"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." – Warren Buffet
SOMETIME in my teaching career, I taught courses in enterprise development in the 1980s at the Ateneo de Manila University. This was way before the conception of the Ateneo's School of Management which spearheaded a very productive business incubation set up inside the campus. Sauce Packing Machine
It was a fun experimental course, and my management engineering students enjoyed the application part of the course which required them to engage in some small money-making ventures. One of the projects did well and was eventually continued by two of the group members. This was a T-shirt project now known as Spoofs Inc. which produced a graphical novelty clothing line spoofing well-known signature brands.
I recall that the group's project concept proposal received initial skepticism when presented but did very well in execution. They had the best sales record in implementation and was a hit for the revenue laughter it evoked from their initial market, the campus crowd.
A major lesson from the enterprise is the importance of rising from adversity for entrepreneurial ventures. The project was initially started "as a joke" and was viewed as such by their instructor. But the group felt challenged and eventually did well. Kudos to Andrew Marcelo and Charlie Doble, two of my students who went beyond the school project to pursue the venture as an actual business activity.
The best role model for entrepreneurial achievement, resilience and endurance I have, and whom I have had the privilege of interacting with is Ambassador Alfredo M. Yao. Chairman Emeritus AMY, as he is fondly addressed in his business circles, is your dream rags to riches story line. There are many billionaires today but nobody did it better and from real scratch like AMY. Stories in the web recount how AMY spent his youth running a stall on the streets of Blumentritt after he was orphaned by his father at the age of 13. At 17, he set up a packaging business with P3,000 from his mother, working as both machine operator and salesman.
He introduced doypack packaging to the Philippines in 1979 but found no interested juice manufacturer. In response, he produced his own juice line, Zest-O, and is now hailed as the country's Juice King. Zest-O is quality juice that is affordable, and it dominates the market today.
AMY has parlayed his success into building other businesses: Philippine Business Bank, Asiawide Refreshments Corp. (RC Cola), Movenpick Resort and Spa Boracay, Macay Holdings, among others. A true self-made business leader, AMY did it without the benefit of completing his college degree. He was the 2005 Ernst and Young Master Entrepreneur of the Year and the most admired Asean Enterprise Awardee for Innovation in the 2014 MVP Bossing Award.
People who have worked for AMY attests that he inspires, motivates and treats them like family. He is kind and a true mentor to all. Above all, his words are reliable and trustworthy. Integrity underlies all his actions. He is true to his word, and he will not just leave his clients, partners and stakeholders hanging without some support, even during difficult and rainy days.
In the Philippine Business Bank (PBB), for example, he remains faithful to his vision of it being a bank of choice for small and medium enterprises. PBB President Rolando Avante has adopted this when he proclaims his desire for the bank to successfully clone several Fred Yao's who will be able to grow their small enterprises to sustainable big ones through the bank's payment and lending support.
Emeritus is a rank of distinguished service awarded selectively on retirement. Emeritus is often used in the academe, and it fits AMY well for his words are teaching gems for those who care to listen. He has been thoroughly honed in the school of hard knocks and has maneuvered his way around hurdles. AMY personifies the thoughts of Warren Buffet who always has a long view in his investments.
In most of his companies, Alfredo Yao is addressed as such because he has professionalized the succession ladder, but he continues to exercise his influence in the direction of affairs. In my book, AMY is an emeritus entrepreneur, not just in an honorary way, but in its most profound reflection as a person of merit who continues to guide the path forward for his companies through innovative practices and very down-to-earth directives.
We need to have more Emeritus Entrepreneurs for our country to move forward. The country needs a strong middle-class core and entrepreneurs who will generate the jobs needed to sustain a growing population.
Tea Bag Packaging Machine Benel de la Paz Lagua was previously EVP and chief development officer at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active Finex member and an advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. Today, he is an independent director in progressive banks and in some NGOs. The views expressed herein are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office as well as Finex.