Four business experts shared their insights on the sixth installment of ‘Create. Modern Tao Ke: The Transformational Journey of Family Businesses Through Innovation’ webinar hosted by Globe myBusiness in cooperation with CHiNOY TV and Junior Chamber International (JCI) – Manila.
Marvin Tiu Lim, Chief Growth Officer of Mega Global Corporation, shares his experiences and thoughts on the current local business environment and the active responses that need to be taken in the wake of the global pandemic.
Q: Was it hard for you to follow in your dad’s (Mega Global Corp founder William Tiu Lim) footsteps? Was there pressure?
MTL: Being the youngest of five siblings, we had our own fair share of struggles. My parents started the business 45 years ago with nothing. They really experienced hardships, and most of my siblings also experienced how hard it was to grow up with nothing. My dad was very thrifty. I’m sure Uncle Henry and Uncle Ces are also—were also—very thrifty. They didn’t like to spend on unnecessary things.
Expansion and growth came in steadily but surely. So I realized that this is the world now. I grew up in a very different world. I was wired—programmed differently [from] my siblings. I did not experience the hardships that they experienced, but it felt [like] this in the decision making process in our family business council.
The world is totally different. Competition is different. Competition is tougher. Funding is more abundant. Business ideas are more democratized now. My responsibility now would be how to harness the new age, the new generation—to fuel our exponential growth towards a third generation. So really, the difference between then and now is massive, and what I was born into was a good avenue where I can harness my entrepreneurial skills and really focus on other people. But then I was blessed because of that. I didn’t have the same hardships as my siblings, but it also holds me to a different standard in terms of how we can bring the business to the next level. So, really, every generation has its own qualms and tricks, but now we really have to move forward and look forward, especially now during the pandemic.
Q: Canned sardines are considered essential now. Is there more pressure to step up, at this time?
MTL: Well, of course. When the pandemic hit, we immediately focused unang-una sa employees namin: their well being, their families, their safety. We made sure that they felt safe. After that, we knew that they were going to work for us with malasakit. When we made them feel safe, we knew that they could focus on making sure operations could keep up with the demand.
We’re one of the only ones in the whole Philippines that are positively blessed by this situation, and we don’t know—we just have to give back, so we focused on giving back. So until today, we pledged over 15 million pesos in donations. We’re still giving meals today. Donations, equipment to our people and the ones in need. We’re feeding the homeless. We’re feeding the jeepney drivers, the frontliners, and other foundations. We’re doing this, not to brag, not to show people that we’re doing it. We’re doing it out of really trying to make an example that private businesses can help out in the Philippines.
So another thing that happened to our company is that the pandemic allowed us to usher in our succession planning in our family. My father is now 70 years old. He’s been building this business with my mom (Marylou Pe-Tiu Lim) for over 45 years. So it’s about time that we help him with the burden of sustaining and growing the business. We came together as a family and elevated our positions and agreed that my sister Michelle, who you had in this talk a while back, would be the best person fit the lead our company into the future.
I was also elevated to my new position—a very unique position—as the Chief Growth and Development Officer of Mega, in which I handle sales, marketing, business development, R&D, HR, ICT, and corporate planning. So it seems like a lot, but we have a lot of good people with us. My brother Malcolm, who is also in the business, was made to be the Chief Technical and Innovation Officer to handle all our fishing and manufacturing operations.
So, with this move, really, we had to fill up many more senior [positions] because we—the things that we were doing before, we had to fill it up with professionals. And with the grace of God, with the blessings of God, I don’t know why, [but] within the past three months, we’ve been getting so many talented senior management people on board—on the right seats. And really we’ve been so blessed and because of this, we have been positively impacted by the situation. We decided to use [this] to make sure that we have a strong, sustainable, strategic, and exponential growth in the company and to make sure that our company creates a lot of jobs, a lot of economic activity in the next five years, and, of course, the possibility of going public in the near future.
So I think that’s really what happened to us during the pandemic. And we tried to look at it in a more positive sense. I know not a lot of businesses can, but we’re trying to make the best of what we have now and trying to glorify God, like what Uncle Ces said, with everything that we do because of [the] blessings [that] are flowing in right now.
Q: For your company, what digital solutions are you using?
MTL: Digitalization, as we know, is here na. What would have happened in five years, as they say sa maraming studies, is happening now in and only in one year. So we’ve been lucky in our family that, when I came in in 2015, we’ve been investing early in digital, ‘noh? Our digital campaigns are much more mature and strategic now [because] when I came in, in 2015, to help the family, we went straight to Google and Facebook. Hindi na kami nag-agency. [Because] number one: nakatipid kami. Tapos, nakuha pa namin ang lahat ng mga bagong technology at bagong mga learnings na kanila galing.
So, also, we’ve been using state-of-the-art DRP, ever since 2012. We’ve been using SAP. May forecasting tools kami in Mega. Anaplan. May warehousing management system din kami. May internal HR systems kami. May salesforce automation kami. May field program systems kami, and naka-data-centralized na ‘yung system namin pero ini-improve pa namin. So kailangan talaga namin. We need to really focus on digitalization. Alam ko that the first generation might—my dad finds it hard to understand. We really—the second generation and third generations—we have to convince them.
This is the future. We need these tools to make sure we survive and thrive in the future. We are investing more now towards new technology for our business processes. Hindi lang sa sales. Hindi lang sa finance. Hindi lang sa warehousing. Sa business analytics, branding, sa fishing, manufacturing, and of course, sa business partners namin in distribution. Lahat ng efforts ito add up to not only innovate ‘yung brand namin but also our whole company. It’s here, so we have to face it head-on, and we have to make sure that we are ready for that digitalization, coming forward.
Q: Do you think the manufacturing industry can do more during this pandemic to help the economy?
MTL: I think the beauty of manufacturing is that we employ local people in the Philippines to manufacture our products. We get the raw materials from the Philippines as well. The more that manufacturing can support our local goods, the more that our local economy can thrive. So manufacturing has a big part to play in job creation [and] in making sure that our goods are better than our competitors abroad. So we have to make sure that the local people pick local products over our imported products because they will, in the end, support our local economy and, of course, support the Filipino people.
Q: What are your thoughts on starting out with distributorship as a business? Would it be smarter to focus on creating something new instead?
MTL: Well, it really depends on where you are located regionally. It would be good if you already have the local knowledge of the local players. Let’s say you already have [a] relationship with the retailers in the area. Being a distributor is really, really hard. It takes a lot of heritage, a lot of longevity, a lot of relationship building. So ideally, a young person [starting] a distributor business is not usually the way to go. But it is very, very liquid in terms of how fast you can turn over products because it is an FMCG company. So, really, a distributorship—you really have to look at it long term. You won’t earn immediately. But you will earn, and put it back, and put it back, and put it back into the company. Next thing you know, your company is so big already.
With the current state of the Philippine business landscape, as affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Marvin Tiu Lim encourages aspiring tao kes to support local communities and stakeholders, as well as to take active efforts in innovation and digitalization. In a time of change and uncertainty, what is most important now is the ability to always look forward.