Sunday, August 21, 2011

Keeping up with the Joneses

In the vernacular, as a friend would explain, it means ‘mababaw ang kaligayahan' – i.e., many of our small firms may fail the acid test of ‘sustainable profitable growth’ because our goal in life is to simply outdo the next door neighbor? And so the venture is not treated as a separate and distinct entity – or why Filipinos are well traveled, i.e., once the business starts bringing in the dough traveling to North America or Europe, and shopping for designer goods represents self-actualization? A journalist who interviewed Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was expecting him to be driving some fancy cars, and found what really was driving him: to keep excelling in what he does.

Of course it is convenient to blame government for not providing proactive interventions to our small businesses. Reports Business Mirror, Aug 7th, “. . . The general failure to expand or even just sustain operations can be traced to weak or poorly designed government interventions to increase small entrepreneurs’ knowledge and skills to use technology and financial resources to grow their business . . . Value-adding can be enhanced [if these factors] are present: constant availability of quality raw materials in their required volumes, choice of equipment and machinery, lack of access to training and technical assistance, lack of support services, and reliance on service markets.”

But isn’t what is in our heart and our mind where it all starts? Are our low expectations manifested in our instinct to think small? When the writer and wife met an Eastern European who was speaking from the heart and dreaming big, he promised to help make his dream come true. Fast forward: 'He has been selected as one of the ten Ruban d’Honneur recipients for The RSM International Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the 2011 European Business Awards,' says the email from the sponsors, and his submission is revealing especially given socialist background and born under communist rule. He makes the writer proud: he started from scratch with no clout whatsoever, just a big heart.

It is my dream to develop the Best and Biggest Company out of Eastern Europe. We grew from a small cottage industry producing simple consumer products that became market leaders in all the categories we competed in our home country, taking market shares from 3 of the largest global entities in the industry. Our recent achievements have been in geographical expansion with, again in many cases, market leading positions by categories; and the establishment of three new businesses.

To develop critical mass, we had to explore export opportunities in neighbouring countries. In the local market, we had become strong partners with the trade. Outside the country was another story: it was necessary for us to continue to demonstrate our ability to supply a broader range of products. And as the modern trade (international retail stores) came to the region, we had to raise our focus on healthy-margin products and brands.

Gaining dominance against global behemoths has not been an easy task. There have been many hindrances along the way. A lot of the things that big companies take for granted, we had to learn the hard way. For example: consistent product quality is crucial, margins matter, and distribution and consumer marketing must be in sync and can’t work in isolation. Now we have state-of-the-art factories, R&D and QC labs ensuring total quality. We match the MNCs in financial information infrastructure and even beat them in bottom line profits. We have a solid business model for entering new markets with all key factors of success lined up. And best of all, we have lots of room for growth.

I’m a visionary. I dream of ideas, products and business models that are far beyond what exist. I am always looking for something, for the next step that will generate success. I never stop adapting and changing and this is the style by which I have built the organization. This is what allows us to generate consistent business pace and growth year-on-year over the past 10 years. No matter how big we become, I am preparing the company for what will take it to the next level – be it products, business models, organization, infrastructure or people.”

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