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‘I Have the Conn’

It’s a brand new year and I feel very optimistic about the direction of our country. The first six months of the new government has shown that our new President is serious about implementing a plan to sustain our economic recovery.



On a personal level, I feel very energetic and sharp. In fact, I feel as sharp as I have ever been. I am enjoying what I do simply because what I am doing now, what I have been doing ever since I was a young boy walking to the market to sell shrimps and fish with my mother is what really makes me happy. I am an entrepreneur. I will always be an entrepreneur.



The pandemic, as horrible as it was, reinvigorated me as an entrepreneur. When the crisis hit, I wanted to be on top of the situation as far as our businesses are concerned. I look at myself as the captain of the ship taking the helm in order to right the ship during the most perilous times. From early morning until the evening, I work with my people in order to make sure that our enterprise will weather these storms.



It is similar to what happened to me after I finished my last term in the Senate of the Philippines. I decided to go back to managing our businesses and I had a personal renaissance of sort. When I became citizen Manny after 21 years in public service, I rediscovered my fervent love of entrepreneurship. It was like a reunion I was so excited about. I felt like a newbie. It felt like my first day at work.



I remember in 2013 when I returned to business, I began to see the world differently. I loved comparing it to watching television. When I was in politics, my view was hazy, it was in black and white, it was blurry. In business, I saw the world in super high color definition! So I began to study the lay of the land of our business as I was absent for a long time. It did not take long for me to find a new challenge, a new opportunity—retailing and malls.



When I floated this idea, some people in Vista Land shook their heads. “Sir, this does not make sense. There are already heavy players in that field. It will be difficult to compete.” One look and it does seem corporate suicide to embark on retail that is already dominated by a number of big players.



But there was never any doubt in my mind. I love challenges and giving up is not in my DNA. I knew that with the right idea and strategy we can succeed as I have conquered obstacles and difficulties all my life. I am glad we never gave up. Today our retail group is very vibrant and continues to expand.



This is what keeps me going in life. I could have easily retired and do what retirees do but I always see new challenges that keeps me up. So today, I leave my house at 5 a.m. to work until the evening. It’s a 24/7 job. Even on Sundays, I would go to the gym when I wake up, have a light breakfast and then start my meetings for the day. In my previous column, I shared with you how I begin my work day with a jog with my senior officers before we begin our meetings.



As we navigate the pandemic, high inflation, global crises and an environment filled with headwinds and uncertainty, I wanted to be hands-on as far as the business is concerned. One of the most critical principle in handling ships—commercial or, most importantly, military—is that there can be no ambiguity who is controlling the ship. There is only one person in charge. This is especially true during crisis situations requiring quick decisions. When a ship encounters difficulty, the captain will always rise and say “I have the conn.”


I have the conn.



Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar