opinion

Family unity is at the heart of Christmas

November 22, 2019

Working over the holidays is a fact of life for most entrepreneurs and their active family members. And with that reality comes the stress of business and family vying for your attention. What can you do to find a happy balance at holiday time? As a business leader how do you manage emotions as a result of so many factors.       Emotions cannot be avoided and can aggravate conflict in the family and business. I am also aware just how much of a burden entrepreneurship can take on the active family members. Understandably, December is a time when many family businesses begin closing the annual books - and family members who had all year to dream about hefty dividends often get disappointed when they realized to their dismay the numbers do not add up.  Dividend Sharing can be a Major Source of Conflict      Stress due to expectations of a bigger dividend share and discovering that the value is smaller can easily be a source of tension. Especially when you worked so hard and the sharing is equal among working family members.       In my coaching work all over Asia, I have learned over many years of advising family owned enterprises that there are several effective strategies you can use to take the pressure off and I’m happy to share them below to serve as a guide for every family member wishing that the holiday season can be a wonderful occasion to finally bring peace and unity within the family.  No. 1 Family Unity above Self      For starters, every family member must look at the big picture and be reminded that family unity must be the overarching value over ANYTHING! Those who feel aggrieved must never forget that whatever hurts they are going through must give way to a mindset that espouses stewardship and a vision of a happy, secure future for all family members.  No. 2 Create a Growth Vision to Inspire the Next Gen      The key is if you want your family to understand stewardship and unity, you have to have some open, honest discussions about the future. I am in Singapore now and a couple of families from other countries flew here to meet me precisely to reinforce the importance of family unity and vision. When there is family unity, harmony follows. When there is a powerful vision, growth naturally follows.      On top of a governance compass that we crafted two years ago, we also created a succession process on how to transition the successful business to the next generation set of leaders comprising five adult children. No. 3 There is No Success without Succession      Succession can be a complex event but when there is ample time to prepare, the transition and wealth transfer phase can be a wonderful and joyous event for the family.  To quote Montxu Aboitiz, a 4th generation member President and CEO of listed firm Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV):      “We have passed the baton down seven times since the company’s beginnings in 1889. Sustainability is key in the company and that AEV has always taken very seriously the capability to pass the company down generation to generation.”      The 130 year-old Aboitiz family runs one of the largest and oldest conglomerates in the Philippines. They have a constitution to ensure the sustainability of its wide range of businesses and have strictly followed family governance rules that is why they continue to reap the benefits of a successful business generation after generation.        To be continued...       esoriano@wongadvisory.com

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Polytechnic University update

November 22, 2019

Dear Students, Colleagues and Alumni The PolyU campus has been occupied by activists and has been severely and extensively vandalised over the past few days. The unlawful activities and acts of violence inside the campus and in its vicinity have been escalating, including damage to a number of laboratories on campus with the dangerous chemicals inside being taken away.      All classes have been forced to be suspended and all operations on the campus have been halted. The University is gravely concerned that the spiralling radical illicit activities will cause not only a tremendous safety threat on campus, but also class suspension over an indefinite period of time.      Once again, we plead with all people on campus, including students and staff members, to leave immediately.      We understand that our students are very concerned about the current social issues. However, in striving for one’s goal, one must always act with calmness and rationality.      Using violence or other radical means will not resolve problems, and instead it will cause a breach of the peace in our society, as well as traffic disruption. PolyU is the second home for our students, teachers and alumni, who have put painstaking efforts into building it up with the generous support from the community over the past eight decades.      We are all heart-broken and in deep distress to witness the severe devastation of this home. We believe that most of the alumni, staff and students of the PolyU, as well as their relatives and friends, are deeply saddened to see the campus and the nearby areas completely wrecked, the traffic disrupted, and the University indefinitely closed.      They are concerned about the safety on the campus, and they do not want to see the campus being destroyed further. We sincerely urge our students to stand together with us in cherishing and guarding themselves as well as this campus that we call home.      We appeal again for all to stay calm and rational and say “No” to violence. Do not engage in any violent or unlawful activities. In this moment of utmost risk, stay away from any danger and always be vigilant in protecting yourselves to relieve our, as well as your friends’ and relatives’ worries about you.      We have called on Deans, Department Heads and teachers to persuade our students to leave the campus as soon as possible. We also appeal to the parents and friends of the students to make efforts in doing likewise.      Universities are venues for advancing knowledge and nurturing talents. Universities are not battlegrounds for political disputes and should not be drawn into violent confrontations. PolyU strongly condemns the occupation of the campus by the people who commit acts of violence and demands that they leave immediately.      In this difficult time, we again call on all parties in society to maintain calm and restraint. We also plead with the members of PolyU to stand together. With our concerted efforts, we hope the campus can return to peace and tranquillity soon, and the impasse and turbulence in the society will come to an end.      Best regards,      Dr LAM Tai-Fai, Council Chairman      Professor Jin-Guang TENG, President      Professor Philip C. H. CHAN, Deputy President and Provost      Dr Miranda LOU, Executive Vice President      Mr Andy TONG, Vice President (Campus Development and Facilities)      Ir Professor Alex WAI, Vice President (Research Development)      Ir Professor Ben YOUNG, Vice President (Student Affairs)      Professor S. L. HO, Associate Vice President (Academic Support)      Professor Chetwyn CHAN, Associate Vice President (Learning and Teaching)      Professor Guohua CHEN, Associate Vice President (Research Support)      Professor K. Y. WONG, Associate Vice President (Research Support)      Professor Daniel T. L. SHEK, Associate Vice President (Undergraduate Programme)      Professor WONG Wing-tak, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Textiles      Ir Professor T. C. Edwin CHENG, Dean of the Faculty of Business      Ir Professor Y. L. XU, Dean of the Faculty of Construction and Environment      Ir Professor H. C. MAN, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering      Prof. David SHUM, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences      Professor LI Ping, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities      Professor K. P. LEE, Dean of the School of Design      Professor Kaye CHON, Dean of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management      Professor Esmond MOK, Dean of Students

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I AM FEELING SO BORED!

November 8, 2019

Many of us shy away from boredom, but it’s actually very good for creativity. Many of us lead incredibly busy lives, constantly hopping from one task to the next, and when we’re blessed with a little bit of downtime, we pick up our phones, and scroll the boredom away. But is that the best way use of our time? Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK says boredom is an essential part of the creative process and should be applied to our day-to-day lives. While being a columnist of "Tinig ng Bayan" (published in Abra) during the 1980s, I remember our Taiwanese coordinator Cristina Lising-Geronga, who expressed herself in innumerable write ups about the topic loneliness. Sure, "Tinig ng Bayan" has been a publication or Filipinos abroad. Loneliness, borne by Filipinos living abroad while missing their families in the Philippines became a very "normal" expression. During that time, my Philippine mentor, the late Monsignor Professor Dr. Dr. Hermogenes E. Bacareza, Chaplain of the Philippine Community in Berlin, started together with me publishing "Ang Mabuhay". Believe me, "loneliness" became a main topic in many write-ups. Nowadays, loneliness and boredom seem to be the splitting image of each other - so to speak being as like as two peas in a pod. While browsing in social networks like Facebook, one can find more and more comments as in "When Boredom Strikes" or so. Boredom, ending up in loneliness - or vice versus? How comes that loneliness and/or boredom are still a general topics in our today's society? Loneliness has been called one of the main diseases even during the last century. It really doesn't strike not only the Filipinos abroad and their love ones back home. Too often loneliness is being followed by alcoholism, drug abuse and even suicide. Yes, loneliness becomes a modern day plague.  I observed several people trying to surround themselves with so-called "friends" only to find that such relationships are often shallow and unsatisfying. Loneliness can be painful but being lonely or alone at that is not always a bad thing. Ask yourself, how do  you use your time, if you are really alone? Do you simply let the time pass without doing anything  at all? Why not use such time productively? There are many worthwhile activities to engage in, even if you are alone, such as reading, writing, listen to good (light) music, play an (forgotten?) instrument, gardening... . Reading the bible can be also very particularly beneficial.  The Word of God is "alive and exerts power" and can take our minds off ourselves. To break the cycle of loneliness, one must be a giver. Let's keep an eye, not only and always on our personal interests but also on the interests others. Look around and watch out who needs help, or who needs a real friend or good listener. Once you have spotted such a person, act! Thus, in order to have friends, you must act like a friend. Luke 6:38 says, "Give to others, and God will give to you!" Besides, "There is more happiness (and less loneliness) in giving then receiving", says Acts 20:35. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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Marrying Money: The In-Law Dilemma

November 4, 2019

I was once asked in a TV interview anchored by Michelle Ong of ANC (ABSCBN) what my thoughts were in recommending in-laws to work in the family business and my quick response was straightforward, “If family owning businesses can afford professionals, there is absolutely no need to hire in-laws!”      In my years of doing consulting work for my firm, Wong + Bernstein Family Advisory, one significant variable in family enterprises is the effect that in-laws have on family owning businesses. They can either be a positive contributor or can be a huge burden to the family and the business. And I have encountered dozens of family businesses threatened and impaired by the actions of in-laws.      Business owners must realize that they will never know who their children will choose as partners.  Not even the most controlling family business owner can determine his children’s final choices. So no matter how you look at in-laws, they will always play a huge role in the way your children will manage the business and the family especially when you are no longer around.      But while you are still at the helm, owners must recognize that unity, governance, wealth transition and legacy building efforts should always be in place before proceeding with your plan in bringing in-laws to the business.      In Asia, hiring in-laws is correlated to culture and necessity. For start-up businesses where resources are limited, in-laws are usually relied upon to help in the business and fill the void. Their engagement is significant as they not only play a pivotal role in the growth of the business but they end up becoming a natural extension of the founder’s trust. In a latter’s circle of trusted people in the organization, in-laws are classified as part of the “cheap labor” pool of relatives and friends.      However, problems generally surface when the business transitions from a mom and pop venture to a bigger and complex organization. Despite the transition, the owners often disregard the importance of establishing rules and policies related to in-law entry.      For Dr. Steven Berglas, management consultant, faculty of Harvard Medical School and author of “The Success Syndrome”, he asserted that “hiring in-laws into the family business can be a “kiss of death”. The reason?  They become too familiar to the point that they believe the business is their own.   They then proceed to prove their value to the company by changing the way it’s run.”      To help the family weigh in on the pros and cons of hiring in laws, I am enumerating issues and concerns that every owner must consider as he or she navigates the perilous journey of balancing family and business with in-laws:      1.    Should the in law be subjected to the same treatment as family members or should they be treated differently?      2.    How do you compensate In-laws working in the family business?      3.    Will they have the same benefits as any ordinary non family professional? Or have perks similar to that of the children?      4.    Will they be made to sign an employment contract and be subjected to the same performance metrics?      5.    What are the consequences for an underperforming in-law? Can he or she be suspended or terminated?      I have warned dozens of owners about the potential risk that exists when they carelessly and hastily employ in-laws minus entry rules and policies. It is not only unfair to the in law but a selfish act committed by the business owner which if left unmanaged can cause serious implications.      esoriano@wongadvisory.com

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'Where he's coming from'

November 4, 2019

A popular consideration that many people nowadays make when they try to understand someone who has a different view from theirs is to try to figure out “where that person is coming from.” I hear that expression very often these days. It’s a laudable gesture that is meant to keep a meaningful dialog with others.      Of course, the expression, “where he’s coming from,” is a reminder of the basic principle that a person sees, understands and reacts to things according to the way he is. An old Latin adage already expresses this phenomenon. “Operare sequitur esse.” Action follows being. One behaves the way he is.      If that person is male or female, rich or poor, a socialite or a farm worker, a liberal or a conservative, a racist or a feminist, etc., these conditions are somehow reflected in his views and his over-all actuations. In other words, we all have our biases and preferences. Some can be valid and legitimate. But others may not. It is the latter that we have to be most careful about.      To see where one is coming from is, of course, a very logical consideration to make. But then again, we do not work by logic alone, since we can also be very logical in our error.      Logic does not go the distance. We need to go metaphysical, considering things way beyond the many conditionings that describe person. We have to go to the original and the ultimate objective truth about ourselves and about where we come from before the conditionings add their trappings on it.      And this original and ultimate truth about where we come from is that we all come from God. All creatures, of course, come from God, but in our case, we come from him in a very intimate way since we are created in his image and likeness, meant to share the very life of God.      We just did not come from our parents. We are not merely biological creatures. We are not simply products of our social and historico-cultural environment. We also are spiritual creatures who are very intimately linked to our Creator God. We are not merely the image and likeness of our parents. We, first of all, are the image and likeness of God.      While it’s true and correct to consider the personal, social, cultural background, etc. of a person to know where he is coming from when he expresses his views, we should not neglect the most basic consideration of the truth that we all come from God.      We are supposed to be God’s image and likeness, reflecting in ourselves as much as possible God’s goodness, love, mercy, wisdom, etc. In our dealings with others, in our discussions and exchanges, we should not forget that we all are children of God, we all are brothers and sisters, meant to love one another as Christ has loved us. (cfr. Jn 13,34)      As a consequence, we have to learn how to see the image and likeness of God in everyone, no matter how unlovable a person is to us. And also, we have to remind ourselves, that in spite of our personal idiosyncracies and peculiarities, we are also the image and likeness of God who are meant to see, understand and react to things the way God sees, understands and reacts to them.      For this, we have to look closely at the teaching and example of Christ who is the fullness of the revelation of God. He is “the way, the truth and the life” for us. We are patterned after him and we have to follow him to be what we ought to be.      And Christ makes himself alive in us through his word and the sacraments. Thus we cannot overemphasize the need to study the gospel, the catechism, etc., and to have recourse to the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, to figure out where everyone is coming from.

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NOT ONLY LOVE IS IN THE AIR...

October 17, 2019

While I was staying in Manila for a couple of days, I experienced it 24/7.  Getting into a traffic jam is every driver's nightmare. Endless minutes (or worse: hours) in which nothing's moving forward can turn what should be a short car-ride into a seemingly never-ending odyssey. But congested streets aren't just annoying for commuters — they have far-reaching consequences. But not only in Manila. Europe's environmental watchdog has warned that city dwellers in Europe are at risk of life-threatening air pollution. The report recommends EU countries take rapid action such as decreasing the number of cars in cities.      Poor air quality caused 412,000 premature deaths in Europe in 2016, the most recent year data is available, according to an EU report released on Wednesday. Meanwhile is it 2019. Sixteen of the EU's 28 member states reported at least one case of unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide that surpass legal EU limits. Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain were all found to have unsafe levels of the gas that's among the major vehicle emissions. The report recommends European countries reduce the number of cars to lower nitrogen dioxide levels — and therefore air pollution. An air quality expert at the European Environmental Agency and author of the study, Alberto Gonzales Ortiz, warned that air pollution is "currently the most important environmental risk to human health." The report referred to World Health Organization (WHO) figures that found heart disease and stroke were the most common reasons for premature death due to air pollution, followed by lung disease and lung cancer. The study also found that certain groups including children, the elderly, pregnant women and people living close to roads and industrial areas were more vulnerable to its effects. While the level of dangerous particles in European cities was dropping, Ortiz said it was not falling fast enough. In line with EU law, member states are required to examine the level of a range of pollutants and take action if pollutants, such as ozone matter, exceed healthy levels. As we all know: cities across the whole world pledge air pollution changes, but are they ready? Over 30 mayors from across the globe have pledged to deliver clean air for the 140 million people living in their cities. Delivering clean air on such a scale will take both ambitious targets and concrete action.  Believed to cause 7 million premature deaths every year, air pollution is increasingly recognized as a silent public health emergency. Quoting British journalist Holly Young, "It's perhaps the most explicit illustration of how closely intertwined our health is to the state of our environment. Its particles have been found in human hearts and brains. It has been linked to asthma, Alzheimers, dementia, cancer, and stroke as well as mental health issues and miscarriage".  Despite its known damage, over 90% of people around the world still breathe dirty air. The Clean Air Cities Declaration announced at the World Mayors Summit this month in Copenhagen is a notable attempt to move the dial in tackling the issue. Held by C40, a network of over 90 cities dedicated to tackling climate change, 35 mayors and pledged to deliver clean air for the 140 million citizens in their cities. The declaration highlights that the air pollution crisis is one "rooted in social injustice," due to the way it typically hits the poorest and most vulnerable communities hardest. According to WHO it is low- and middle-income countries that suffer the biggest burden from air pollution. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebool, Linkedin or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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