Thursday, May 29, 2008

In a world and time of shifting constants

It's been said that there are two inevitable in life--death and taxes. The rest of what happens to our lives are contants--they happen steadily, repeatedly, regularly, continually. Nonetheless, these constants are swinging to the left, to the right, up, down, at an angle.

One example is the rising costs, albeit prices, of everything. It's been said that prices of goods depend on the supply and demand. Nowadays, prices could go anywhere at the whim of speculators, hoarders and by those who want to conquer the world. (It's been two weeks since we heard our very own president commanding her minions to go after hoarders but we haven't heard from them again.) So even if prices constantly go up, still they are further modified according to self-interests.

One constant that has shifted is our food and eating habits. We used to hurry home and eat heartily what Nanay cooked. Now Filipinos are eating out and liking new cuisine. Restaurants and food outlets are sprouting everywhere. In fact, in malls, there seem to be more food outlets than other shops and there are more people in food shops than in things shops. Many have adopted the chopsticks as eating implements. Although, we seem to have acquired the taste for other foods like Indian, Mediterranean, French and others, one thing constant is our love for Filipino food, original or fusion recipes.

That is why here in Carson, California, there are many restaurants, e.g., DJ, Manila Lechon, Jollibee, Manila Sunrise and others, serving Filipino foods. One thing notable though is that they also offer chopsticks. And, of course, nobody eat with their hands. Not anymore, not even in Filipino homes anywhere.

Food is constantly a good business proposition. Many Filipinos made their first million in the food industry.

I used to shop to death whenever I am here in the U.S. of A., but now I have to constantly ask myself, "Do I need this now?" Or if there is something I really need, my next questions are, "Is there something cheaper?" "Are there better substitutes?" "Are they available in the Philippines?" One constant about things is that they are invariably modified and improved especially with the use of nanotechnology. Even Americans are not shopping that much and that often.

Comfort is prime reason I buy some things, so I only buy branded shoes and I get them cheaper at Marshalls, TJ Max, Ross and Target. Even if they are made in China, they must conform with the standards of the brand. No shift in quality here, except for the use of manmade materials--only the uppers are leather in most cases. And there are now shoes that breathe, that you could wade in floods, that use recycled materials, and others.

Some constants do change for the worse or worst. I took PAL from Manila to Los Angeles. Four hours from take off and the lavatories had become messy. I went in twice after two flight attendants and I found the lavatory as soiled as anything. Aren't they supposed to clean the lavatories? Likewise, some fixtures are non-functioning. And, I don't know why, Filipinos who take PAL are constantly uncaring of others, they leave the lavatories messier than they found it. They are better behaved in other airlines. I pity the American seated beside me, he had to hold his food tray while eating because the tray holder is broken. The crew just shrugged their cold shoulders and offered not even a feeble apology. My flight from Manila to South Africa and back recently via Singapore Airlines was a bliss compared to this PAL flight.

The present flight stewardesses are not as beautiful and sophisticated as the stewardesses of before. And they are not smiling. They look so ordinary and plain; many salesgirls at the malls are more personable.) The SQ stewardesses have maintained their Singapore Girl looks and bearing. Well, in this time of shifting constants, who needs to fly PAL?

Happily, some good things in life remain constant, though shifting in some ways. Like my BFF Gina Camacho and her family who have migrated here in California since 17 years ago, but remained Filipino by heart, and Adrian whose birthday was May 28 and Ronjie, June 20--older, wiser and achieving, but the same loving sons.,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Business & people management in South Africa

Our minimum wage earners enjoyed their Php20 pay increase for exactly one week. Starting last Wednesdays, prices of goods shot up even more as transportation fare increased. It is a vicious cycle. Now they are spending more than the increase they got, which is still subject to tax.

Talking of something pleasant, it is very obvious to me that South Africa has made big strides in the way they conduct and manage their business from the five times I've been there before. And I am very happy to come across two books that chronicle and recognize companies and leaders who have made significant contributions to the burgeoning commerce and industry this part of Africa. Through these books, the publishers honor them and encourage others by their example to emulate their laudable corporate behavior.

One book is BEST EMPLOYERS SOUTH AFRICA, with foreword by Quentin Wray. Deputy Editor, Business Report, and published by CRF South Africa, 2007.

Wray writes that although society clearly benefits from good employers—after all, happy, well-paid employees are more likely to contribute to their communities than those who feel aggrieved every day at work—being a good employer is not just about altruism. "Ultimately, employers need to focus on ensuring that workers at all levels are able to meet the needs of customers who will otherwise take their business elsewhere. A properly trained and motivated workforce is far more capable of meeting the needs of customers than a poorly qualified and apathetic one. J. Paul Getty once said that the employer generally gets the employees he deserves."

Jacob de Villiers, executive director of Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut, asserts, "People are the cornerstone of every business success. Often in the light of a company's achievement and recognition, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of the human resource team responsible for securing, supporting and establishing the firm's employees.

One outstanding company is Exxaro:

Exxaro has a diversified resource portfolio that includes coal, mineral sand, base metals, industrial minerals, an interest in iron ore and is the only producer of zinc in South Africa.

Exxaro spends approximately 6% of its wage bill on development programs at all levels of employees and focuses on learnerships. There are currently 500 learners completing programs in mining and engineering. This is fed through a deliberate system of recruitment, performance management and leadership mentoring.

Emerging from a merger of two established organizations, Exxaro announced its vision, mission and values after an inclusive, intense development process. This are rolled out through an interactive series of CEO-led road shows to each business unit. Their leaders believe that values are the basis of a strong organization and employees are measured against their adherence to the values.

Part of their culture is encouraging employees to ask why and to challenge. This fosters explanation and, in turn, leads to an easier acceptance and change.

Ethical behavior applies to all stakeholders, in and out of the organization and good governance is entrenched through the implementation of a fraud hotline and a code of ethics. Gender equality is a focus for the organization and the company is trying to attract women to the traditionally male-dominated world of mining. It is the largest black-owned and –managed resources company listed on their stock-exchange with a 56% black economic empowerment shareholding.

As part of their corporate social investment, they address key issues such as education, skills, development, enterprise development (for small-scale mining), health and welfare, the environment, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, sports and recreation. Some specific projects include math and science improvement initiatives at high schools, stimulating local economic development, supporting peace parks and many others.

They have a presence in Namibia, China and Australia, but its intention is to remain South African-based and continue to be proud of their SA roots and heritage. They have a history of strong leadership throughout the organization, a tradition they value highly, sustain and cultivate as they go into a growth path.

Finally, Exxaro provides an exciting work environment for individuals who are competent, willing. ethics-driven, enjoy working in teams and across boundaries, and whose values match that of the company.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What should we do when the lights go out?

One person who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness is Jackson Sia.
Jack's family used to have a plastic factory that made novelty items like mirrors and hairbrushes. After 25 profitable years, they had to close shop because their overhead costs have overtaken their profits. Similar products from China have taken over the market because of their low price.

To make use of his marketing expertise, Jack joined Megapack Container Corporation as packaging sales executive. He sold balikbayan boxes, industrial boxes and corrugated boxes. Somehow this industry has also shrunk because of rising cost of raw materials and less companies are using boxes. Their client manufacturing companies have either shifted to using plastic boxes, or are now also sourcing their packaging boxes from China or they have closed down forever or have relocated their plants in other countries. This is what happened to one of their clients, Colgate Palmolive Philippines which has uprooted their plant here and is now only maintaining a sales office. (I told you we need to Buy Pinoy products like Hapee and Kutitap that will stay here and provide employment in our job-starved country). There is also the emergence of new, smaller companies. Big companies like Unibox and Johannesburg have folded up.

With four children and a beautiful full-time stay-at-home wife (Glen), Jack decided to add other income generating activities to his life rather than simply work for a salary. He decided to become a sales and product consultant for VitaPlus, a multi-level marketing company that sells a juice drink that promotes health and wellness.
Jack proudly says that he is able to derive a sizable income from this venture and, more importantly, through the regular training programs provided by FQ Marketing, he is honing his entrepreneurial and leadership skills, more than just his marketing skills.

He has now developed his own group of distributors who are themselves also earning from this endeavor. Jack says that when you share your secrets for success, you become more successful. The more his team sells, the better his earnings also because he gets commission from their sales. He has expanded his network around the Philippines, Palau, El Salvador, Norway and Canada. He says that these are Balikbayans who tried VitaPlus while here and became happy customers. Now they also sell and earn; so does Jack.

Two years ago, Jack started with VitaPlus on a parttime basis. But he saw a big potential in it and is now into it fulltime. The advantages he says is, aside from earning more than salary, he owns his own time, he earns as much as he puts time and effort into it, he is able to help his team and he has enlarged his circle of influence. Before, he used to move around with family and relatives, a few people in his business, then his friends at the Rotary Club of Mandaluyong North (where he was twice president), now he becomes emboldened to make new friends and include them in his sphere of power.

He asserts that he is a leader who loves to create leaders. Join Jack's leaders' circle and light more candles as we face a dim economic future; call him at 09209545628.

I am not a fan of multi-level marketing thingy, but Jack's enthusiasm is contagious. I might not do any selling, but I am buying his product which is very refreshing although sweetish.

There is still time to join the 2008 American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) 2008 International Conference & Exposition in San Diego, California this June 1-4. Log on to for details. To get the substantial delegation discount, just write the Innovation Camp Delegation Code 200802060 in your registration form.

Held each spring, this premier event for workplace learning and performance professionals welcomes attendees from more than 70 countries. The conference features 200+ educational sessions from industry-leading experts, and a world-class EXPO filled with the latest products and services available from top suppliers.,

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It has become expensive to live here in Manila

I've been doing a lot of marketing in wet markets and grocery stores since I arrived. Not surprisingly, prices of even basics like onions, garlic, tomatoes, fish, pork, chicken and many others, even salt and pepper have skyrocketed. And I mean up there in the sky. I wonder how many of our poor folks are coping.

Vegetables are definitely more expensive than meat and fish. I haven't eaten sinigang for more than a month and so I cooked Sinigang sa Miso and, boy oh boy, the prices of salmon, mustard and other ingredients have gone up like anything. My sukis were apologetic but they say there is nothing they could do; they are just retailers. Hmmmm

My labandera, Aling Cherry, laments the fact that even the cost of dried fish and galunggong have become beyond their means. They do not eat vegetables anymore. They are forced to eat less and less every day. Her bigger concern is the schooling of her three children. Could they still afford to send them to finish at least high school?

When I left for South Africa, I took a cab and the fare went up to Php400 from my usual Php150, Sta. Mesa to NAIA. I asked and, like the prior week I've been taking taxis, the drivers told me that they have broken the seal and adjusted the meter so they could collect more and be able to buy gasoline. The Pasig-Quiapo/Divisoria jeepney drivers have for two years now raised their fare. For example, the V. Mapa-Crossing (exactly 4 kilometers) used to cost only Php7.50, until the jeepney drivers took the law into their own hands and started to charge Php10.00. At first, there were a lot of arguments, but eventually people need to go to work and go home, so the passengers simply paid the unlawful fare.

They have taken the law in their hands? Who else have been done this--take the law in their own hands—to cope with high prices? The loser—the commuter and the consumer who seemingly have no recourse but to pay outright or we don't get the products and services that we need. The apathetic observer—the concerned government entities that are supposed to implement the laws and protect the public.

What is happening to our country, Madame Arroyo? Where is that vaunted economic growth of just a few months ago? I just learned from a Manila Times article last Thursday that we produce 90% of our rice requirements and import only 10% under the National Food Authority. Huh? If that is the case do we need those numerous offices and hundreds of employees at NFA? What are they really doing? Why is this crisis upon us? Where is that 90% production? Do I hear the word "hoarders"? What are we doing about them? Why can't we catch them? Who is in-charge?
Sometime ago, I read in an internet news article that the culprit to the high cost of oil is not exactly the taxes that all governments impose on them, but more so the hoarders, the speculators who wait until prices are higher before they put out their products in the market.
What should we do? This spiraling costs of everything is worse than the worst natural calamities we've experienced. Because we know that the supplies are there, only they are being held for profit and that the people responsible for policing them are (I leave this sentence open for you to supply whatever adjective or expletive you want to add).

ASTD 2008 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE & EXPOSITION will be held this June 1-4 at the San Diego Convention Center, California, USA. I am excited about this conference because one of the keynote speakers is Malcolm Galdwell. He has an incomparable gift for generating value by interpreting groundbreaking research in psychology, sociology and neurology and applying it to business.

In 2005, Time Magazine named Malcolm one of its 100 Most Influential People. He is the author of two New York Times #1 bestsellers. With his first book Malcolm embedded the concept of The Tipping Point in our everyday vocabulary and gave organizations new tools for understanding how and why change happens, and how to create positive epidemics of ideas and behavior.
In Blink he analyzes first impressions—the judgments we make unconsciously and instinctively—and he explores how we can master this important aspect of successful decision-making. He is currently a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine.

Email us for details.;