Monday, January 5, 2009

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.

No comments: