Thursday, March 31, 2005

Keeping Easter: translating beliefs into action

Business Times p.B1
Thursday, March 31, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Keeping Easter: Translating beliefs into action

HAPPY Easter! After the Holy Week, it is back to normal. Business as usual! The significance of the Lenten season and Easter is again lost in us as we get mired in the many cares and concerns of life. We’ll digress a bit from our usual “business” topic and explore this issue.

So how do we keep Easter until next Easter Sunday? How do we translate our beliefs into action?

What are beliefs? Author Dick Richards (The Art of Winning Commitment) defines beliefs as the fundamental ground of the judgments we make about ourselves, others, and the events of our lives, and thus they hold sway over our behavior. He says, by example, that we are likely to treat with respect and dignity people we believe are basically good and we are likely to treat with caution and suspicion people we believe to be basically selfish and untrustworthy.

He continues, “Beliefs are not knowledge but articles of faith; either we need no proof of their truth, or our perception are constructed in such a way that their truth is continually proven to us. They are our personal certainties, sometimes borrowed from others, changeable over time and with experience. For as long as we hold beliefs, though, they are highly resistant, perhaps even immune to persuasion of their falseness.”

However, he also cited the example of Enron as the abject failure of organizations to enact their beliefs. In its 1998 Annual Report, Enron espoused the values of “respect, integrity, communication and excellence. The report emphasized that “respect,” does not include “ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance.”

Sadly, these beliefs were held in paper, not in the actions particularly of management.

Dick Richards gave the example of three-time mayor of Cave Creek, Arizona, USA, Vincent Franzia, who used his beliefs in the Buddhist tenets and practices and Buddha’s Four Noble Truths to successfully lead his constituents. Richards wrote, “He had no intention of making a religious statement. Rather, his intention is to be a leader that provides a fractious community with a sense of peace and an atmosphere of mutual respect upon which it can build its future.”

To act on our beliefs, we need to articulate them first. These are inspiring beliefs from physical therapist Pat Croce: ”my undying tenet is that if you do your best, God will take care of the rest.” Social worker Bonnie Wright says, “If you are doing the right things, the resources are going to come to you to do it.”

Public servant Beverly O’Neill: “I know there is a higher power. I have defined it myself in my own way. The strengths sustain me.”

Second, we connect our actions to our beliefs. Sweet Alice Harris has a pat answer, “We should be helping all the time.

We have to come out of our own comfort zone and start helping people. God loves a joyful giver” Leaders are those who serve, not merely as a political commitment, but to serve and do it for its own sake and for its own rewards. Leaders are those who consider service as a spiritual commitment.

We need to always consciously test our thoughts, statements and actions against our beliefs. Rotary International has its own sets of beliefs embodied in the Four Way Test. It asks the following four questions of the things we think, say or do:

Is it the TRUTH?

Is it FAIR to all concerned?


Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Unfortunately, these were lost in one “veteran” Rotarian who speaking about protocol said that in Rotary, men and women should be seated alternately, as in man, woman, man, woman, etc. “You know why? Because when women sit together, wala silang ginagawa kundi magtsimis ng magtsimis.” In the same speech he said, “In your meetings, never pray to the Virgin Mary because some people do not believe that Mary was a virgin.”

His beliefs about women are very pronounced. As I listened to him, I wondered about his mother, wife, children, aunt, cousins, colleagues, etc. What kind of women are they? What are his issues about them? How does he treat them? Is he gay?

(Moje believes in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in the Virgin Mary, in the goodness of man and in service above self. You can send her feedback at

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Filipino food served ‘hawker’ style

Business Times p.B1
Thursday, March 17, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Filipino food served 'hawker' style

One of the simple pleasures Filipinos enjoy is street foods-goto (porridge with tripe slices), squid balls, kikiam, quek-quek (fried quail eggs), chicharong balat ng manok (fried chicken skin), fried tokwa (tofu), different kinds of barbecues and different refreshments like gulaman, sago and buko. Whenever I go to Market! Market! on weekend afternoons I eat goto and quek-quek or tokwa at RapSaKalye. Total cost? P24 and with gulaman, P34. Sometimes with a vegetable salad, it becomes my dinner. Hot, fresh from the pot, clean, yummy, nutritious, low-cost meal, di ba?

RapSaKalye is owned and managed by a group of young entrepreneurs who are endeavoring to professionalize street foods vending with the vision, "We will become one of the top three food-cart businesses in the Philippines with 400 food carts across the country by the year 2008.

According to owners Saj Guevara, Vivoy Añonuevo and Marc Reyes, their mission is "to be the recognized leader in the food-cart business by delivering to the commuting public the utmost quality and value-for-money food products and services. "We will delight our patrons with a clean, interesting and unique cart image. We will make them come back for more by always providing them good-tasting products served excellently by competent, customer-centered and friendly staff. We will generate sufficient profits for the owners and for the improvement of the lives of our employees."

Saj said that they would not want to be just another vendor offering similar food lines. Although they sell street foods by the roadside, they don't like to position their uniquely designed (RapSaKalye Jeep) cart on sidewalks or streets where they might be violating certain laws and contributing to the mayhem in busy areas. Instead, they position themselves properly and pay rent for space they use; thus, become good corporate citizens, too, while doing business.

Saj, Viboy and Marc are proud to say that they are all hands on in their operations. Each of them know how to operate the cart themselves. Right now, they are maintaining few people so they have less overheads to maintain. Their company owns branches in Market! Market! and Aurora Boulevard (across Broadway Centrum) while seven are franchised. Saj says they are actually in the business of franchising, rather than food retailing.

Another factor that differentiates them from all other vendors of street foods is their cart concept of "street foods, all in one cart." They use the concept and look of typical jeepneys to represent that they are, indeed, into street foods. Their menu boards look like the signages used by jeepneys. The working space and arrangement of the counter top is done to give fluid motion to their carefully trained service crew.

They consider the display or the showcase as a very important part of the cart. This makes their food easily visible and well presented for the customers to just point their fingers at the food they want to order.

At the end of the day, using the balanced scorecard, they want to measure success in these key result areas:

Financial: Economic value added (EVA), number of food carts spread across the Philippines, sales volume and number of franchisees

Customers: Percentage of repeat customers, number and frequency of customer commendations or complaints, awards and recognition by the business community, the government or other significant organizations, customers' degree of delight according to customer survey.

Processes: Quality of franchisees, quality and ease of food preparation, services to franchisees.

Learning & Growth: Competitive compensation and benefits for employees, continuous training and development of employees, employee turnover, number of job applicants compared to similar establishments.

Eventually, Saj, Viboy and Marc are dreaming to own and operate their very own fine dining restaurant. Right now, they are more than happy to give RapSaKalye's customers, "a smile in every bite."

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., assists organizations achieve organizational excellence through development of people, leadership, teams and organization. Her e-mail address is

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Spa firms offer values of private indulgence

Business Times p.B1
Thursday, March 10, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Spa firms offer values of private indulgence

To continue with our journey on entrepreneurship, we are exploring key value-creation processes that enable business establishments to become globally competitive, to grow and to achieve organizational learning and excellence using the initiatives of Strategic Thinking, Planning and Balanced Scorecard and the Baldrige Criteria for Excellence.

This also gives you a glimpse of the opportunities and possibilities available to you as entrepreneurs. For this column, we will discuss the growing spa business.

Long before spa business became popular here in the Philippines, my mother would treat us to her own brand of spa services twice a year.

Very early in the morning, she’d go to Quaipo Church to pray for our family and to buy those special medicinal leaves, branches and roots beside the church. To make herbal water, she boiled the plants for an hour in a big can of biscuit, which she bought, cleaned and sterilized days before. The night before, she would commission four able-bodied male relatives to carry a really huge slab of buhay na bato (flint) to the bathroom.

This is the best part: she’d put the hot leaves on top of the flint and made me sit on it. Glorious feeling! Then she’d shampoo my hair with gugo sap and scrub my body with the leaves. No soap, no commercial shampoo. Then she made me soak in a tub of warm herbal water to rinse away all my aches, cares and she’d say, “lurking bad spirit.” Heaven!

Then she fed me with arroz caldo and allowed me to doze off for about two hours. Nirvana!

When I woke up, the hilot (local masseur) was there to give me a suob (steaming with aromatic oil) and a full-body massage. Bliss!

Nowadays, life has become simpler and more convenient with so many day spas around us.

One favorite place is Urban Spa at Level 5, Shangri-la Plaza Mall. The owners Irene Ibañez and Thessa Valdez say that they have been in business for three years now and they have a growing regular clientele, both male and female.

Irene and Thessa are very proud of their personalized approach. As owners, they are in Urban Spa from opening time at 10 a.m. to closing time at 9 p.m.

They personally welcome their clients. They get to know not only their name but also their problems, needs and preferences for a pampering and relaxing spa experience. Employees (therapists) nurture and take care of their clients as persons, not just a piece of meat. They have only private rooms, showers and jacussi; other spa establishments have shared facilities.

Irene says that another reason for their longevity and continued success is their quality service, “We put the aaahh in spa.” For their body and facial care, they use ingredients from Paris and also local oils and honey specially made for them. Specialists flown in from abroad trained their therapists here. They have also their very own Le Urban Signature Aro­ma­therapy Massage and Luxury Polish and Milk Bath.

Irene says to keep their clients coming back to them regularly, they offer special values like their discounted, pre-paid, all consumable, convertible to gift check, valid for one year packages of P7,500, P15,000 and P20,000.

They also pamper their clients with free parking and special gifts.

I miss my mother’s loving spa treatment, but for convenience and availability, I go to Urban Spa.

ASTD 2005. The American Society for Training and Development is holding its Annual Conference and Exposition in Orlando, Florida, on June 5 to 9.

For details of discounted conference fee and travel package, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332 or e-mail at

(Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, facilitates strategic thinking, planning and balanced scorecard initiatives. She is also a trained examiner for the Baldrige Criteria. Her e-mail address is

Thursday, March 3, 2005

The consultant’s key value-creating processes

Business Times p.B1
Thursday, March 03, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
The consultant’s key value-creating processes

A fellow consultant from South Africa sent me this story: In case you are wondering what else I do other than write this column and advocate for entrepreneurship, read on.

A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud toward him. The driver, a young man in a Bronti suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”

The shepherd looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at him peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers, “Sure. Why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Asus laptop, connects to his mobile phone, surfs to a NSA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NSA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an e-mail on his Blackberry that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of complex formulas. He uploads all of this data via e-mail on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his high-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the shepherd and says, “You have exactly 1586 sheep.”

“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my sheep,” says the shepherd.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car. Then the shepherd says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?”

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “OK, why not?”

”You’re a consultant,” says the shepherd.

”Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

”No guessing required,” answered the shepherd. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew; to a question I never asked; and you don’t know crap about my business. Now give me back my dog.”


Briefly, as consultant, the key processes you bring to the table to assist clients achieve their goals and mission using their values along the path of their vision are:

Being authentic. Authentic behavior with a client, according to “Flawless Consulting” author Peter Block, means that you put into words what you are experiencing with the client as you work.

This is the most powerful thing you can do to have the leverage you are looking for and to build client commitment.

Building internal commitment. Mr. Block writes, “Because you have no direct control over the implementation, you become dependent on line managers getting results. The line manager ultimately will decide whether to take action, and this choice will be based on how internally committed the line manager is to the concepts you are suggesting.”

Completing the business of each phase of consulting: contracting, diagnosing needs (client’s and yours), gathering the data, designing intervention, giving feedback, dealing with resistance.

Keeping confidences. Mr. Block further writes that since you are almost always dealing a political as well as technical and financial data who gets what report you’re concern. The key is to give the client control on the people they want to share the findings with and to protect themselves.

Want to go into the consulting business? You may e-mail

(Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation and does consulting on governance, leadership, innovation and organization development.)