Friday, March 26, 2004

Profits and ethics can go together

The Manila Times
Business Time p.B8
Friday, March 26, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Profits and ethics can go together

All products sell HOPE or something that fulfills the customers’ fantasy. And their advertisements say so emphatically.

•Facial products and services sell hope for a beautiful and young-looking face, clean and clear skin, kissable lips, high aquiline nose and others.
•Bed linens for comfort
•Modern kitchen gadgets to save time and avoid effort
•Shoes and clothes for comfort and style
•Medicine to escape physical pain and get well
•Digital camera for clear, sharp memories
•IT systems and programs to save time and cost of labor
•Bank services for profit and security

Alexander Pope said it for us in An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never Is, but always To be blest: The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

So when you read or hear somebody asks: Nakatikim ka na ba ng isang taon? (Have you tasted a one-year old?)

Nakatikim ka na ba ng dalawang taon? Limang taon? 25 taon? 50 taon?, what are you hoping to get? Have you tasted a two-year old? 5 years old? 25? 50?)

I know what you are thinking of. I beg to disabuse your mind because I am referring to wines, red and white.

When I threw the question to a friend, one at a time, he eyed me with disapproval and increasing sadness. He said he is reminded of Michael Jordan. When I got to the 50-year old, he looked at me suspiciously, as in “are you asking me?” He followed it up with, “are you writing about sex?”

Hmmmmmm. No, I told him, I am extending my article on corporate social responsibility since this is the Lenten season.

A friend sent me these questions for brandy and whiskey makers and takers.

Has anyone attempted to find out if a brandy is really that many years old? Does DTI have any branding regulations for a brandy to claim that it is of a particular age, straight or blended?

Could it really be possible for a local manufacturer (bottler?) to have enough supply of very aged brandy and sell it at prices suited for the mass market?

Also, brandy is grape based. It is not malt, wheat, rye, corn or sugar cane based. Is it possible for one to secure enough grapes in the Philippines to use? How large should the cellars be to store a 15 year supply for proper ageing? How does one keep the ageing process protected from so much heat?

Does a manufacturer or bottler import it then from abroad? Australia is the closest grape grower but they make wines, not brandy.

So, is it Spain or France then? Are there import records with customs?

If imported and simply bottled, does that make the importer worthy of being so proud of his heritage? Finally, even with importation, it couldn’t be sold as cheaply as it is today.

Sorry, my friend I have no answers. But I have a reaction to the “Kinse Años” furor. My take on this issue is that I felt that the ad shifts the focus from the product to the prospective consumer by asking that question instead of directly offering the product. It opened itself to many interpretations like my example above. Because of this, it has become an ethical dilemma that now requires ethical judgment calls where there is no one right answer and is a no-win situation.

Destileria Limtuaco and Sinson Lascano Group could have exercised empathy or caring about the consequences of their choices as they affect others. Being concerned with the effect of their decisions (to produce the ad) have on those who have no say in the decision itself.

The problem with advertisements is that they provide a one-way communication and they are presented very briefly that leaves the message hanging and subject to all sorts of reactions other than for the audience to buy the product. They are meant to attract attention, arouse interest, create desire and stimulate action.

In this light, may I remind entrepreneurs to reflect on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) defined by Mallen Baker, development director for Business in the Community, as about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development cited reports that CSR is seen as about capacity building for sustainable livelihoods. It res­pects cultural differences and finds business opportunities in building the skills of employees, the community and the government.

The European model considers CSR as an integral part of the wealth creation process—which if managed properly should enhance the competitiveness of business and maximize the value of wealth creation to society.

Business organizations must, like Mr. Baker “show interest and concern in how their company responds to the agenda for corporate citizenship—the growing need to manage issues that affect their business reputation—and to respond to the growing needs and concerns of a range of different stakeholders.”

Everybody who heard the radio commercial and saw the billboards of Napoleon Brandy and got affected by it became a stakeholder. Radio and billboards are open to the general public. Advertisements are great tools for influencing not only the buying decision of the public, but also the values of society.

Moje Ramos Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation, believes wealth creation and ethics can co-exist. Her email address is

Friday, March 19, 2004

Performance indicators can quantify your success

Business Times p.B8
Friday, March 19, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Performance indicators can quantify your success

In my time, you can’t pass high school without falling in love with the English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Remember these lines?

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.”

In business, it is not enough that you passionately want to succeed, you also have to define and quantify success. Otherwise, you’ll never know you have already succeeded.

So how do you succeed in business? What tells you that you have reached the peak, save for common signs like your big fat bank account or moving to a bigger office to accommodate increasing number of employees and stocks or opening new branches? These are what you call Key Performance Indicators or KPI. These will bridge the gap between your strategy and your operational effectiveness.

In previous columns, we proposed that People Development be one of your Key Result Areas or KRA (the areas in your organizational life in which you must achieve significant results in order for you to accomplish your Mission using your values toward the path of your Vision within your planning horizon).

Under this KRA, your Strategic Goal or SG (long-term results you want to achieve) might be: to develop and nurture competent and effective leaders across the organization at all levels.

Your KPI, then, is competent and effective leaders across the organization at all levels. By this you mean employees who, according to Jim Collins, exemplify any of the five levels of leadership wherever they are in your organization.

In his book Good to Great, Collins defined Level 1 Leadership as “Highly Capable Individuals who make productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work habit and Level 2 as Contributing Team Members who contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting.”

Collins’ Level 3 leaders are “Competent Managers who organize people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives. Effective Leaders are Level 4 and they catalyze commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards.”

Finally, “Level 5 Executive who builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”

So you’re now clear that your leaders are not just those who hold leadership titles like team leader, foreman, crew chief, supervisor, manager, vice president, AVP (alalay ng VP), president, CEO, COO (child of the owner), SOB (son of the boss).

How do you now measure this KPI across the organization? Let me count the ways. KPIs can be expressed in percentages, ratios, absolute numbers, and others.

For example in your marketing, you have employees who are multi-skilled, able to make decisions within their area, team player and who exemplify your corporate values. Other forms of measure are number of repeat customers, number of praises and complains, amount per transaction, sales volume per employee, etc. Also absenteeism, tardiness, accident rate and others. For your fiscal measure, you may use pre-tax profit, shareholder equity, among others. KPIs or quantifiable measurements will vary according to the nature of your business.

The caveat is that not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.

ASTD 2004. The annual conference and exposition of the American Society for Training and Development will be held this May 23-27 in Washington DC, USA. One of the highlights include three keynote speakers:

Henry Mintzberg, professor of management at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, will present a new way to create managers, calling for a revolutionary shift in management development. Mintzberg’s discussion is based on his forthcoming book, Managers not MBAs.

Richard Teerlink, former chair and CEO of Harley-Davidson, Inc. and author of More Than a Motorcycle, will talk about the principles, innovations, and creative responses that were responsible for Harley-Davidson’s reinvention and miraculous turnaround. His philosophy centers on the idea of people being the only sustainable competitive advantage.

Candice Carpenter, founder of and author of Chapters: Create a Life of Exhilaration and Accomplishment in the Face of Change, will examine personal and professional change in a radically new context and offer a powerful prescription for managing change designed to alter the way we live and work.

For complete details please visit and for assistance in registration and travel please call Nara Hibalora at 715-9332.

Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes, consults on Strategic Thinking & Planning, Human Resource & Organization Development and Innovation initiatives. For feedback, please email her at

Friday, March 12, 2004

Pay it forward

Business Times p.B8
Friday, March 12, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Pay it forward

What if all entrepreneurs are required to join the Rotary Club and abide by this Four Way Test:
* Is it the truth?
* Is it fair to all concerned?
* Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
* Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Then, entrepreneurs don't even have to consider making corporate social responsibility (CSR)as a Key Result Area (KRA) for their business. They will automatically keep right and do right-if they take the test seriously in everything, as in everything, they do.

The reality is that when it comes to business, many entrepreneurs check in their personal values at the door of their business. They become consumed by the idea of profit as the only measure of success in business.

I watched Early Edition on Hallmark Channel the other day. The story was about a businessman who bought a row of buildings in a busy business area in Chicago City, USA, under dubious terms and circumstances. He intended to convert the whole area into a profitable parking lot building. One apartment building was owned by a lady who acts as foster parent to 15 orphans enjoying their life together as one big family who will now be placed in different foster homes. Another building housed a café/bar owned by a retiree who now faces being homeless and penniless.

Like in all movies, the dirty old businessman had his comeuppance sooner than soon when his two trusted assistants turned against him demanding their long-overdue bonuses and threatened to harm him.

Fortunately, like any feel good movies, the hero, Gary Hobson, came just in time with two security officers. There is nothing unusual in this screenplay. The same story happens in many real business life.

Do you believe in karma? If you are an entrepreneur who intends to stay in business and not just for the fast bucks, you need to believe in karma.

A poignant and wise counsel was penned by Lopez Group patriarch Eugenio H Lopez, Sr., and goes: "A company that is prosperous and rich while labor lives in misery has neither the right to exist nor the right to claim public support."

In a speech in 1958, Eugenio, Sr., emphasized that they believe a greater proportion of the earnings accrued from business should be returned to the people whether this be in the form of foundations, grants, scholarships, hospitals or any other form of social welfare benefits.

And so upon buying Meralco from its American owners, he set up a tertiary hospital and sports facilities for employees and gave them unprecedented benefits. He also founded the Lopez Memorial Museum of Filipiniana materials and the Meralco Theater originally intended for truly Filipino cultural presentations and donated a building for the Asian Institute of Management.

His son, Geny, carried on that Lopez value: "I have always believed that public service is the only reason for our existence. Profit alone is not enough of a reason to exist. But if we serve people, then I think our growth and our success will follow. If we take care of our customers, then they will take care of us. That is the kind of culture a company should have."

Like his father and brother, Chair of Lopez Group of Companies Oscar M. Lopez believes that what makes a great business organization is its CSR and that successful business companies must give back part of their wealth to undertakings that benefit the society.

The Lopez Group has a long list of its CSR initiatives reported in the latest issue of their quarterly publication, Lopez Link. ABS-CBN Foundation, now headed by Gina Lopez, is into several continuing projects like educational TV-Bayani, Hira¬yama¬nawari, Mathtinik, Sine's¬kwela, Epol/Apple and Pahina, Bantay Bata 163, Bantay Kalikasan, ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation and ABS-CNB Volunteers. Rina Lopez Bautista pursues the cable-a-school initiative, Knowledge Chan¬nel, to help improve quality of education for the public school system through quality educational video materials.

The First Philippine Conservation Inc., in partnership with Washington D.C.-based Conservation International, endeavors to preserve threatened animal species and habitats all over the country. One of First Philippine Holding's corporation's favorite CSR project is the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund which engages the country's corporate business sector as a key partner and philanthropic contributor. They have reforested 1,000 hectares of denuded land in Bamban, Tarlac.

Bantay Kalikasan (Nature Watch) spearheaded an aggressive media campaign in 1998-99 and gathered 5-million signatures which ultimately led to the enactment of the clean Air Act by Congress.

Bantay Usok resulted in the testing and apprehension of thousands of vehicles emitting deadly fumes. Bantay Baterya collected 293 tons of batteries from 41 companies, disposed them properly and hit P1 million in donations. The Lopez Group is a strong advocate of the nonsmoking ordinance in Makati City.

Some 15,000 volunteers participated in the La Mesa Dam Rehabilitation effort that set up a New York-style park in the La Mesa Dam watershed to improve the water supply and prevent flooding in Metro Manila.

I need this whole Management page of the Manila Times to list the numerous CSR projects of the Lopez Group but I don't have the luxury. They definitely put their time, money and other resources where their mouth is.

One initiative that entrepreneurs would want to be involved with is the Bayan Microfinance program which has given out a total of P1.2-billion loans to some 17,580 active small business owners.

The point I want to share in this continuing Journey in Entrepreneurship is to urge you to make CSR a KRA in your strategic plans. I assure you of untold dividends and benefits with not a single disadvantage or loss.

You need not embark on CSR initiatives that call for big funding, some CSR initiatives are built into your business like choosing beneficial products and services, paying the right taxes, treating employees well, conserving water and energy, recycling, using biodegradable materials, proper waste management, and many others. It is making sure that in everything you do, your answer to all four Rotary test is a resounding "Yes!" You may also want to help by just continuing to be a decent neighbor in your immediate community. And soon enough you will receive good karma. Promise.

The reason CSR needs to be a KRA is that it should not be viewed as a dole out or a charity or a simple annual project. Lopez group's senior executive Art de Guia says that to be successful, it should be continuing initiative that comes from the voluntary effort of the employees and the community. It becomes a second nature, a way of life, a culture.

ASTD 2004. The American Society for Training & Development will hold its annual international conference this May 23-27 in Washington D.C., USA. Aside from the conference proper, ASTD 2004 will feature informative 18 one- and two-day Preconference Workshops which includes Harvard Business School Publishing workshop, Training Directors Business Boot Camp, designed to help training directors prepare for their biggest business challenges.

For details and assistance on registration and travel package, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332. In registering, you may use Delegation Code 10429860 to avail of special fees.

[Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes, consults on Strategic Thinking & Planning and Innovation initiatives. For feedback, please email her at]

Friday, March 5, 2004

The need to keep right

The Manila Times
Business Times p.B6
Friday, March 5, 2005

Learning & Innovation
By Moje Ramos-Aquino
The need to keep right

We should have more signs or posters that urge "KEEP RIGHT!" We should make students from nursery to college recite this short sentence every day until they grasp the full meaning of it and actually act on it. Instead of "goodbye," we should bid each other "keep right" as we venture out into the streets.

One time at the Baguio Public Market, a guy in the middle of a whirlpool of people shouted, "Keep Right! The reason we don't move is everybody is going to different directions at the same time. If everybody will just move over to their right and walk on, we could all go faster. Keep right!" Of course nobody listened to him and continued jostling, shoving and aggressing their way forward at one diameter per hour. Imagine what happened as more people arrived at the scene.

Notice how disordered our streets are? People walk about and cross streets anywhere they want. Anywhere there are at least two people they are bound to bump into each other as they walk carelessly in opposite directions. Nobody uses the pedestrian overpass. Pedestrians cross the streets at anytime regardless of the red traffic light. They act like Moses, they just raise their hands and cross without hesitation or fear for life and limb.

Along the expressway, slow moving vehicles stay on the fast left lane all the time and vehicles swerve as if there is a monster running after them. Drivers, without guilt, simply counterflow to run past other vehicles in traffic situations. For as long as they do not see any enforcement officer, motorists continue to defy MMDA's yellow lanes, steel barriers, and other traffic rules.

As entrepreneurs I strongly urge you to make "Keep Right!" be one of your Key Result Areas and set corresponding Strategic Goals governing your Corporate Social Responsibility. The buzzword for "keep right" in business is Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR.

After Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen, and, lately, Parmalat experience, entrepreneurs are becoming more conscious of their corporate social responsibility.

Please look at the accompanying table somewhere on this page. Development Director for Business in the Community Mallen Baker defines CSR as about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society. Baker says companies need to answer to two aspects of their operations. 1. The quality of their management - both in terms of people and processes (the inner circle). 2. The nature of, and quantity of their impact on society in the various areas.

Baker writes that the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in its publication "Making Good Business Sense" by Lord Holme and Richard Watts, used the following definition. "Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large"

Customers now know how to get back at companies who they think are not dispensing of their corporate social responsibility. Growing expectations from customers and others - concerns about the increasing power of business mean that there is increasing pressure for companies - especially large ones - to behave responsibly.

In their "Winning with Integrity" report Mori Co-operative Bank noted:

"Reputation and Standing

¨ In 1999 a poll of 25,000 citizens across 23 countries on six continents showed that perceptions of companies around the world are more strongly linked with corporate citizenship (56%) than either brand quality (40%) or the perception of the business management (34%).

¨ 81% of consumers agree that when price and quality are equal they are more likely to buy products associated with a good cause.

¨ 73% of people agreed that they would be more loyal to an employer that supports the local community.
¨ A recent poll indicated that 17% of consumers were likely to be influenced by ethical considerations when making purchasing decisions, with another 5% regularly taking account of a business's ethical performance when shopping.

¨ The Co-operative bank has found that more than 90% of its customers approve of its ethical policy and that its market share has increased with the promotion of this policy through cinema, poster and direct mail marketing."

On Risk Management, MORI research conducted in 1998 among British adults found that 17% had boycotted a company's product on ethical grounds, 19% had chosen the product/service because of companies ethical reputation and a further 28% had done both."

There is another aspect to CSR-taking an active role in social, environmental and community concerns-that we will discuss next Friday. Entrepreneurs should understand the value of corporate citizenship as an essential Key Result Area and Strategic Goal.

ASTD 2004 will be held in Washington D.C., USA, this May 23-27. It features 250 speakers and session and a Conference-within-a-Conference that provides intense, focused learning experience in an intimate setting. These conferences gives opportunities for participants to share their interests, and learn from experts in their chosen area of concentration.

This year the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) offers focused conferences on Consultant's Day; Measurement, Evaluation and ROI; Public Sector At its Best; Creative Training Techniques; Financial Services and Developing Connected Leaders.

For assistance, registration and travel package, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., consults on Strategic Thinking and Planning and other strategic management initiatives. Her email address is