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Human and Business Resiliency

The Virtual Mentor Archie P. Inlong

“Resiliency” is fast becoming the buzzword of the era of the COVID 19 virus.

We are looking at business entities, trying to find out which among them would emerge as the most resilient.

We are also looking at ourselves and at one another in an effort to discover a new meaning to the word “resilient” as it applies to us, humans.

The questions we ask today are, “Which companies will survive the crisis?” and, “Who among us will remain standing in the face of these tough times?”

We are also asking what “resiliency” really means and how does a business entity and a person become resilient.

“Resiliency” is defined as an “ability”. It is the ability of a person or an organization to “withstand and recover quickly from harsh conditions”. It is the ability to “recoil or get back into shape” after prolonged pressure.

Management gurus have also defined “resiliency” in the past this way: it means the ability to repair an airplane even while it is flying. When the pandemic broke out and global business felt the pain, management gurus said “resiliency” today no longer just involves “repairing” – today, “we are actually building”.

The way things look, it may be safe to presume that some of the country’s biggest conglomerates are exhibiting the hallmarks of “resiliency”. Unlike some global brands like the car hire company Hertz and United States-based airlines, no big company in the country has yet announced that it is closing shop due to bankruptcy in the face of the COVID 19-fueled economic slowdown.

In fact, leading conglomerates like the Ayala Group and the Aboitiz conglomerate are on sustained operations even as they have adopted work-from-home measures. They are focused on outreach activities in a bid to help disadvantaged communities cope with the tough times. Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) President Bong Consing earlier gave assurances that all is well with the banking industry. Consing’s timely assurance has been well received by the banking public.

I had a recent conversation with the chief executive officer of a leading non-alcoholic beverage brand. He said that their plant continues to operate in accordance with the guidance set by the National Task Force on COVID 19. He added that their plant workers have adapted well to the enhanced safety measures and policies set by the company aimed at making sure no one gets sick or contaminated by the deadly virus.

In a way, “resiliency” may be expected of companies like the Ayala and Aboitiz groups. After all, business entities like them invest in risk management and strategic planning. They have well-defined core values and culture that have been tested during previous crisis. It is important for big businesses in our country to be resilience – we depend on them for jobs and for downstream business opportunities.

From where we stand, we believe the real test of resiliency in our country will be at the level of small and micro-businesses.

These are the enterprises build and run by the many “ordinary” Filipinos who combine meager capital with huge amounts of creativity, hard work and persistence.

They are among the hardest hit by the restrictions in human mobility and transportation which were imposed following the lockdown in many parts of the country. They lost their “traditional market” and their access to their sources of raw material were severely hampered. They were the first to feel the effect of people holding on to their cash and not spending when there is a crisis.

Based on what we have seen so far, it appears that this sector may pass the test of resiliency, too. Their being resilient is a factor of their agility – the ability to quickly drop a business model and create a new one that responds to a sudden change in what the market wants.

An example of resiliency in the small and micro-business sector is the story of a friend and erstwhile renowned videographer and photographer, Jojo Paraiso.

Jojo ran a thriving video and photo coverage business prior to the lockdown. He covers a good number of the training and workshops I conduct for the top 500 companies in the country. Jojo’s schedule has been mostly fully booked. He also did a lot of video and photography services for corporate events and wedding ceremonies – the primary source of the big bucks for businesses like his.

The moment the lockdown was declared, Jojo’s schedule for the rest of the year was wiped clean. His business practically disappeared. He could find no use for the expensive video equipment he had purchased with hard-earned money. His resiliency was put to serious test.

The crisis proved that like most Filipino entrepreneurs, Jojo Paraiso possessed the agility and creativity which made for resiliency.

Instead of wallowing in the misery of a stalled business, Jojo immediately migrated to an enterprise that caters to the biggest demand of the market – home-cooked food which can be ordered online, delivered at their doorsteps and at an affordable price.

Jojo Paraiso began with fried egg rolls which proved to be a hit in his neighborhood market. His loyal customers soon wanted the perfect companion to the fried egg rolls – spicy, homemade vinegar. Jojo came up with his own formula suited to the taste and preference of his market.

Soon, Jojo Paraiso’s product line expanded to include other favorite Filipino viands. He built his first food cart to capture the passers-by market.

His friends saw the success of this simple enterprise. Many are now encouraging him to franchise his business model. With the way his business idea evolved, it is possible he could soon be generating revenues close to what he made with his previous enterprise.

Jojo Paraiso also underscored an important principle: resiliency resides in the entrepreneur, not necessarily in the business model or organization.

Resiliency is a quality of the human spirit. Our businesses are merely the outward expression of that inner strength.

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