It has been a good 24 years since I met this couple, who did our print jobs and have been our suppliers for paper, cards and other printed collaterals for most of our businesses.
It may not surprise you that businesses can sometimes grow out of nothing. They can grow simply by planting seeds called integrity, honesty and perseverance. Such is the story of our most inspiring friends, Linda and Romy.
Linda started as a “jobber,” outsourcing print jobs to other presses, and got print jobs even without owning a single printing machine. Romy was a starting accountant, working in an agricultural company in Makati City, just about to take his board exams.
Linda and Romy met 37 years ago by accident, as Romy was on an errand looking for a printing supplier for his boss, and Linda was out coordinating a print job in the same client’s office. The rest, as they say is history. As soon as they got married, Romy had the foresight to register a company in his name, even if there were no jobs yet. Truly, this act was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Three children and many printing plants later, this couple has remained simple, down-to-earth and totally the “millionaire next door” type. However, they have already trained their children to take jobs in the family business, and are seeing to it that the next generation will handle the business as well, or even better.
I asked Romy what drives him to do more, when he does not seem like he needs more money. “I just enjoy finding new ways to streamline operations and run a most efficient ship,” he says of his 24-year-old business. And Linda echoes these feelings and remarks, “ it’s fun and it’s challenging.”
Over post New Year’s dinner we reminisced how they started the business, the challenges they faced and how they were doing these days. I never got to ask them, during our friendship spanning over two decades, what makes them go on, who started them off, what secrets they could share.
As Linda told her stories, I could only conclude, it is about parlaying trust and integrity, and keeping these values intact that made them successful. She never got interested in taking commissions or “gifts” for jobs she facilitated. She is not one who believed in “one time big time” deals. She merely invested all that goodwill in these people. And when she and Romy started a fledgling small enterprise, she called up these referrals and soon started to collect, not in terms of money, but in payment terms, accommodations and more referrals for more business contacts.
Through friends they were introduced to bank officers, leasing companies and other institutions who then started to extend credit lines to the growing enterprise. Another good habit they practiced was keeping their “word of honor.” Never a bouncing check, never a promise unfulfilled. I still remember Linda delivering my order during a storm, so early in the morning. Just to keep her word. And to this day, I know that when she says yes, it means “consider it done!”
Asked if they got entrepreneurial training, they both answered that they were just influenced by their experience working for other people. They observed how successful business people conducted themselves. That they had a system, they followed rules and that they understood each detail of what was going on in their production plant, or production lines. And they always treated people fairly and well.
I still know their employees from almost 20 years back. These people are treated like family and also serve as extra “eyes” when the owners are not around. Today, Linda’s former employers now take “outsourced” jobs from her, truly a story of the wheels of life going around. They have even bought the machines of her previous suppliers. And they continue to improve their production processes and their systems.
It’s been a while since we reminisced about the past. But what a nice way to start the year. By counting our blessings, by sharing with like-minded friends and telling inspiring stories just like the story of Romy and Linda. They have gone very far, they have traveled far literally and figuratively, yet the more they explore new areas, the more they remain the same. Simple and down to earth.
They have shunned publicity. They wish to remain anonymous. Yet they have created many jobs, made many friends and supported many families. Truly an awesome story of how values can make all that difference. Because that is all they ever invested. A good word that they kept. And values they lived by.
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Chit Juan is the Founder and President of ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle located in Serendra , Podium and Centris malls. She is the President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. She often speaks to corporates, academe and entrepreneurs about her advocacies: Social Enterprise, Women Empowerment and Coffee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter:Chitjuan , Instagram: CHITJUAN or Linked In: Pacita Juan.