(Last of a series)
On the spectrum [of structure and professionalization], we would be in the middle,” says Christopher “Chris” T. Po, Century Pacific Food Inc. president, indicating the sweet spot that has contributed to the company’s rise to the top as the country’s leading canned food enterprise.
“We are more structured than many family businesses, and more flexible and nimble than many multinational corporations (MNCs).”
Unlike CPFI, many family businesses still depend solely on owners for decision-making, management and control. Micromanagement, nebulous incentives, weak structures made these businesses unappealing to graduates who prefer the explicit organization and perceived glamour of MNCs.
“Friends who are used to MNCs tell horror stories about local family companies,” says Kartini Reyes-Lim, corporate planning senior manager, a graduate of Management Engineering from the Ateneo de Manila University. “But I am happy here.”
While working for more than a decade for an MNC, Reyes-Lim met a CPFI nonfamily professional who extolled his satisfaction with the company. Reyes-Lim transferred, embracing the added benefits of a shorter commute and more family time.
“Such employees become our ambassadors,” says Chris. “They tell others about their positive experiences here.”
Family and nonfamily professionals are chosen based on merit, but they work together “to nourish and delight everyone, every day, everywhere.”
Several other top Ateneans are working in CPFI. Oscar Pobre, chief financial officer, has the respect and affection of the Po family, having helped steer the company through crises.
Leigh Raymundo, fresh out of university, applied with CPFI upon the invitation of another ambassador, Giovanna Vera, head of treasury and investor relations. Eager to take on new tasks, Raymundo has met with investors in her first months, which might not have been possible this early in MNCs.
What gives CPFI an advantage over MNCs is the “access to decision makers,” says Vera. “Even if [fresh hires] are a fly on the wall, so to speak, being in the same room and listening [to how decisions are actually being made] is invaluable.”
Capable young people are often stifled by layers of bureaucracy in many MNCs. Juniors often have projects negated by those above, with the big boss a faceless entity far away.
“Our people are empowered,” says Chris. “If they have good ideas, we trust they implement them well. We seldom overturn their decisions. If they fail, we recognize this is the tuition paid for learning. My brothers and I have made mistakes many times—that’s how we learn. Of course we hope not to commit the same errors. Some of our people already have big responsibilities even if they are not yet 30 years old.”
Edwin Africa, vice president and general manager, held top positions in Procter & Gamble, Nippon Paint and Pepsico in Asia, but decided to come home to be with loved ones. Joining CPFI was a perfect fit.
“In the MNCs, I had access to training, resources, deployment around the region,” says Africa. “I enjoyed more than 20 years with them, mingling with successful colleagues of different ethnicity.”
“I believe that ideally, those who envision a career in the corporate world can work and learn in MNCs first, but afterwards, they can use their skills to help local firms reach the next level. This is the right time for me to help CPFI grow.”
The Po family is preparing for the future.
“It was my responsibility to ensure the transition from my generation to theirs,” says founder Ricardo S. Po Sr., who has a dozen grandchildren. “But the transition to the third generation—that is the job of my sons.”
The founder’s four sons are still in their 40s and 50s, but “every day that we do not spend thinking about how the next generation can be involved in the future is a day wasted,” says Chris.
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