, plan, do, evaluate, think, plan, do, etc. They pause briefly to celebrate their victories and grieve for the fallen; but they never waver or back out from their strategic thoughts and plans.

Now let me skip the discussion of our situation here in our country. Wait until Mr. Raul Roco serves as our president.

Interviewed on CNBC’s Managing Asia, Creative Master Bermuda CEO Carl Tong said, “We are targeting a double-digit growth this year. We will not be happy with single-digit increase.” He said that one new market they are targeting is China’s miniature car enthusiasts because it is big, has lots of money and is willing to spend. Mr. Tong sounded determined and has sound track record to back his words.

Next Friday, let me guide you through goal setting as we move on to your Journey on Entrepreneurship. We will remember what Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The mind once stretched to new proportions, never returns to its original size.”

Kong Hei Fat Choi!

(Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp and facilitates Strategic Thinking and Planning Workshops. Her email address is

Friday, January 16, 2004

Make them stick: Turn resolutions into goals

Business Times p.B8
Friday, January 16, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Make them stick: Turn resolutions into goals

WHY do you forget your New Year's Resolutions soon after you celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings? Because these resolutions are mere fantasies or inclinations, e.g. I will never be late for any appointment again, I shall lose weight, I shall double my sales income this year, etc.

To make your resolutions stick, you need to turn them into goals and commit your will and all your resources to achieving them. Let's move on to the final set of your "new me" resolutions toward becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Do business in the present. The future will take care of itself. After all, you've done your homework and laid strong foundation for your business.

Stay focused on the truly important things in your business. It is easy to get sidetracked these days. Just read your newspapers and watch opinion and news shows on TV. The coming elections is diverting attention from the business core to current political circus.

Learn at least one new skill this year. Interviewing business executives and human resources professionals, Ben Liboro and his Executive Development Group of the Lopez Group of Companies have identified at least 76 competencies for managerial and leadership effectiveness.

Some of these are: communicate in the language of business, written communication, presentation skills, negotiation, coaching/mentoring, conceptual thinking, systems thinking, sense of humor, innovation, computer savvy, urbanity, planning, stress management, project management, project finance, managing diversity, risk-taking, social responsibility and facilitating among others.

Entrepreneurship is both learning and innovating and is a lifelong journey. And the journey has long begun with your first cry that announced your coming and which you later learned to use to summon attention in your first two years on earth. You've learned a lot more and have come a long way, but the journey goes on especially now that you have chosen to become an entrepreneur.

Travel light. Simplify your life. There is no such thing as your separate business, social, spiritual, family and other lives. You have one life; however, you interact with different people in different environments and contexts. No need to bring into your life a lot of extras, accessories, airs and "just in case" things. Just be yourself and enjoy being you.

Carrying a lot of things in your person weighs you down and tires you easily. Trying to be everything to everybody saps your energy and stretches your resources unduly. Focus on what you really need and pare down your wants. Get rid of left-overs.

Forget and forget. To quote the book, If I really Wanted to Simplify My Life, I would: "The secret to avoiding a lifetime of frustration and an old age marked by bitterness is simple don't hold unto hurts and offenses. Holding a grudge can cause you to doubt the sincerity of others, avoid getting close to people, overact to perceived slights, and become irritable, petty, and paranoid. Life is too short to hold a grudge."

Quash intrigues and rumors immediately. Intrigues can kill your team spirit. Intrigues are divisive and counterproductive. These are machinations of people who have nothing better to do and could only rise from the ashes of others. These are manipulations to grab power and put forward personal agendas. Set things right as soon as you can. Particularly, kick out organization leaders who sow intrigues aimed at their own subordinates.

On the other hand, intrigues, rumors and gossips could be smoking guns of more serious organizational maladies in your business backyard. Listen, analyze, identify the problem and solve it. Refuse to be involved in office politics. Engage everybody to focus on your organizational vision, mission, values and goals.

Eliminate noise in your environment. These are not just typical noise such as loud chatters, machine clatters and environmental sounds such as cars honking and road rage. They make concentrating on work difficult. What can you do? Create a silent zone. Play soothing music. Ask your employees to tone down conversations. Replace old, rickety machines. Use sound barriers.

This noise could also be the racket inside you. What's going on in your head, your heart and your psyche. What's troubling you? What's making you cranky? Do something or simply forget it.

Keep track of your receivables. It is hard enough to make a sale, but having made one, make sure that you recover your capital and earn some. Think about cost of money.

Listen carefully. 50 percent of communication is listening. Experts say that we communicate using words, tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. How do you listen? Listen with your ears and eyes. Uncross your arms and legs, lean forward, keep your mouth shut, cock your ears, open your eyes and look at the person speaking. Think before you speak.

Go for depth over breadth. Make the most and get the best of whatever you have. Exploit your limited resources to the fullest. Dig deep into your potentials. Don't be a Jack of all trade, master of none.

Identify your strategic driver, define it, focus on it. Develop your core competencies, cultivate customer loyalty and be the best that you could be in whatever you do. You are not running a popularity contest; you are in business to earn profit.

Gold, silver and many precious natural resources are found not on the surface, but mostly in the depths of the earth.

Take a scenic route home. At the end of the day, you deserve a leisurely and pleasurable trip home. Before you leave your office, plan for the next day. You don't need to solve all problems immediately, just plan on what you want to do about them next day. Then forget about your work for a while.

On your way out, smile and say some nice words to your security guards who will watch over your business while you sleep in peace. Take the long route through less traveled back roads and drive leisurely.

Watch the faces of children at play. Stop by for some energizing music of JYC & the Jukebox at Bykes Café in Pasong Tamo on Thursdays. Take a stroll along the Roxas Boulevard Baywalk or the boardwalk behind the Luneta Grandstand. Visit a chapel or church and whisper your gratitude to Him. Stay out of malls and other crowded places.

Listen to Christmas carols and prayer songs in your car CD player and arrive home relaxed, smiling and raring to interact with your family. To quote FPHC executive Bon Asis: "Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway."

Moje Ramos-Aquino believes that making New Year's resolution is better than not making one. Better to have a target and miss than shoot aimlessly. Her email address is

Friday, January 9, 2004

An entrepreneur’s New Year’s resolution list to make 2004 more satisfying, exciting

The Manila Times Management Page and this column is now on Fridays instead of Mondays

Business Times p.B10
Friday. January 9, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
An entrepreneur’s New Year’s resolution list to make 2004 more satisfying, exciting

I say that 2003 was a good year for all of us. We have survived it and most of us are better off than when we started last January. As entrepreneurs, you can make 2004 a lot better and a more exciting and satisfying year. Here are some 2004 resolutions you might want to do:

Keep a regular schedule and only one planner. Keep one record of all your family, business and social appointments, special dates, obligations and important events. This will save you untold headaches and embarrassments and keep you out of conflict’s way.

Plan for tomorrow before you leave your office. Leave nothing hanging and sleep soundly.

Plan for, at least, one hour a day that you could spend alone quietly in your office or at home. Time to sort out your thoughts and emotions in complete silence.

Use checklists. Make a list of what to do, who to call, where to go, what to buy and others. Prioritize your list. Checklists are very useful and helpful. They free your mind of routine and clutter and give you more space for more important brain activities like ideating, problem solving and decision making.

Learn from the experts. Watch CNBC, Bloomberg and TechTV channels. While you’re at it, watch also Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Discovery and National Geographic channels.

Dialogue with your favorite banker and learn about banking. Talk to marketing gurus, finance wizards, human resource professionals and other experts. Talk to successful people around. It is as easy as making an appointment with them, preparing questions and talking to them. You don’t need to know them or them to know you personally. I am sure they will oblige you. People like to talk about their achievements especially to an interested audience like you. You can get a lot of useful tips, too.

Attend seminars and conferences. You are never too old, too experienced, too successful or too embarrassed to learn.

One expert you need to have continuing dialogue with is your customer. He/she knows your business and how you could make more money from it by considering his/her needs.

Read. It is best to go back to school, but if school is not your cup of tea, then read, read, read. When I started out in organization and human resource development all I needed to do is read. My educational preparation was in Chemistry and Business Administration. All I know now, I got mostly from reading.

The important thing is you have learning buddies with whom you can discuss what you have read, its significance, applications and relevance to your business and to life.

I always cherish a gift of books and I have a habit of giving books as gifts. This Christmas I received more than a hundred books from my friends, Jimmy and Geena Gregorio.

Set up a work area at home. If you need to work at home, make an efficient and pleasing work corner for yourself in your bedroom or separate room that promotes organized, clear thinking. Fix it with a desk and comfortable chair, calendar, pens and pencils, pencil sharpener, calculator, desktop computer or laptop, desk lamp and others. Provide space for your books and other materials you might need to do work.

Don’t stack files in your home/office. Keep all files in your real office.

Install a bulletin board. Communication is your vital link to your employees. It promotes sense of belonging, care and concern, teamwork, common understanding, sharing of information and so on and so forth. Be sure to update it as often as possible. Put a humor corner where you can post fun memories, cartoons, jokes and fun messages. The Internet is a vast resource for BB materials.

Establish a budget and avoid careless borrowing. Recently we purchased a new car for my office and was approved by at least five banks for an auto loan. The car dealer was tempting us to get a second car. After some pencil pushing, I realized that a second car will make us want to earn more to pay for the loans. It means more work just for one more car. No, thank you. Refuse to spend what you haven’t earned.

Once you have projected your income and determined your fixed costs, identify your business needs and wants and establish a livable budget. Don’t play it by ear. Watch your finances closely. Buy your needs first before your wants. Use cash before you even think of borrowing. Overexten­ding your credit limits or making purchases beyond your means is bad for business. Think of the accruing interests and charges you have to pay when you fall behind payments. You get the feeling that you are working for your creditors instead of being an entrepreneur.

Sign up with the SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-ibig Fund, if you haven’t done so yet. Protect the welfare of your employees and their family at very little costs. It entitles them to sick, maternity, disability and retirement benefits. They could also take out loans to build their house, help them during hard times, and set up their own little business. And the cost is shared between your company and your employees.

If you can afford it, sign them up for educational and other benefits. Your younger employees might want to go back to school. Your travel bugs might opt for travel allowance or use of company vacation house out of town.

Be creative, innovative. Be on the lookout for better, cheaper materials or goods. Review your processes and improve them. If you have the budget for one single change in the way you do business, what would you do and how?

Give yourself and your employees a break. Employees of Misys International Banking Systems enjoy company-paid Friday night outs 51 times a year. Devco Philippines sponsor regular eat-outs for their employees to unwind and enjoy each other’s company outside work.

Don’t allow your employees to eat in their desk not only because it is unsanitary and the crumbs attract rats but also to give them reason to walk around and socialize with their officemates at the office pantry or canteen. Encourage them to take a walk outside the office during lunch or even coffee time. Turn off the lights and let them take forty winks during their breaks. Call centers even provide sleeping quarters for this purpose.

Keep your promises. Say what you mean and do what you say.

Choose fidelity. To quote the book, “If I really Wanted to Simplify My Life I Would”: Fidelity means the faithful execution of your duty, obligations or vows. It means that when faced with a choice, you choose not to lie, cheat, steal, commit fraud or harm another person or business. Living a life of fidelity means that you do not have to cover your behavior with alibis, take evasive action to avoid certain people, or devise elaborate schemes to make amends.”

We will have our last New Year’s Resolution list next column. All my best wishes for your success in the more important aspects of your life and business.

Moje Ramos-Aquino believes that making New Year’s resolution is better than not making one. Better to have a target and miss than shoot aimlessly. Her email address is