How to take career risks and other tips from Manny Pangilinan
MANILA, Philippines – “To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it."
In an episode of the "Playlist ng Buhay Ko" podcast, business tycon Manny V. Pangilinan cited the words of Queen Elizabeth I when reflecting on where he is now and the choices that led him here. The podcast first aired last year but was repushed on social media last week.
He knows he has sacrificed much – one deep regret is not starting a family of his own – but MVP (as he is called) knows that he is one who'll find it tough to juggle work with family life.
"I didn't want to compromise. I'm on a mission, this is my mission." said the tycoon.
This uncompromising vision in itself is a risk – choosing to let one's life revolve around work. But these are the types of risks that have defined MVP's career. It's not an easy life, and the successful businessman doesn't suggest everyone try and emulate it; he knows it's not for everybody.
But with a life abundant with as many regrets as there are successes, he has a lot to share with the younger generation. Here are some of them.
Risk-aversion is detrimental to entrepreneurship
MVP's father, Dominador Reyes Pangilinan, was the former president of Traders Royal Bank.
When MVP would make bold decisions in business, his father would warn him about being too aggressive. MVP said he understands that it's innate for bankers to be conservative and averse to risk. "That's why I am a failure as a banker," he said.
To make it in business, Pangilinan said one needs to be willing to take a chance.
“You have to be aggressive if you mean to stay in this business and grow. You have to take risks. I think that's simply the nature of the beast,” he added. “Over time, I've noticed that the entrepreneurs here have become more aggressive, more growth-oriented, and so forth. And I think that has been the engine of this economy.”
Work before you pursue graduate studies
From elementary school all the way to his MBA, Pangilinan was a scholar. His college scholarship, however, also required him to take an MBA immediately after graduation.
“That was a big mistake. What did I know about life? What did I know about the realities of business?” he asked. “So I was doing merger accounting without knowing what the numbers really meant. I could do the sums, but what did it mean in real life? The impact on people? No sense of it.”
His advice: “If you want to take your masters, do it after several years of real-life exposure. Then I think you get a better sense of what it is you're trying to do with your life.”
If you can work abroad, go for it...
MVP calls himself a “proud OFW,” having spent 22 years building his business in Hong Kong before returning to the Philippines. While not all Filipinos may have the privilege to work abroad, MVP encourages those who can to take the opportunity. It pays to have one's cultural blinders lifted.
“Our extended family system provides a huge cocoon of comfort. It stifles initiative because you know at the end of the day if you get sick or lose your job or whatever, you have somebody to fall back on who will support you,” he said.
“Therefore, your ability and inclination to take risks are very low, and that is a major impediment to entrepreneurship. You cannot teach entrepreneurship without lifting the cultural barriers towards risk-taking.”
...And then come back
MVP encourages Filipinos abroad to return and use their talents to contribute to positive change in the Philippines.
“I think all of us, including the government, must have a reverse immigration policy. We should be attempting to bring OFWs back,” he said. “I think it's important that we get these talents back even if after so many years – please come back, spend a few months here, teach us what you've learned.”
Be your own person
"I looked up to my father as my role model, and I had expressed on numerous occasions my desire to join [Traders Royal Bank] despite the fact that I had a good job at Phinma. Because I wanted to follow in his footsteps. And he has consistently discouraged me from thinking about it. And that hurt me, actually, as a son wanting to be like his dad,” MVP shared.
In hindsight, MVP realized that not working in a bank, and his father encouraging him when he decided to leave for Hong Kong, are all integral parts of his journey as an entrepreneur.
“I had wanted to prove to myself that I can be personally responsible, personally accountable, and personally successful. Which is what my father wanted me to do rather than hitching my wagon to his star," he said.
To this day, MVP still has role models. In fact, he frequently replays the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons – a movie about St. Thomas More's refusal to sign King Henry VIII's divorce papers amid pressure from the king himself – when he needs the encouragement to stand up for his principles.
However, his stance remains. "It's good to have role models, but at the end of the day, you have to be your own person. You have to carve your own place. You don't want to just be a copycat.” - Rappler.com
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