Without batting an eyelash many would be quick to say that company bigwigs are intimidating figures in any workplace environment. They look stiff, don’t smile, and are difficult to deal with, spending their workdays hidden in their corner offices.
Francis Flores, however, breaks all those stereotypes. When I met with him recently, he projected a youthful and engaging image. One wouldn’t think that he holds a very critical position in one of the country’s most prestigious companies.
Francis, 38, is the vice president and international business head for Mainstream Markets of world-renowned Jollibee Food Corp. His team is in charge of bringing the Filipino favorite fast food chain to overseas markets with significant Filipino communities. In the past two years, he has helped establish and create a solid following for the food brand in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and China.
Before his current position, he was the general manager for Greenwich overseeing the brand’s marketing efforts and operations. He brought a youthful vibe to the brand with unforgettable and funny “barkada” ad campaigns featuring actor John Lloyd Cruz (remember the sobrang cheesy campaign a few years back?).
Also under his guidance, Greenwich not only won awards for its compelling ads but also became the second favorite fast food restaurant in the country, next to Jollibee.
An overachiever while growing up, Francis is a product of the University of the Philippines education system—having studied there from pre-school until college—graduating with a degree in Business Administration and Management.
At 20 and straight out of college, he worked for Unilever as a management trainee and soon became the youngest area sales manager at the age of 23. It’s safe to say that at this point, he was on the road to a really fulfilling career, but right before he turned 30 and while holding the position of regional brand director at Unilever, Francis found himself questioning his purpose.
While he was extremely comfortable and happy at his job and his career path, a nagging sense inside made him wonder, “What can I do to give back?” At 29, it wasn’t enough that he was passionate about his work; he realized he needed purpose as well.
He realized his life’s mission—of all places—at an airport in London when his flight was delayed. He recalled, “Being in that international setting, I concluded that Filipinos are the best Asian marketers. We’re good communicators, very creative, and strategic. So it made me think, if we’re good marketers, why don’t we have brands that are successful globally?”
Francis knew right then that the best way to give back to the country was by creating a global brand that will help fuel the economy. Of course, it had to be Jollibee.
He exclaimed, “Jollibee could be a good global candidate.”
Two months later, he received a call from a headhunter saying that Jollibee needed someone for a new position that would help the brand go global. Instantly, Francis found the purpose he had been longing for.
And since then, purpose is what fuels Francis every day. “What drives me is that it’s not just a job, it’s a mission that is aligned in my personal purpose. My mission is to make Jollibee a truly global brand that everyone can be proud of,” he shared.
He also aims to be the kind of leader that develops others to be the best versions of themselves. He explained, “It’s important to have the right mindset of what a leader is. A leader is not there to be served, but to serve.”
Francis recalled that this outlook of his, he learned from a boss who served as his role model. He is Ariel Fermin of Greenwich who advised him that as the new general manager of the brand, he only have two tasks: to lead his team to the right direction, and to take care of them.
This servant leadership mentality has developed leaders within his team. It brings him only joy to see his former and present team members accelerate both at work and in life.
So what are his secrets to success? Francis replied, “Know your passion by having enough self-awareness. Work hard—there’s no substitute for that. And when you fail, learn from it.”
Finally, as a devoted Christian, Francis also believes that without God, none of his successes would be possible.
“Everything I have, including the title, and the position, is from God, pahiram lang. And if I don’t use it well, He will take it away. He gave leadership and told me that leadership is a position of influence where I can make a difference in the lives of people,” Francis ended.