The purpose-driven leader
How does a businessman measure his success? Is it by how much profit he has earned or by how big his brand has become? For Derrick Tan, founder of Buildrite Construction Chemicals and CEO of Magna Prime Chemical Technologies, Inc., true success can only be measured by the number of people you have helped—either by providing them quality service or by giving them jobs to help their families.
The son of a forestry entrepreneur, Derrick knew he needed to get into a different line of business because he saw the hardships of his father. He took a liking to invent things and got a degree in Manufacturing Engineering and Management at De La Salle University. He landed an internship position as a testing engineer at Nissan and a year later, he got into Petron as a sales executive for their lubricant products. Through this job, which he held for two and a half years, Derrick was able to gain enough confidence to put up a small tire and battery retail company in 2001. Known then as Magna Asia Enterprises, the company diversified into a car lubricant distributor and eventually a pharmaceutical distributor, as well.
By 2005, at 30 years old, Derrick was on a roll with two major clients under his belt—Petron and Unilab; then he came into a turning point in 2008. “I met my wife in 2007, and it wasn’t until she was in my life that I had a sense of balance,” he shared. “She called me out for my mistakes and say to me, ‘Did you really have to get angry at your staff? Did you really have to talk to them that way?’ I didn’t see it then that while I was becoming a profitable businessman, I wasn’t becoming a very good employer. My staff started leaving the company and it was only then that the truth started to hit me. I learned the hard way that running a business is never about me, it’s about other people. We are only stewards of the business that God gave us and the only way to succeed is if we have a deeper purpose, which is to serve other people.”
Guided by a stronger faith, Derrick went back to the drawing board and thought of ways on how he can serve better. He revisited his passion to create and ended up founding Buildrite, a solutions provider for builders. Through the help of chemists, Derrick created SmartBond, a tile adhesive that is lightweight, economical, and also environment-friendly as it is made from recycled waste materials. It’s a truly innovative product that not only offers an alternative but provides solutions to builders’ concerns such as shipping costs. “Need is the mother of invention, so we look at every customer complaint as an opportunity for us to serve by providing them with a solution. We don’t just aim to sell, we aim to help; and if we’re not helping our customers, that means we’re not selling,” Derrick says.
Now a family man—a father to two young boys aged 9 and 6—Derrick is leading a purpose-driven life. He would always begin his day in prayer. Before leaving for work, he always has breakfast with his wife. His entire day is spent working, attending meetings, answering emails, and looking after the welfare of his employees. By 8 p.m., Derrick closes shop and devotes his time to his sons, have dinner with them, and do a daily devotion before going to bed. He ends his day with another prayer. As a leader, both at home and at work, Derrick draws inspiration from Jesus, “for Jesus is the greatest leader of all and the best way to follow in His footsteps is by loving God and loving others.”
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