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Financial Adviser: 5 Young Tycoons Everyone Can Learn From to Succeed in Business

Learn from the experiences of these budding tycoons.
IMAGE COURTESY OF HENRY ONG
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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” said Lao Tzu.

Many dream of quitting their day jobs to go into business someday but only a few follow their goals and eventually succeed.

Succeeding in business doesn’t mean that you must have a lot of cash, or business experience or even be a college graduate. You must have the passion and determination to succeed before you embark on your entrepreneurial journey.

When you have the right mindset, you will know how to take risks, accept failures and face the challenges of overcoming adversities in business.

Here are some of the most influential young tycoons in the Philippines today whose success can inspire every budding entrepreneur. They share five business lessons everyone can learn from their experience:

1. Know where you are going and be prepared - Injap Sia

When Mang Inasal founder Edgar “Injap” Sia listed DoubleDragon Properties in the stock exchange in 2014, he wanted to accomplish his one goal for the company: to build one million square meters of leasable space by year 2020.

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Sia needed P40 billion to finance his community malls project, which he successfully raised in four years with focus and determination while building his leasing assets.

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This year, Sia expects to complete all his projects, which will transform his company, DoubleDragon Properties from a property developer to a leasing company.

Last year, Double Dragon Properties had already generated almost P3 billion in recurring revenues and this is expected to increase further this year.  

“The key is before you go into business, you have to do your homework,” Sia says. “You must see it so clearly that you know what you are doing. You have to be so convinced of the goal you want to achieve.

“You have to study and understand deeply whatever you want to do so you can draw your map from point A to point Z. If you are prepared, you will know where you are going.”

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2. Know how to take risks and be decisive – Dennis Uy

When Dennis Uy started his company, Phoenix Petroleum, he was already late into the competition as the market was already established with several independent oil players.

But this did not discourage him from pursuing his goal. Uy persevered to build his business despite his limited resources until one day, he bagged a big service contract with Cebu Pacific, which helped his company to grow.

Today, Phoenix Petroleum is one of the largest and most profitable independent oil companies in the country, with over P100 billion in annual sales.

“I always say that I have more balls than brains,” Uy says. “When I see a good business opportunity, I just go ahead and plan later. Sometimes if you don’t decide immediately, it may prove more costly later on.

“One of the keys to succeed in business is to be humble enough to admit that you don’t know. I am not afraid to ask if I need to consult something. Just because you’re the boss, doesn’t mean you know everything.”

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3. Know how to stand up and have guts - Edgar Saavedra

Edgar Saavedra was just fresh out of college when he started doing fit-out and renovation projects for friends and relatives with his college best friend, Michael Cosiquien.

Saavedra wanted to do more by going into the construction business but he did not have the experience and capital. Despite his limitations, he had the courage to make things happen.

Saavedra began doing high-rise projects while learning the business. He soon hit his biggest break when his company, Megawide Construction, secured a multiple project contract with SM Development Corporation.

Megawide today is one of the leading engineering and infrastructure companies in the country with a market value of P40 billion.

“It was not easy to get projects in the beginning but I always thought that we came from nothing so we had nothing to lose,” Saavedra says. “We came from zero. At worst, we could always go back to work for others if we failed.

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“Sometimes ignorance can be powerful. What you don’t know won’t scare you. If you know how big the battle is, you won’t really go into it but if you don’t know, you may say ‘Okay let’s do it!’ because once you are in the battle, you cannot turn your back anymore.”

4. Know how to handle failure and be stronger - Tony Tiu

Tony Tiu has been a crisis survivor many times in the past.

When he co-founded AgriNurture in 1997, he helped the company survived the Asian financial crisis by turning the company from importer of agricultural machineries into exporter of fruits and vegetables.

Tiu also refused to give up when he was turned down by top investment banks to do the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of his company in 2008. He persisted until he found a creative way to get his company listed by way of introduction.

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In 2015, Tiu was wrongly accused of money laundering emanating from a case filed against then-Vice President Jejomar Binay, which he fought dearly until he was proven innocent.

Today, Tiu leads three listed companies that he partly owns in the stock exchange. These are AgriNurture, Greenergy Holdings, and IRC Properties, which have a combined market value of P50 billion.

“You have to evolve to become a better and stronger person after every crisis,” Tiu says. “There is always a reason for something to happen. Do not panic. Take time to reflect. Every night before I sleep I always reflect. What have I achieved today? What have I done wrong? How do I improve it tomorrow?

“Failure is part of day-to-day life. There is no perfect score. Some failures will give you lessons to learn. Other failures will give you nobody but only yourself to blame.”

5. Know how to persist and find solutions – Lester Yu

Lester Yu once capitalized on the popularity of the pearl shake drink business in the 1990s. It was a huge success that allowed Yu to quickly expand to 75 outlets in three years.

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But as soon as the craze fizzled, sales went downhill and forced Yu to close all his outlets within 12 months. Despite the devastating failure, Yu refused to give up. He realized that for a business to be sustainable, he needed to sell a product that was based on trends, not fads.

In 2002, Yu put up his first fruit shake kiosk in SM Manila and called it Fruitas. Today, Fruitas is the largest foodcart operator in the country over 1,000 company-owned, multibrand outlets.

Fruitas Holdings was recently listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange with market capitalization of P3.6 billion, making it the most valuable food kiosk company in the Philippines.

“During the early years when my business was not making money, I once thought that I was in the wrong business,” Yu says. “But I did not have any choice. By circumstance, I had to stick to it and live with what we had. I had to believe in our product.

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“I resorted to franchising to sustain the business but when the business was growing, I started buying back all of my franchisees. When we operated our own outlets, we did not only make bigger profits, but we were also able to control the quality of our products,” he adds.

Henry Ong, RFP, is president of Business Sense Financial Advisors. Email Henry for business advice [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @henryong888 

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