Getting a kick out of being CEO of shoe firm
When television stars Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza appeared in an episode of Eat Bulaga’s Kalyeserye wearing matching Jack Purcell sneakers with the distinctive “smile” pattern, shoe sales skyrocketed.
Filcon Manufacturing Corp., official distributor and marketer of Converse shoes in the Philippines, including the Jack Purcell line inspired by the Canadian champion badminton player, was heartened by the stamp of approval, especially since it did not have anything to do with the stars’ choice.
The hugely popular onscreen couple wore the shoes because they liked them and it was pure coincidence that they appeared on set that day wearing the same sneakers.
Such welcome news makes corporate life even more fulfilling for Filcon CEO Margarita Go, who started out as controller of the company in 1983.
The Certified Public Accountant worked her way up to become chief financial officer before she was promoted to chief executive officer in 2002.
Go’s style of leadership is described as “democratic,” as she encourages all of the members of her team to voice their ideas and personal points of view.
Such openness combined with the value placed in integrity helped Go steer the company through some excruciatingly trying times that would have broken other executives’ resolve.
She shares how in the 1980s, lifestyle shoes such as the Converse line fell out of favor because performance shoes, such as those for basketball, became the ultimate must-haves of the market.
For years, Filcon had to tighten its belt and rely mainly on exports to keep its operations afloat.
And then it was hit by the 1997 Asian currency crisis and then the 2008 global economic crisis that dampened overall demand for goods as well as consumer confidence.
“Some of the toughest challenges I faced in this business was being part of the core people that was holding the fort during the Asian financial crisis on 1997 and later on the unprecedented global economic debacle in 2008. Much to the company’s appreciation, we were able to sail the business through uncharted waters on both occasions,” shares Go, who graduated from the University of the East.
That Filcon was able to pull through despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges thrown its way Go credits in part to the caliber of the company’s employees.
“We have a very good team. They are loyal to the company,” says Go.
She stresses the importance of the company performing like a well-oiled machine because of the need to rapidly respond to the sudden shifts in customers’ taste.
“Today, there is a faster turnaround of styles. In the early days, there were just a few styles. Now, you have to have a wide range of styles and models that people can choose from,” says Go.
Healthy bottom line
She believes that it is part of her job as chief executive officer to inspire the 60-strong Filcon group to stay ahead of the taste curve and consequently keep the bottom line healthy.
“My working day involves overseeing that strategic goals are implemented. In this business, seasonal cycles set our major timelines so it is crucial that my entire team works like a well-oiled machine,” she says.
“I am in the position that interfaces between the Board of Directors and all the rest in the organization. From directives set by the Board, my job is to flesh out strategic initiatives with the unit heads of sales and marketing, merchandising and product development, finance, human resources and public relations. And I have to say that I’m happy with the cooperation that I have been getting from everyone in the team,” Go adds.
This is a major reason why Filcon is in a position to ride on the renewed and strong interest that Filipinos have for the entire Converse line, which extends beyond the beloved Chuck Taylor line to include the higher-end Jack Purcell and John Varvatos models.
Go explains that millennials, young customers who are notoriously fickle when it comes to fashion choices, have been gravitating toward Converse because of its heritage and authenticity.
As loyalists say, Converse is sneakers and sneakers is Converse.
Filcon is intent on nurturing that strong relationship with the target market, and that means reaching them through various touch points, from social media to the actual branches all over the country.
The old way of simply waiting for the customer to walk into the stores will no longer work in a market where customers have a multitude of choices and companies are out to compete for a share of the wallet.
These days, Filcon actively engages with its customers, by constantly updating them on the latest styles, trends and product offerings available in the market, from the new colors of Chuck Taylors to the latest collaborations with fashion houses and artists.
Keeping the cash registers ringing is all part of the job of being a CEO.
“Foremost in this job is the responsibility of making major decisions for the company to not only post good profit and loss results but also to steer the business towards the road to success and longevity. We also make it a point that the company’s success translates to excellent benefits for everyone in the organization,” she says.
Lofty, simple goal
The 58-year-old adds that at this point in her career with the company she helped build from the ground up, her goal is both lofty and simple.
“[My goal] is to keep it a going concern by maintaining a substantial growth rate over the long-term,” she says.
Asked about her advice for those who want to become a CEO like her, Go says:
“Nothing beats hard work, perseverance in building a career in whatever line of interest one takes, and keeping one’s integrity and professionalism,” she says.
Go adds that in climbing the corporate ladder, a lot of challenges will appear along the way.
“It isn’t always possible to win all battles. In those that you lose, it still pays to take the positive lessons from them and use as guide in future battles,” she shares.
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