WHEN you help people succeed, you too will have success.
For entrepreneur Kelie Ko, running a business isn’t all about making profits. One key ingredient to business success, he said, is building excellent employees.
Now part of the third generation, Ko is pushing for employee empowerment to make them effective workers in today’s workplace setup.
Ko took up legal management at the Ateneo de Manila University but decided to join the family business, Atlas Cebu Corn Mill Corp., where he now sits as one of the board members along with his siblings.
Ko admitted he was apprehensive of his decision at first, noting that fresh college graduates normally seek jobs in the corporate world, eager to prove their worth to themselves and their families.
“Back then, I thought of our business as unglamorous because you could go there while you were wearing slippers. But when I started getting engaged and involved with our people, everything changed,” said Ko.
From helping the family run Atlas Cebu Corn Mill, Ko now manages the family’s realty firm, KGK Management Inc. He took a postgraduate course in property development from the University of New South Wales.
“Back in college, architecture was in my heart. It offers a different kind of fulfillment because it’s tangible. However, I wasn’t able to pursue that career until today, when I’m now running the family’s property development and management company,” he said.
Ko’s family owns several properties in Cebu, which are now converted into warehouses and commercial and residential projects. Among these are CTK Lucky Warehouses and the North Road Plaza building.
Ko said his parents made a wiser decision back then of investing in properties rather than putting all their hard-earned money in the bank.
Ko is the chairman of the Mandaue Business Month, an annual activity organized by the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He described himself as the shy type who recently came out of his shell after his exposure to the various activities organized by the business chamber.
What was your first job?
My path to becoming an entrepreneur seemed like a natural evolution. We were raised by a family of entrepreneurs. I grew up helping my parents run our business.
I was in high school when I dipped my toe into what running a business is like. My two months of school summer break was compressed into one week because I was encouraged to help in the business. That became my foundation. I was exposed to business early on.
Who inspired you to get into business?
Besides learning a lot from my parents and their stories of hard work and persistence, it was the fulfillment of seeing our own people become successful that made me grateful for the opportunity that was given to me.
Thoughts of joining the corporate world and carving my own name never left my mind. But what made me stay and love what I am doing are our employees. It feels good to see them excel (in their jobs).
Ours is a family-run business. Our management style is treating everyone as a family member. Through working for the family, I am able to give back to our employees the help they extended in helping us grow our business.
My parents were my inspiration too.
Dad worked for 16 hours a day, and that taught me hard work really goes a long way. My mom, on the other hand, values education. I pursued postgraduate studies because of her influence, and that taught me that continuous learning helps one get ahead in life.
When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?
Working in the family business gave me the opportunity to nurture and develop the skills of our employees and empower them.
Business isn’t just about achieving bottom lines; it is also about taking care of the people who work for us. They are our important assets.
Why did you pick this type of business or industry?
When I was asked to manage the family’s property business, it was a job I welcomed with open arms. Architecture was close to my heart.
For me, it offered a different sense of fulfillment, something that is tangible.
At KGK Management Inc., we always strive to become a responsible developer. I believe that a developer has the responsibility to shape the kind of community he is building. He has a big responsibility to the environment, too.
Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?
It was my mom who instilled in us the importance of furthering our studies. She inspired us to continue learning. In fact, we became classmates along with my sister when we took an MBA degree from the Ateneo de Manila’s Regis MBA program.
After that, she inspired me to pursue a course in property studies. I took a master’s degree in property development from the University of New South Wales. There, I learned about real estate as a financial asset, a tool that could give one recurring income in the future. However, it’s sad to see people who just buy properties just for the “pride of ownership.” This “pride” most of the time causes us that wrong decision in property investment.
How many times did you fail before you succeeded?
I don’t really see setbacks in business as failures because they are opportunities to learn, improve and grow. Whether it is a business that you start from scratch, or a business handed down to you, failures or challenges provide valuable benefits. You will only know your limits if you explore them and failures will help you determine what you can or can’t do.