Friday, April 30, 2004

Business Tips

Business Times p.B2
Friday, April 30, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Business Tips

I’ll put the topic of cost cutting again on hold. I am not killing you with suspense. First you need to know where your funds are coming from and the costs of fund acquisition for you to really appreciate the expenses you incur in running your business and in building your bottom line.

Whether you are contemplating on going into business or you are already deep into it, please answer these questions first with either “frequently” or “occasionally” or “rarely.”

1. I have a long-term relationship with one bank.
2. I understand what my market niche wants.
3. I understand the financial aspects of my business.
4. I regularly contribute to a retirement plan.
5. I save at least 10% of my income each month.
6. I spend money prudently.
7. I pay off credit card debt each month.

Give yourself 3 points for each item you answered “frequently”, 2 points for “occasionally” and 1 point for each “rarely.” How will you finance your business?

If you scored 25-35 points, you have well-developed plans for financing your business and may just need to explore a few other areas. Prepare to transition from employee to entrepreneur.

If you scored 15-25 points, you need to develop a more realistic idea of how you will finance your business and work on this area. Don’t leave your present job yet.

If you scored 0-15 points, you need to concentrate on developing your finances before you even think of going into your own business. You need to secure your present job for sometime.

Starting up or running an enterprise requires more than just interest, talent and commitment. Obtaining financing is difficult especially if you are a novice entrepreneur without a proven track record.

Even your parents will probably raise their eyebrows if you so suddenly ask them for money for a business adventure. Why don’t you just join the family business? Why don’t you just get employed or be content with your current employment? Filipinos are generally raised and schooled to become employees. When you graduate from high school or technical school or college, you are job-ready, not business-oriented.

We encourage our talents to even get employed abroad for the dollar they will eventually remit, never mind the social cost. That is why we have job fairs for graduating students, but no enterprise fairs. Except when you come from a business-owner family, your parents would be proudest to see you join Philippine Airlines, Ayala Corp., Lopez Group of Companies, Citibank, The Manila Times, VCP Trading International, Vibrametrics or others. It is the fulfillment of their dreams. Then you can aspire to become a super, then a ‘ger or even vice president or, who knows, president! Then you can enjoy salaries and benefits such as car, medical, travel, housing, education and many others. So why do you want to worry about opening your business? Sakit ng ulo ‘yan. Walang kasiguraduhan.

Well, all these big companies that are successful now started as a small or medium companies. They all started with a single idea, a dream. They used their money—plus a lot of talent, passion, energy, hard work, risk-taking, persistence and innovation—to follow their dreams.

Your initial major concern is seed money or capital. The amount of money you need is relative. When you have lots of money you have many relatives. Now that you need money, you have no relatives. Sort of.

Immediately, you’ll need money while you are thinking about and preparing for your business. This is called Pre-Operating Capital. You’ll be paying for business registration, for licenses and franchise, for a lawyer to prepare your Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and/or SEC registration, transportation, business permit, for a consultant, perhaps, to help you with your business plan, initial market research and feasibility study and others.

Then you need money for Capital Expenditures to buy or lease land and building; improve or build your own building; and buy or lease machines, equipment, furniture, fixtures. These are your big ticket expenses but they are sometimes one-time expenses that might even outlast your business.

Finally, you’re off and running. Unless you hit it big immediately like Go Nuts Donuts at the Fort, you’ll need Working Capital to help you make it through the first six months or so until you start earning your own keep and making profits, too. You have to buy raw materials, office supplies, pay your employees, pay for expenses like transportation, water, electricity, telephone, and many others that you will discover in the course of your operation.

Whew! Where do you get all that capital?

For your Start-up Capital, you need to draw mostly from your personal savings, or proceeds from the sale of your jewelry, car and other possessions or loans from your family, relatives and best friend which are usually interest-free and based on your emotional bank account with them.

Luckily, some businesses accommodate new entrepreneurs by way of low rent or shared office space and business services. They might even coach you on running a small company, provide you with small loans or help you acquire financing. These are incubators for new start up enterprises within a certain time limit after which you need to move your business out.

Otherwise, you can choose debt financing, loan which you repay to the lender with interest, or equity financing, money from an investor in return for a portion of your business, profits, and possibly, control of your company.

A good business idea begets money. You can seek the help of venture capitalist firms and “angels” or private investors who provide start-up money for new companies in exchange for part ownership of your company. You need to present to them a business idea that has the potential to grow quickly and provide a large return on their investment. Some would also want to take an active role in the development and management of your business until it becomes a viable model.

Of course you can always go to your favorite bank or other financial institutions, present a case for your business plan and offer an attractive collateral, e.g. your real estate property. Cooperatives and thrift banks offer micro financing or small loans without collateral.

Government agencies like the DTI assist small businesses with micro financing, too. These agencies also assist by way of providing opportunities for duty-free importation of capital and training equipment and tax credits on imported raw materials.

The type of financial assistance you take will depend on such factors as the type of business you want to start, your experience, and how much financing you already have. Your personal investment in your own venture will signal your commitment to the lender. Remember that nobody will lend you 100% of your capital requirements. Not even your parents.

Now that you are in business, you wouldn’t want to squander your hard-earned capital. You want to grow your business. One way of doing that is by controlling your costs.

ASTD 2004. Two important topics up for discussion the in ASTD International Conference and Exposition in Washington D.C. this May 23-27 are about getting centered. Stress is not the problem, says author Thomas Crum; the problem is how to balance the stress/relax responses of your autonomic nervous system. He describes one centering exercise to get you started toward achieving that balance. Likewise, Thomas Crum will present “A Journey to Center: Turning a Life of Work into a Work of Art.”

For details on ASTD 2004, please log on to and for travel plans, please call Ms. Grace Victoriano at 715-9332. Please use Delegation Code 10429860 to avail of big discount on your registration fee.

(Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, assists entrepreneurs in planning and growing with business. Her email address is

Friday, April 23, 2004

Defining your vision-mission-values

Business Times p.B5
Friday, April 23, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Defining your vision-mission-values

I was about to move on to a topic of universal interest-cost cutting-but I want to discuss this concern from a friend first.

I am not editing the letter for my own ego trip (hehehehe). This is also for those entrepreneurs who have joined our Journey on Entrepreneurship but has yet to identify their destination.

The email goes: "Thank you so much for continuously sharing knowledge. You have insightful articles. I need your expert thoughts regarding this.

"Our company has a number of aims and objectives which pretty covered areas like profitability, quality of service, motivation, quality and environment. Some I find repetitive already. Right now, the management doesn't buy the idea of going through a visioning process as they find the aims and objectives already covering what we need to prosper as an organization. But I think we really need to encapsulate these objectives in very clear and not so many statements. We recently rated each item and sad to say we did not get a passing rate. This already made us realize where we are right now in terms of the areas covered by the aims and objectives. All department managers were asked how they think they can contribute in the solution to improve those areas.

"Though we have been moving towards improvements at the moment, aside from the bottomline, I still feel that we need to clarify the exact direction that we need to take from the organizational to departmental level in support of the company's objectives.

"How can I best sell the mission-vision thing to our shareholders? Are our aims and objectives really enough as our blueprint? Would really appreciate your thoughts."

My dear friend, if you are "moving towards improvement," I am sure your company has a vision-mission-values thingy already. Maybe it is not just articulated or specifically labeled as such.

Every entrepreneur is a practical visionary, i.e. high in the clouds but feet on the ground. While your vision itself is a representation of your desired future, remember that you do business in the present. It is like you are driving and you know exactly where you are going and whatever street and highway you take now should lead you there. The more important questions to ask are why did you leave your house or office in the first place? Why is there a need to drive? What is your purpose for driving? How will you drive? That is your vision-mission-values thingy (VMV). Your destination is your strategic goal.

Defining your Vision, Mission and Core Values (VMV) helps you maximize your strengths to take advantage of opportunities or areas for improvement that come your way. You can go slow or fast. You can take the regular roads or shortcuts. You can drive in a Chevrolet Optra or a truck. You may drive alone or with companions. You can drive the vehicle yourself or hire a driver. You can bring as much cargo as can be accommodated. You can proceed through flooded streets or take the skyway. You can change your mind and take a U-turn. These are your strategies. All your answers or decisions will depend on your VMV.

Management guru Ken Blanchard asserts that in their more than 35 years of studying leadership and organizations, they've come to the conclusion that vision and direction are essential for greatness. He wrote that in world-class organizations, everyone has a clear sense of where the enterprise is going and only when the leaders of an organization know that their people understand the agreed-upon vision and direction can they attend to strengthening the organization's ability to deliver on this vision.

Your VMV helps you make smart decisions and choices and be mindful of consequences. A clear VMV makes everybody focus on serving the customer and the company on the long-term. When there is no clear VMV or where the VMV is just a poster in the bulletin board, the company becomes boss-centered and all loyalties are to the bosses and not to the company. Tribes and factions are formed. There is no passion, commitment and excitement. It is like monkey sees, monkey hears, monkey does. No creativity, only myopic vision, no risk taking. Managers plan, organize, do, lead by the nose and control. People follow, leaving behind the customers. Everybody hides under company policy or, worst, medieval traditions and practices.

You should not also stop at simple wordsmithing. All plans and efforts- quality of service, motivation, quality and environment, others-are directed towards living the VMV for long-term viability. Blanchard gives the example of CNN. "Purpose is your organization's reason for existence. It answers the question "Why?" rather than just explaining what you do. It clarifies-from your customer's viewpoint-what business you are really in. CNN is not in the entertainment business. Their customers are busy people who need breaking news on demand. Their business is to provide hard news as it unfolds--not to provide entertainment. According to CNN, the typical family today is too busy to sit in front of the television at 7 p.m. Dad has a second job or in some social event, Mom is working late or is busy housekeeping or shopping, and the kids are involved in activities or glued to their computers. Therefore, CNN's purpose is to provide news on demand."

He also cited Walt Disney as a genius at creating a compelling vision. When Disney started his them parks, he was clear on their purpose, "We're in the happiness business." This clear purpose drives everything the cast members (employees) do with their guests (customers). They are not in an ordinary theme park business.

I have been to the Disney parks in California and Florida many times. I intend to go back more times. Being there is not only a feel-good experience, it is a truly celebratory occasion. Úber! I have lots of wonderful stories to tell my future grandchildren and joyful moments to reminisce later. Thanks to the VMV of Disney Corp. Watching Maksim caress, pound, tickle, romance the piano keys using his whole body with such intensity and focus comes close. His band couldn't help but perform excellently, too.

A well-communicated VMV provides a rallying point, a unifying force that motivates your team across functions at all levels. You motivate your people by giving them hope, spelling out the picture of where their efforts are directed at, showing them the way, training them, developing their potentials, equipping them with the necessary tools, allowing them to make mistakes, and giving them the opportunities to do an honest job. People don't necessarily work for money alone. People have a natural inclination to achieve, to self-actualize and to contribute. To do this, they need a purpose greater than themselves, beyond their capability. They need to know and be convinced of the what, why and how of your business-your VMV thingy-and then, they will take care of your customers.

Your VMV differentiates you from competition. It defines your products, your services, your processes, your competitive edge. It helps you create an aligned and coordinated organization, makes work meaningful and builds teamwork.

The caveat is entrepreneurs don't aim for profitability. Profit is your reward for taking care of your people and delighting your customers. In the same manner that you don't cut costs for purposes of merely protecting your profits. This topic is for next week.

ASTD 2004. Type 360 will be officially introduced at the American Society for Training & Development International Conference and Exposition in Washington, DC, May 20-26, 2004. Type 360 links eight MBTI-identified mental processes to leadership behavior and competencies. For example, a leader may learn that he or she is effective in all eight leadership competencies in providing analytical, cause-effect thinking, but not so effective with communicating the vision or context as related to those eight leadership competencies.

For details on registration and travel, log on to or call Ms. Grace Victoriano at 715-9332. To register, please use Delegation Code 10429860 to avail of big discount.

(Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation, facilitates Strategic Thinking and Planning Workshops and other organization development initiatives. She would appreciate your feedback at moje­

Friday, April 16, 2004


Business Times p.B5
Friday, April 16, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino

Ready. In your Journey on Entrepreneurship, you got ready with lots of strategic thin­king and formulating your Vision, Mission and Values (VMV). You also scanned and analyzed your environment to get signs of what was, what is and what might be.

Helen Keller once said: “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision. Jonathan Swift added: Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.”

Aim. Then you took aim with your strategic plans when you identified your Strategic Goals (SG), Key Result Areas (KRA) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Then you start organizing your company to fit resources, people into your KRAs. I say start organizing to emphasize the fact that you can move employees, machines, equipments, supplies, etc., until you determine the proper “fit.” Your organizational chart is just a representation of present “fit” and is not written in stone.

In his book Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan, James R. Sherman, Ph.D., reports that back in the 1950s, a behavioral research team from the Harvard Business School took a random sample of 100 members of the senior class and asked them what they would like to be doing 10 years from graduation.

“All 100 said they would like to be wealthy, successful, and significant forces in the business world. The researchers noted that of the 100 seniors, only 10 had drawn up specific goals and put them in writing.

“Ten years later, the research team paid a follow-up visit to the 100 subjects. They found that the 10 graduates who had written down their goals owned 96% of the total wealth of the 100-student sample.”

Fire!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is time to act, to be decisive. Will Rogers said, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” It is often said that good judgment comes from experience and that experience comes from poor judgment. So move on.

You need to get ready to achieve by writing down what you need to do. There are two kinds of plans of actions you need to undertake. First are your Critical Objectives (CO) or statements that describe the most important continuing results that must be achieved in a key result area if the strategic goal is to be accomplished.

These are determined at your functional or departmental units level such as sales, marketing, manufacturing, accounting, human resources, customer service, research or whatever you call them. The important thing for you to do here is to make sure that COs are aligned and coordinated. Sales can’t just set a CO all by their lonesome self; they must take into consideration the needs and capacities of the manufacturing unit.

Secondly, your Specific Objectives (SO) or statements of specific, measurable, action-oriented, results-oriented, time limited and stretched that must be accomplished to achieve the critical objectives. SOs can be accomplished in a couple of days or weeks or months within one year. These are your short-term operational plans.

Remember that the journey of a million miles starts with the first bold step.

These are set by the individual doing the job. Given your limited resources (Is there ever enough?), you need to determine that there are no gaps and overlaps. That there are no two units/persons doing the same job save for coping with voluminous task. This is where you empower your employees by delegating to them all your doables so that you could devote yourself to life-and-death business decisions. This is how you cascade your VMVSG down to the lowest levels of employees in your organization. This is how you exercise your strategic management to avoid micro management.

Finally to take care of the day-to-day business, lead your employees in preparing their Action Plans or a list of programs steps with accountabilities (persons responsible), schedules and resource (and budget) requirements to achieve the specific objectives. Only after these could you prepare a budget and plan your manpower requirements. If you have not yet come this far in your planning, your budget is only a wish list. You might be buying supplies that you will never need. You might be hiring people that might not be contributing to your efforts or you might be hiring the wrong ones.

Ready…Aim…Fire!!!!!!!!!!! Move it.

Enjoy your Journey and take comfort in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Come what may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day.” And Hamlet: “If it be now, ‘tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.”

ASTD 2004. Hear it direct from Planning Guru Henry Mintzberg, professor of management at McGill University in Canada, at the 2004 American Society for Training & Development International Conference and Exposition this May 23-27, Washington DC, USA.

For detailed information, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation, facilitates Strategic Thinking and Planning Workshops. Please send feedback to

Friday, April 2, 2004

Centering a business around Christ

Business Times p.B8
Friday, April 2, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Centering a business around Christ

The movie The Passion of the Christ is already showing. The scenes are so vivid, the whole movie makes me abhor sins and sinning like nature abhors vacuum. It makes me realize how much JC suffered because of my transgressions. It makes me ashamed that I have betrayed His unconditional love by committing sins knowingly and wantonly. It reminds me that every time I sin, I shout “Crucify!”

We are close to the last days of the Lenten season. You don’t have to go far to absorb the significance of Holy Week. In my youth, Holy Week was spent with Jesus in mind, heart and spirit. We normally spend it with the least movement and faintest of sound lest we add to His sorrows.

I leave you to spend your Holy Week the best way you know. We have two business days left next week plus the nonworking days. Here are some suggestions to make them Christ-centered.

•View business as a spiritual endeavor and part of your religious life. Work as if JC’s life depended on it.

•Review and make right your ethical policies and practices. Remember the Four-Way Test of Rotary? Are you telling the truth about your products? Are your products and services ethical? Are your processes ethical? A friend gave this example: “Patis to be called Special must have at least 12-percent Kjeldahl Protein. Below 10 percent it must be labeled Patis Flavor. Between that, you may or may not call it Regular but never Special. Will the 15-year-old brandy and the 5- and 12-year- old whiskey stand this kind of scrutiny?”

“Is your ad telling the truth and creating awareness for your product or is it an obnoxious double entendre’ ad?” Are you providing your employees at least the minimum pay, benefits and humane working environment required by our Labor Code and other applicable laws?

Have you priced your products and services enough to allow you modest profit and return on your investment but not very high that you are depriving your customers the opportunity to satisfy their basic needs? Are you operating in a cartel? Are you paying the proper taxes regardless of graft and corruption in our government?

• Reflect and decide on who you will vote for this May elections. Not just those who are good for our business but those who could be good for our country. Pakisingit na po si Jun Yasay para senador.

•Reflect on your company values and how you are living them.

•Start a recycling project.

•Get to know your employees at a level deep enough to understand and accept their uniqueness.

•Adopt a tree.

•Watch The Passion of the Christ together and talk about it.

•Starting Holy Wednesday, forget about your business.

•For the whole week, list down what you do, what you think and wonder about and how you feel. On the eve of Easter Sunday, review your list and make action plans for your spiritual growth.

•Pretend you’re spending the week with JC.

•Give your maid a five-day off.

•Spend an entire day in church.

•Notice daily miracles.

•Listen and observe.

•Keep still and be quite for periods of time.

• Learn new religious songs.

•Plan and use your no-meat menu for the week. Fast if you are fit.

• Serve as an altar person.

•Invite some church volunteers to lunch or dinner or bring them snacks.

•Feed the prisoners.

•Hear mass.

•Read the Bible.

•Turn off your cellphone.

•Learn a appropriate words and phrases in Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew languages.

•Wear no footwear all day and feel the earth.

•Watch The Passion of the Christ with your family and talk about it.

•Apologize for a wrong you might have done.

•Set aside your newspapers and business or fiction books

•Read a book on spirituality or personal growth. I suggest Repacking Your Bags by Richard Leider and David Shapiro available at Fully Booked, Rockwell.

•Turn off your TV and radio.

•If there are enough of you, stage the passion story con todo action, emotion y vestuario (costume).

•Turn off your Internet connection.

•Call or do something for someone who is sick.

•Listen to the CD First Prayers by Arnel dC. Aquino, SJ., Gregorian Chant and other religious music.

•Do something for an elderly person.

•Turn off your lights and feel the darkness.

•Compose a piece of music for God.

•Sing in a Pabasa.

•Do a Visita Iglesia on Holy Thursday.

•Commemorate the Last Supper.

•Reflect on the Seven Last Words on Good Friday.

•Join the vigil on Black Saturday in your parish church.

•Observe Palm Sunday.

•Attend the Salubong and midnight or dawn Easter Mass.

•Greet every one you meet an enthusiastic “Happy Easter!”

•On Easter Sunday, revisit your personal vision, mission and values.

•Explain to your kids the significance of the Easter Egg and Easter Bunny to Easter Sunday as they relate to Lent. That it is not just a commercial activity as it is celebrated today.

•Visit your mom, dad and your significant adult if you are living away from them.

•Do a good deed to somebody who least expect it.

•And for you with kids, the book 5001 Things for Kids to Do is on sale at National Bookstore. Get your copy for your peaceful and your kids’ creative summer vacation.

(Write your feedback to