Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Communication, delegation crucial to make family biz work

THEY’RE ON THE SAME PAGE. Some 15 years ago, Bunny Pages and his family began a business that has now grown to encompass 17 brands, including House of Lechon. Differences are inevitable even in a family, he points out, but certain strategies like keeping communi-cation lines open can definitely help. (SunStar photo/Amper Campaña)

Long before they excelled in business, they were a family who brought out the best in one other.

Pages Holdings Inc. (PHI) Chairman Bunny Pages said the family business, which they established some 15 years ago, wouldn’t be where it is today if the family members didn’t share the same vision.

“Ours is a business that involved all family members since day one, every day,” said Pages, whose former wife Ma. Elena Zaldarriaga and their children John, Charlie, Cheryl, Randy, and Michael have been all actively involved in growing the Pages businesses.

PHI started with Thirsty Fresh Fruit Juices and Shakes and Mooon Café. Now, the company has grown into 17 brands, with the latest addition of Summer Frozen Delights that opened in Ayala Center Cebu yesterday.

The Pages family is one of the recipients of the Philippine Family Business Awards 2018, awarded by the Ateneo Family Business Development Center (Ateneo FBDC) in cooperation with UnionBank.

Another awardee from Cebu is Lita Urbina, founder and CEO of the Café Laguna Group. These two homegrown companies formed part of this year’s Top 10 Philippine Family Business Awards.

The award aims to recognize and celebrate families in business who, despite the challenges and struggles in running their own business, have continuously strived to sustain their family and their business.

Pages said the award is meaningful for him, especially that it commends the efforts of each family member working as a solid team in growing the business.

“My job as chairman and CEO is really to balance everybody’s ability and talent, and make sure that we are all looking in the same direction as a team rather than looking at each other and finding faults,” said Pages.

He admitted it is also quite a challenge because of innate differences but his job as a mentor and leader of the group is to make sure everybody works together and not leaves anyone behind.

“To do this, for so many years now, brings satisfaction. It is a blessing to be working with my children,” said Pages.

What helped

The family crafted a family business constitution four years ago to help them run the business professionally and to ensure the company’s longevity.

Delegating the responsibilities to family members has also made business operations more efficient. Each family member was entrusted with a brand to take care of and grow.

But when sibling conflicts arise, Pages said communication is the key. He said he drops everything just to fix the siblings’ relationship right away.

That’s the good thing about running a family business; you try your best to iron things out right away. After all, you’re family, he said.

“There will always be differences. But at the end of the day, it’s the love and respect for each other that keep us together and stronger,” Pages revealed.

This, he added, is evident in the progress of the family’s business over the years.

“We all work so well together because we truly know each other’s personalities and strengths,” Pages said.

“We may be in a different family setting but it’s a gift to be able to work with them and share this success with them,” he added.

Looking forward, Pages said the company is aiming to introduce more brands to Cebuanos. In the pipeline is a planned food park in Talisay City and expansion of brands outside Cebu through franchising.

Pages, however, is putting the IPO option on the back burner, because such a bold move needs to come at the right time. PHI has about a thousand employees under its wing, excluding the jobs generated through the franchise business.

In 2015, after the Ceby Chamber of Commerce and Industry gave him the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Pages, then 67, spoke about the need to be decisive in closing businesses that fail to work in its first few months. He also encouraged potential entrepreneurs by pointing out that he started his entrepreneurial journey late (at age 49) and has survived failure “many times.”

“Keep on improving what you’re doing,” he had advised. “Practice kaizen, a Japanese term that means doing small improvements every day.”

The Philippines is the second country in Asia that has the highest percentage of highly-stressed family businesses next to Indonesia, said family business consultant professor Eric Soriano, in a separate interview.

Some 48 percent of the family businesses have found it difficult to remove family members from positions of power while 43 percent experienced disagreements between family members over the direction of the company.

Soriano urged family business owners to start crafting their family business constitution in the early stages of their business, preferably before the second generation enters the business.

“The family constitution serves as a road map to family businesses—where they have been, where they are, and where they’re going. It defines goals and values, recognizes dysfunctions, and supports your family relationships,” he said.


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