Even in his desire to keep a low profile, while always with a cheerful disposition, Kendrick Tan is easy to spot as he literally stands out of the crowd.
Tall, good looking, bespectacled and on the burly side thanks to years of Brazilian martial arts jiu-jitsu, the second son of business magnate Andrew Tan now finds his place in the sun as executive director of Emperador, Inc. and main man of the Fundador Café—the newest destination at Megaworld Corporation’s Venice Grand Canal Mall in McKinley Hill, Taguig City.
Armed with a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from Southern New Hampshire University, this 36-year-old also serves as head of Research and Development of Emperador Distillers, and director of Anglo Watsons Glass, Consolidated Distillers of the Far East, Emperador Brandy, The Bar Beverage, The Andresons Group and Yorkshire Holdings.
Although he grew up privileged amid the home and business conglomerate built by his tycoon father, the younger Tan is grateful he experienced working outside their multi-billion enterprises, in Singapore, which instilled in him the value of personal and professional relationships all the more.
Laughing, Kendrick shared at the launch of Fundador Café that he was only five years old when he had his first taste of alcohol out of his father’s whisky stock. With this early experience of tipsiness, he has a very wise advice to “drink coffee first if you don’t want to get drunk fast.”
While older brother Kevin heads Megaworld Lifestyle Malls and executive director of Alliance Global, Kendrick’s early experience with alcohol must have played a major role for him to be naturally at the helm of the distillery empire—from research to developing Emperador brands including Andy Player Blended Whisky and Dalmore Single Malt Whisky.
In this exclusive interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, the young executive and one of the heirs of the owner of the biggest real estate and holdings conglomerate reveals information about himself previously unpublicized precisely because he had always preferred to be low key. But with growing responsibilities for the family business, he knows he needs to be a little more open to assure associates and the general public their father has raised a good man.
The Sunday Times Magazine: How was it growing up in a privileged environment, being a child of a business magnate?
Kendrick Tan: It is very interesting for me because unlike most of the people who had a similar upbringing, I was lucky enough to be born and raised at the time when my father was on ascent. It gives a different perspective when you’re around for that, compared to having it already established before my life started.
Were there rules imposed at home, school and beyond? Were you given the freedom to choose which career path to follow?
I think this was the case but it was difficult not to follow the path that I’m currently on, as it had already been set up. It also seems to be the right path for me to follow, not to mention that it was easy to fall in love with because the industry is so dynamic.
Outside the family business, what things or principles have you learned that could be applicable for the conglomerate?
I grew up playing team sports. So I learned to value teamwork or how to collaborate with others. In this world, there are not a lot of things you can do alone. As the old saying goes, “no man is an island.”
What practices or principles followed by the conglomerate are you most proud of?
Patience, passion, and insightfulness—if that’s even a word—are traits and characters that I have developed while doing my day-to-day routine. I feel that these are vital elements to success. Overnight success does not really exist, or if it does, is not realistic. This is why we need to be patient. Everything is a marathon, not a sprint.
A thing that will help you stay patient is passion. You know, as the old saying goes, “If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life.” I enjoy what I do because there is a lot of fun involved in it and I like to keep it fun. This is the reason why I get up from bed every morning.
Being insightful speaks for itself. This goes with learning new things every day and gaining a deeper level of understanding of relevant information.
Do you have hobbies or interests which help you in your day-to-day decisions?
I like to practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It is a martial art and a sport which, as physical as it is, also requires a strong strategic mind. Once you’ve done it for as long as I have—almost 10 years—you start to think of how to be two or three moves or steps ahead of the competition, because you need to anticipate what they do next in order to know what you will need to do. If you are just reacting in time with your competition, you are not winning.
Also, jiu-jitsu opens up your mind to the possibility of never-ending learning. It conditions your mind to seek new things and to expand your horizons. I never believe that I know everything because there’s always something new.
How close are you with your parents and siblings, particularly big brother Kevin?
The Tan family is a close-knit family. We all have family dinner every Sunday in order to discuss important matters and spend time with each other. These Sunday dinners are especially good for my children and the children of my siblings, as they are often a great opportunity for them to bond as children and get to know each other better.
As to myself and my brother Kevin, we have the smallest age gap—one year and a few months—among all the siblings so we are close in that regard. We are also on the same page all the time. We support each other in our pursuits, which is difficult because professionally, we do two different things in different industries.
Does the family spend time together in leisure or trips abroad?
Yes. As a family, we travel together at least once a year. Usually during the Christmas holidays.
What’s your memory of your dad starting Emperador?
I was very young when my father started Emperador, but I remember that there were a lot of liquor samples at home and I was very curious about liquor even at a young age. I guess that’s good for me because it is what I do now for Emperador.
What specific assignments or tasks were given to you while growing up until graduation from college?
Growing up, I was told that my main focus was to be my studies. That was it. I just had to study and learn. The business side is something I’d learn after my schooling was complete. However, the education never ends because I continue to learn and discover new things.
Is there a different path you could have taken if you were like most looking for a job after college?
I did take a different path. My adult journey led me to try different jobs when I was living in Singapore. From each of the jobs, I learned a few things. Also, I learned that it is truly different when you work for your own family business. It makes you feel a little more responsible and it makes you take ownership of what you do on a daily basis, because you know that everyone else in the company depends on you. You stimulate all of their collective professional growth and you wouldn’t want to let them down. Leadership is very challenging in that respect.
You mentioned during the Fundador Café launch that you first tasted alcohol at the age of five. How did it happen and what was going through your mind then?
My first taste of alcohol was truly something that should not be done by anyone. Like I mentioned earlier, I started nosing the liquid in the bottle and my curiosity got the better of me. At that age, I don’t think that I truly understood what the effects of alcohol were when not consumed responsibly. I learned my lesson there.
I would not advise young people to try alcohol until they have learned to be responsible and the consequences of irresponsible consumption of alcohol. Even then, I believe that young people trying alcoholic beverages for the first time should be supervised by a parent or an older, more responsible family member.
How did Fundador Café come to be?
Here at Emperador/Fundador, we take great pride in serving and catering to consumers. We do market and consumer research in order to give them an experience that they will not forget. The idea of Fundador Café came about when the team was thinking up new ways to enjoy the product. Fundador has been available in the Philippines for over 100 years and as such, we need to find a way to keep it fresh in the minds of consumers. We didn’t want young consumers to think that brandy, specifically Fundador, is a “tito” or “lolo” drink. Also, we found that there was a big coffee-drinking and dessert-eating market here, especially among the youth. So we decided to infuse Fundador products into our coffee and drink mixes as well as into our pastries, along with creating a fantastic atmosphere in which to enjoy the concoctions. This is to ensure that the consumers trying the products will have an experience to remember. I must commend the team for the work they have done with this unique concept. It’s amazing!
Which Megaworld property is your favorite and why?
Much like the products I develop, as well as my children, I have no one favorite. I love all Megaworld properties equally. They have a great atmosphere and are wonderful places to spend quality time with your family. It seems as though every Megaworld township/property has its own personality and which one I choose to take my family to will depend on the mood that I am in.
Where is your favorite vacation place in the Philippines and overseas?
As far as vacations are concerned, I don’t take vacations often but I do travel for work from time to time. I recently came back from the US and I realized that I want to go back because I lived there before and it seems very familiar to me, and my last trip was too short.
In terms of local destinations, I believe the Philippines has a lot of fantastic tourist destinations. I recently went to Iloilo and Cebu. Both very fantastic places that are becoming more and more developed.
How hands-on are you in the operations of the projects that you are assigned?
I am in charge of new product development for Emperador. I also support the other departments such as bottling (production), sales, and marketing in various ways, but the majority of my time is spent thinking up new product innovations. For the first quarter of this year alone, we have come up with and finalized several new products. So please be on the lookout for that.
Do the employees or workers have a special nickname for you? How is your relationship with them?
I don’t think they do have a special nickname for me. To them, I am just Kendrick. I have a great relationship with my co-workers. This is because I value each and every one of them. For me, the spirit of collaboration and working together towards the same goals are the strongest and most important things. Everyone has a part to play in the bigger picture, and they are greatly appreciated for their individual contributions to the greater goal.
What is a typical day for Kendrick Tan, the son of a tycoon? How is it different from a typical day of Kendrick Tan, his own person?
Son-of-a-tycoon Kendrick Tan is just me. I don’t think there is any differentiation between the two. Also, there really is no one typical day for myself. I go where I’m needed, and do what needs to be done on any given day. This can vary.
Is there anything that you want your own children to experience or not to experience based on what you have gone through?
I would love for my children to not have to go through the hardships that my parents have gone through while building their empire. However, I want them to be able to appreciate and not take for granted the fact that a lot of effort and even hardships have been made to get to where they find themselves today. This is so that they will value all of the accomplishments of those who came before them in the family business.
Kendrick continues to train annually with Bodegas Fundador master blender Manuel Joe Valcarcel, a certified suzerain of spirits mixture. He also encourages young people who want to be amateur bartenders to present their own concoctions, that when deemed feasible, may be added to the line-up of Fundador Café’s drink offerings.