Grace under Crisis

Keeping your cool amidst crisis is one of the most essential traits of an effective leader.  Our class had its first case study “The COE can’t afford to panic” where a financial firm found itself in a middle of a crisis.

The case analysis is not just about coming up with the best course of action from a business/financial perspective but also considering the ethical implications of one’s decisions.  The Kaspa Gerald Smarten, CEO of Kaspa Financial Services (Kaspa) faces a dilemma.  While his team is on a company meeting of the company, a bomb exploded at nearby train station causing confusion, fatalities and panic around the area.  Give the scenario, the city  government requested Kaspa to let them use their lobby and cafeteria spaces to be used as a triage center and a temporary morgue.

Smarten is torn between doing what he think is best for their clients and fulfilling his ethical duty to the city and its people.  Smarten has to consider the the company’s reputation, safety of the people, morale of the employees and confidence of their current and future clients.  He also has to look at the long term negative effect or benefits of his decision.  Smarten need to keep his cool amidst chaos and pressure.  He  need to talk to his team and asked their opinions and listen to their arguments.

Our group’s recommendation is for Kaspa to allow the city to use their lobby and cafeteria as triage center and temporary morgue.  There would be pros and cons associated with this decision but at the end of the day, I believe that it is the best course of action.

The case study is centered on crisis management and as the scenario unfolds it clear that being a CEO is a job that not for everyone.  You have to stay focused, level headed and must not give in to panic.

It is very important for an organization to be ready for crisis.  They have to make sure than a crisis management team is well capable of handling situations that threaten the integrity of reputation of the company.  The team should also have a plan and they can do this by coming up with possible scenarios and coming up with ways to deal with those situations.   Good communication is very vital during the crisis.  A proper channel of communication must be identified to be able to control the situation avoid confusion and panic.









The new kid in the automotive block

Time now to write about our third speaker for this course, CEO series.  The past two speakers have made huge impression on me both as a CEO and an individual.  I was again looking forward to listening and talking to another industry expert from the automotive sector.

Mr. George Chua  earned his MBA at UPenn’s Wharton School and took Mechanical and Industrial Management Engineering at De La Salle University.  He held several top management positions in several companies such TIPCO and Armscor in the Philippines. He is currently the President and CEO of Bayan Automotive Industries Corporation (BAIC).


Mr. George Chua


BAIC is known for its tagline “better and ingenious choice” which we can see through their variety and yet unique designs and selections.  BAIC shows excellence through their Italian design, German engineering and Chinese manufacturing.

My group had the opportunity to introduce to the class and I can’t help but be impressed with both his professional and personal accomplishments.  Mr. Chua is not the traditional CEO that I always imagined.  He was very passionate about life and always busy doing so many things without neglecting his personal happiness.  He loves car, motorcycles, guns and golf.

Mr. Chua shared his Successful CEO requisites with the class and we all keenly listened.  Here are some of them:

  • Acquire education and training at every opportunity.
  • Working smart is better than working hard.  Always ask yourself if there is a better way of doing it.
  • Efficiency is key.  Multi-tasking and starting things simultaneously is very efficient. It’s like planting all the trees at the same time.
  • Networking is essential.  Mr. Chua does not simply play golf because he enjoys but also to talk to fellow businessmen in a more casual and personal setting.
  • Timing is everything.  One should be willing to make bold decisions at the right time

These requisites helped Mr. Chua reached the status he has now and are vital to his success.

My key takeaway from his talk is to make every experience count.  It was like a reminder to me to never waste my time on things that I don’t like doing or something that I will not gain anything at all.   I’d be better off doing things that I am passionate about and will bring positive impact to the people around me.  Time is finite and the best way to make the most out of it is to do things that (a) I am passionate about (b) learn something new or improve my skills (c) will help other people and the society as a whole.


Mr. Chua with the class

Getting out of your comfort zone: CEO edition

Time for another article about my recent favorite subject, CEO series.   After  a very inspiring story from an entrepreneur last week, we are now given a chance to pick the brain of another CEO in the person of the country new Citi Bank Country Chief for the Philippines, Mr. Aftab Ahmed, who has 40 yours of banking experience.  Mr. Ahmed  has worked for Citi Bank in 10 countries across North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific.  His broad breadth of experience covers multiple disciplines including Business Banking, Corporate Banking, Correspondent Banking, Consumer Banking, Distribution, Operation & Technology (O&T), and Treasury.

He shared his experiences as he went along  and one of his finest moments was when he was in Egypt during the Arab Spring.  It was a period in Middle East in 2011 with series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions.  His team was advised to leave the country during turmoil but  instead of getting on the plane he decided to stay and kept the wheels turning.  Such an impressive move if you’ll ask me.  He displayed tenacity and resolve amidst chaos.

Mr. Ahmed also talked about setting up a criteria when choosing a job. He said that one should ask the following questions before making a decision:

Can I make a difference?

Can I contribute?

Can I learn?

These questions sound so simple and direct but also very important.  I believe that once you get a positive answer on all these questions, then you are on your way to a very rewarding and satisfying job.  I even applied said criteria to my current job and I am so happy to realize that I am indeed in a good place.

The most important of the talk (at least for me) was when he shared his Three Leadership Imperatives and here are my take on them:

  1. Taking risks.   Uncertainty should never be a reason for you to give up on your goals. If you always wait for the right time, you’ll never get anything done at all.  It is when you let go your fear of the unknown that you become truly free to explore the world and realize your full potential.  You’ll never know what’s out there if you will not go beyond what’s comfortable and safe.  The possibilities are endless.
  1. Willingness to fail.  If you are brave enough to take risks then you should be willing to fail.  Based from personal experience, the things that taught me the best lessons and stuck with me for the longest time are the ones I’ve learned through failure.   Failure is not the ending, it is just a detour to a more exciting and beautiful adventure waiting ahead of you.  Failure is just the universe’s way of nudging you into the right direction.  As  JK Rowling once said “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
  1. Believing in yourself. The first two would not be possible if you don’t believe in yourself.   Believe in yourself.  Yeah, it’s such a cliché, we all have heard it before, and we hear it so often sometimes it doesn’t mean anything at all.  However, if you truly live by those words, you’ll be surprised at what you are capable of doing.   For me, having faith in yourself, is one of your most important duties in life.  If you don’t trust yourself, no one else will.   There is nothing more annoying than a person who keeps on second guessing her/himself.

My key takeaway from this talk is that you have to go out of your comfort zone and do something that your gut tells you to even if you are not quite sure confident about.   It is really true that you do not regret the things you do but the things that you didn’t.

I also learned something new from him, the PQ or positive quotient.  We are all familiar with IQ and EQ but most of us haven’t heard about PQ at all, the concept is quite new.   Positive Intelligence is an indication of how well your mind acts in your best interest .   PQ is also about bringing about change within your organization.

Mr. Ahmed really knows how to deliver a powerful message to a crowd.  He would walk around the room and ask members of the audience randomly and it was so exciting (at least for me).   You’ll never know when and what he’ll ask you.   He made the whole experience interactive and took time to ask ideas and opinions from the audience.  It was like a surprised graded recitation and I was one of the student who was given the chance to share my  thoughts on keeping on track despite failure.  I got so giddy when he told me that what I said was very insightful 🙂

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My group with Mr. Aftab Ahmed

It was such a pleasure to listen to him talk about the things he deemed important to share with us.  I am grateful that despite his busy schedule.   As he pointed out during his talk, he’s got 50+ things to do that day but he chose to spend hours preparing his presentation and delivering his talk to us.   His stories are relatable and his talk is not strictly about the corporate world but also about living life and dreaming big.

Integral Human Development in Business


We had our first speaker tonight and it was night full of inspiration and laughter.  I was so excited to attend the class not just because it is our very first speaker but because our speaker is a woman and represents a Filipino company.

Ms. Yolanda “Yoling” Sevilla.   Ms. Sevilla has been an entrepreneur for more than 30 years and the CEO of the Leather Collection.  She fondly shared that The Leather Collection is the grandchild of the first company put up by her husband more than 30 years ago and it was partly because of boredom that they got into manufacturing leather goods.  The Leather Collection is a leather goods manufacturer and has been providing the executive accessories and business gift requirements since 1991.

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Ms. Yolanda “Yoling” Sevilla, CEO of The Leather Collection

Her talk was just not about a successful business that withstood the test of time but a story about community, relationships, transparency and trust.

What resonated with me the most is how they incorporated Integral Human Development in their company’s operations.  I had first heard about IHD from my professor in Management Action Research, Dr. Benito Teehankee .  While I believe that the framework is laudable I always wondered if business owners actually put said model into practice.  Most businesses look at CSR as something they will only take part in once they achieve a particular financial status.  Imagine my delight when Ms. Sevilla started talking about her company’s kabalikats, the efforts they made to help save the environment and their initiatives involving women from the far flung provinces that are badly in need of assistance.

Ms. Sevilla credit their working and personal relationship with their “kabalikats”, not employees.  Their kabalikats are enjoying regular employee status instead of being paid according to their output.  Employee compensation does not only come in a form of fair wages but also through values formation, skills training and continuous learning and improvement.  The company have looked out for their kabalikats even during the financial crisis.


The Integral Human Development (IHD) Framework : addressing every aspect of a person to achieve true progress.  

I am always at awe whenever I come across organizations that is just after the traditional bottom line but also look after their employees, community and the environment.  The way The Leather Collection treat their employee is commendable. They don’t simply provide them a source of income but also help them boost their morale and self-esteem.  They call their employees kabalikat.  They are given the chance to improve their lives in several aspects.   Last term, while I was meeting with my groupmates in our project, our conversation went to the required minimum wage (481?).  I was working on the SWOT analysis and one my group mates (which is also the business owner) said that he considered the minimum wage as a threat to the company because it cuts down his revenue, (he does follow the law and give his workers minimum wage).  I was surprised though because when you think about it a day’s minimum wage can barely support a family so it was appalling for me to hear someone say that they want to pay a lower wage but then as the rest of the group pointed out I am not a business owner and I never had to worry about working capital and paying wages and they’re probably right).  I blurted out that these people have families to support too and they have to work hard labor under the sun for 8 hours something that we can’t even imagine to do.    To cut the long story short, I stood firm with my belief that giving a minimum wage is a just thing to do and my group mates told me that I can’t and shouldn’t be doing business (they probably think I’d end up bankrupt) to which I defiantly replied “I can and I will prove you wrong”.   Mrs. Sevilla validated my belief that not everyone build business for the sole purpose of making a profit.   That some people are okay with a slightly lower net income if it means that their employees are living above the poverty line.   I am just at awe at this wonderful woman who is a mixture of compassion and grit.


In this day and age when everything seemed to have a price and most businesses are focused on cutting costs (even if it means giving unfair wages) and increasing net income, it’s refreshing to come across people who genuinely care about their employees and work hard to contribute to the society while helping boost the economy.   During the open forum, I told her that her company and its story is very inspiring.  I shared with her that I used to wonder if there are companies out there that that actually practice IHD and she said that there are actually quite a lot of businesses that do but most of them are SME.  She further said that it is easier to do CSR when you are the owner and there are no investors/shareholders to please.

Her talk was very inspiring and listening to her is like reading a feel good book, it left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling but also instilled realistic scenarios and business strategies in me.  I hope that there would be more companies like The Leather Collection and that being fair in every aspect of their operations become the new norm.  May the entire organization of The Leather Collection live long and prosper.




MBA Elective: CEO Series


I was so excited to start a new academic term with my first subject: Trends and Issues in Business Management: CEO Series, which is an elective in my MBA program.  I chose this subject over the others because I am really interested to listen to top CEOs of the country as they share their valuable experiences and insights both on the corporate world and on personal and professional growth.  This is an opportunity I would gladly take advantage of.  It’s not every day that you get to talk to CEOs and ask them your very own questions.  I am so thrilled to meet all of them.

The first session was dedicated to the introduction of the course, followed by the ever present first day of school “introduce yourself” part.  To make it more interesting our professor, Ms. Pia Marasigan, asked us to partner with a classmate we’ve never met before and spend five minute getting to know each other.  We then introduce each other to the rest of the class.  I partnered with Felice or Fel for short and I had a wonderful time talking to her.  We then given the over view of the what would be the entire look like, the schedules and the line of speakers.  I can’t wait for the next session to come 🙂


A different way of looking at disability


For our CSR activity, our group worked with Leonard Cheshire Disability Foundation Philippines Inc (LCDFII), a non-profit organization whose aim is to enrich the lives and promote independence of people with disabilities.  One of their programs is the access to livelihood which is funded by the Accenture Foundation.   Through their Livelihood Resources Center, they build the skills and confidence of people with disability and create opportunities for them to succeed in work or enterprise.



The foundation together with the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office of Mabitac, Laguan, assessed and identified 25 people with disabilities, which will be awarded a livelihood program.  They interviewed the 25 people with varying disabilities and asked what type of livelihood they want to pursue. Some of those livelihoods are sari-sari store, electronic loading, poultry, and repair shop.

Before the livelihood was awarded to the recipient, a basic financial literacy seminar was conducted.  This where my group comes in.  The foundation coordinated with ANZ Bank and a representative of the bank will conduct the seminar entitled Money Minded.  Our group assisted in the facilitating the seminar.  We go around to check and assist the participants in the activities.  Since the participants have varying disabilities, they need special attention which we gladly provide, though there are participants who came in with their family members.


One of the activities they did and we assisted with is the Vision Board, where they will draw or write their goals in life.   Afterwards they were divided into two groups and discusses among themselves their vision boards.  Before they were asked to accomplish their vision board, the difference of dreams and goals was discussed to them.  Several examples were given as to distinguish one from the other.  Since the facilitator is busy discussing the content of the seminar, it is up to us to hand out materials and guide the participants in doing their vision board.  Most of them are reluctant to start their vision board, it’s as if they are afraid to put down into drawing/writing their goals in life.  After several minutes of coaxing they eventually started working on their vision board.  Their goals were very simple; a sari-sari store as source of income, a house of their own, and a bicycle repair shop.  Watching them go through the activity gave some weird feeling; a mixture of sadness and happiness.  Happy that they were given access to livelihood and sad because it is apparent how hard life has been for them.  If I had my way, I will help all of them.


One of the participants (a deaf mute) discusses the contents of her vision board through her mother

They were also taught to differentiate needs from wants and was given an activity where they will identify things that they either need or want.   They also taught the importance of having a budget and how to prepare one.  In this topic, they were given an exercise where they have work on a budget where the actual expenses exceeded the income.  They adjusted the budget and try to cut down some expenses to decrease the overall expenses.

Not everyone was cooperative but the program was a success.  After the seminar, the livelihood of their choice have been awarded to them.  While the livelihood given to them was not that much, it is a good start.  If they apply what they have learned during the literacy seminar in running their business, they will succeed in managing it.  May God bless them and their new business ventures.

The entire experience was very rewarding for me.  I enjoyed interacting with the community.   It is quite challenging to communicate with them because they are very shy and wary of strangers.  I like talking to them because they are very straight forward and simple.  There are a few who doesn’t mind sharing some stories with us and I was willing to listen and I realized that they have so much to say and it seemed like no one really bothered to listen so the moment someone actually pays attention they talk endlessly.  I even made friends with one of the recipient/participants, Bitoy, who drew a flower for me and wrote best friends forever.  I was so touched, I almost cried.  I enjoyed and learned so much from this community service.    This is one experience I will never forget.


The livelihood awarded to the recipients will change their lives for the better.  This signals a new beginning in their lives, one that is full of hope for great things to come their way.  Giving these people opportunities to earn a living and be independent is very important.  While talking to them I have learned how much the hate being a burden to their family and having the chance to actually ease the burden is such a huge gift for them.  The seminar they attended also taught them practical ideas that they cause in their daily lives.


This experience has thought to appreciate all the blessings I have received.  I also realized that there are so many ways that I can help those people in need.  This experience made me consider a career in social enterprise.  Not only will I earn a living but will also be able to help those people in need.   I strongly believe that it is possible for a company to earn a profit while being ethical and philanthropic.  I intend to volunteer on future projects of the foundation.  As my continuing support to this cause, I plan to sponsor a livelihood package for at least one PWD per year.  I have also started spreading the word to families and friends, one friend of mine already expressed interest in volunteering.


People with disability should be given opportunities to better their lives.  Their disability should not stop them from getting a chance at a good life.  I strongly believe that the government and private agencies should assist them not just in the treatment of their disability but also in terms of education and livelihood.  How can they get a job if they didn’t attend school?  How can they qualify for a job, if they don’t have the skill?  I am sure they don’t want to be burden to their family and the society and they don’t have to be if we give them the access to education and livelihood.  They don’t want to rely in charity and they won’t if we empower them.  They don’t need our pity, they need our encouragement and acceptance.  They are just like us.

Sustainability is the name of the game


Sustainability at its simplest form can be defined as the ability to sustain.  While for me, sustainability is about the impact of our present actions to future generations.

Do we have the ability to sustain this environment? Does our society have the capacity to endure?  To answer that question we have to assess our present condition.  The environment is deteriorating at a rapid rate and we are already experiencing the effects of climate change.  We consume so much so the industry also produces so much.   At the rate that we are going it seemed like we don’t have ability to sustain nor maintain what we have so that the next generation can still enjoy it.

We need to evaluate our behavior and change our ways if we want to save this civilization we call mankind.  Everyone has the responsibility to ameliorate the current situation and transform the way we do business before it’s too late.  It is a good thing that more and more company now are integrating sustainability in their business model.  Some of these organizations are:

  1. Coca-Cola Enterprises


2. Ford Motors


3. SAS


4. Whole Foods 



Some of the benefits of becoming a sustainable business.

  1. Cost Reduction. In developing a more sustainable business practices, operations will be streamlined and costs will be reduced. Take preventive maintenance for instance, this practice keep equipment in good working order and prevent them from breaking down and also lead to longer “useful” life.


  1. Market Advantage. Sustainability is a market strategy. A company that is viewed as a positive and favorable member of the community is likely to have less opposition and less likely to be perceived negatively. Some can call this a “reputational’ capital, an investment that will pay off over time. According to the The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) consumer research, a company that is mindful of its impact on the environment and society makes consumer 58% more likely to buy their products or services.


  1. Increase Employee Retention and Recruitment. Integrating sustainability in their business practices will make a company more attractive to future employees and retain current employees.  Employees want to work with companies who are ‘doing the right thing’ and being proactive with corporate environmental and social programs.  A 2007 survey by Adecco, an international HR company, found that 52% of employed adults feel their companies should do more about the environment. More importantly, companies want their employees to be loyal and ethical to the organization. According to a Global Study of Business Ethics by the American Management Association, one of the top five internal practices for ensuring an ethical corporate culture is developing corporate social responsibility programs.