Entrepreneurial spirit and visionary leadership
The U-BIX story tells of how two founding partners, lawyers Enrique “Ike” Belo and Edilberto “Bert” Bravo, put into motion their vision of a sustainable business. Their initiation into the world of business began when Bookhaven, the office supplies and stationery company started by Bert and his wife, Dr. Felina A. Bravo in 1968 was later expanded into a partnership with Atty. Ike Belo. Fel was then the Treasurer and Office Manager while Bert acted as General Manager and Head of Sales.
Bravo admits that the early success of Bookhaven can be traced to the sacrifices of Dr. Fel Bravo who spent 15 hours per day to supervise the operation of their fledgling business and imposed strict control over expenses. Bravo fondly recalls how his wife refused to shop for clothes to conserve their limited funds.
Bravo also fondly recalls that his wife was 9 month pregnant with their first child May Ann, but continued to work. On the night of March 29, 1968, his wife Fel told him to rush her to Lourdes Hospital because she felt she was going to deliver her first child. Bravo recalls this event to show the sacrifices that small business owners experience to overcome the lack of capital.
From Office Supplies to Office Machines
Their initial success with Bookhaven encouraged them to broaden their business horizon. A trip to Japan resulted in their first ever business alliance with Konica Corporation (that eventually became the Konica Minolta Corporation). U-BIX Corporation was born on February 11, 1974 and Bookhaven became the holding company. It marked the start of challenging and exciting times for Belo and Bravo that continue to the present. U-BIX eventually became acknowledged as one of the country’s pioneers and leaders in laser printing and plain paper copying technology.
Three Elements for Business Success
From the start, Bert Bravo was committed to the idea that technology alone will not be enough to sustain growth and development of a company. It should include committed leadership and quality service to sustain customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Bert Bravo acknowledges that U-BIX today owes much of its success from the contributions of its executives and staff, some of them were recruited from Day 1 and stayed on until their retirement. Among them were Francisco A. Mendoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Danilo S. Casaje, Executive Vice President for Finance, and Vida C. Ty who started as office accountant, then rose from her position, and assumed presidency of U-BIX in 2003 until her retirement in 2006. She served another year as President in 2019. Each one of them has a favorite story of their early U-BIX days. Their favorite was the story told by Mr. Casaje of how they managed to retrieve the newly arrived copiers from the Bureau of Customs without a delivery truck. They removed the machines from their box and load them into their utility van repacking them again upon reaching the office.
Innovations in customer service included a U-BIX guarantee to Metro Manila customers of a service response time of one hour, from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. U-BIX also implemented the Free Lifetime Service Guarantee to all machines sold.
The exclusive distributorship of Konica Minolta production printers and copiers has upped the level of U-BIX’s success. An innovation program for improving the skills of service engineers was put in place with the training and certification program from Konica Minolta. The service engineers need to pass the test that measures their mastery of technical service. Of all the Konica Minolta distributors worldwide, U-BIX prides itself in having the highest number of Konica Minolta certified engineers.
Expanding Alliances through Additional Business Partners
U-BIX forged more alliances in Office related businesses. Okamura Corporation of Japan, a world leader in office furniture systems became a partner in 1993. From then on, U-BIX distributed and installed premium quality office seating, desks, and work stations. In 1996, Facilities Managers, Inc. (FMI), was established when U-BIX entered a licensing agreement with the US-based ServiceMaster Company, a global leading service firm delivering professional facilities management to clients. At present, clients include hospitals in Metro Manila, corporate offices and business process outsourcing companies in Luzon and the Visayas.
In 1999, U-BIX acquired the distributorship of RISO, enabling it to offer low cost, fast and easy printing.
U-BIX acquired the Kodak Imaging Center of Kodak Philippines in 2007. It was later rebranded as U-BIX Imaging Center (UIC). It now provides integrated digital document management solutions to government agencies, banking and financial institutions, hospitals, schools and multinational companies. With the rising cost of office to warehouse space, UIC offers a timely and efficient data storage solution. As more offices digitalize their document management, UIC will become even more relevant in data management.
Digital technology drives U-BIX focus. Quite expectedly, more innovations and more businesses will continue to evolve and U-BIX will be in the thick of developments in this area. There will be additional challenges that U-BIX will be happy to face. In 2012, U-BIX launched its PrintHub Exhibitions to showcase and promote the productive, efficient, and profitable world of digital technology and printing services.
A major achievement in 2006 was receiving the ISO 9001:2000 Certification for its marketing and distribution operation systems. With it, U-BIX joined the growing circle of ISO-Certified companies in the Philippines. U-BIX is presently working for the recertification of its ISO 9001:2015.
Navigating the World of Investments
In recent years, Bert Bravo continues to diversify his businesses even more. Added to the line of business machines are hotels and resorts, coffee roasting and retailing using e-commerce. He is also now into construction and property development ventures. How does he manage his diversified investments? His answer: focus, decisiveness and flexibility. Does he not have the fear of failure? Bert Bravo admits he is a passionate risk taker and claims that he uses “gut feel” when making investment decisions. The one other thing he is proud of is the company’s trustworthiness. Trust drives customers when making decisions to participate in doing business with a company. Customers need to believe that the company sincerely cares for them. It cannot be a random service, which is why U-BIX exerts great effort and invests time to ensure that the customer receives the best service it deserves.
48 years of successful customer service is no mean feat for U-BIX. In two more years, U-BIX will be celebrating its golden anniversary. U-BIX looks forward to more years in staying successfully in business.
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