3 life lessons from successful Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs

3 life lessons from successful Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs


GlobalLinker Staff

GlobalLinker Staff

12 Feb 2021, 13:39 — 5 min read

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

As per the Forbes’ Richest List in the Philippines, majority of those who made it to the list are Filipino-Chinese business tycoons. This stirs our curiosity: What makes them successful in running and managing a business?

In celebration of Chinese New Year, we are sharing a few life lessons that you can pick up from the top Filipino-Chinese business tycoons in the country.

1. John Gokongwei Jr

Behind the massive success of JG Summit Holdings Inc, one of the country’s biggest conglomerates is the late philanthropist and serial entrepreneur John Gokongwei Jr.

But it was not an overnight success story. He had to fill his father’s shoes and became a breadwinner for his family. He went on to selling roasted peanuts which eventually led him to open a small stall in the market.

Fast forward today, John Gokongwei Jr has left an impactful legacy, providing jobs to millions of Filipinos through the companies he has grown and built including Universal Robina Corp, Cebu Pacific and Robinsons Corp

What you can learn from his business journey

Be passionate and love your work

In his speech at his alma mater University of San Carlos in Cebu where he received a Lifetime Achievement Award, Gokongwei Jr. recalled waking up before dawn “to sell spools of thread, bars of soap, and candles” at the market.

“I earned about P20 a day by working longer and harder than everybody else. But it didn’t matter since I really love my work. I love being an entrepreneur,” he humbly shared. 

When you love and enjoy what you do, you will not easily give up when challenges arise. Instead, you will understand that all these challenges are stepping stones for your success.  

Also read: 5 timeless lessons we can learn from tycoon John Gokongwei Jr. 

2. Henry Sy

Known as one of the richest tycoons in the Philippines, the late Henry Sy moved to the Philippines in his hopes to escape poverty in China. Moving to a foreign country allowed him to experience the daily struggles of being a young immigrant.

With this determination, he managed to start a small shoe store called Shoemart in 1958. Through his hard work day and night, he was able to build his empire. From a small business, he managed to expand his business with now over 200 companies including SM Prime Holdings, and SM Investments Corp.

What you can learn from his business journey

The value of hard work

SM Supermalls is Henry Sy’s testament of hard work. From a humble shoe store in the 50s, he managed to grow the business to become one of the leading largest shopping malls in the country.

In a speech of Sy’s daughter, Teresita Sy-Coson, during the MAP ‘Management Man of the Year’ award in 2016, she shared how her dad constantly reminds her and her siblings to persevere and work the extra mile.

“My dad always constantly told me: Should you be lacking in core competence in any endeavour we undertake, we should work extra hours and work harder to speed up and catch up with our colleagues in the business world,” Sy-Coson shared.

She also relayed how they started working during their teenage years when they were expected to work on Saturdays.  “During those days, my dad, who was demanding, was always driving us to work hard, and to do our best. While we were not expected to do our best in school, once out of school and into the real world, we were taught to aspire to be the best in any endeavour we are actively involved in,” Sy-Coson said, highlighting that her dad taught them to stay disciplined and productive.

Also read: Why these 3 Netflix originals will awaken your entrepreneurial spirit

3. Lucio Tan

The 86-year-old business tycoon once worked as a janitor to support himself through college. He was then promoted as a tobacco cook where he learned how to create and produce tobacco, that later on helped him to build his own cigarette company, the Fortune Tobacco, which is now one of the largest cigarette manufacturers in the country.

He later on established other successful companies including Asia Brewery Inc., and Philippine Airlines.

What you can learn from his business journey

The eye to spot business opportunities

Instead of getting disheartened working a menial job at a tobacco factory, he leveraged his skills and experience to start and map out his own company. With his perseverance and dedication, he managed to establish his brand and he eventually became an industry leader.

If there’s one thing in common from these three successful Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs, it is the willingness to start small and to do the grind regardless of the numerous challenges they have to face.

As you navigate the new normal for your business, may these stories remind you to keep hustling, to keep creating, and to continue solving problems for your target customers.