From selling ice candy to big-time entrepreneurBy Mary Ann A. Perido
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Ingenuity and hard work, coupled with sheer luck, have spelled success for this man who has carved his niche in the electrical industry and helped aspiring entrepreneurs turn their business dreams into reality.
As a boy, Bernard H. Morillo sold ice candy in his hometown in Oriental Mindoro. In college, he worked at a fast food restaurant selling donuts.
Today, at 41, he is one of the country’s top electrical engineers and founder of the Pemcor Group of Companies, which brings together key players in the electrical industry.
Typical of most business first-timers, Morillo has had his own taste of hardship, like when he had to borrow money to prevent a check from bouncing. But he learned from his mistakes.
“No one guided me. It was purely self-improvement. That’s why it was instilled in me to help others,” Morillo, known to colleagues and employees simply as BHM, says in an interview with the SundayBiz.
Morillo’s first successful business undertaking began in 1997. With the help of the Sys of Liana’s Supermarkets, he put up his brainchild, Plug Electric Manufacturing Corp., initially a trading company but now a trusted electrical contractor and equipment manufacturer.
After nine years, he ventured into electrical distribution and installation through BHM Equipment Supplies Inc. and Pemcor Konstruction Corp.
But he wasn’t satisfied. Going out of his comfort zone, he went into business process outsourcing, publishing, discount shopping, freight forwarding and food, to name a few.
Today, he employs about 500 people nationwide who man 24 mostly growing companies. They include BHM Business Process Outsourcing, BHM Holdings, BHM Publishing, Electrosoft Inc., Fronter Freight Forwarder Inc., Guernica’s Tapas Bar and Restaurant and the newly opened business units Shutterfiles, Juan2Bid, Plugdeals and Pemcor Lighting Solutions.
“I believe in startup companies rather than investing in large companies. Mas gusto ko yung mga maliliit na iangat (I like it better when I make the smaller ones grow),” says the electrical engineering graduate from the Technological Institute of the Philippines.
Morillo applies an open/participative management style. He compares his companies’ organizational structure to a military setup, where he is the corps commander and the company presidents are his platoon leaders.
No relatives, please
“I don’t meddle in operations anymore, just more on logistics and finances. Overlooking na lang ako,” he says.
He may be the head honcho but doesn’t act like the boss. In his dealings with people, he is so grounded in simple ways, without frills, that even his employees at Pemcor are not aware he’s the owner.
“They only know their president. Nakikipagbiruan lang ako (All I do is kid around with them).”
One of his policies is not to hire relatives. If at all, he would take them in “only as consultants.”
Morillo’s down-to-earth attitude is not surprising given his humble beginnings.
Selling ice candies
Even as a child, he already showed qualities that would mark him out later as a skilled entrepreneur, volunteering to help his aunt sell ice candies in his hometown and using his earnings to buy a bicycle.
“I didn’t ask money from my mother. I’ve always wanted to give than to receive,” Morillo says.
Morillo is married to Maria Cecilia Lozano, an architect, and they have four daughters.
Born on Aug. 20, 1971, Morillo was the fourth in a brood of eight children of Jose and Pureza Morillo of Camilmil in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. Before his father left to work in Saudi Arabia, his family’s main source of income was trading in calamansi, which they transported from Mindoro to Divisoria.
During college and without the knowledge of his parents, he spent his free time working in fast food chains like Cindy’s and Dunkin Donuts. He didn’t have to but he wanted to gain work experience.
“I’ve always been like that, always interested in bits of work (magtraba-trabaho).”
He initially wanted to be a pilot but took up electrical engineering because “it sounded nice to be called an engineer and it seemed like it was easier to do,” he says in jest.
Briefly he worked as an intern at the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and at ABB (Asea Brown Boveri, a foreign energy firm).
His first real job was at Westrade International Co. Inc., where his starting salary was P2,000. There he learned the ropes of engineering. Two years later, he resigned.
“Working at Napocor made me feel what it’s like to be an engineer. But I also realized I can’t get rich there,” he says.
With little capital, he took up the challenge of entrepreneurship.
“Everyone’s objective, after all, is to earn so that was really my direction, to go into business,” he says.
For Morillo, starting a business is easy, but hiring the right people is another matter. He feels lucky and grateful that his business partners generally are competent and trustworthy.
Good enough legacy
Despite the number of people he has helped, Morillo is ready to take up more challenges. “Just give me a good business plan and if I find it viable, let’s go for it,” he tells his employees.
There’s no stopping Morillo, it seems. He’s eyeing a business plant expansion in Cavite or Laguna. A P100-million project in Cebu is also underway as well as a global venture with another company. He also hopes one of his companies will make a debut in the Philippine Stock Exchange.
He used to drink, especially to entertain a client. “But now I no longer have any vices. All I want is to open up a business,” he says with a chuckle.
And he looks forward to helping more aspiring entrepreneurs—the greatest legacy he feels he can leave behind.
“As long as there is anyone willing to become an entrepreneur, we will help him. If you can help him, if you can improve his family, make life easier for people you work with, that is already something big. That is a good enough legacy,” he says.
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