Max’s Restaurant’s has gone a long way since it was established in 1945 right after the end of World War II after it opened its first restaurant at 21 Scout Tuazon, Brgy. Laging Handa, Quezon City.
Over the years, the popularity of Max’s has spread not only in the country but overseas as well. It has opened a branch in California and other places in the United States. Furthermore, the restaurant that is popularly known as “the house that fried chicken built” has also started operating in Canada. Plans to open other restaurants in other countries are in the pipeline.
At present, Max’s Restaurant currently has over 127 branches in the Philippines. The chain also has branches in the U.S. states of California, Hawaii, New Jersey and a Nevada branch soon to open. It has 2 locations in Canada in Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia with a new location in Edmonton, Alberta opening soon. In 2015 Max’s opened branches in: Sydney, Australia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Queens, New York.
Indeed, Max’s Restaurant is an iconic brand in the country. To continue the tradition of excellence in entrepreneurship, the second and third generations of the family continue to introduce dynamic leadership and innovation to continue carrying the standards and traditions set by Maximo Gimenez and Ruby Trota to the brand. As part of its innovative leadership, the management opened its doors to franchising in the second quarter of 1998.
Through the years, the company led by the young turks also went on a expansion mode as it acquired one brand after another. The company, as Max’s Group, currently operates Max’s, Pancake House, Dencio’s, Kabisera, Teriyaki Boy, Sizzlin’ Pepper Steak, Le Coeur De France, Maple, Yellow Cab, Krispy Kreme, Jamba Juice, and Singkit. The Max’s brand continues to embark on a global expansion. The Max’s Group, Inc. (MGI) will introduce the Yellow Cab pizza brand in China this year.
Based on Euromonitor International data, China’s pizza market has the potential to become a $2 billion industry (equal to 1.6 percent of the $125-billion global market) in 2012. The research firm added this was a huge leap when the market for about $822 million of a $111.2 billion world market. MGI formed a partnership with JuYangYiTong of the Zhongfa Group to help in pushing the Yellow Cab in the Chinese market. It plans to build at least 15 Yellow Cab Pizza stores in China within the next five years.
“We are thrilled with the opportunity of bringing our pizza to Beijing, Tianjin and parts of Hebei province. We share the excitement with our partner, JuYangYiTong of the Zhongfa Group, to serve our food offerings to the Chinese,” said Max’s Group President and CEO, Robert F. Trota. “This partnership is reflective of the strong interest in our brands. We were able to surpass targets in terms of signing up new territories abroad in 2015 and we aim to sustain this momentum in 2016.”
“We are delighted to choose Yellow Cab Pizza as our first venture with the MGI Group. Yellow Cab Pizza has everything that China’s discerning customers are looking for—quality, service and ambiance, “ said Zhongfa Group CEO Guiping Wang.
A life outside the Philippines seems the only way for the Salimbangons to have a comfortable life – well paying jobs for IT manager Elton and registered nurse Cathy to save a lot for the family. Opportunities abound, but their status in U.S. was unsettling – they were working professionals, but not citizens in these countries. “We had working papers but we got tired of renewing it because it was tedious and very expensive (on their status in U.S.),” says the couple.
That’s when they decided to come back to the Philippines in 2008 and finally settle. “We thought it was a sign to come home,” say Elton and Cathy, who worked in both countries for nine years, raised three kids and worked hard for the family. “From the income we earned, we only spent one-fourth for living expenses and the rest were kept as savings.” So Cathy came home with the kids with their savings, then Elton followed after six months.
The Salimbangons are frugal, who until now live simply with only a small portion of their earnings spent on food, education of the three children and health of the family. They live a life on things essential like education – their two daughters are back in Canada, studying college while one son is here – and health, which they believe is the only wealth in the world that they could share with others. Indeed, in 2009 they founded The Organique, the company which is into health and wellness, giving consumers products like Organique Acai Premium Blend, imported from the U.S. and now one of top-selling health supplements in the country.
Cathy, who used to be a nurse in a home for the elderly back in the U.S. and Canada, serves as vice president for marketing. “We want people to have high quality of life by having a healthy lifestyle,” she says. “We want them to feel good and look forward to taking Organique Acai Premium Blend every day.”
Elton, who at that time worked as an IT manager in one of the few Nutraceutical Manufacturing Companies in California, says being healthy these days doesn’t have to be like swallowing a bitter pill. “It could be both healthy and delicious – a pleasant experience,” he says. He first came to know the health benefits of Acai (pronounced ah-sah-ee) berry on a popular U.S. TV program THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW. That time Acai berry was becoming popular in the U.S. as an energy booster and a weight loss drink. He thought, “Why is this only available in US? Why not also in the Philippines? I could do that…. He then sought the help of Food Scientist from the company’s R&D department to come up with what is now known as the Organique Acai Premium Blend. At first it was hit and miss, but when he decided to have his kids taste tested it, it worked.
Today, after seven years in the country, more and more people are taking Organique for its health benefits, not only those who are sick but also healthy ones. Because it boosts energy, preparing a person to do many activities in a day. Its rich content of antioxidants protects the heart and the whole body, increasing its immunity against diseases and improving blood circulation. Organique also contains phytonutrients, amino acids, minerals and omega fatty oils for overall health. It is 100 percent pure and natural, without additives and preservatives. It also helps promote lower cholesterol and blood pressure and lessen the risk of cancer.
A life-long advocacy
Improving people’s health by giving them one of the most nutritious food on earth has become a life-long advocacy of Elton and Cathy. As Organique helps people extend their lives by preventing sickness and keeping healthy, they are also sharing life’s greatest wealth – health. Although it took them years of struggle to get to where they are now, they believe it is their commitment to natural and healthy living that sustains them.
The first three years of the business were difficult. Elton and Cathy say they were always short of funds because the companies which helped distribute Organique usually paid them after three months to six months. Every day was a decision between quitting and continuing the business. “Often we thought of quitting, but we never quit because of our faith in God,” they say. There was a time that when they had only P2,000 left in their bank account, but they didn’t quit, instead they persevered. They knew what were doing was right, and finding the right partners was crucial to the business.
Theirs is family-owned corporation which has now 25 employees, mostly in sales and marketing. It is led and managed by the couple – Elton as president and Cathy as vice president. “I take care of the small things while Elton takes care of big ideas. Together we complement,” says Cathy. “And we treat our employees as family.” The everyday demands of sales and marketing require hands-on focus on details by Cathy while the major decisions go into the hands of Elton.
The life of Elton and Cathy has been seeking for good opportunities, whether abroad or here, and making the most of them for their family. Still the family is the priority like the children’s education and the family’s health. Today, they have greater responsibility – a family-owned business promoting a natural way of life to attain health, and Organique Acai Premium Blend is their first contribution to people’s health, and more to come in the future.
Almost everybody loves ice cream. As dessert or snacks, ice cream lifts up someone’s spirits amid life’s dragging existence. For only P10, a schoolgirl, a teenage boy or a working woman takes a break in a street corner, near a school or in a building’s lobby, then moves on. This little truth has inspired Victorino “Vic” Isidro Perea to sell ice cream called Mr. Softy in a public market in Marikina. It is soft served ice cream – easily done by an ice cream maker and served in a cone or a cup because it is not too thick – that Vic sells.
After staying in the U.S. for two years, Vic returned to the Philippines in 2000 with his American experience, a second-hand ice cream maker which he got for $4,000 and started doing business. He knows how to sell ice cream because he was once the sales manager of Presto ice cream. “My experience in Presto ice cream inspired me a lot to pursue the business,” he says.
Starting with one employee in his first store in Marikina, Vic now has almost a hundred people and 71 stores involved in the family-owned Mr. Softy Ice Cream, Inc., the pioneer and leading ice cream company in the Philippines today. “We treat our employees fairly and establish a good relationship with them. Also, we always see to it that dealing with our suppliers and customers is always fun and professional,” he says.
The ice cream family
Vic, who serves as president and CEO, is proud of his ice cream business, a family business which he runs with his entire family. “Our family operates our business professionally and harmoniously. Everyone has a role contribution of their own. I see to it that the company is going to one direction,” he says.
His wife, Dr. Marinella Perea, is the executive vice president and treasurer. “My eldest son Vinson handles marketing and sales, my second son Vernon is in-charge of operations and my third son Virgo is responsible for new concepts. My only daughter Catherine Ann takes care of events and new products,” he says.
That’s teamwork, which makes Vic and his family work together harmoniously. Tempered with discipline and powered by hard work, the family ice cream business thrives and shares its success to other entrepreneurs by offering a franchising opportunity to those who want to venture into business.
For P445,000, an entrepreneur can have his own franchised Mr. Softy. The amount covers an ice cream machine, a standard cart, a franchise fee, a security deposit and initial supplies. Mr. Softy ice cream offers at least seven varieties served in a wafer or Belgian cone or in a cup, plain or coated with chocolate, strawberry or banana or sprinkled with chocolates and candies.
Although the company is led and managed well by the family, Vic says they plan to hire professionals this 2016. “We, the owners, will be on the sideline and let these professionals run the show. We really need changes, because after 15 years of operation, we feel that there’s more to explore,” he says.
For example, the company plans to expand outside the Philippines which requires enormous preparation, both professionally and financially. It has been consulting with a family business coach in professionalizing the organization by having a succession plan which identifies who will follow the founder and a family constitution which contains the company’s core values and principles.
Vic says this is all for the continuity of the family business that he and his family have nurtured through the years, giving Filipinos a delightful break by having Mr. Softy ice cream.
Mr. Softy ice cream also seeks strategic alliances with SM, Robinsons and other major malls in the Philippines and sustains its market leadership through intensified research and development.
The pleasure Mr. Softy ice cream gives to consumers may be fleeting, but the joy to the owners drives them to continue the business, even professionalize and expand it. They want the business to continue as long as their Mr. Softy gives happiness to everyone.
Life’s meaning is sometimes elusive; you seek it but you cannot find it. But, at times, you chance upon its meaning accidentally. It was the fate of Salvador “Buddy” Silva Jr. III that he found meaning after his father died from a car crash. Grieving had pushed him not to despair but to inspiration. A logistics expert, Buddy thought of a system that will help people how to drive on the road safely and efficiently. With a team of software engineers, he created a total logistics control system that will track a company’s assets – its people and vehicles.
“If we devote all our passion and creative minds on how we can standardize safety in every corner, straight or curved streets in highways, we can save more lives and help our community, country and perhaps, the world to avoid such destructive loss of loved ones brought by a sudden and tragic death from a vehicular accident,” he says.
Losing his father led Buddy to find a solution that would help companies monitor people on the road, their exact location, their directions and other vehicles. His system called Safesat GPS tracking system – which he now shares with companies – ensures the safety of people and vehicles by tracking their whereabouts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With its vibration sensor and accelerometer, Safesat can inform the motorist if he overspeeds, hits the brakes or accelerates harshly, also if there’s fuel theft and change of route. This helps the motorist drive safely and lessens fuel consumption, resulting in increased productivity and savings.
“I realized that technology is all about sharing and breaking the boundaries of control. Imagine the world if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak decided to keep to themselves the PC (personal computer) they first created. It was in 2012 when we decided to form a corporation to share our technology,” he says.
With their company, Satellite GPS Tracking and Asset Management Corp., Buddy and his team of the software engineers redesigned and recreated the system’s whole architecture and infrastructure as software. They later integrated it with more systems so it can be used as a software platform with the help of the Internet, personal computers and smartphones.
Leading with a purpose
Buddy believes the purpose of business is greater than earning big bucks. It is to make life safe and simple despite the risks. As Safesat’s CEO and managing director, he runs the technology business with his team of more than 20 software engineers from only five when he began three years ago. “I see myself as a father to my employees. I instill in them principles, core values and a greater sense of purpose,” he says. Safesat is an organization of people with different views and perspectives, making sure they have the same understanding and views about the company’s vision and goals.
Running a technology business is keeping the group together, mixing their chemistry and motivating them when they are exhausted to resolve errors, he says. “My past experience as a networker of more than 4,000 people from all walks of life, plus my understanding of their behavior, psychology, personality and needs makes me the complete managing director to run a tech team,” he says.
He owns three other firms, Complete Logistic Control Inc., Total SoftTech Solutions, Inc. and Philfast Global Forwarding, Inc., where he is the CEO and president. He employs more than 100 people and operates a fleet of more than 60 delivery trucks servicing Luzon, Panay and Negros.
At present, Safesat is concerned about efficiency and effectiveness of his team of 20 engineers, which is doing the job of over 30 engineers. “We are a start-up so we are trying to maximize our output to keep our cost, but eventually we will be expanding once we finalize our investors’ agreement,” he says.
Buddy is responsible for the management of all departments and concerns of clients and stockholders. “I see myself as the leader of our vision and beliefs. I decide on product design and direction,” he says. He adds that his partner and buddy Angelo Kaufmann takes care of the technical design and implementation while Professor Eric Soriano handles marketing, sales and strategy. He is also being helped by his siblings and in-laws and his wife. “My siblings and in laws are my primary investors while my wife is my CFO (chief finance officer),” he says.
Changing the mindset
Right now, the challenge of any start-up business is looking for funds. “We need capital. We also need to maximize our output,” he says. He laments that some investors cannot yet understand the shift of intangible assets like talents of individuals to physical assets when they evaluate investments.
“For me, the most powerful asset is creative innovation with proprietary claim as this is not subject for taxes, devaluation or destruction. It will take a few companies to leap and prove the results that will change the mindset of investors,” he says.
Today, times are different when the consumer has become more powerful, especially with the PC revolution, the Internet connectivity and the smartphone. “I want to share in order to lead and influence but not to dominate and force everyone to adjust,” he says.
Buddy wants to make life simple despite its uncertainties. He has been sharing his Safesat GPS technology with companies to ensure the safety of its assets and help them save. This makes his life meaningful for himself and for others. At last, his search for life’s meaning has led him to pursue something greater and more challenging, and the tragic death of his father will not be for naught.
From making clothes for people to providing chilled beef to meat shops, Mario Tan Ong has turned a family-owned business alive and mooing.
In 2006, Tan Ong, president of D’Meter Fields Corp., started by selling fattened backyard grown cattle, and he has been slaughtering and selling them as chilled beef carcasses to meat shops since 2008.
The company holds office in Quezon City and has a 20-hectare farm in San Simon, Pampanga, where Tan Ong fattens nearly 3,000 heads of imported cattle per quarter.
Tan Ong said their cattle are imported from Australia “where they have more consistent quality compared to the local backyard cattle we see when we travel across the country.”
D’Meter Fields Corp., which initially employed 50 people, ventured into building its own abattoir, complete with cold chains facilities, bringing the total number of employees to over 150.
“Our relationship with our employees is excellent. Suppliers and customers are like partners to us,” he said. “Both our employees and the people we consider as partners trust us, and in return, we make sure we are worthy of that trust.”
Tan Ong has been providing the country’s major meat shops with chilled beef carcasses, which are made into different unbranded prime cuts like short loin (for T-bone and porterhouse steaks), sirloin, ribeye and tenderloin. “We supply many of the major meat shop chains in Luzon,” he said.
“Most Filipinos want to see fresh beef carcasses hanging from hooks in meat shops and wet markets. They usually buy them warm or chilled beef—not frozen,” he said. “Usually, imported boxes of commercial grade meat are the frozen secondary cuts or trimmings used for manufacturing beef.”
Tan Ong is happy that his company has found a market even if most Filipinos prefer fresh chilled chicken and pork. “Most Filipinos still find beef to be expensive, but there are still beef lovers,” he said.
One kilogram of prime cut beef retails for P300 to P800—depending on the cut—while chicken retails from P115 P130 a kilo and pork from P180 to P250 a kilo.
Quotas were used as trade protection for Philippine-made garments when Tan Ong was in the garments business.
Surprisingly, his family business grew right after the lifting of US quotas. But soon after, the appreciation of the peso due to the weakening of the US economy made him think that they needed to diversify.
Initially, the 20-hectare farm was intended for the relocation of the garments facility to improve its competitiveness, but he felt that the garment industry would soon collapse.
Needing to make good use of the property, he raised cattle and fattened them before selling them as beef carcasses to meat shops.
Tan Ong said he ventured into this business because there was room for improvement and innovation. “Since I was the new kid on the block, I wasn’t constrained by the conventional wisdom in the field, and therefore I would think outside the box and do the unexpected. After studying the numbers, I concluded the potential gain outweighed the risk,” he said.
But soon Tan Ong experienced a number of problems in his new business like supply, cost and consistent quality of the fodder. “Everything happens when you start from zero experience. Your mistakes are your tuition, but it’s well worth the price.”
He said like any good businessman, he had faced these problems by investing in research and development for he must know the business and understand it well.
But there are other important investments which Tan Ong must put in the business – the values of hard work, discipline, integrity and excellence.
So far, the company is doing well and the market is good. “The demand for and supply of beef carcasses have been consistent,” he said. “But market growth is rather slow.”
Family business first
Although Tan Ong is not yet like a “contented cow,” he wants to continue the family business.
He is currently professionalizing the organization and pursuing activities like drafting a constitution to guide both the company and the family. “We are making progress, and most family members are open-minded,” he said.
The family has been undergoing coaching on governance and leadership, as well as on relationships and succession. “There are many options right now, but the first step is choosing a successor,” he said.
Tan Ong, married and with a son, is the third child in a Chinese family of six siblings. He manages the cattle business with his family and siblings. His son, although with a business of his own, still develops the software for the IT infrastructure of the business which his wife manages.
“We didn’t inherit this. My two sisters, my wife and I decided to stay together and diversify into this business,” he said.
“Right now, we’re hands on, but we intend to transition from micro to macro,” he said, adding that they must rely first on themselves.
“We’re doing everything we can to make the company a place worthy of attention of outsiders,” he said. “We wanted to gain first-hand knowledge of the trade before bringing anyone in.”
He is happy with their present customers, who trust their high quality meat. And as long as there are Filipinos craving for beef, Mario Tan Ong’s family business will continue growing.