Month: October 2019

Jollibee CEO courted future wife with 88 letters in 8 years while dreaming big

One of the most important, talented, hardworking-as-a-bee yet humble, self-effacing business leaders in the Philippines and Asean region is Jollibee food conglomerate’s 61-year-old, Ateneo-educated president and CEO Ernesto “Ato” Tanmantiong.

Unknown to many, not a few of the famous achievers and visionaries on earth attained their lofty goals through the valuable and loyal support of their key officials. Ato is to Jollibee founder, and his elder brother Tony Tan Caktiong, what JG Summit Holdings, Inc. chairman James L. Go and other late younger brothers Henry and Johnson were to founder and elder brother John Gokongwei, Jr.; what BDO/SM boss Teresita “Tessie” Sy Coson and SM malls/China Bank boss Hans Sy were to their late dad Henry Sy, Sr.; what the capable UP magna cum laude graduate Mercedes Gotamco Tan-Gotianun was to her late husband Filinvest and East West Bank founder Andrew Gotianun; what the brilliant and loyal General Han Xin was to ancient China’s great Han Dynasty founder Liu Bang (who became known as Emperor Gaozu).

Uniquely, with its unprecedented knack for leveraging our distinct Filipino tastes into the popular Chickenjoy, sweet spaghetti and other foods, Jollibee is a homegrown success story, one that Ato says “has made the Philippines the only country in the whole world where a local company beat the global leader at its own game.” He adds: “We have become one of the largest and fastest-growing Asian restaurant companies in the world, with 15 brands and over 5,800 stores in 35 countries. Our growth is focused on three pillar markets — namely the Philippines, North America and China.”

Not content with this feat, Ato says, “I’ve learned that it is important to always dream big with passion and commitment. Even when we started out, we dreamt big and even though many thought it was crazy, it was that ‘crazy’ dream that brought us to where we are now. We’ve encountered our own fair share of failures in the process, but thanks to our team and the dream, we persevered. People often ask what is the secret of Jollibee Food Corp.’s success, and my answer has always been the same. The competition may have had all the resources in its arsenal, but if there was one thing they didn’t have, it was the JFC team. We believe it will be the same ingredient for success as we strive towards our vision to become of the top five restaurant companies in the world.”

88 love letters kept inside a shoebox

At the recent dinner forum of Anvil Business Club’s 280 young Filipino Chinese entrepreneurs, which I chair, Ato candidly shared his inspiring life story (including his sending 88 handwritten love letters in eight years to his Davao Chinese High School — now called Davao Central High School — classmate and future wife Susan as part of his courtship).

Ato also discussed refreshing, wise career and business ideas such as how to nurture good people who are key reasons for their company’s success, maintain excellence and efficiency, upholding integrity and positive moral values, contributing social development such as Jollibee buying vegetables and products from Filipino farmers and local rural communities, Jollibee’s bold moves like buying up America’s Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain and Smashburger chains as part of its grand vision to become one of the world’s top five food business groups.

An old-fashioned romantic, Tanmantiong recounted: “I sent to Susan from 1975 to 1983 until we got married — I wanted to make sure that my facts are correct so I spent half a day rereading all the letters — about 88 of them in eight years. It indeed brought back many good memories of the past. Thanks to Susan for keeping all my letters up to this day. Na in-love na siguro siya (I think she fell in love) with me by that time.”

He added: “Upon reading my letters, I found out that there were only four areas or things that I got preoccupied with during my college years: Ateneo, store, movie houses and writing letters. Quite boring, isn’t it? Ateneo and store were my work, going to movie houses was my pastime, while writing letters to Susan was where I got my inspiration. (Cheesy ba?)

Ato Tanmantiong is sixth among the Tan siblings and second to the youngest in their family, which was started by their immigrant self-made restaurateur and former Buddhist temple cook father. He recounted: “My father worked as a cook at the Chinese temple in Tondo, Manila. He actually came from China at the age of 14 and had to work his way up. Knowing that he couldn’t afford to support a family of seven with his meager income, he and his friend decided to open a Chinese restaurant in Davao City. The choice to set up the business in the province was deliberate as we would have less competition. Thus, in 1965, our family moved to Davao City. I was then seven years old.”

Their father was their inspiration, a great teacher on the value of humility and hard work. Ato said: “My father worked seven days a week and 16 hours a day. He would wake up at 4 a.m. to go to the public market to find the best quality meat and seafood items available. As the saying goes, ‘The early bird catches the worm.’ With a siesta after the lunch hour break to reenergize him, he would go home at 12 midnight after closing the restaurant. He was passionate about his business and enjoyed his work. Since then, up to the time of his death, I never heard a single word of complaint from him that he was tired or that he had to work that hard to support the family.”

Added Ato: “As a young boy then, I got to see how my father dealt professionally with his customers and staff. I also had the privilege to help out as a busboy helper or a waiter assistant in presenting the bill to the customer or as cashier assistant for takeout orders. I did all these not because I liked to work but more because of the incentive of getting free delicious food such as fried rice with wonton soup and pancit guisado with toasted bread and a bottle of Pepsi. (Mababaw lang ang kaligayahan ko noon.)”

He recalls: “We were also trained to be pick-up bank tellers. Since there was no deposit pick-up bank service at that time, my mom would put our sales money in a cooking pot or biscuit can, and ask us to walk it home for safekeeping. Believe me, this covert method did not fail us at all.”

These lessons stuck with Ato: “I saw how my dad managed to provide good customer relations and service, superior quality of food and great value for money.”

This article is originally published by the Philippine Star which can be accessed online at life/2019/10/27/1963548/jollibee-ceo-courted-future-wife-88-letters-8-years-while-dreaming-big#kMTLvGcQBXBmSvG1.99

PSC bares strategic management team behind 7-Eleven’s franchise success in Luzon

Published online by the Business Mirror, October 23, 2019

What do successful businesses have in common? While a great amount is attributed to the efficiency of the business model and monetary investment, no business or company can truly prosper without a core team of talented and dedicated managers as supportive “teammates.”

For industry-leading enterprise Philippine Seven Corp. (PSC), it attributes 7-Eleven’s flourishing franchise business success to its strategic stewards—the high-level managers behind the store opening, expansion and franchise operations. Commendable for their knowledge and experience, Business Development Division’s (BDD) unit manager and section managers maintain a strong focus to deliver critical company objectives in the service of all stakeholders—from franchisees, corporate partners, to the ultimate consumers of 7-Eleven.

According to PSC Business Development Division head Ulysses Borral, trustworthy managers are vital to running an effective and profitable franchise or enterprise. Besides overseeing operations, a manager’s professional contribution to the business and organization helps ensure that both the franchisor’s and franchisees’ business plans, operations and growth goals are mutually aligned, implemented and achieved.

“As a forward-thinking company, PSC’s leadership, corporate culture and innovation in the industry relentlessly motivate everyone to strive for the best. This commitment to pursue excellence for our employees helps us maintain our undisputed edge over competitors, creating an organization that is focused on only doing what is best for all stakeholders and for the achievement of both near and long-term success of the company,” said Borral.

Growing together
Beyond improving branding, Lee Gonzalo Perez, Franchise Marketing, Lease Management and Special Projects section manager, is tasked to oversee and lead the franchise expansion team in promoting the 7-Eleven franchise brand, as well as recruitment and awarding of qualified applicants to the system. For him, a manager’s crucial role involves making “balanced” assessments. “We represent BDD’s interest and efforts for PSC, and act as spokesperson for both sides of the divide—the shareholders and the employees. We are tasked to look after both the interests of the PSC and the people who work in them,” he said. Perez’s leadership style is mentorship, which he said is more relationship-based, rather than performance-based. “I share personal experiences, insights and knowledge with the staff to aid them in achieving their goal. I don’t zero in on a specific skill and action to improve them—it’s more about overall development,” Perez added.

Strong, strategic leadership
Janice Castillones has been with PSC since 2005. Initially a site acquisition specialist, she eventually made her way up to managerial level after she exceeded management’s expectations on her performance and deliverables.

Together with her four supervisors, Castillones is currently handling the Metro Manila areas since the start of this year. Aware of the new challenge to transact with Metro Manila lessors, Castillones is described to be confidently up and ready for the tasks ahead. Prior to this assignment, Castillones is credited for pioneering the North Luzon expansion, specifically in Nueva Vizcaya province which started last year. To date, there are more than 15 stores serving Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya.

Ellen Amancio, meanwhile, is credited for the historic openings of two 7-Eleven stores in Mindoro located in Sabang and Calapan.

Described by colleagues as “very hands-on to her job,” Amancio is always out and about to evaluate sites presented to her by her supervisors. Currently, she is handling the north areas and has been progressing in getting to know new sites and new lessors in the North.

Francis Joseph Gonzales, who joined PSC as BDD Design and Construction manager in 2017, meanwhile, take on the lead in store construction process (from design phase to construction phase). “My team supports the franchisee’s goals by completing store construction and opening the store as soon as possible. Teamwork is essential; each one has a part to play in the completion of every project. As a manager, I believe that maintaining a healthy working environment and promoting camaraderie among team members are part of a true leader’s responsibilities,” stressed Gonzales.

Dedicated, driven
Edgar Gabriel started working for PSC from 2002 to 2007 as plannning manager of Business Development Division. He was also given positions under Store Development Acquisitions. Currently, he handles the South provinces wherein he oversees and lead site/province expansion team in terms of questing for new sites that is feasible for a 7-Eleven store in the South. Some of his key contributions to PSC is pioneering the successful expansion of 7-Eleven in Panay and Mindanao.

“As a section manager handling expansions of 7-Eleven, I am tasked to make sure that the locations that we will get for a store, would be profitable. With that, it is very important for a section manager like me to be data driven. We can only acquire good sites out of facts that our people gather. We have to learn how to segregate data, what is beneficial and what is not,” he explained.

For a manager to be truly effective, he or she needs to espouse strong leadership and strategic management skills to be able to genuinely engage stakeholders from both inside and out of the organization.

By having a dependable team of managers in place, 7-Eleven has cemented its top position in the C-store category. To date, 7-Eleven’s network is spread across 52 provinces in the country, now with more than 2,500 outlets, 46 percent of which are company-operated and 54 percent franchise-owned.

“Having a great team of managers that understands and cares about the company and its stakeholders as much as the owner do, and proudly embodies PSC’s brand of corporate culture indeed create a huge difference. They have helped led the PSC to many milestones and optimized investment potentials for the 7-Eleven brand, as well as opened up income-generating opportunities for Filipino entrepreneurs,” Borral concluded.

This article is originally published by the Business Mirror which can be accessed online at

Investing in a sustainable and secure tourism industry

By Amor Maclang
Published online by the Business Mirror, October 20, 2019

TOURISM has always been central to national development. It contributes heavily to three high-priority goals of developing countries—the generation of income, employment and foreign exchange earnings. A country can only truly prosper if it has a healthy, growing tourism industry.

That said, a dynamic, effective and innovative national tourism strategy that considers the country’s continuously evolving physical landscape and the ever-changing preferences of travelers is needed if the Philippines is to develop a sustainable tourism industry that can withstand local and global challenges.

Although I have always believed that tourism is a truly resilient industry here in the Philippines—having overcome many economic, societal and political challenges that the country has faced and coming out swinging with nary a scratch—the industry still needs more support from both the public and private sector in order to flourish.

The good news is that the country’s tourism industry seems to be in good, capable hands today as friends from both the government and business have come out to do their share.

Just recently, I moderated the Investour Forum partners and media briefing organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) at the Manila House. In the partners and media briefing, I saw passionate individuals from different lines of work speak of their vision for sustainable tourism in the country.

San Vicente: A tourism hub for the future

One important point of discussion during the media briefing was the proposed tourism hub in San Vicente, Palawan, which is expected to generate at least $30 billion in tourism receipts in the next 15 years.

Dr. Samie Lim, PCCI director for Tourism, Retail and Franchising, revealed that the San Vicente Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone (SVFTEZ) of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) is seen to attract around 6 million foreign and 40 million domestic tourists. The potential number of tourists translates to a potential revenue of P30 billion once the project is completed.

“San Vicente is the longest beach in the whole of the Philippines. It is 14.7 kilometers long and it has been master planned carefully in the last few years by world renowned Filipino Architect Jun Palafox,” Lim shared. “We foresee 1,000 hotels to be put up on this long beachfront in the next 15 years.” he added.

Once completed, the SVFTEZ will feature attractions, such as cottages and cabins along the beachfront for the first cluster; a retail development hub for the second cluster; low-density accommodations and coves in the third cluster; and high-end beach accommodations on the fourth.

Poised to be the next big thing in Palawan, San Vicente is turning out to be a very interesting investment haven. The real advantage of San Vicente as an investment

opportunity, though, is that it is already designated as a Tieza zone with a 10-year incentive package for investors and a master plan that makes the whole project sustainable.

Safety and security as vital cogs in tourism

An interesting part of Lim’s presentation during the media briefing was the three “soft A s” of tourism, which are: Advertisement, Academe-Industry Linkages and Assurance of Safety.

While both advertising and linkages to the academe and industries are crucial to a vibrant and active tourism industry, the assurance of safety is what will truly keep the visitors coming. Indeed, the success or failure of a tourism destination depends on how a destination is able to provide a safe and secure environment for its visitors.

Picking up where Lim left off, then-National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar talked about tourism security during the media briefing.

“As in all business investment endeavors, peace and order is a pre-requisite to the success of our tourism industry,” the general stressed. “The support toward the tourism industry sectors provided by the police is therefore critical and essential,” he added.

The former NCRPO chief noted that one of the most dreaded pronouncements that a country can get is a travel ban which is generated by two factors: The peace and order situation of the area and health concerns in epidemic proportions.

“With a basic strategy of increasing police presence in identified critical areas, we have had a successful and healthy circulation of foreign and domestic tourists, including balikbayans,” Eleazar revealed. “From January to August of this year, the Department of Tourism and our police districts have tallied 38,183,193 tourists here in Metro Manila alone,” he added.

Eleazar attributed the vibrant tourism industry in Metro Manila to a robust peace and order situation. “Compared to the last three years of the previous administration, the Duterte administration has recorded a 58-percent decline in the volume of major crimes, such as murder, homicide, rape, theft, robbery, kidnapping, carnapping, motornapping and serious physical injuries.”

Eleazar ended his talk by emphasizing that the NCRPO cannot sit on their laurels. “The quest for the ideal peace and order situation is a never-ending grind for any nation, especially in a developing country like ours,” he stressed.

The Investour Forum partners and media briefing served as the announcement of a bigger event, dubbed as the “Investour Forum on Tieza’s Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zones,” which was held at the Centennial Ballroom of the Manila, Hotel, Manila last October 15.

This article is originally published by the Business Mirror which can be accessed online at

‘Growing business through franchising is a fulfilling mission’

The Philippine Star| 

Franchising is a proven and effective strategy to grow one’s business from one to many. Today’s successful brands serve as proof that franchising is the most flexible method for growth and has been tried and tested over time with a 90 percent success rate.

Francorp Philippines managing director Noel Siggaoat is a passionate advocate of franchising. Early on, he saw how significant an impact franchising can make on the economy because it multiplies businesses and creates thousands of jobs.

Self-fulfilling role

After receiving his MBA from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, Siggaoat worked in New York City as a financial systems consultant. His job entailed helping the treasury departments of client banks understand their exposure to different types of risks – interest rate, currency exchange, counterparty, etc. – and manage their portfolios accordingly. He was enjoying life in the most exciting city in the world and was doing well financially.

“In spite of the financial rewards,” Siggaoat narrated, “I didn’t feel a strong sense of fulfilment helping out US and European banks who were already rich, successful financial institutions become even richer. There was an inner voice telling me that I should be using my skills to help out in my own country,” he said.

This prompted him to move back to the Philippines to find opportunities that would be beneficial to the country and be personally fulfilling at the same time. “When the opportunity at Francorp came along, I immediately saw its connection to my personal mission. Helping small and medium businesses grow through franchising, making entrepreneurs out of franchisees and employing lots of workers through franchising was an opportunity to contribute in my own small way to the Philippine economy,” he said. Global leader

Francorp Philippines is the Philippine Master Licensee of Francorp Int’l, the global leader in franchise development and consulting. Francorp has helped develop over 3,000 franchise businesses and assisted more than 10,000 companies worldwide in their franchise expansion. To date, Francorp Philippines has helped over 600 different companies which created about 20,000 entrepreneurfranchisees and generated employment for about 400,000 individuals.

As part of the technology transfer, Siggaoat and other members of the Francorp Philippines office had to undergo months of training at Francorp headquarters in Chicago under founder Don Boroian, a well-respected pioneer in the field of franchising in the US. Boroian was the head of the Francorp US team that helped Jollibee Philippines when it was still a startup company in the 80s.

Once the team returned to the Philippines, it took some time before the company’s services were accepted by the market. “Companies that ventured into franchising in the early days believed that developing a franchise was a simple endeavour that could be learned by reading an article or copying the franchise offering of another company,” Siggaoat shares. “Part of the challenge when Francorp Philippines began was educating the market that yes, franchising is a simple concept but preparing a company for franchising requires a lot of planning, analysis, and transformation. There are many layers involved in a franchise program that require expertise in different fields – strategy, finance, legal, operations, marketing and sales.” Success story

When the market understood the value of Francorp’s services and saw the success of its early clients, Philippine companies in food and retailing started to get on board.

The Generics Pharmacy (TGP) was one of the business that benefited greatly from franchising. In the beginning, the look of the store and its operating system needed work. However, generics-only pharmacies were only starting to enter the market. “Francorp took on TGP because it had a strong selling proposition: its selling prices were a quarter to half of their branded medicine counterparts, yet still maintained very good product margins,” Siggaoat recalls. When TGP eventually launched their franchise program a few months after working with Francorp, the once small pharmacy grew from one to 2,000 branches in a span of eight years.

Another early client was Bo’s Coffee. When it started working with Francorp, Bo’s Coffee was a startup Cebu player looking to expand outside of its base. At the time, there were other more established coffee brands in Metro Manila and foreign brands were beginning to stamp their dominance in the market. Bo’s successfully entered Manila and also expanded nationwide. ”Today, Bo’s Coffee is not only the premier homegrown coffee brand, it is holding its own against the international coffee brands that have entered the Philippines,” Siggaoat proudly shares. “Bo’s Coffee has also started its expansion abroad by opening in the Middle East.”

Francorp has also helped international brands adapt their franchise offering for the Philippines. Over the years, it has helped foreign brands like Chatime and Bonchon customize their franchise programs for the local market.

Other local businesses that started out small and have now grown after partnering with Francorp include Potato Corner, Citrus Zone, Farron Café, and Turks Shawarma. Even big businesses like Penshoppe, Bench, Max’s, Tokyo Tokyo, and Goldilocks grew even bigger through franchising. Some have ventured abroad after gaining franchise experience locally. Future of franchising

Siggaoat is optimistic when it comes to the franchising industry in the Philippines. Outside of the US, the Philippines has the highest number of certified franchise executives thanks to the pioneering efforts of the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA). Also, because of the high level of franchise expertise in our country, more Philippine franchise professionals will be in demand abroad.

While there are other methods of growing businesses, franchising has become the preferred method adopted by many local businesses. Siggaoat said that franchising, when done correctly, outperforms other methods because of its low cost and built-in incentive system for the franchisee – the one who owns and manages the business. He sees that more companies will adopt franchising as its go-to method of expansion because of its win-win outcome for both franchisor and franchisees.

Some successful franchised businesses will attract larger companies who will want to buy them out and include them in their portfolios. This is an ideal exit strategy for some entrepreneurs who look to bigger conglomerates to take their brands to an even higher plane.

“Because their business is growing on autopilot, thanks to franchising, many franchisors will also look into offering new products and services that may or may not be related to the original one. There’s also a growing demand in other countries for Philippine products and services — the demand comes from both OFWs living in those countries and from local residents.”

Meanwhile, Siggaoat sees more innovative products and services going into franchising in the coming years, signifying a brighter future in the local franchise industry. “In the last few years, education franchises and medical services have started to expand through franchising. We will see more franchises in these fields as well as in business services, tourism, and technology-based products and services.”

This article was originally posted by The Philippine Star  which can be accessed at

Chicken joy with adobo rice? Jollibee says it’s possible as US testing ensues

by: Jessica Fenol, ABS- CBN News

MANILA – Jollibee Foods Corp is exploring the possibility of introducing other Filipino food products to the global market such as Adobo rice, its CEO said Friday.

Adobo rice, or the fusion of marinated chicken or pork and the staple grain, has the potential to become an international favorite similar to “halo-halo” and Jollibee’s peach mango pie, JFC CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong said during a business forum in Pasig City.

Adobo rice is currently being “introduced” in Jollibee in Manhattan in the US and may soon be available in other branches outside the Philippines, Tanmantiong said.

“We’re actually introducing adobo rice in Jollibee stores outside the Philippines. We have done that in Manhattan and it also goes well with chicken joy. And we started to notice that even non-Filipinos love it,” Tanmantiong said.

“So there might be a chance. We still don’t know yet, we’re trying to roll out to other stores,” he added.

Jollibee’s Manhattan, New York branch opened in 2018.

View image on Twitter
Jollibee Foods Corp CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong speaks to the members of Anvil Business Club courtesy of Jessica Fenol

The key to JFC’s global success is great tasting food, Tanmantiong said. The country’s largest restaurant operator has more than 3,000 outlets globally in its portfolio.

Good food, value for money and strategic locations are the “basic success factors” in growing the business here and abroad, Tanmantiong said.

“What we notice is that are the basic success factors of food service business in the Philippines are actually the same success factors in other markets, be it in Southeast Asia, in China, in the US,” he said.

With an array of great-tasting food in its arsenal, Jollibee aims to become one of the top 5 largest restaurant operators in the world.

Expanding its operations in the US and China, as well as maintaining its growth in the Philippines can help achieve that dream, Tanmantiong said.

This article is written by the Author in the by-line last Oct 12, 2019 and was originally posted by  ABS-CBN NEWS ONLINE which can be accessed at

Jollibee to open store in Arizona in Q1 2020

Homegrown fast-food giant Jollibee Foods Corporation is making its debut in Arizona next year as it embarks on a North American expansion plan.

“We are very excited to open our milestone Jollibee store in Arizona at around the first quarter of next year,” Jollibee North America senior brand manager Dianne Yorro said in a statement to GMA News Online.

“This is in line with Jollibee’s accelerated expansion in North America and our vision of becoming among the top 5 restaurant companies in the world,” she said.

Yorro earlier told an Arizona news site that the Jollibee outlet will be opened in Chandler, a city just west of the capital Phoenix and part of the Metro Phoenix area.

The plan includes growing to 150 locations in the US and 100 in Canada over the next five years.

Jollibee currently has 41 stores in North America since it opened its first restaurant in Daly City, California in 1998.

“We look forward to serving our Jollibee favorites to the locals of Arizona very soon!” Yorro said.

This article is written by the Author in the by-line and was originally posted by  GMA  NEWS ONLINE which can be accessed at

Business to tackle digital economy at 45th PBC slated at Manila Hotel

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Published online by the Manila Bulletin, October 5, 2019

The country’s top policymakers, including President Duterte, will be meeting with over 1,000 foreign and local businessmen to set the tone for public-private initiatives in a digital economy at the 45th Philippine Business Conference and Expo (45th PBC & E) in Manila Hotel.

The PBC is the biggest annual business conference of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s largest and most influential business organization. This year’s PBC, to be held at the Manila Hotel on October 16-17, carries the theme “Enabling Business in a Digital Economy.”

“This year’s theme will look into the dynamics if a digitally driven economy and its impact on people’s growth and business sustainability,” said PBC Chairman William Co. He stressed the importance that businessmen must understand the digital world because while the digital economy promises to bring opportunities, it also poses uncertainties to business sustainability.

“Digital economy is seen to disrupt and transform traditional business models. With this conference, we would like the delegates to see the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it affects us in the Philippines and in the global setting,” Co added.

PCCI President Alegria “Bing” Limjoco said this year’s theme is a follow up to last year’s conference theme “Infrastructure and Digital Economy: The Game Changers.”

“We are getting ready for digital economy, no one should be left behind,” said Limjoco.

“Business is really going digital and it’s inevitable. That is why we are having this discussion and we invited renowned local and international experts in the field of digital economy and technology innovation to share their thoughts, experiences and tips on how business can survive and thrive in a dynamically changing environment.”

Over the last four decades, the PBC & E has served as a platform for PCCI members and partners both in the private sector and government to converge, dialogue and come up with policy recommendations to better improve the business environment in the country.

Meantime, this year’s PBC will be honoring young and innovative entrepreneurs “Mang Inasal” founder Edgardo “Injap” Sia and Zesto Corporation founder Alfredo M. Yao.


This article is originally published by the Manila Bulletin which can be accessed online at

Learn to let go of control—and more lessons from the bikers behind Potato Corner

By Rhia Diomampo Grana
Published online by the Abs-Cbn News, October 2, 2019

Don’t kid Joe Magsaysay with “Sir, pa-Vespa ka naman” for he might just take it seriously. JoMag (as he is more popularly known in the business circles), founder and Chairman Emeritus of Potato Corner, is a huge motorcycling enthusiast, a sport he fondly shares with the other owners and directors of the company.

“They are the type who would go to Caliraya riding their bikes,” says chief operating officer Dominic Hernandez (Dom for short), who joined the company three years ago. When JoMag arrived at the office riding his new motorcycle (currently, he has a total of 25 bikes), Hernandez and two others jokingly asked for a Vespa scooter so they could join their weekend rides. The following week, they got the biggest surprise of their life because parked at the office were three Vespas for them to ride in.

Business-wise, Magsaysay has learned to think strategically, rather than tactically—that is, providing advice and guidance to Hernandez and the management, when needed.

Riding bikes may seem like a mere pastime for JoMag, but according to him, it speaks of the Potato Corner character, the important entrepreneurial lessons he wishes to impart—being adventurous, spontaneous, and free. This mentality has apparently worked for the company over the past 28 years, with one of the country’s largest conglomerates recently offering billions to buy it. “My hope is that these values also translate to the way they do business,” he quips.

Learning from the legend

Hernandez, whose family operates Victory Liner, a top-of-mind bus company in the country, admits Potato Corner was a huge change agent for them. “We’re a very traditional and conservative group,” he admits. His family now holds majority ownership of the flavored French fried brand. “We have been in the bus business for the past 75 years and we’ve never really aggressively diversified. When we invested in Potato Corner, we saw a different world. We realized it’s good to have a different perspective on things.”

Dom, whose family operates Victory Liner, one of the reputable bus companies in the country, admits Potato Corner was a huge change agent for the Hernandezes.

Running Potato Corner opened their eyes to the advantages of building a team of professionals, as opposed to keeping it within the family. Investing in the brand made them realize that if they hire professionals, train them, and take care of them, they will take care of the business the way a family does.

Hernandez feels fortunate to have been under the tutelage of Magsaysay from whom he learned the value of openness to change, especially in the age of digital economy. The former points out the challenge of running 1,400 stores, 900 of which are franchised. He says they there is a need to strike the right balance of maintaining the company’s values and being open to improvements and innovation.

“You don’t know where the risk is going to come from—there are data hacks, there’s the weather, there’s the economic crisis, all of these things are beyond our control. But whatever we can control, we try our best to elevate the level of service that we can give to the consumers and to our franchise partners,” Hernandez explains.

Hernandez intends to take care of the business the same way Magsaysay has for the last 28 years. “I never call them employees; I always refer to them as my officemates,” he says. And by treating them like family, he also means supporting their growth through continued education. “Taking good care of your people is important. Without the people, the business will not prosper.”

Magsaysay shares his realization: “Dom will never be like me. I cannot make him like me. He is his own person. I have to realize that all I can do is tell him what I used to do and what Potato Corner used to be. He is his own man and I’m fine with that.”

From Magsaysay, Hernandez also learned about maintaining a positive outlook amidst challenges and failures. “The big doesn’t beat the small in business, it’s the fast that beats the slow,” Hernandez says, echoing what Magsaysay told them. “So we always have to be fast-changing, fast-adapting, fast-learning but never afraid to try.”

Passing the baton

Magsaysay served as an executive for fast food company Wendy’s for 10 years, and helped grow Mister Donut from 200 to 800 stores. For someone who’s accustomed to do tactical planning, he admits it was initially difficult for him to let go of control. But life has its way of teaching him the hard lessons—he had to undergo five brain surgeries, possibly exacerbated by biking.

“During the scan, my doctor found out that I had a broken neck; it healed by itself but not properly. Then, one injury I sustained through dirt biking most likely caused this hole in my skull, which probably caused the brain infections that led to hydrocephalus. They placed a tube in my skull to get rid of the pressure on my brain,” he reveals.

“My horizon is very short. I only live a day at a time. Before, I used to dream about five or ten years from now. Now, I just want to live for today,” says Magsaysay.

His first brain surgery made him realize that it’s time to surrender to his Creator, it’s time to let go, that he’s in control of his life anymore, that it’s time to let people take care of him. “I wasn’t used to being taken cared of. I was used to doing things, running things myself,” he confides. “So I dreaded those two weeks when I had to stay in bed, I wasn’t allowed to move, and someone had to clean me.”

He recalls that even before this life-changing event, his personal mentor had already advised him to prepare for retirement; he was 54 years old then. “My mentor told me, ‘You have six years before you’re 60. Why don’t use these six years as your runway so that by the time you’re 60, you’re not running anything, you’re just being taken care of by the companies that you invested in. So I followed that.”

He admits having survived five brain surgeries not only left a scar on his head but also led to a change in mindset. “My future is just one year in advance or even less because I don’t know what will happen to me. I might have another brain surgery. I might have another seizure or I might die tomorrow. My horizon is very short. I only live a day at a time. Before, I used to dream about five or 10 years from now. Now, I just want to live for today,” he says.

Magsaysay’s collection of motorcycles.

Business-wise, he learned to think strategically, rather than tactically—that is, providing advice and guidance to Dom and the management, when needed. From the beginning, he recognized Dom’s strength in terms of operations, because of his background in running QSRs (quick service restaurants). So, knowing that the company is in good hands gives him peace of mind. “[From the beginning] I knew that we’re on the same page—we understood what the stores and operations needed, so I was comfortable immediately with Dom.”

Magsaysay also feels that the infusion of younger people like Dom to the Potato Corner’s workforce comes at a perfect time as it brought a new stamina and dynamism to the company. “For me, letting go of control is the best thing that I’m doing for Potato Corner. I’ve known the brand for 28 years, so I might be wrong already. The brand needs to evolve so that it can stay relevant for the next 28 years.” He decided to retire and finally cut ties with the company last August.

The former Potato Corner honcho shares his realization from his many talks with his psychotherapist and friends helping him to move on: “Dom will never be like me. I cannot make him like me. He is his own person. I have to realize that all I can do is tell him what I used to do and what Potato Corner used to be. He is his own man and I’m fine with that,” he says.


Photographs by Chris Clemente
This article is written by the Author in the by-line and was originally posted by Abs-Cbn News in their website which can be accessed at