Tag: Potato Corner

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 https://news.abs-cbn.com/ancx/culture/spotlight/10/02/19/learn-to-let-go-of-controland-more-lessons-from-the-bikers-behind-potato-corner


Corner of success

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/

Pinoy snack favorite takes on the world

MANILA, Philippines — When it comes to snacks, very few come close to the satisfying comfort brought by a cup of crispy fries that’s served hot and flavored to absolute perfection. Potato Corner has perfected the art of making delectable flavored French fries, making it the leading brand in the snack food industry for more than 26 years now.

In an interview with The STAR,  Potato Corner president and chief executive officer Jose  Magsaysay Jr. talks about the brand’s humble beginnings and how it discovered a winning formula that catapulted the company to what it is now.

Humble beginnings

It was in 1992 when Magsaysay and four other partners opened the first Potato Corner kiosk at SM Megamall. He was still working for a fast-food brand at that time, but was looking for a side business for extra income. His brother-in-law had a flavored popcorn company that did so well and this sparked an idea to put flavored powder on French fries as well. “When they invited me to be a partner, I did not hesitate and joined right away. I just looked for a way to get the money needed for the capital. It was both a risk and a blessing because I was still working for a different company but in a span of 30 days, Potato Corner earned a lot and we were really surprised,” Magsaysay says.

Lacking enough capital to open stores in bigger spaces, the business partners were eventually approached by interested parties and offered a franchise agreement.

The decision to adopt a franchising model was the one big break that Potato Corner needed to gain a dominant foothold in the food cart business.

“Having no money to expand on our own, we gave out our first franchise that opened in January the following year. We finally decided to go into franchising to earn the much-needed capital, which allowed us to dominate the market. We’re lucky that the Philippines is the ‘franchise hub of Asia.’ This gives our company the freedom to be as creative as possible. We always encourage our franchisees to think outside the box and create ways to further improve the company,” Magsaysay says.

Shaking up the Pinoy snack scene

Not all food businesses are able to walk the path to success. Starting a business venture is not easy. And even the most amazing ideas run the risk of losing steam and becoming unsustainable in the long term without a proper support system and empowered people to run it.

“We have flavored fries that make kids and kids at heart feel good and flavors you can choose from. It’s that crispy, freshly cooked fries, dusted in good tasting flavored power that our customers love. From there, we focus on it, we look through it and then we further expand the things we can do with the product. Our exceptional team of employees, franchisees, partners and suppliers are incredibly focused on achieving the goal of serving the public with our flavored fries. Our people are our most important assets because of their passion in making Potato Corner a successful brand,” Magsaysay says.

Pinoy flavored fries go global

From a single kiosk at SM Megamall, Potato Corner has successfully established itself as one of the most easily recognizable snack here and abroad, powered by a strong network of over 1,100 branches worldwide.

“Potato Corner is now in Singapore, Hong Kong, USA, Panama, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. We just opened our first branch in Singapore and the company is looking at expanding to more countries. Our franchisees in international branches were our customers before when they were in their teens- many even younger. These are the people who grew up with our brand and are loyal to it,” Magsaysay proudly shares.

“The common misconception that people have in the food industry is that; if you want to grow and prosper, you have to continuously change things up and be innovative. You don’t have to constantly implement change — you just have to be original. Other industries may need to constantly innovate, but that’s not the case with food. When people learn to love your product because of how it already is, you should take advantage of that and stop overthinking,” he says.

-Argie Aguja

*this post is copied and originally published by The Philippine Star, on August 13, 2018  and is also available at https://www.philstar.com/business/business-as-usual/2018/08/13/1841963/pinoy-snack-favorite-takes-world#vikals0X9uvroeod.99