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ALL IN THE FAMILY

It starts with family

Remember Penshoppe Kids?” asks Bernie Liu, head of Golden ABC Inc. (GABC), which houses PenShoppe, Regatta, ForMe and other brands.“We tried to make it [work], but [eventually] we had to discontinue it … People think that the road to success is easy, because all they see are the successes. But for every one success, there are 99 failures.”

Bernie does not shy away from discussing his failures, because “we need to learn from them.” Years ago, when their store in Xiamen was not doing well, Bernie agonized over disappointing his father, whose roots were in the region.

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The son finally confronted the father, with facts and figures to convince him to close shop there. “I thought he would [argue] with me, but my dad just said, ‘OK.’”

His father did not play the blame game. He trusted that his son had “tried everything for many years to make things work” and “for everyone’s sake, we had to do a tactical retreat.” Family support in troubled times remains unwavering.

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With a beloved patriarch and a matriarch who is “the heart and soul of our family,” the Lius have always been close. The company name itself reflects that.

Golden ABC stands for Go (original family surname), L (the patriarch Lim Liu), D (Doris, the fourth child), E (Edmund, the youngest child), N (the matriarch Norma), A (Arthur, the eldest child), B (Bernie, the second child) and C (Charlie, the middle child).

Bernie values the support and love of the clan. His siblings run various areas of the enterprises passed on by their parents, including the original lumber business. Doris was chief financial officer of GABC until her family left for abroad, where her husband is working with the United Nations.

A family council, based on the family constitution, decides on matters involving the clan. Salaries are fair and transparent, reflecting the various skills of individuals.

“Our mother reminds us that the fingers on our hands are not of the same length,” says Bernie. “In the same way, we have different talents.”

Bernie and his wife Alice Tio Liu are each other’s avowed soulmates. They strive to ensure that their children Bryan, Brandon and Amanda regard work with enthusiasm and commitment.

When the children were young, they accompanied the adults on business trips. They also helped wrap charity giveaways during holidays.

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“When my siblings and I were growing up, my hard-working parents talked mainly about business at dinner,” says Bernie. “I told my wife that when we raise our kids, we want them to be eager to come to work, so we also talk of other things.”

“But today, it’s the opposite,” says Alice. “Our kids who are working in the company now talk business over dinner. Bernie and I tell them to discuss business just in the office!”

“Instead of coming to the office with dread,” says Bernie, “we want young people to be eager to come to work. Fortunately, fashion is regarded as fun, so many like to work here.”

When Bernie’s nephew, on a break from college in London, did an internship with the company, he had the time of his life at their Victoria’s Secret fashion show. “He wanted to stay here forever,” Bernie remembers, laughing.

The children are treated not as heirs, but as professionals. In the family constitution is the stipulation that the third generation should not have a parent as boss, but instead, they should report to nonfamily professionals.

“If parents become the boss, they tend to be either too tough or too easy on their kids,” says Bernie.

“We request our trusted professionals to help us guide our children and prepare them to be leaders in the future,” says Alice.

“We advise our children to lead by example,” says Bernie. “They are not just employees, but also future owners who should act as role models to others.”

Bernie, Alice and their children enjoy each other’s company. They go on trips together, and do 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles for fun.

Buoyed by family, the company is indeed golden.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at www.lazada.com.ph or call National’s Jennie Garcia at 0915-421-2276. Contact the author at [email protected]

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TAGS: Bernie Liu, family business, head of Golden ABC Inc. (GABC)
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