Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Bowl of Business Wisdom

Yesterday, I got to meet a blessing in the shape of a lady named Ate Melinda* ("Ate" means older sister in Filipino). She is a tanned woman in plain polo blouse and jeans who doesn't wear make-up and frilly accessories. Who would have known that this simple lady with a signature smile and gregarious laughter is currently a successful businesswoman with 3 growing businesses in her hands. Let me tell you her story.

Ate Melinda came from a humbling background. She grew up in the province and studied in a public school. After college, she worked as a sales agent selling Puma shoes to retailers in Visayas and Mindanao. In the next two decades, she traveled here and there to distribute some shoes and slippers. Today, she has become the leading distributor of Planet footwear and many other products in the Vismin area.

She told me about a dream she had before. She was swimming in the Dead Sea, at the border of Jordan where she had never been to in real life. The sea was surprisingly alive. Its current took her from place to place. When she woke up, she realized that the water signified God's blessings. If she goes with the flow, God would continually let the blessings flow through her. But if she keeps it to herself, it would become like the dead sea, dead in its basin. She then realized that her businesses are not really for her own gain. They are gifts from God that have to be shared to other people.

It was one of the stories in her bowl of wisdom she shared to me over dinner. In between series of laughter, she handed me more spoonfuls of her experiences that led to where she is today.

1. Every new day is a blessing. Be a blessing everyday.
I wonder how she sees each day as her last. But she does. Every time she wakes up, she thanks God for the new day ("Wow! I'm still alive!" she exclaims with eyes wide open, almost popping out) and prays that she will be a good witness to friends, acquaintances and even strangers throughout the day.

Just recently, she went to a shoe store that didn't carry her brand. She brought some tourists with her. While her friends were looking around, she decided to talk to a sales lady. It was almost evening when they went in, she asked the sales lady, "How's sales so far?" The girl replied, "Not so good. No sales yet." Oh my, it's already late and still got no sales? Ate Melinda thought. When she saw a customer trying out a pair, she told her, "That really looks good on you!" ("well it really looked good on her" she told me as she continued on with the story). The girl bought two pairs after.

2. Pray for your business everyday.
When she went to a special gathering with various owners of clothing apparel, footwear and big-time malls, she was asked, "What's your trade secret? Planet has become the top-selling slippers in the area!" Without thinking twice, she said, "I just pray for them when I visit the stores." ("pina-pray over ko sila kapag nasa store ako" in verbatim). She didn't think it was her or her boss's competency to be praised. It was solely through God's grace.

This is also what the group of friends who incorporated the famous clothing line, Penshoppe, is doing. They pray together (or even when apart) with their employees every eight in the morning.

3. Value every relationship.
She does not see her business as just business. For her, every meeting she goes to is an opportunity to know people and build relationships. She tries to be the ray of sunshine that exudes joy in the meeting room. That's why, I think it's easy for people to buy her products. She almost always leaves a smile on people's faces, be it after a long or short, a personal or professional, talk.

Probably unlike other business owners who merely establish relationships with other owners, what she does is she talks to the purchasers, and even down to the sales ladies. They are all important to her. The owners may be the ones ordering the products, but the purchasers know the trends of the market more, while the sales ladies are the front liners that can can move the products directly to the end consumers.

4. Be humble and available to help.
One time, a shoemaker friend of hers asked for a favor, "Mel, can you please introduce me to the big retailers in Vismin? I hope to sell my shoes there." She said, "Okay, first, make a company name." The guy responded, "Okay, okay, what about Saint Michaels?" When they got to set a meeting with the retailers, she took the position of an agent (rather than a business owner) and told them "I would like you to meet a boss, the president and CEO of Saint Michaels company." I found it interesting that she was willing to put herself down to push others up. It's the exact opposite of the crab mentality that we often see here in the country.

In another time, a different supplier friend confided to her, "Mel, it's so difficult to get in this big mall. What shall I do?" She showed her friend's products to the mall owner and they got in. She did it not expecting anything in return. After a few months, the friend called her up thanking her because sales was huge. In return, he gave her a surprise cash gift.

5. No matter how small or large your work is, work excellently and faithfully.
God will enlarge it bit by bit.

6. God's grace covers you.
Work may be required as God's punishment for Adam's sin. But work can also be a gift that brings joy, that is if we follow the passion God has embedded in our hearts and if we use God's gifts to bless others. This may not only be in financial means, it may be through teaching, writing, encouraging, speaking, painting, singing. If we have God's grace, most often than not, God has planned for all the details already. We'd be surprised to see that tasks are easier because uncontrollable details have already fallen into place.

7. No matter how much you have, only Jesus can sustain you.
When a friend asked her to help him expand his cooking business, her first question was, "Do you have Jesus Christ in your life?" Jesus was the one who gave her the purpose, the contentment and the joy in what she's doing. People without Jesus will tend to aspire for more and more, this is the bondage of greed. There's no happiness. In her case, she can even testify that God has "thrown open the floodgates of heaven and poured out so much blessing that she does not have room enough for it."

I pray that you and I may also become a walking blessing. Let's make His river flow to all corners and cracks of the earth!

*Name replaced.


  1. Hello Mitzi,

    I love this entry. I am looking for guest writers who can contribute inspiring stories like this.

    Thank you for sharing your learnings to the world.

    Jef Menguin