MANILA, Philippines—The business of business is business. The often-quoted line—sometimes attributed to economist Milton Friedman, at other times to General Motors chair Alfred P. Sloan—presents a view that the sole responsibility of corporations is to build shareholder value.
It comes as no small surprise then that the mission of Harvard Business School, the best business school in the US according to the latest study of Forbes magazine, is to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world.”
Launched in 1908, Harvard’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is the world’s first and counts among its illustrious graduates billionaire and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, Boeing’s James McNerney, and thought leaders Clayton Christensen and Michael Porter.
The Harvard Business School (HBS) alumni network is 70,000-strong, spread across more than 150 countries.
For an HBS alumnus looking to expand his or her career horizons, the HBS alumni network is one big worldwide web in itself, with infinite opportunities. For an aspiring HBS applicant, the collective wisdom of the group proves invaluable for guidance on the inner workings of the school. Forbes agrees that it is this strong alumni network that proves to be “one of Harvard’s greatest draws.”
The Philippines had its first Harvard MBA graduate in 1948 and many followed suit. Today there are about 260 distinguished business leaders in the Philippines who are HBS alumni, including Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, John Gokongwei, Tony Tan Caktiong, Christopher Po, Ramon del Rosario Jr., Eugenio Lopez III, Delfin Lazaro and Aurelio Montinola III.
Close to half of the Philippine alumni earned their MBA degrees from Harvard, while others completed HBS programs such as the Associate in Management Program, Owner/President Management Program, and Program for Management Development.
The hub of the network in Manila is the Harvard Business School Club of the Philippines (HBSCP), founded in 1983 by Frank Eizmendi, Alberto Lim, Evelio Lucero, Guillermo Luchangco, Montinola, Rizalino Navarro, Alfredo Parungao and Joven Reyes.
HBSCP today is headed by co-presidents Miguel Perez, CEO of Ayannah, and Jose Barroco, president of New Platform Group. In their two-year term, Barroco and Perez have kept the organization active and in tabs with members.
It recently hosted a forum with Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and chief executives of the largest power companies in the country as well as a forum with Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
This January, the HBS alumni will get an opportunity to meet the Harvard Business School Asia Pacific Advisory Board, which will convene in Manila for the first time. The group comprises more than 30 business leaders from across the globe including George Yeo, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore; Minoru Makihara, senior corporate advisor of Mitsubishi Corp.; Warren Luke, chair and CEO of Hawaii National Bank; Stuart Lounsbury Dean, president of GE Southeast Asia; and Elaine Chao, distinguished fellow of The Heritage Foundation. Zobel, a Harvard economics and MBA graduate who was the youngest and the first Filipino to be accorded the HBS Alumni Achievement Award, is the current chair of the HBS Asia Pacific Advisory Board.
Aside from these major activities, HBSCP holds membership meetings at least five times a year for purposes of the traditional send-off for new students, updating membership information and consolidating recent news, or holding information sessions for interested HBS applicants.
As Barroco and Perez turn over the club’s leadership to a new set of officers next month, they hope to leave a lasting legacy.
“One of our objectives moving forward is to ensure that everybody in the club, the alumni from MBA programs and alumni from Executive Education programs, are involved,” says Barroco. “That has really been our main goal all these years: for HBSCP to be a real family, a real community for Harvard Business School graduates in the Philippines.”
Getting more members involved in HBSCP affairs would help the club become a stronger link to the global network of HBS alumni. And that offers a whole universe of possibilities for Philippine-based alumni.
Explains Barroco: “One of the biggest advantages of being an HBS alumnus is the power of the global network, a network that can really help you not only from a professional perspective but also from a social perspective.”
Perez adds that a more visible HBSCP would also make sure that raw talent for HBS would not run out in this neck of the woods.
“One of our objectives is to continue to be a touch point for interested people who want to matriculate in HBS,” he says. “The value of the school is based on the quality of the alumni, which in turn is dependent on the quality of the raw material that we are able to gather and guide. It’s important that we have visibility in the community. We don’t want to miss out on brilliant people who could be Harvard alumni simply because there was no one to pitch the school to them.”
The younger set of business leaders, Barroco and Perez note, would have to face newer, more daunting challenges not only in an ever-evolving global business landscape, but more so in a fast-changing socioeconomic climate. For all this, it helps for leaders to have a family to turn to every now and then—a family that, like them, “makes a difference in the world.”