Tony Espinoza Says "Just do it."
We see Cebu booming in many angles, in many areas, and we see so many opportunities for so many Cebuanos. This is a really good thing, especially since it allows many of us to pursue our careers here and be given the opportunity to earn well without having to leave our homes, our families. In that aspect, we definitely look forward to foreign businessmen to invest in our city. On the other hand, as I took the time to interview a foreign businessman, I realized that while investing in a foreign soil is definitely not just all about money, there were a few insights that have given me a little wake-up call, not just as a Cebuana, but also as an individual…a Pinoy, an employee, and a person.
- Person Interviewed: Tony Espinoza
- VP for Operations
- Company: BPO
- Address: Cebu City
What brought you to Cebu?
As a business partner, I came here after India failed to deliver a workable solution.
When did you start your business?
How did you get started?
Carefully. We consulted with the government’s foreign investment group.
Who did you Partner with and why?
We partnered with local communication companies, universities, and government agencies.
You are from the US, is it very different to run a business in Cebu? Why?
Yes there is a big difference. In the US, it runs at-will…meaning we can terminate employees at-will, in the Phils, we have to deal with DOLE, that provides lots of protection to employees even if there are performance issues. In the US, there are only 7 holidays, that are fixed…in the Phils, there are 22 holidays and the list increases every year.
Which pièce of advice would you give to a foreigner who want to run his/her business in Cebu?
Just do it.
What would be the pitfalls?
Pitfalls would include strict labor laws and exchange rates.
What would have made your business life easier?
Better relationships with local government agencies in Cebu
How is it to work with Filipinos? Any bad or good qualities?
Pro: People are smart and have lots of charisma.
Con: People have a challenge saying ‘no’…everything is ‘Sige’ when asked but there are constant failures in implementation.
You have been in Cebu for 10 years, what have been your main challenges?
Locals do not hold businesses accountable for poor performance. I have not seen a rating system that would ‘rate’ businesses on how well or how poor they perform. Until such a system exists, businesses don’t have the incentive to perform better.
Do you feel it is a good time to invest in Cebu (in the BPO business)? Why?
Yes. The Philippines has established itself as a global BPO leader and companies across the globe have started to accept outsourcing here to be the norm.
Interestingly enough, while we, Filipinos, bicker and thoroughly complain about our government, these foreign investors do too. In fact, it is a bit embarrassing to find that while they are laid-back in terms of what they are facing, government challenges and all, they take it all in stride. I, for one, am still bitter about having to pay taxes deducted monthly and knowing that we still have dishonest politicians in power. I get discouraged when I see so many potholes on streets and children, adults, and even people with disability roaming the streets begging for money. There is definitely so much to complain about all around. So when I read and re-read the answers of this foreign businessman, I realized that I can be different. I can show him that not all Filipinos can be like those he has met and given a negative view. Of course, there are different types of people and one can never be like everyone else, but sometimes, when you are different, you come from a different country whose laws, culture, and general outlook is different from what you have grown up to, you tend to stereo-type and generalize.
So, while there are certainly negative things and challenges that a foreign businessman may face when considering a business in Cebu, the positive and good things outweigh them. After all, where else can you find a genuinely positive person who can smile through problems and look at each day as a new beginning? Only in Cebu.