Richard Lim Jr. takes Eskaya to next level
Richard Lim Jr. was still in college and just 19 years old when family duty called.
He and his older brother Ralph were tasked by their father to help put up, and eventually run, a cement distribution business in Occidental Mindoro.
So while his classmates at Ateneo de Manila University, where he earned his business management degree, were solving theoretical accounting and business problems, Richard was grappling with real numbers and real concerns of what is now known as Tacloban Solid Cement.
That was not the hard part, though, for he actually liked the work.
The bigger challenge was to run the business in Mindoro from Manila on weekdays, aided only by a mobile phone, and shuttle between Manila and Mindoro on weekends.
He also had to deal with unexpected calls even at ungodly hours for issues like delayed cement deliveries.
“At that time, there was no organization or position to talk about. You are the owner, so you do almost everything. I did accounting, sales, purchasing and others,” he says.
But Richard did not—and still isn’t—complaining.
To him, going into the family business was the most natural thing to do, having grown up in an environment where both parents were in the middle of growing and diversifying the family venture.
Business conversations at home were part of day-to-day life.
“My parents, especially my father (Richard Sr.), were talking business all the time, either with each other, with other people or on the phone. And I was convinced, it was also what I would be doing. Working in another company didn’t even cross my mind,” he says.
His parents’ first major venture, which was founded in 1980, was salt production and distribution.
The family used to operate salt fields in Cavite and Bohol, but commercial production had to stop as the La Niña weather phenomenon rendered salt farming no longer feasible.
Most of the fields were converted by property developers to residential and commercial areas.
This forced the group to focus on the distribution of salt coming from various sources overseas.
The family has kept its salt field in Bohol but its production capacity is too low to be considered commercially feasible.
When the Lim siblings were growing up, the family business was starting to diversify to resort operations (Eskaya) and cement distribution (Tacloban Solid Cement).
But it was in the salt business where Richard and his brother got their first business education. Richard recalls being brought by his father to the office and given simple jobs when he still was a kid.
When he got a little older, he was made to tag along when the company van went around in some parts of Mindanao to deliver salt or visit traders.
When Eskaya Resort was set up, the family spent their summers there and that was Richard’s introduction to running the resort.
Richard says he enjoys and cherishes those experiences, and he loves what he is doing now.
“If you enjoy and love what you are doing, it doesn’t feel like work. I am having fun,” he says.
The brothers have successfully steered the cement business to what it is now, the exclusive dealer of Lafarge Republic in Bohol, Leyte and Occidental Mindoro.
He also has expanded his reach.
At 28, Richard is now the president of Tacloban Cement; managing director of the family’s tourism venture, Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa in Bohol, and vice president of Artemis Salt, the exclusive distributor in the Philippines of Shark Bay Salt, a subsidiary of Mitsui of Japan.
While his older brother, Ralph, takes care of the salt business, Richard focuses on the cement business and the resort in Bohol.
He says he gives the same level of attention to the cement and tourism ventures, explaining that their concerns—like a shipment of 300,000 bags of cement and a resort guest running out of coffee in the room—are of equal importance.
But these days, he is obviously more passionate about Eskaya Resort and the prospects of the family’s tourism venture.
Richard says it wasn’t easy adjusting from being so used to a brick-and-mortar type of business—selling cement and dealing with straightforward clients, partners and workers—to getting involved in a more service-oriented and lifestyle kind of venture that caters to high-end clients with discriminating taste.
“The majority of Eskaya Resort’s guest are foreigners, mostly Europeans, who have been to all types of resorts around the world and honeymooners who expect an extra ordinary experience for this once-in-a-lifetime event in their lives. I had to learn their language, needs and expectations,” he says.
Today, Richard has set his sights on further expanding the resort’s operations.
Eskaya Resort, a high-end resort sitting on a 16-hectare property facing the Bohol Sea on Panglao Island in Bohol, is building nine more private villas to bring the total number of villas to 24 within the year.
It is also putting up additional amenities such as a gym and tennis court.
“Despite the expansion, we will remain a very low impact development. We are working hard to become a truly green resort,” he says.
Eskaya Resort features a modern Filipino design, courtesy of architect Francisco Mañosa.
The villas are bahay kubo—or nipa hut-inspired, built with native materials such as bamboo, cogon grass and wood, but each villa is equipped with modern amenities, including private pools, outdoor showers and whirlpool tubs complete with an endless view of the sea and sky.
Richard’s vision, however, goes beyond the resort in Panglao, Bohol.
He dreams of making Eskaya (named after the cultural minority in Bohol) a premium resort brand, not only in the country but also in Southeast Asia.
There are also plans to expand to other strategic areas in the country—including Palawan and Tagaytay—and to some Southeast Asian countries.
Apart from actually building new Eskaya Resorts, Richard says expansion can take the form of managing other properties that will also carry the Eskaya brand.
He says his family plans to put up a management company that will run other properties here and overseas.
“We already have a stable pool of resort/hotel people and we will never run out of them for Filipinos are naturally hospitable and warm, and that’s our distinct advantage over other countries,” he says.
Overseas, Richard says his family is initially targeting Vietnam and Myanmar, but the priority is to expand locally.
“Currently, we are focusing on local tourism. There are still a lot of locations in the Philippines where we can establish our presence,” he explains.
Richard doesn’t take all the credit for what Eskaya Resort has become, however.
He says it is a family effort and his parents and siblings are very much involved in it.
In fact, it was his mother who came up with the idea of putting up the resort.
On expansion and the grand plans for the family’s tourism venture, Richard says the ideas are usually hatched during casual family talks.
“We talk when we are together at home, over dinner … it is never-ending. Sometimes, my parents just call our attention when they think of something,” he says, “In all these, my father is still the captain. Sometimes, we don’t agree on some things but we settle them by talking about them.”
Richard thinks that the lessons he and the family have learned from the resort in Bohol and the other businesses have prepared them well to step up their business venture and pursue their dream for the resort business.
The diversification of the family business doesn’t stop there, however.
Richard says there are other industries that the family is thinking of entering, particularly those that can support the cement, salt and tourism businesses, such as shipping and resort—and non-resort property development.
Indeed, Richard is just getting started.
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