“Celebrating Filipino entrepreneurs through the years” by Antonette C. Tionko (September 27, 2010)

SUITS THE C-SUITE By Antonette C. Tionko
Business World (09/27/2010)

Seven years ago, in 2003, the SGV Foundation (SGVF) launched the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines (EOYP) program with little fanfare, but with much promise. The program that global professional services firm Ernst & Young started in the United States in 1986 had finally reached the Philippines, a country thriving with entrepreneurs just waiting to be recognized with inspiring life stories just waiting to be told. In the Philippines, the program is run by the SGVF (the corporate social responsibility arm of SGV & Co.) which includes in its mission the promotion of entrepreneurship.

In that first year, the EOYP program committee, with its pioneering copresenters, set out to establish EOYP as the premier business award in the country. Already known as the “Oscar of business awards” in many parts of the world, it was virtually unknown then in the Philippines.

It was, therefore, important that EOYP teamed up with institutions noted for their credibility and support for entrepreneurship. This team included the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), whose consistent initiatives for small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) complement EOYP’s goal to recognize entrepreneurs in this category. The DTI also helps EOYP determine the industries in which entrepreneurs can receive the specific category awards. So far, EOYP has honored entrepreneurs from industries such as information and communications technology, agribusiness, tourism, real estate and manufacturing. Similarly, the Philippine Business for Social Progress was instrumental in seeking nominations for socially responsible entrepreneurs as well as helping EOYP define “social entrepreneurship” (as opposed to purely corporate social responsibility work).

In succeeding years, the Geneva-based Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship would co-brand with the Entrepreneur of The Year. Schwab brought clarity to social entrepreneurship, which pertains to enterprises whose main purpose is to help solve pressing issues such as poverty, the environment, human rights and the like.

The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) has worked with EOYP for several years, alerting the committee to businesses that have listed or have potential for going public. Such companies show strong financial capabilities which are essential to being a successful entrepreneur. In fact, the soundness of financial performance is a major criterion for nomination to the EOYP. PSE also closely watches EOYP finalists, particularly those with very promising growth prospects.

In the past, EOYP has also teamed up with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). As a lending institution, DBP has a direct and symbiotic relationship with entrepreneurs, particularly those from the SMEs. DBP has nominated those of its clients with compelling success stories.

From the start seven years ago, EOYP has consistently involved academic institutions that have strong programs in business management. On a rotation basis, EOYP has had the privilege of working closely with the University of the Philippines-College of Business Administration and Accountancy, the Asian Institute of Management, the Ateneo de Manila University Graduate School of Business, and the De La Salle University (DLSU). Back then, when the EOYP program started, very few schools offered entrepreneurship courses. Today, many universities and colleges offer full degrees in entrepreneurship.

In fact, in May of this year, the DLSU co-launched with EOYP the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines Academy. All finalists and winners of the annual EOYP search have been inducted into the academy, to serve as ambassadors of entrepreneurship. The academy serves as a platform for its members to exchange insights and ideas, establish stronger networks and communities, and collaborate on new business wins and opportunities.

Each year, EOYP comes across hardworking businessmen and women from diverse backgrounds, industries, and locations. The EOYP program committee takes pride in the fact that the search is truly nationwide in scope, as committee members scour for nominations from business communities all the way from Northern Luzon down to Southern Mindanao. It has been very rewarding to discover — and ultimately acknowledge — the great entrepreneurial work of Filipinos all over the country. While the search is usually long and tedious, the EOYP team is rewarded with the knowledge that most entrepreneurs are silent workers who prefer to go about their business without frills or expectations of renown.

For the EOYP program committee, it has been a seven-year journey filled with pleasant surprises and valuable lessons in humility and perseverance. Most of all, many new friendships have been forged.

When the annual search kicks off every first quarter of the calendar year, nominations are anxiously awaited. Would the search again attract enough quality nominations from which finalists would emerge? And at the end of the search, during the awards banquet, it is always amazing to see how many unsung heroes bask, usually shyly, in the admiration and recognition they receive as their life story, invaluable contributions to the country’s economy, entrepreneurial spirit and values are celebrated.

It has become legendary how the very first Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines, Tony Tan Caktiong of Jollibee Foods Corp., went on to win the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2004 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. His triumph on EOYP’s maiden year was a victory for all Filipino entrepreneurs. The succeeding years produced winners who likewise represented the Philippines impeccably at the global awards: Socorro C. Ramos of National Book Store, Inc.; Lance Y. Gokongwei of Cebu Air, Inc.; Senen C. Bacani of La Frutera, Inc.; Wilfred Steven Uytengsu Jr. of Alaska Milk Corp., and Amb. Jesus P. Tambunting of Planters Development Bank. They — and all other previous finalists — are winners who continue to serve as role models with their inspiring stories of trials, losses, dreams and, ultimately, success.

(As of publication, Atty. Antonette C. Tionko is a tax principal of SGV & Co. and Program Director of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines.)

This article was originally published in the BusinessWorld newspaper. It is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.