Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Come on, Baby, let's do the twist!

Being in Carson City, California, is like being in the Philippines. If you are not Filipino, you would seem to be a visitor. Filipinos here are very much part of mainstream USA. There are so many business establishments here that are owned and managed by Filipinos--restaurants, groceries, boutiques, freight forwarding, beauty salon, spa, among others. They also provide employment for many fellow Filipinos.

One such enterprising lady is Irene Castillo (Those who remember her as a friend, colleague, classmate or neighbor may call her at +1 310 818 1238). She owns and operates a boutique and a dance studio at Long Beach, California.

Irene came to the USA in the early 70s when her husband, who was a serviceman, petitioned for her and her two kids. For a long time she was a housewife and bore two more children. When their kids where grown enough, she worked as a teller at Bank of America; climbed up the corporate ladder; and is now a loan officer.

Even while working and serving as a secretary to the United Filipino-American Association, USA, she was in charge of dance activities for their members. Enjoying what she was doing, she started to organize Friday dances on her own; first at Golden Sails Hotel, then at Naga Restaurant.

Business was brisk as Filipinos naturally love to go balllroom dancing. When the restaurant was sold, she stopped for a while to rethink her dreams and plans. She wants to do more. Her numerous customers, friends and dance instructors egged her to find a better and bigger place.

Fortunately she found this vacant warehouse that used to be a mattress store at 3092 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90807. Last April 2006, she formally opened her Ballroom Craze Dance Club that offers ballroom dancing starting at 7p.m. daily.

Irene says that business has always been great especially on Fridays and Saturdays. It is definitely a family affair with sons and daughters and in-laws working together and delineating different roles as floor manager, business manager, dance instructor, housekeeping manager (janitor baga) and others. Last November, 2006, Irene opted to work part-time (28 hours/week) only in BA because she needs to rest more during the day for her nightly duty at the dance club.

Their main attraction was their superb mix of music handled by her very talented son, Ernest, who finished Broadcast Communication at CalTech at Long Beach and who formally trained as a DJ. Likewise, the atmosphere at her dance studio is friendly-family and their dance instructors are very talented and professional in their job. Visit them at

They also attract a lot of foreigners (hahahahaha) like Mexicans (who love to Salsa and Rhumba), other Asians and Americans. To keep the interest of these dance afficionados, Irene concocts monthly specials like Latin Fiesta, Luau, Filipiniana, Western and also commemorate special occasions like Father's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they give private and group dance lessons. Wednesdays to Sundays are strictly for social dancing.

As always, they have raffle prizes to offer. Filipinos are addicted to raffles.

Take note, these dance nights are dressy affairs from head to toe, including borloloys for the ladies such as dazzling pieces of jewelry and the de riguer dancing shoes.

As a result of this successful venture, Irene also opened an equally profitable boutique that sells dancing shoes, outfits and accessories. On certain days, she sublets her dance studio for private parties like weddings, baptismal, birthdays, meetings and others.

BIG, BIG THANKS to my hosts in Canada. My Kappa Gamma Omega Sorority Sister Millette Asuncion-Rabanillo and her husband Jerry and daughters Christine (husband Jason) and Jennifer. In Montreal, Delta Omega Delta Fraternity Bro Pons Abdon and wife Cora. In Toronto, Volet and Ivan Guerrero.

And here in the land of milk and honey, my best friend Gina Camacho, her husband Frank, sister Pinky, brother Stephen and wife Cora, niece Kathryn and nephews Jade and Sidney. Next week, we will have a reunion of former employees of Resins, Inc.

I am having a great ball and i'll tell you more about it. Promise, babalik ako sa 'Pinas. As my sons would say, the Philippines is still the best place to live in.

We were entering the DJ Bibingkahan, a big and popular restaurant here that serves Filipino dishes like Mom used to cook them, and there was the family leaving the restaurant. The mother (looking every inch a matronly American--well dressed, blonde, fair-complexioned) was
admonishing her child in impecable English con todo American accent. Then, she tripped into something, and suddenly she exclaimed, Ay P.... Ay, Pinoy pala. Hahahahaha


Saturday, June 16, 2007

What’s up in the Netherlands?

I met many very interesting human resource development professionals at the ASTD 2007 Conference and Exposition earlier in Atlanta, Georgia.

Five of them are from the Netherlands (Robert Visser, Rolf van der Meer and Coenraad van Haren) and Sweden (Annika Malmberg and Ylva Darnald).

Robert, Rolf and Coenraad are very enthusiastic and proud of their company—Akerendam, the topnotch management-consulting group in their country today.

In the light of the frenzied activities nowadays in our stock market, maybe we could learn from them. As Robert puts it:

“Did you ever wonder why some equity- and derivatives trading houses are much more successful then others? One of the most significant differences between them is the quality of their traders. But is it possible to assess the quality of a potential trader before you hire him or her, especially if that trader has no experience in trading derivatives or equities at all?

“In the Netherlands there is a company called Akerendam that has been testing people on their trading potential for more than 20 years in Europe, America and a part of Asia. The success of this assessment procedure has not only made Akerendam the most respected company on assessing trading potential in Europe, America and a part of Asia, but has also made their customers the most profitable and fastest growing in their business.

“First, their standardized simulations are exactly tailored to the customer’s strategy of derivatives and equity trading on the targeted exchange. Akerendam uses different and validated assessments for different exchanges with different trading systems. Whether the exchange uses a so-called open-outcry trading system or is totally electronic, Akerendam will use standardized simulations of the open outcry or the electronic trading system. If the customer trades via brokers on the telephone, Akerendam uses standardized simulations of trading with a broker on the telephone.

“Second, the selection psychologists of Akerendam know the trading business by heart and can work very closely together with their customers in the whole assessment center procedure. That means that they train their customers in assessment center skills to act as assessors in the whole procedure. That ensures total commitment of the customer on all selection decisions and will make the outcome of the assessment center easy transferable to a development plan for a high potential that will be hired.

“Third, the assessment center for trading potential measures competencies, not knowledge. Based on extensive research in the trading business Akerendam has uncovered the specific competencies that discern above average traders from average traders. Thus, it can detect the high potentials with any background in a broad population, unless they have the skills, attitude and intelligence and personality to acquire the necessary knowledge. ­Consequently the Akerendam ­assessment center consists of different simulations, intelligence and mathematical tests, personality tests and an interview.

“And last but not least; the assessment center for trading potential has been proven to be valid internationally. Akerendam has applied the assessment in Hong Kong, Sydney, New York, Chicago, Warsaw, London, Paris, Cologne and, of course, Amsterdam.

Sounds very interesting. I don’t think such a service is currently being offered by any local consulting company here. So, if you want your trading houses to be significantly more successful than others, a good start is to assess your candidates through this method and select the right people! Dr. Robert Visser guarantees a return on investment on your training and development costs per new employee and also ensures a high retention rate. You may write him at or call him at 035-678-22-50. You may also visit for more details.

Mississauga, Canada. Yesterday, the thermometer here in Ontario registered 35 degrees Celsius. Still, the humidity is low because of the vast open space and the tall trees that allow the wind to dance and whistle. Some 200,000 Filipino have adopted this serene and progressive country as their own. There are so many business opportunities, but Filipinos here prefer
to be employed rather than be entrepreneurial. There is not a single restaurant offering Philippine cuisine in the whole of Toronto and Montreal. There is one in Mississauga in some obscure location.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Successful people don't eat alone

There are some 9,000 participants from all over the world at the ASTD Conference & Exposition here at Georgia World Congress Center, June 3-6, 2007. At least 11 Filipinos were in attendance.

These are Anthony Pangilinan, Francis Kong, Art Florentin (Meralco), Cecilio Bautista and Rosemarie Ereñeta (Manila International Airport Authority), Imee Centeno (Unilab), Ivahn Rivas (ICTSI) and others from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and a pharma company. Mario del Castillo, originally Filipino, now represents Malaysia.

One of the best presentations was that of Keith Ferrazzi, author of best-selling book, Never Eat Alone.

Ferrazzi is one of the rare individuals to discover the essential formula for making his way to the top through a powerful, balanced combination of marketing acumen and networking savvy. Both Forbes and Inc Magazines have designated him one of the world’s most “connected” individuals. Now, as founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, he provides market leaders with advanced strategic consulting and training services to increase company sales, and enhance personal careers.

Ferrazi has been widely recognized by his peers, is a frequent contributor to CNN and CNBC, and has authored numerous articles for business publications, including Forbes, Inc, the Wall Street Journal and the Harvard Business Review. Ferrazzi was an early leader in the quality movement as the youngest examiner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. He has been named a “Global Leader of Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum, one of the top “40 under 40” business leaders by Crain’s Business, one of the most distinguished young Californians by the Jaycees, and one of the most creative Americans in Richard Wurman’s “Who’s Really Who.” His extraordinary rise to prominence, which includes a stint as the youngest chief marketing officer of a Fortune 500 company while at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has even inspired a Stanford Business School case study.

Most recently, Ferrazzi served as chief executive officer for YaYa Media, a leading interactive entertainment consultancy. Previously, he was chief marketing officer of Deloitte Consulting. He earned a BA degree from Yale University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Visit his website,, and subscribe to this weekly tips and download some of his articles.

The jacket of his book reads:

“Ferrazzi’s form of connecting to the world around him is based on generosity, helping friends connect with other friends. He distinguishes genuine relationship-building from the crude, desperate glad-handing usually associated with “networking.” He then distills his system of reaching out to people into practical, proven principles. Among them:

“Don’t keep score: It’s never simply about getting what you want. It’s about getting what you want and making sure that the people who are important to you get what they want, too.

“Ping constantly: The ins and outs of reaching out to those in your circle of contacts all the time—not just when you need something.

“Never eat alone: The dynamics of status are the same whether you’re working at a corporation or attending a society event—“invisibility” us a fate worse than failure.”

Ferrazzi writes: “At Deloitte and Touche, for example, one of the ways I differentiated myself from those who were just waiting for things to happen was a clearly defined goal, a focus, a direction that I could pour my energies into. Over the years, I’ve refined my own habitual goal-setting process into three steps:

“One, find your passion. A goal is a dream with a deadline. All good decisions come from good information. Deciding on your passion, your bliss, your blue flame is no different.

“Two, put goals to paper. Turning a mission into a reality does not just happen. It is built like any work of art or commerce, from the ground up. These should be specific, believable, challenging and demanding.

“Finally, create a personal board of advisors. It helps to have an enlightened counselor, two or three to act as both cheerleaders and eagle-eyed supervisors, who will hold you accountable. It may be made up of family members, even an old friend or two. Build it before you need it.”


Got a little couch potato?
Check out fun summer activities for kids.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Business break in

When heavy rains come in the afternoons, traffic becomes surreal. Last Tuesday, it took us two hours to drive from Pacific Star Building in Makati Avenue to Greenhills Malls along Ortigas Avenue, a mere five kilometer stretch, because of stalled cars, road accidents and flash floods along the way.

My son didn't want to be late for his flight to Singapore so we decided to leave Sta. Mesa early and be somewhere near the airport. We found ourselves in Greenbelt. We were in our Singapore smart casual (read flipflops, shorts and t-shirt). We noticed that even at three-thirty in the afternoon, Greenbelt 3 is teeming with people, mostly from nearby offices. One thing that struck me is that Filipinos really love to dress up. It was steaming hot, yet people wore their Sunday best or, in office parlance, meeting-with-a-client attire. A lot of the guys wore long-sleeve shirt or barong. The ladies had their blazer on with matching bag and high-heels.

No wonder those stores and eating places were doing brisk business. Location. Location. Location. There are the same business establishments in several other malls, but at Ayala Malls, business is always good.

One of our favorite stores is Hobbes because they sell all these exciting board games like Dirty Minds, Poker, Upwords, Pictionary, Cranium and Scene-it among others. During heavy traffic situations, family or friends get-together or during lunch breaks at work, these games help pep up the atmosphere.

To my pleasant surprise, I noticed that not all those beautifully packaged board games are imported. Some are made here, particularly the ones with Eureka brand. My son, Ronjie, led me to their website and I found the following information.

13 P.M. Enterprises owns the Eureka brand and is into manufacturing and selling of quality leisure, educational, and learning toys and games to export agents, import representatives, wholesalers and retailers who cater to the leisure, educational, and learning toys and games needs of their young and adult clients/customers. They have been in business for 25 years now.

Some of their products are Chess Set, Chess Set Deluxe, Chessmen and Brain Twister, all fun and educational games for the young and the young once. These products came from the innovative and resourceful minds of husband-and-wife team of Pacito "Chito" and Zenaida Madroño.

These games are not original ideas, as in never seen before. The creative couple simply tweaked popular games like Scrabble and Bogle, added a different component here and there, and voila! we now have Crossword Game Plus and Word Factory. They have patented their products so copycats need to be even more creative.

Very interesting. As soon as I am back from the ASTD Conference & Expo in Atlanta, GeorgiaLas Vegas, Nevada, I would interview the couple and visit their factory or the mini factories of their subcontractors. and the SHRM Conference in This is another tweak of their original business model. Instead of them manufacturing, they have subcontracted production of parts of their products to other mom-and-pop SMEs to spread the good word of private enterprise and also to spread the wealth around. Good business sense.

BTW, what has happened to the Game of the Generals?

SHRM 2007. The Society for Human Resource Management is holding their 59th Annual Conference and Exposition on June 24-27, 2007 in Las Vegas. It presents a very comprehensive and relevant professional development programs and guarantees to improve knowledge, skills and abilities of HR professionals. One of the four keynote speakers is Lance Armstrong. There is a new educational track—Innovation, which will focus on new and inventive ways of thinking. For details, go to

Indeed, we need innovation in order to break in to the challenging world of enterprise and be globally competitive. Innovation doesn't mean inventing a new wheel; it is reinventing the wheel.