Seventy and beyond

Business World (12/19/2016; p, S1-2)

Suit the C-Suites By Cirilo P. Noel

Organizations measure success in quantifiable terms, such as revenue, margins, production volumes, brand, reputation, and more importantly, longevity. This is something that we in SGV understand and appreciate, having celebrated our 70th anniversary in 2016. If an entity thrives for seven decades, one can assume that it has followed a viable and sustainable business model. Yet, given the lightning speed at which global business is evolving, even long-running companies need to develop strategies for maintaining their lead in a highly competitive market. Keeping up with modern business paradigms is not something that can be taken for granted; instead, it needs to be actively and constantly pursued, no matter how long one has been in the game. In fact, part of the journey is learning from mistakes and moving on with more passion and determination to succeed.

One of the key areas where organizations should focus is on strengthening and sustaining relationships with all stakeholders. For a professional services firm like SGV, this is requisite. Our stakeholders include clients, employees, alumni and various institutions in both the private and public sectors. In SGV, we constantly acknowledge the role of former employees whom we refer to as alumni, given that SGV is often likened to a school for its rigorous training program. Companies stand to benefit in recognizing their alumni as a valuable resource for business referrals, networking and goodwill. The alumni are ambassadors of the Firm. The former partners played a key role in building the Firm over time as stewards. Stewardship is a critical quality in the longevity aspiration of any organization.

From its inception, SGV’s people have constantly built on the quality that has distinguished the Firm: its reputation and enviable track record. A strong and positive reputation is an intangible asset that redounds to the company in ways beyond acquiring business. An enviable track record sets the tone in the execution of the tasks ahead. Reputation and track record are essential in the areas of recruitment, procurement, brand-building and public relations. They can also be significant factors for organizations with global affiliations. In SGV, for example, we have leveraged on our reputation and track record for quality work to strengthen our relationship with the EY Global organization, of which we are a member firm. When we established our Centers of Excellence, such as our Asia-Pacific Talent Hub and Global Delivery Services offices, our reputation and the SGV brand were strong factors in convincing cross-border clients to engage our services.

In order for any organization to stand the test of time, it also has to stand for something and for a purpose. By creating an enduring corporate culture within the company, management creates an ideal that is larger than the organization, one which people both inside and outside the company can relate to and believe in. SGV’s core values of integrity, excellence and teamwork are articulated in ways that inspire employees and engage external stakeholders. In SGV this is expressed in our purpose of Building a Better Working World.

However, sustaining and enhancing organizational values also require a deep commitment from the company’s leadership to inculcate these in every generation of its people. Equally important is the need to bring these values to life through their everyday words and actions. Managers and leaders need to internalize that beyond serving a business at an operational level, they are also stewards and mentors tasked with securing a company’s legacy by nurturing their people to the best of their potential, and providing opportunities to widen their horizons as professionals. In addition to technical skills, these values should also include “soft skills” such as the ideal of “giving back.” As good corporate citizens, organizations need to embrace and disseminate the ideals of social responsibility, promoting the values of ethics, generosity, compassion and governance at all levels. In this way, companies can remain relevant to society at large by being active and visible contributors to the country’s national development agenda. We, in SGV, are fortunate that this vision had been established for us when the Firm was founded in 1946. It has been essential in keeping us grounded despite our phenomenal growth.

In its 70 years, SGV has weathered several storms. It underwent challenging situations just like any other organization. It has known “disruption” before it became a strategy buzzword. Businesses now acknowledge that disruption is continuous, both internally and externally. Having said that, we should realize that change cannot be contained, instead it should inspire. Companies need to keep up with advances in technology — the very driver of increasing globalization — as well as the emergent risks these entail. For many fledgling companies keen to ramp up operations, it may be high time to scale beyond local borders and explore new technology offerings for service deliveries as well as new systems to protect their enterprises from virtual dangers.

Agility and speed to handle and deal with situations are critical qualities. Most importantly, the best of intentions makes the difference in overcoming challenges. In SGV’s corporate lifetime, we have learned that business models are never static which is why we must be agile and nimble. There is a need to regularly innovate, reinvent and create differentiation. Companies need to understand that innovation represents continuous improvement. Our people — as important internal stakeholders — need to understand and become invested in the business, thinking like “owners” who are building the Firm, rather than employees who are just doing a job. In SGV, part of the way that we promote this is by operating as industry-focused groups. Doing so allows our people to gain specific knowledge and experience, becoming subject matter experts in specific industries in order to better serve the needs of our wide client base.

Change, while often intimidating, is both necessary and inevitable. “Adapt or die,” as the old adage goes, is a very real concern for companies. Recent editorials and articles have shared the story of global giants who have fallen by the wayside because they were too hidebound or monolithic to change with the times. As leaders, we understand that no company can afford to become complacent in today’s very competitive environment — leaders need to keep looking ahead, without getting bogged down by minute details. They have to see the proverbial big picture: how each unit interfaces with another, how synergy is produced or suppressed. Leaders need to include value-generation in all aspects of the business, be it client servicing or improving internal operations. I have personally experienced that not everyone will always be happy with management’s decisions, but we have the responsibility to consider what will benefit the whole rather than the individual parts. However, all these efforts toward change would not bear fruit if these were done without the best intentions for the Firm.

Above all else, in order to remain relevant into the future, organizations have to go beyond boundaries — both geographical and ideological. Because of technology, the world has shrunk. The marketplace has transcended physical borders. We are now operating in a global marketplace. Being parochial is obsolete. Moreover, a company’s leadership must also keep an open mind and explore the unknown. One of the greatest risks is to be trapped in the mind-set that “this is how it’s always been done,” and “don’t fix what is not broken.” It is this openness — to new knowledge, technology, methodologies, mind-set change, market expansion, forging new relationships and dealing with disruptions — that has kept SGV relevant for 70 years and, I believe, will keep it going for the next 70 and beyond.

Thank you to our readers for following our thought leadership pieces in the past 12 months and we hope that you will continue to learn from our weekly column. On behalf of the SGV, we send our very best wishes for a happy holiday season and may 2017 be a prosperous and peaceful year for all.

This article 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.

Cirilo P. Noel is the Chairman and Managing Partner of SGV & Co.