Monday, August 22, 2016


As one of the most prominent businessmen of our time, Mr. Wilfred Steven Uytengsu Jr. surely took the members of Anvil Business Club in attendance through a very insightful journey on how he made a difference in Alaska Milk Corporation (AMC). His topic was not limited to just business and sports and how these two can be integrated, but also touched on ethics, succession, and even gave good humor on how to choose the right spouse.

The exchange forum started out with the story of when Mr. Uytengsu Jr. went to the United States for his secondary education and took up his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, specializing in Entrepreneurship, in the University of Southern California (USC). Fueled by his passion and dedication to the sports of swimming, he became the team captain of the university on his third year. According to Wilfred, “I would rather be a small fish in a big pond,” and “if you want something bad enough, work for it and be the best, or else do not even try.”
He wanted to be in a very competitive environment where he could face off with the best swimmers to continue improving in his chosen sport. Wilfred mentioned that studying abroad made a huge impact in his life because it pushed him to grow up and establish his independence. As he puts it, “No one knows you there, no one cares who you are, and you have to do your own laundry.”
After graduating from USC, Wilfred came back to the Philippines and joined his father in the family business. One thing that he immediately noticed upon joining is the importance of identifying where the fine line between family and business stands. And regardless of working in a family business setting, the culture of work ethic and the idea that no one is entitled should exist. . As he recollects, there were moments when he did not know whether he was talking to his father or the chairman of the company. One of the most impactful words that he had heard from his father were “you will never understand me because you never started your own business.” These words hit him hard and eventually got him to start his own business, GenOSI, the exclusive food processor supplying to major global and local restaurant chains. Backed by his father’s words and his own experience, he’s led Alaska Milk Corporation through the toughest times and made business decisions that eventually brought the company to where it is today. True to its slogan, “Wala pa ring tatalo sa Alaska”, the brand continues to be a part of every Filipino household and is consumed by both young and old.

Sports marketing is considered a non-traditional way of marketing for most Filipino companies. Alaska Milk Corporation was one of the pioneers of this strategy, which has successfully brought its brand closer to its consumers. It was the brainchild of Wilfred Sr. to franchise a basketball team and let his son study and handle this project. Wilfred Uytengsu Jr. turned this wild idea into a reality, thus the Alaska Aces was born and went on to become one of the most popular and successful teams in the PBA. After several seasons and championships, the sports marketing strategy proved to be successful in planting a deep root of loyalty and love for Alaska in the heart of Filipino people. Furthermore, Uytengsu Jr.’s love for sports extends beyond his duty as the president and CEO of AMC. He has successfully brought in the ‘Iron Man’, triathlon competition, to the Philippines, which immediately won the hearts of the Filipinos and has put our country on the map of the triathlon universe.
As the night progressed, the exchange of intellectual ideas went on when the Anvil directors and regents asked Wilfred about his thoughts about globalization.

For him, globalization is inevitable and it is normal that there will always be someone out there to compete with. Driven by his rule, which is, “you better be the best in whatever you do,” Wilfred always seeks to be the best. One of the key themes of his talk has been the value of work ethic and he even goes on to share that, “Being lucky without hard work will not bring success,” Wilfred always stressed out how the value of work ethic, hard work, and proper sense of entitlement make a huge difference when competing with other companies. Moreover, it is with proper execution and follow through that will help the business secure the success it is aiming for.

Ultimately, Wilfred ended the exchange forum with his thoughts on succession planning. According to his observation and experience, it is the established rules and guiding principles of a family code that will dictate if the business will be able to survive from one generation to another. It is natural that the family will keep on growing and more people, including in-laws, will be involved in the business. To him, family code solves conflicts and keeps everyone in harmony similar to how the Aboitiz family reached its 6th generation and is still a family run business.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Where it Began: Sterling Paper Group of Companies

Dr. Henry Lim Bon Lion came a long way from his childhood experiences. As a child, he did not grew up with a silver spoon, but their family had a modest Chinese bookstore in Binondo that helped them get by. He remembers back then that he would take note of luxurious cars and grand houses of friends in his mind, dreaming that one day he could attain those himself. After graduation, young Henry started working for the family business, Sterling Bookbinding that offered bookbinding services and photo albums. Henry’s father challenged him that if he could sell products at a higher price and higher volume, a feat then unheard of since cheaper prices meant selling more in volume and vice-versa. However, Henry managed to do it by providing higher quality products, which proved to be effective in the growth of their business. At age 23, Henry’s father died and being the eldest among the siblings, took the reins of their family business and expanded it to include lettersets, stamp albums, school supplies, and office supplies. He then renamed the business to Sterling Paper Products Enterprises. Mr. Lim Bon Liong could not stress the importance of quality in products. Back in the 1970s, they were the first adapters to computers. He hired as much as 25 artists to make the best designs and did focus group discussions to determine and deliver the best product to the market. Eventually, his brand Sterling Paper became a household name.

The Idea of Hybrid Rice

After the success of Sterling Paper, Mr. Lim Bon Liong met Yuan Long Ping, a Chinese agricultural scientist who first developed the hybrid rice. Back then when the Philippines was importing rice from Vietnam while China has solved their food problem from hybrid rice, Mr. Lim Bon Liong saw an opportunity in hybrid rice that can make the Philippines self-sufficient in rice.
Bringing and developing the hybrid rice seeds to the Philippines to make them more adaptable to the Philippine climate and for mass production were no easy tasks. They had to pay for an overpriced lot that has the ideal conditions to develop their hybrid seeds during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which meant they had to rely more on their capital instead of loaning from a bank while businesses were slowing down. Moreover, in 1998, Mr. Lim Bon Liong spent additional large sums of capital for Research and Development to discover the ideal hybrid rice seed variety that can produce more yield than the average rice seed.
On November 2000, tragedy happened when a car hit the family van carrying Henry, his mom, and brother. Henry’s mother and brother died in the accident, but every cloud has a silver lining. On January 2001, Henry’s scientist claims that he saw his mother early morning instructing him to check the rice fields. When the scientist went out to the rice fields, he discovered the ideal hybrid rice variety that they set out to look for. Since then, they were able to commercially produce the rice seeds and sell them to farmers.
Mr. Lim Bon Liong once said there are two basic principles in making a strong dynasty: first is a peaceful country and secondly, rich and strong farmers. He is determined to achieve a strong dynasty for the Philippines with the hope of a proper cooperation from the current administration.
Asides from Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong sharing his story behind Sterling Paper Group of Companies and his hybrid rice, he also offered four tips for the entrepreneurs of Anvil Business Group on diversifying businesses:
1. Grab Opportunities - During the Asian Financial Crisis, Dr. Henry bought a few floors of a building because it was selling for a bargain price during the Asian Financial Crisis. Now, the property is significantly worth more.
2. One Thing Leads to Another – Since he had nothing to do with the office floors, he decided to utilize it by setting up a call center company, which is also a booming industry.
3. Be Top 5 in the Industry – In any business, Dr. Henry Lim Bon Lion believes that you should aim to be in the top 5 of the industry or else don’t go into it.
4. Focus on the Business – It took painstaking time, effort, and capital for Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong to develop and market his hybrid rice before it became successful. For a diversified business to work, the focus should be there even when the times get tough.
All in all, the exchange forum with Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong was inspirational and fruitful to Anvil members as they got to know the speaker and learned from his experiences as a successful businessman in various industries. Truly, Anvil Business Club is grateful to have such a successful and inspiring speaker grace the club’s event.