Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Feng Shui in Business - Some Things Worth Knowing

My mother is a big Feng Shui fan, and I don't know why. :-) Feng Shui, of course, originated in China, but I'm not Chinese. Filipinos have always interacted with the Chinese people, and we really can't deny the fact that the people who are "truly" running this country's economy (no, it's not the politicians) are mostly Filipino-Chinese.

Last Monday, January 26, 2009, Chinese New Year was celebrated not only by the Filipino-Chinese population in the country, but also by all people around the world.

I recently read one of my mother's Feng Shui magazines, and thought that posting an entry that's somewhat related to Chinese philosophy or culture would be great. So here's my post. It's short. It's not a comprehensive list of Feng Shui beliefs. :-) (I really can't write or compose my thoughts well without a word processor)

1. If your business depends on a steady stream of customers, choose an area frequented by people; an area with heavy foot traffic. Increased activity means that there is an active ch'i in the area.

2. According to one local Feng Shui magazine, establishing a business near a busy street (with fast-moving vehicles and heavy traffic) is a big no-no. Ch'i is driven away by fast moving objects like cars. Not only will the noise disturb your workers, the pollution may also bring poor health to your employees. SOLUTIONS: Cover your windows with blinds; place some plants in front of your building because plants can attract healthy ch'i to the area.

3. Establishing a business in an area with slow to no activity can kill the "business ch'i." Give your business a little facelift, or a little makeover. Draw people's attention by having colorful decoration and some signage. Just maintain a sense or level of professionalism to them. In other words, don't overdo it.

4. Give proper attention to your windows. They're the "gateways" of ch'i. Remember to open them during business hours. But if for some reason you can't have them opened, placing some green plants, or an aquarium will help. You need to increase the activity in the area. This will keep the ch'i circulating.

5. Don't establish your business in an area situated near or on low-lying ground. This will stagnate the circulation of ch'i, and will create an abundance of sha.

So there you have it. I'm not a Feng Shui expert, and I don't totally agree with all of these, primarily because I'm still a big believer of the positive results of hardwork, patience and perseverance.

What do you think? Comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good Business Traits: Are You an Entrepreneur or an Employee?

My sister, a University student, recently borrowed a business book from their library. I read it and found it interesting. It touched on the topic of Small Business, Franchising and Entrepreneurship.

One particular article asked, "Do you have the traits of an entrepreneur, or are you more likely to work for others?" This caught my attention, thought that you might get interested, so I decided to do a post about it.

Are you an entrepreneur?


TIME ORIENTATION: Medium to long (5 - 10 years)
RISK TAKING: Moderate, calculated risk; will risk job security and net worth
TOLERANCE OF UNCERTAINTY: High tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty
PERSONAL STANDARDS: High -- more oriented to internalizes, self-imposed standards
MANAGEMENT SKILLS: No, or limited formal management education; may have technical or scientific training if in a technical venture; knows a business well; may be former general manager with profit and loss responsibility
MOTIVATIONS: Highly goal-oriented and achievement motivated, self-reliant and self-motivated

Are you an employee (career manager)?

TIME ORIENTATION: Short to medium (monthly, quarterly, annual budgets and quotas; the next promotion
RISK TAKING: Lower risk taker; averse to making mistakes because of large company reward and penalty system; won't take the final plunge
TOLERANCE OF UNCERTAINTY: Lower tolerance of uncertainty
PERSONAL STANDARDS: High -- but more oriented to externalized standards of the organization; more responsive to organization's reward system and trappings such as status and job titles
MANAGEMENT SKILLS: More likely to have formal management education; broad knowledge and experience in managing people and resources
MOTIVATIONS: More motivated y goals and rewards established by the organization; power motivated

So, are you more likely to become an entrepreneur, or an employee?

SOURCE: New Venture Creature - A Guide to Small Business Development by Timmons, Smollen and Dingee, Jr. (1977)

What Multiply.com's Founders Have to Say to Budding Filipino Entrepreneurs

Millions of Filipinos use the Internet everyday. And according to one local business magazine, 2.2 million of those Filipinos (and growing) use Multiply.com - a relatively small social networking site compared to Web giants like Facebook or MySpace.

Both established and informal Filipino entrepreneurs use the site's free services (like blogs and photo uploads to name a few) not only to socialize online, but to do business as well. Business, after all, is like a social networking site. It's also about building relationships -- profitable relationships that is, with other businesses and customers.

Peter Pezaris and David Hersh, the founders of the site recently visited the country last year, and here's what they have to say to all aspiring Filipino entrepreneurs (Source: Entrepreneur Philippines magazine).

HERSH: "You should always learn by doing, not by reacting. You should always be PROACTIVE, and not be afraid to make big moves that you think will make your company better."

PEZARIS: "In the tech community, we are fond of saying "Ready, Shoot, Aim," which means that you should get your shot out there fast, evaluate the results, and then recalibrate it.

It's such a fast-paced market, and being first is such a huge advantage. The most critical part is knowing that the little changes don't always do it, and that consistent innovation should be the name of the game. Knowing your business inside out also ensures that you know which buttons to push, and dials to turn when you hit a snag."

Source: Entrepreneur Philippines magazine, September 2008 issue

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Financial Freedom: 5 Easy Steps to Financial Freedom According to One Who Works for BDO

I was watching Pia Hontivero's show on ANC, ShopTalk, last time and the topic was of so much interest to me. The guests brought in some Powerpoint presentations about their topics, and I was lucky enough to write down some important points. Here's one, 5 Easy Steps to Financial Freedom (which in my opinion, not that really easy :-))

1. Know Yourself
  • list down your monthly expenses
  • list down your monthly income
  • list down your assets, value it
  • list down your liability and monthly amortization
2. Know Where You Want to Go
  • list down your objectives
  • list down your "wants"
  • list down your dreams (like early retirement, buy a car/house, etc.)
3. Know How to Get There
  • set a plan on paying down debt, cutting expenses
  • savings, 80-20 rule
  • investment, simple first
4. Just Do It (implement your plans)
  • open a bank savings account
  • open a "big account" for investments
  • pay your debts
  • implement your plans
5. Review
  • do a quarterly review of your plans and where you are

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hot Business Tips from Hot Pink Lingerie Owner

Hot Pink Lingerie recently got featured on Start Up, and its owner, Kaye Garcia gave some tips on how to run a business.

“Our ultimate goal is to be the one-stop shop, complete of everything.”

KAYE GARCIA:

1. Before you start anything, you have to straighten out all your financial – how much is it gonna cost, when are you gonna recover?

2. You have to have a contingency plan for if, you don’t sell well for the first year. You always have to have a back-up plan for everything.

3. You have to be prepared that it won’t go as well in the beginning, so you have to be prepared to troubleshoot the problems you’ll encounter.

4. Once you’ve gone past that, then you have to look at the future of your business – how can you make it better, how can you improve it, how can you make it bigger?

5. The number 1 advice is definitely HARD WORK.

6. You have to keep your eyes open. Competition is always just around the corner.

7. You have to be aware of what’s out; you always have to be the first one. You have to be the first one to launch a new item.

8. You have to be very very competitive. You cannot just relax.

9. When you have a business, you have to be fully devoted and passionate about it.

SOURCE: Start Up (hosted by Bam Aquino) shown every Thursday at 8PM on ANC.

Note: The HotPink graphic above is not Hot Pink Lingerie's official logo.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Basic Business Operations: Startup Tips on Running Your Business

Business is an everyday phenomenon. Sure, starting a business can be very exciting, and the possibility of becoming the next John Gokongwei, Jr. can already make you euphoric. But to be realistic, business is not all about glamor and luxury. People often associate “successful businesses” with rich people in flashy cars and big houses, men in suits playing with the latest gadgets, or rich folks enjoying their vacation somewhere in Boracay or Malapascua, etc. Real business, can be quite far from how it’s being portrayed by the media and television.

As I’ve said, business is an everyday phenomenon. Its success depends on everyday business decisions that you make.

Last December 11, 2008, Thursday, Bam Aquino interviewed Rommel Juan, the president of Binalot Fiesta Inc. and the Association of Filipino Franchisers, to talk about BUSINESS OPERATIONS. (To read the full interview, go to Basic Business Operations: Bam Aquino’s Interview with Rommel Juan.)

Things I’ve learned:

• Each business is different. So there are different ways to run them. Each business targets a different market; produces different products; provides different services.

• Know yourself. Find out what you’re good at and focus on that. You’ll be more productive and efficient if you’re doing what you’re good at.

• Innovation is the key. Look for new ideas -- anywhere. Rommel Juan said, “Keep an eye for innovation.” You can get new business ideas from just about anywhere – the Internet, phone directories, in your neighborhood, entrepreneur magazines, television, etc. A small notebook could come in handy so you can immediately jot down any idea that pops into your head. Check out my very first post: How to Become an Innovative Entrepreneur.

• A good decision done quickly is better than a great decision done slowly (source: Start Up). I somewhat disagree with this, but I’m not saying that this is wrong. In my opinion, it would depend on your business goal(s). Nowadays, you have to be more and more innovative in order to compete. It depends on what you want to achieve, whether it’s long term or just short term. For short-term pay offs, I think that businesses would resort to quick decision-making. But for those who want long-term success, they’d opt for a slow (but sure) decision making process.

• Day to day operation(s) is crucial. Everyday, the decisions that you make can make or break your business.

• Plan ahead. Set up goals. Break them into manageable tasks. This will give your business a sense of direction. You can focus your efforts on things that will give you greater results.

• Do some research. Get people to sample your product. It’s all about better decision-making. Why do businesses have accountants? Why do we have researchers? Why do people start their businesses by joining bazaars first? Because businesses need data, they need information; they need problem solvers who can come up with a good or even better decision.

• Upgrade your operations to track your growth and streamline your production process (source: Start Up). It’s always a good idea to innovate. If you have the budget, why not come up with a better system that uses computer software? This will help increase your efficiency and reduce your effort, time and money. Like what they say, “Why hire 20 people to do the task of one when you can have 1 computer to do the task of 20?”

Note: Reactions and comments are always welcome. :-)

Basic Business Operations: Bam Aquino’s Interview with Rommel Juan

Note: I was not able to work on this interview before, but now, because of the very long holiday that we had (not that I am very busy), I was able to finally get to post this. I am not affiliated with Start Up or with ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel).

“Our vision for Binalot is to be the number 1 truly Filipino fast-food in the Philippines, which promotes Filipino culture, Filipino humor, (and) Filipino values.”

Last December 11, 2008, Bam Aquino of Start Up invited Rommel Juan, the President of both Binalot Fiesta Inc. and the Association of Filipino Franchisers, to talk about BUSINESS OPERATIONS. Here’s the full interview:

BAM AQUINO: If you’re a newbie entrepreneur, chances are, you run your business the way you run your life, which is anyway you want to. But here’s the shocking truth, that’s not the way to do it. Having a professional and efficient way of running your business is essential in minimizing losses and maximizing your profit. It also gives you, the entrepreneur, more time to focus on other things like developing a new product, or finding new markets, or to just simply enjoy the fruits of your labor by treating yourself to an extra round of golf every morning.

Sure it would help if there’s an OPERATIONS MANUAL that every entrepreneur (can) follow, but in reality, each business is different and there is no step by step handbook that offers “one size fits all.”

Tonight, we’ll get insights on how to handle business operations from someone who has a lot of experience in putting up a business, watching it grow and adapting to the changes as they come. We’re joined by Rommel Juan, President of Binalot Fiesta Inc. and is also the president of the Association of Filipino Franchisers. Welcome Rommel and thank you for joining us this evening.

ROMMEL JUAN: Good evening Bam.

BAM AQUINO: Rommel, two schools of thought. One would say that an entrepreneur must know every single part of his business, all of the operations; and the other school of thought would say, you can always hire someone who can run the business for you. What do you think?

ROMMEL JUAN: I think, a, the most important thing is a, first, you have to know yourself. Kasi this is what I learned from my entrepreneurship course that I took couple of years back. My guru always told me that there are three (3) Os in entrepreneurship. So there are three kinds of people daw, one is the originator, one is the organizer and one is the operator.

There are three (3) kinds of people in entrepreneurship – the originator, the organizer and the operator.

So the originator is the one, the visionary, the one who has the idea, the concept. Kanya ‘yung anu, ‘yung, the big idea, tama. And then the operator is the one who does the day to day operations; and the organizer usually is the finance guy – organizes everything.

Some people are all 3, some people are 2 and some people are just 1 of those Os. Ako ay, early on, I realized and I accepted that I’m just one, I’m an originator. Originator ako. So I like thinking up new ideas, concept.

BAM AQUINO: Malikot ang isip.

ROMMEL JUAN: ‘Yun. So that’s what I do. You know, whenever I travel, I look at, I look for new ideas whenever I see something new; whenever I see something on the Internet. And I work from there.

BAM AQUINO: So who the other 2 Os? You have other people in the organization who are the 2 other Os.

ROMMEL JUAN: Yeah. Well, when I started, it was all me, you know. But I have to admit I wasn’t really that good at the 2 other Os. So, pero ‘yun e, when you start up a business, ang importante ‘yung diskarte. How you react? It’s very crucial na mabilis ang reaction time mo, especially for start up businesses, kasi, if you wait for the exact timing, exact moment, sabi ko nga, you know, “A good decision done quickly is better than a great decision done slowly,” especially when you’re starting a business. Kasi if you wait for the perfect time, it will, you know, the train will pass you by.

A good decision done quickly is better than a great decision done slowly.

BAM AQUINO: It will probably never come.

ROMMEL JUAN: So ang palagi kong sinasabi si, a, ‘yun nga, if you know yourself, alam mo saan ka magaling; d’un ka mag-focus at kung saan ka deficient, you get help.

Know yourself. Find out where you are good and focus on that.

So, of course, n’ung start, it was all me, but when the business was a little more stable…

BAM AQUINO: You could hire other people…

ROMMEL JUAN: Yeah, that’s when I hire na, better operator and better organizer than me.

BAM AQUINO: Ok. When looking at start up’s operations, what are the things that you really have to focus on?

ROMMEL JUAN: Well, day to day operations talaga. HR people, that’s one of the major problems that I had when I was starting up. Syempre, pag mag-sta-start ka ng business, ‘yun nga, malalaman mo that handling people is the most, the biggest headache.

BAM AQUINO: Ok. More than resourcing, more than your cashflow, more than merchandising. It’s the people.

ROMMEL JUAN: Well, yeah, oo, ‘yun ‘yung for me, ‘yung na anu ako. But as time goes by, medyo, you get the hang of it and you learn how to manage people and then, ‘yun nga, when the time comes that you can hire a HR person to help you, that was the biggest thorn na nabunot sa akin, yun meron nang nag-ha-handle ng HR para sa amin.

BAM AQUINO: Ok. Looking back to those days when you were doing all of the 3 Os couple of years ago, and of course, Binalot is QUITE [ :-) ] successful now already, when you would look at your operations, that aspect of operations where, siguro you thought would be the most crucial, like if you fail on that aspect, in your experience no, baka hindi s’ya, it won’t be successful, what was that aspect?

ROMMEL JUAN: Well, before, when we started, you know, Binalot used to be a delivery concept, strictly delivery lang kami. Ngayon na lang kami meron sa mga food court, meron sa mga dine-in no. So in operations before talagang, well, I was the one who was answering the phones before.

BAM AQUINO: Really, ikaw rin ‘yung call center agent.

ROMMEL JUAN: Ako rin ‘yung call center agent. There was a time ako rin ‘yung delivery boy. Pag-wala na ‘yung, pag-ubos na ‘yung nag-de-deliver, ako mismo. I’ll put the phone down, I’ll get the food and I’ll bring to anu. We were d’un lang naman kami sa small area ng Makati before so kahit by lakad-lakad lang, so operations, ‘yun nga, well, crucial for me, before was, dapat hindi ma-late (pagka-hatid) n’ya so ‘yun ‘yung tinututukan naming dati, so, ‘yun, medyo mag-ba-back-up na ‘yun maski PRODUCTION PLANNING dapat pag-isipan mo na. Kailangan ma-planu mo na ‘yan, dapat alam mo na kung anu ang mga best-sellers mo para hindi ka maubusan, ganyan.

Plan ahead. Stock up on your best-selling products so you won’t run out of supplies.

Of course, number 1 palagi sa ‘min is tapa. So at any given time, meron dapat mga 20 tapas na naka-ready.

BAM AQUINO: Was it a matter of planning everything ahead before you started Binalot, parang meron kang super-plano na dapat X grams of tapa ang nakalagay sa refrigerator and all that, or was it a matter of trial and error as you were going along.

ROMMEL JUAN: Well, if I can do it all over again, siguro baka ang p’wede ko lang baguhin ng kunti is ‘yun nga, I will prepare more. Medyo, I will do research more. We did our research also. When we started Binalot, but it was more of, parang, consumer research kind of thing, kaso…

BAM AQUINO: Anu ‘yung lasa ng mga Filipino…

ROMMEL JUAN: ‘Yun. Kasi ginawa ko dati, ang mga first customers ko were mga friends who were in the offices, so I would call them…”Pare, tikman mo naman ‘yung bagong binalot naming,” ganyan.

Get people to sample your product. Do a survey and evaluate the feedback from your test market.

BAM AQUINO: Puro sampling.

ROMMEL JUAN: Puro sampling, and I would send it; I would deliver it myself and within, inside the binalot, there’s a survey form that I did. Nakalagay d’un “What do you think about the packaging? What do you think about the price? What do you think about the taste?,” ganyan. And I would go back in the afternoon, collect all the surveys. It was very honest. Meron pa ngang nag-comment: “Rommel, masyadong mura.” Sabi ko, “Uy, ok. ‘Di mahalan natin.” So tinaasan ko ang presyo ng kunti and then meron nagsabi: “Rommel, I used to do nilagang egg lang, boiled egg,” sabi nila, “Why don’t you make it itlog na maalat, kamatis, ulam na ‘yan.”

So early on, we really did our research also. ‘Yun nga e, because I’m basically a marketing guy, not really operations at the time, so when we started, ‘yun, consumer research ganyan, we started, talagang na-accept na kaagad ng market. Tapos, d’un nalang talaga ako natuto ng operations kasi…

BAM AQUINO: Natuto ka ng backward integration…

ROMMEL JUAN: Nag-backward integrate ako kasi talagang, 11 o’clock pa lang ubos na ‘yng stocks naming, ganyan, so sabi ko, “Oh my God.” I can’t answer the phone anymore, ganyan. So ‘yun, every day was a learning thing for me.

BAM AQUINO: And from that time ‘til now that, you know, you have a lot of branches already, how long did that take?

ROMMEL JUAN: Well, it really depends, I think on the person. Kasi ako, we put up Binalot really just for fun. And it’s still fun up to now. And I think I’ll only stop doing it when, when it’s not fun anymore. But I think I’m gonna do it for a long long time because I’m having the time of my life right now.

Pero ‘yun, depende. I think it was only in 2003 when I really got serious about it. we started ‘96 e, pero hindi pa ako masyado tutok na tutok.

But in 2003, that’s when I realized that we had a brand because people were already asking for a franchise already. So 2003 was when we launched our Franchise Program also; and that’s also the time I realized na sabi ko, “Uy, medyo marami na kaming tao.”

BAM AQUINO: Yeah, and ‘di ka p’wedeng mag-franchise kung ‘di pa ayos na ayos ang operations mo.

ROMMEL JUAN: Pero more than that, nakita ko, that time I think we’re 6 branches. Sabi ko, parang ‘di na yata ‘to laru-laro. A lot of jobs were at stake already. So sabi ko, it’s time to get serious and that’s when we really got formal, you know, I got more professionals to help us out; I got consultants to help us out. So ngayon, ‘yun, medyo “manualized” na ‘yung operations namin, and ‘yun, nakatulong din ‘yun with our franchising program, because now, if you get a franchise from Binalot, everything has a manual, we can tell what to do already because we’ve experienced it already.

BAM AQUINO: Exactly. Now, for the next couple of years, if you were to project what’s Binalot in the next couple of years, where would it go already?

ROMMEL JUAN: You know, our vision for Binalot is to be (the) number 1 truly Filipino fast-food in the Philippines – which promotes Filipino culture, Filipino humor, Filipino values. So that’s what we’re aiming for. We want na, pag-isipin mo Filipino fast-food, you’ll think about Binalot.

BAM AQUINO: And in terms of operations, do you see that it will be changing also in the future, I mean, from the very loose, probably loose situation it was then, you went to franchising, medyo nag-manualize the kayo. The next step, when you’re pushing the next level already, will there be also changes in the operations?

ROMMEL JUAN: Yes. We are upgrading our systems, at tsaka, we’re getting into POS systems na, may mga software na ‘yan, so ‘yung mga sales naming, medyo mas madali nang ma-track ‘yan; inventory na-ta-track na, tapos maski ‘yung production control naming, now we’re developing the slide-shoot system d’un back of the kitchen, so medyo talagang nagiging fast-food na talaga, pero still Pinoy, so fast-food Pinoy. ‘Yun, we’re always looking for ways to innovate.

BAM AQUINO: It seems that each stage of your entrepreneurship life, parang no, it alos matches a certain level of operations; parang ganun ‘yung lumalabas. For the entrepreneurs out there, what would be your tip on them, parang signaling that they should go to this next level of operations? What will be theses indicators probably?

ROMMEL JUAN: Well, sa ‘kin, they always have to keep their eye for innovation. Kasi I don’t think that meron talagang perfect time for it anu, kung mauuna ka, mas maganda, e.

Keep your eye out for innovations. Improve your products and systems constantly.

So if can improve your product, if you can improve your systems right away, do it.

BAM AQUINO: Ok. Rommel, we’d like to thank you very much for all your tips. Maraming-maraming salamat. Maybe you can (give a) parting shot, any last tip on operations for our entrepreneurs out there?

ROMMEL JUAN: Well, ’yun anu, I think when you’re starting a business you have to do, you have to work with the resources that you have, but it always helps to have a system, so, you know, you have to do your research, read and get consultants if you have to. S’yempre talagang mas maganda kung talagang systematized ‘yung business mo, so that it’s easier for everybody.

When starting a business, you have to work with what you have, but it always helps to have a system.

BAM AQUINO: Ok, Rommel Juan, maraming salamat.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Business Online Networking: An Inexpensive and Effective Way to Increase Your Business Marketability

Businesses need to network. No business is an island. From small startup businesses to big multinational companies, networking has been a part and will always be a part of business. Networking is where companies forge partnerships with other companies, and companies with customers/clients.

The Internet has forever changed the landscape of how people do everything – from doing research to finding jobs to developing projects (like software) to doing business. Right now, people are selling online (which makes it possible to reach customers from anywhere), buying online, do banking online, etc. And with the explosive growth of social networking sites like Facebook, businesses are also likely to find ways to "network" online.

Last Thursday, January 1, 2009, Bam Aquino of Start Up interviewed Adonis Yap, the President of SME Solutions – of the Planters Development Bank, to talk about online business networking. To read the full interview, click Business Online Networking: Bam Aquino’s Interview with Adonis Yap.

Here’s a summary of that interview:

What websites can I use to network with other businesses?

1. SME.COM.PH – for more established businesses (according to Bam Aquino).
2. BIZTER.COM.PH – more like popular social networking sites like Facebook (according to Bam Aquino).

Why should you consider “online business networking?”

1. Businesses can easily come up with their own webpages containing essential info like company profile, description of what they do, what they sell, some photos of their products, etc.

2. It’s an inexpensive and effective way to increase marketability (source: Start Up).

3. Online networking is fast and more convenient.

4. Web presence is becoming more and more crucial nowadays. Businesses need to have their very own website to gain web presence and credibility.

5. You can easily give out your email and website address to potential customers or partners, aside from handing out your business card.

There are, of course, popular networking sites for professionals like LinkedIn, however, for businesses here in the Philippines, you can use sme.com.ph or bizter.com.ph.

That’s it, why don’t you go ahead and give these websites a try. Strengthen your network and web presence now with these tools. Again, to read the full interview, click Business Online Networking: Bam Aquino’s Interview with Adonis Yap.

Business Online Networking: Bam Aquino’s Interview with Adonis Yap

Last January 1, 2009, Thursday, Bam Aquino interviewed Adonis Yap to talk about business networking using online tools. Here's the full interview:

BAM AQUINO: Business networking is crucial for a starting business. Attending road shows and trade fairs, not only expose your brand but it gives you a chance to meet people who can potentially help take your business to greater heights.

But for a starting entrepreneur, this could also be a source of stress like going on a blind date of sorts. After all, you’re meeting strangers for the first time in the hopes of forging profitable partnerships. To help us get through our business networking jitters, we’re talking to a pioneer of 2 business networking sites – sme.com.ph and bizter.com.ph – both websites, of course, are projects of Planters Development Bank’s SME Solutions, to aid small to medium entrepreneurs in growing their businesses. Our guest tonight is the President of that division, Ado Yap.

Good evening Ado, welcome to the show.

First thing in my mind about business networking, I guess, for most Filipinos, the first level is still family and friends, right?

ADONIS YAP: That’s right. That’s right.

BAM AQUINO: Ok. Let’s say that we’ve done that already…you’ve already told your family, your friends. You’ve asked all the help you could get, what other places could you go to actually network your business?

ADONIZ YAP: Well, nowadays, a, online is very important. That’s why we created SME.COM.PH and BIZTER.COM.PH, for us to help, as part of the advocacy of Planters Bank, for us to help the SMEs to cover their places in the online world.

Business Networking: SME.COM.PH and BIZTER.COM.PH are online communities for SMEs.

BAM AQUINO: Ok. SME.COM.PH is really more for more established, I guess, more mature businesses, those that fit the small category which isn’t really that small…BIZTER is more for everyone who just wants to…

ADONIS YAP: For everyone…

BAM AQUINO: Ok. And you’re saying BIZTER is like Facebook, Friendster, right, but for businesses. Maybe you can tell us more.

ADONIS YAP: Initially, what, we got then was, social networking is very, are getting more and more popular. So there are a lot of hits coming all over; that’s why we, though, maybe we can come up with something for business, because mostly are for socialization.

Planters Bank created the networking sites to expand the market of Filipino SMEs.

So this one is for business, something that we can provide Filipino SMEs so they can come up with their own webpages, very easy, doesn’t have to be so technical about it, just like opening your Friendster accounts, it’s just that we’re not interested with your travelled picture, rather we are interested in your company profile, what you do, what you sell, especially, and some images of your products or even stores.

BAM AQUINO: So it’s, it’s also, primarily for B to B, business to business, or for consumers to business?

ADONIS YAP: It can be for B to B and business to consumer. What we want talaga is a broad spectrum. Whatever it is that you want to sell about your products, whatever you want to promote, you can do it online using Bizter.

Online networking is an inexpensive and effective way of increasing marketability.

BAM AQUINO: What, in your experience, are people looking for with Bizter, even with business networking outside of the online world, when you try to partner with somebody else, what are the things that people look for?

ADONIS YAP: Normally, based on my experience, what they want to know more about your products right away. So on the online world, ganun din, so what they want to see is, h’wag nang masyadong maraming…

BAM AQUINO: Company background!

ADONIS YAP: Well, you can put company background but you can put it in a plain and simple as possible, so not the very formal, more stiff type of company profile. So whatever it is that you think people will want to know about you, straight ne kaagad, direct to the point, because we don’t have so much in reading all this; and it’s not easy to read online like 2 hours, so if you need something, you can see it there, you can see the products and later on, we were thinking of coming up with videos pa, if they have video requirements or maybe some other thing that would help them showcase their products and services even more.

BAM AQUINO: So everything from, for example, people who want to sell your products further, p’wede ‘yun? That’s possible. People who want to supply you, is also possible?

ADONIS YAP: Well, Bizter can be a place where they can converge, e, so those who are supplying and those who are looking or supplies or raw materials, maybe…Unlike the social networking websites, you have to be a member to be able to see the profile.

In our case, because we would want to service also the, we want to sell so they should, to as many as possible. So you don’t need to be a member if you’re looking for something. So just go online, look for the, you can use the search, so you look, for example a raw material that you need, and then open the profile one by one. Or if you want you can contact them straight because they have numbers there; addresses are there so you would know more or less if theses companies are close to your business place or not, so you can easily contact them.

BAM AQUINO: So all of these factors can be found there, basically. Now, one thing I found interesting is that, I guess, an old school of thought was, parang, your company has to do everything itself; if you can source it yourself, create it yourself, sell it yourself, better. These days, it seems that, the strength of your company is also the strength of the network of companies that you have with you. Is that what you’re finding also?

ADONIS YAP: The people who know you, the people who can get in touch with you, and the people who can see right away. Nowadays, people (don’t) use telephone directories anymore; (don’t) call friends anymore, previous suppliers anymore. They would go online, Google it, Yahoo it. If he needs something, everything will be there.

BAM AQUINO: You know, before, merong, there’s still a sense of distrust (with) things online na feeling, but I guess these days, it’s getting less and less na, no?

ADONIS YAP: Yes, because nowadays, people are getting to be more and more online. Businesses are getting to be much dependent on the online transactions nowadays. Before, it was unfortunate that we know a lot of negative things than the positive things that the Internet is bringing. But nowadays, medyo nag-ma-mature na. So marami nang mga entrepreneurs, marami nang mga SMEs who see Internet as something that is something very much forma way of them selling it, selling their product.

BAM AQUINO: Kung baga, before it was the alternative way. Now, it’s becoming the normal way.

ADONIS YAP: The normal way, unlikely, for you to have a very stable business without a website.

BAM AQUINO: In fact, remember the time when business cards were the main thing, right, you have to give your business card to everyone. Now I guess, it’s like giving away your website address, right?

ADONIS YAP: In the business card. Business card still.

BAM AQUINO: With the website address…

ADONIS YAP: With your email address there. It’s very important to use business cards pa rin, because that’s way of connecting. They can’t remember all the URLs or the domain names that you’re telling them. But a good business card can be something that will bridge them to your websites.

BAM AQUINO: You have any tips for entrepreneurs out there if they want, you know, if they feel that they need help with other businesses or other entrepreneurs. Is there a place to go or a place, aside from Bizter, of course, to talk to these people or find them or connect to them?

ADONIS YAP: You know, in our SME.COM.PH website, there’s a place where we call “Ask the Experts.” So we have experts there in Marketing, in Accounting, in HR. it’s a place where they can also ask questions online, so without necessarily seeing face to face. Sometimes Filipinos are medyo nahihiya, so, and then, sometimes they’re also thinking baka mahal, so they can go online and look for experts there. They will not answer right away but at least information coming from people who are really in the, either, expert in the field doing business or in the academe. Our website can also be a good place to get it, plus, we, a project between Planters Bank and IFC of the World Bank which we call SME Toolkit. It’s a place; it’s a compilation of best practices, not just in the Philippines but globally. There are about 20, 22 countries globally who’s doing toolkit so they can also browse over that.

BAM AQUINO: Is that also on the site.

ADONIS YAP: On SME.COM.PH. They are very interesting topics there about networking under marketing.

BAM AQUINO: What do you think (is) the next step for business networking? We’ve seen the trade fairs are still there, the conferences are still there, then you have the online component. Would there be a next step for the Philippines, at least?

ADONIS YAP: The offline component will definitely be there, even if maging popular na ang online, chances are, it will still be around because we still need offline; we still need face to face. However, what I’m seeing, down, about 2-3 years down the road is, marami na ang online because mas mabilis, very convenient at mas mura, even if you are in your pajama, you can network. You don’t need to dress up and, but you still need to do the trade shows and fairs, as you said, but online, is I think, getting to be more and more popular.