Published online by the Business World, September 24, 2019
JOSE MAGSAYSAY JR. had scant corporate knowledge and experience when he started Potato Corner with his partners.
But through sheer determination and hard work, he built Potato Corner to one of the leading brands in the fast food industry.
His first foray into the industry began after he dropped out of college to work in a hamburger chain to help his mother with the household finances. In 1992, his brother-in-law suggested that they start a business selling flavored french fries to make money on the side.
They soon opened the first Potato Corner kiosk in one of Metro Manila’s biggest malls. This fledgling startup’s first office was his mother’s house and their first filing cabinet was her old oven.
It took considerable time and effort for Mr. Magsaysay and his partners to get the company off the ground. He recounts, “Most of us had no experience working in a corporate environment so it took us a long time to learn how to run a company. We had to learn the function of the board, shareholders and CEO.”
By learning through experience and experimenting with a franchising business model, he and his partners were able to open 120 Potato Corner stores by 1997.
As Potato Corner grew, Mr. Magsaysay eventually had to decide between his full-time job at the hamburger chain and Potato Corner.
Being a risk-taker, he chose the latter and left his stable job as a district manager.
To this day, he stands by his decision as he advises entrepreneurs that, “If you want to succeed in something you want to do, you better cut all your lifelines. If you have an option to always go back to something, you’ll never do your best.”
After five years, Mr. Magsaysay decided to try his hand at new things and left Potato Corner to become the general manager of a donut chain. He also returned to school and earned his master’s degree in entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). As he was about to graduate from the AIM, the Asian Financial Crisis hit and Potato Corner stores dropped from 120 to less than 40.
Refusing to give up on this venture, he returned to Potato Corner armed with a five-year multi-business plan where he rationalized operations and cut costs to preserve cash flow. His plan also included streamlining the company’s processes and operations by developing systems aimed to strengthen its supply chain. He worked with business consultants and third parties to create solutions for the company’s issues.
He also transformed the company’s culture into a more open and collaborative environment by boosting morale and fostering a sense of camaraderie among employees and management. He says that he strives to find a way to work with the people he hires and integrate them into the system of the company.
Potato Corner bounced back under Mr. Magsaysay’s leadership and became a staple fast-food kiosk in malls and schools. From the remaining 40 kiosks, they have opened over 1,000 stores in 11 foreign markets today.
Mr. Magsaysay credits the company’s success to its easy-to-get franchise model which makes business ownership accessible, creating a whole community of budding entrepreneurs. He claims that their franchisees get the best and highest net profit margin because they do not require royalty fees. At present, 80% of the company’s stores are franchises, including its foreign outlets.
Another example of a bold practice is their strategy of setting up stores overseas. Unlike their competitors, Potato Corner does not locate its stores abroad near Filipino communities because they believe that fries are a ubiquitous and well-loved snack. Through this approach, they have opened over 200 stores in Indonesia, Panama, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam, Kuwait and the United States.
Despite the company’s considerable success, Mr. Magsaysay and his team refuse to be complacent in today’s challenging business landscape. He explains, “As an entrepreneur, you’re always pivoting, on the edge, and playing a running game.”
One of the most significant challenges is being one company with one brand that sells one product. To address this challenge, Cinco Corp. is diversifying its brand lineup with different products through Halikinu, its subsidiary company, which sells products like shawarma, goto and barbecue that cater to different market segments.
Mr. Magsaysay has big plans for his micro-business as he envisions Cinco Corp. to be the leading kiosk operator in the world with 5,000 stores within the next five years.
What began as a venture to earn extra money has evolved into an enterprise which aims to create, develop and empower entrepreneurs. Not only does Mr. Magsaysay train his franchisees, he also mentors his employees and encourages them. “I want all of you to pass through and graduate from Potato Corner as my business partners.”
He is determined to continue this even after his retirement by investing in start-up businesses as a way of giving back and empowering aspiring entrepreneurs.
Mr. Magsaysay is a maverick and has broken and bended rules in the fast food industry and the best practices set by his competitors. His ability to think out-of-the-box has earned him several accolades such as the AIM Alumni Achievement Award, Asia CEO Awards Entrepreneur of the Year 2016, the Association of Filipino Franchisers Galing ng Pinoy! Award, PLDT-SME MVP Bossing Award and the Franchise Excellence Hall of Fame Award.
A true disruptor in his field, Mr. Magsaysay believes that completely dedicating time and effort to one’s craft can lead to success.
His advice to would-be entrepreneurs is to “Master one thing only and do not think about the money. As soon as you master your craft, people will want to be your partner.”
This article is originally published by the Business World which can be accessed online at https://www.bworldonline.com/corner-of-success/