CEO CORNER

From dilemma to success

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EugeneNaguiat1

Eugene Naguiat, President and CEO, Motech Automotive Education Center Inc. PHOTO BY RUSSEL PALMA

As the popular idiom goes, it’s “not always easy walking in someone else’s shoes,” especially if that person happens to be very successful in what he does. This is the dilemma Eugene Naguiat found himself in at a very young age, when his father asked him to help in the family business. Eugene is the president and CEO of Motech Automotive Education Center Inc., a fast-rising automotive chain in the Philippines which was started by his father, Rommel.

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“My dad started Motech in 1977, with a vision of putting up the first automotive chain which offers complete services, like in the US.” At the time, Eugene says there was no other company that was doing that, and his father was the first to import an “aligner” in the Philippines, even before SM ACA came along. The first Motech shop was in Angeles City, Pampanga. At that time, the US bases were still in nearby Clark, and some of their first customers were vehicles owned by US military personnel. Soon, Motech expanded to three shops, all within the province of Pampanga. Even before they could grow the business any further, his father faced some serious challenges, as the US closed their bases in the Philippines, and Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, enveloping almost the whole province in lahar. They had no choice but to close down two of their shops. Still, his father’s determination to make it in the business remained steadfast and strong.

Eugene remembers coming on board to help in his father’s business in 1998, when Motech opened a new branch in Fairview, Quezon City. With a laugh, Eugene says at the time, his father “had a crazy idea that school was not important, so he asked me to start working for him even when I was in school.” He knew his father was kidding about the school part, but he was serious about letting his son help him in the family business. “I became the general manager of the Fairview branch, where I learned all the ropes of running the business,” Eugene says.

Today, Motech’s value proposition is the “after warranty business” where they offer service and maintenance of all types of cars. What this means, he says, is “after the warranty is over, which is usually after the first three years or the first hundred thousand kilometers, those cars [and owners]become our market.” He adds their biggest advantage, is that they are “much cheaper than the OEMS or the casa [car shop], we are normally half the price, we do the services a lot quicker, and clients get to see the cars as they are being fixed, unlike in the casa, or in-house services given by auto companies to their customers.” One other big advantage that they have, Eugene says is that they have their own training school for mechanics, to ensure hat the quality of the work would always be topnotch.

Since taking over the reins of the business, the young executive has also managed to grow the company at a much faster pace, modernizing its facilities and operations, while streamlining business processes across six company-owned stores in in the country, with the help of technology solutions like NetSuite OneWorld. Eugene says getting these solutions helped Motech acquire the agility, flexibility and scalability to grow and adopt a new business model, which is franchising. Since 2013, Motech has added 28 retail franchises across the Philippines, even as it announced plans to increase its number of stores to 56 by 2017, with 100 locations the goal by 2020.

Despite owning a chain of automotive service centers, Eugene says it is not the love of cars that primarily drives his passion, but his desire to be outside of the traditional office setting and interaction with people. “One of the basic philosophies that my dad passed on to me was: If you wanted to add value to the company, you have to add value to each person within the company.” This is the reason why the vision for their company is for it to become technically a school for mechanics, because his father believes it all starts from good training. He explains that his father also had an advocacy to help poor students through the acquisition of skills needed for them to thrive. “Around two years ago, we would teach about 50 students–those who couldn’t afford vocational schools, Tesda, and are out of high school. We would literally take kids out of the streets, put them in the shop, teach them six months to a year for free.”

When asked if their student scholars eventually stay with them, Eugene says, they “hedge on the Filipino culture of utang na loob [gratitude]because we would teach them and they stay loyal, and that’s how we were able to expand to 34 branches nationwide.”

These are certainly much more than the wide steps that his father urged him to take when was first asked to join the business in 1998. More than walking in his dad’s footsteps, he took the company further by leaps and bounds. And all because of a father’s faith in his son, who encouraged him to grow, be not afraid to commit mistakes and hopefully learn from them.

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