Category Archives: Career Stories

On Making the Big Switch

(Originally published on July 17,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

If you’ve been thinking of shifting careers for some time now, purchasing a small (or big!) business franchise is a great way to go

By Tricia V. Morente


With entrepreneurship driving a huge chunk of the economy’s growth these days, more and more people are suddenly finding the merits of putting up one’s own business over working as an employee in the corporate world.

For some, this life-changing decision happens in their 40s—an important time for people to reflect on their careers and whether or not they still want to stay on the same course, or make a change. Such is the case of Atty. Ann Cabochan, a Binalot franchisee and the director of the Bureau of International Trade Relations of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). “I’ve always thought of myself as a professional lawyer and not an entrepreneur,” begins Cabochan, “but when my husband constructed a building with commercial spaces and eventually asked me to run it, I got to experience managing a small business. It was like a natural progression of events and things just falling into place—and suddenly I realized I was ready to manage a new venture.”

With very little experience in business to speak of, Cabochan and her husband decided that franchising a food business was the best bet for their success. So began their experience with growing their own Binalot branch—one of the most successful franchises in the country today.

Why Franchise?

The beauty about starting a franchise business is that you are in business for yourself, but not by yourself. Buying a franchise can be a rewarding business decision, and is the perfect option for someone who wants to enter the business world without the risks that come with starting one’s own business.

Creating a business operations model from scratch, and then implementing it through trial and error can be very time consuming and unproductive. But franchises have business models that are already developed and ready to be utilized. Binalot, for one, already has its fair share of success, which is why owner Rommel Juan is looking to expand into other areas by selling the Binalot brand and concept to franchisees.

Unlike the Cabochans, former collection officer Irell G. Perez already knew that he wanted to run his own business. He just wasn’t ready yet. “When I first started my own business, I wasn’t totally prepared and ready. I didn’t feel confident enough to go out on my own,” shares Perez, “so I thought that the most practical option was for me to look for a franchise that has the expertise and equipment, and can guide me in running a business.”

There are certainly lone wolf entrepreneurs who can go at it alone and do just fine. But for most newbie business owners and career-shifters, franchising not only gives them the technical assistance and troubleshooting support, it also provides the opportunity to communicate with other owners to learn best practices and exchange ideas.

It’s exactly what happened to Binalot Alphaland Southgate franchisee Annalyn Sayat. Exhausted from working as an employee for a big company, Sayat wanted to be her own boss. But being a newbie in the business arena, Sayat says that she wanted to make sure that her investment would be spent wisely. “I didn’t have the technical know-how of running a business,” she admits, “especially with Human Resource and Accounting. It’s why I opted for a franchise that already has a solid system and structure.” Being with Binalot, she adds, helped her to be more analytical when it comes to her decision-making. “You get to talk to your fellow franchisees, and you get reliable advice because you’re in the same line of business.”

Choosing the right investment

Initiating a career change by purchasing a business franchise definitely has a lot of major benefits. But keep in mind that there is a downside to purchasing a franchise—and that’s if you choose the wrong one to buy. It is essential to conduct a comprehensive analysis of each option you are considering and identify the key weaknesses that may compromise your efforts down the road.

“You really have to do your own research about the company, their system, the location, everything,” advises Sayat. “You also have to do the math because everything will depend on that. And finally, give it your all and the rest is up to God,” she adds.

Choose a product that you truly believe in, adds Perez. “The reason I chose a food franchise was because I, for one, love to eat,” he says, “and when a friend told me about Binalot, I researched about their products, benefits, and read feedback from previous franchisees. Eventually, I decided to go with the company because I believed in the product, their expertise, and the opportunities they’ve provided for me to learn and grow their business.”

Don’t invest in a franchise with your eyes closed, injects Cabochan. “My husband noticed how brisk business was for one of the Binalot stores in theMakaticentral business district. He frequented the mall where it was located, coming at different hours of the day, and different days of the week. We ate a few times in the store, trying something different each time, and we were convinced that it was value for money.”

The moment you decide to invest in Binalot, or any franchise for that matter, choose to take an active role in running the business. “Undergo the same training for store supervisors just to familiarize yourself with the system and intricacies of the business,” advises Cabochan. “Take an active role especially at the start and be sure you have someone trustworthy to look after the store when you’re busy or abroad. And don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

At the end of the day, the success and sustainability of a new business venture—whether a franchise or not—will always be a result of the entrepreneur’s pro-active role in the enterprise. “Starting my own business made me realize that there is no limit to one’s potentials as long as you put your heart into it,” Cabochan shares. “I never thought I was capable of running a sustainable business, but luckily enough, I proved myself wrong.”


(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Shape Up or Ship Out: How to be Globally Relevant

Get hired/promoted/noticed—anywhere in the world—in five easy steps

By Nikki Constantino

(Originally published on Wednesday, July 6, 2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

Miranda*, 47, was on top of her game when news about the approval of her petition to migrate to the U.S. arrived. She was at executive officer level here in the Philippines, had a total of eight managers reporting directly to her, with a daily cup of coffee (black, two sugar) always waiting on her desk when she got to the office.

Settling down in New Jersey two months after the office despedida, it hit her that she was going to have a hard time finding work despite her stellar resume, when one morning she intended to make herself a cup of joe and realized she didn’t know how to work the coffeemaker. Without the managers doing her spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, and a secretary to sort out her schedule, she knew only how to fire e-mails in Outlook.

With the American economy still looking bleak, there was absolutely no company that would hire her—at least for the big decision-maker position that she was accustomed to. Three long months later, Miranda found a job delivering medicine samples from one department to another in a local pharmaceutical company.

Rachel*, 29, on the other hand, was a dean’s lister in college—lowest grade 1.5, a regular at the library. After graduation she quietly established a career in writing and later on editing manuscripts by sticking with her company where she is known for being consistent and dependable. When the recent economic downturn forced her company to downsize, she was spared, but it meant that the remaining employees had to take on more work—and go out of their comfort zone.

Rachel was tasked to make cold calls and sell their product abroad by phone apart from her usual editorial work, but without giving it a try, she decided she couldn’t do that new aspect of the job and called it quits after two weeks.

Globally Relevant

“Grow with your job and promotions,” says Susan M. Heathfield, a human resources expert, in an article published in “You may be a valued employee but if your skills and contributions don’t accelerate over the years, when crunch time arrives, you may find yourself out of a job.”

This is most probably what happened with Miranda—the higher up the ladder she went and the more people there were at her beck and call, the more out of touch she got with technology. She learned too late that operating such technology comprises the skills that headhunters look for at hiring.

With Rachel, however, it was her inability to adapt to change, be flexible, and challenge her skills that did her in. Had she tried making even just one call, she would have known that it was not at all difficult, and she could have held on to a job that many would kill for especially in these bad times.

So if graduating cum laude or having a master’s degree does little in enhancing one’s career in the open global workplace, what will? Letty Altavas, organization consultant for Profiles Asia Pacific and a 40-year veteran of human resources management, and career expert Dr. Greg Ketchum of Talent Planet (, list down five new skills that an employee nowadays should have or acquire in order to thrive and succeed:

1. “Develop analytical skills.”  “Don’t just follow instructions like a robot,” says Altavas. “Always think why, how, what, where, etc. This will make you understand your work better and improve your skills and outlook on other jobs.” This may also mean exceeding expectations.

2. “Get to learn about other jobs around you and develop multitasking skills,” says Altavas.  Such is the case of Josie*, whose job was to come up with the monthly newsletter that her company blasts out to clients, but the artist she was teamed with often flaked out and often left her resizing images and polishing the layout herself. She was forced to learn Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver due to the artist’s absences. When her boss learned that the newsletter had become solely her output, he let go of the artist and gave Josie a significant pay increase.

3. “Keep climbing the skills (note: not corporate) ladder,” says Dr. Ketchum. “Remember the idea of the corporate ladder and how everyone was expected to climb that ladder to ever-higher levels of responsibility and success?” he asks. “Well, that ladder is kind of broken now, but we can take that same idea to describe what people need to do today: keep climbing up the ladder in building your levels of expertise and experience that enable you to do more complicated and custom work rather than work that can be reduced to a routine.”

4. “Develop proficiency in the English language,” advises Altavas. Or any language that you need to be fluent in, especially when you work for a business process outsourcing (BPO) company and have an international clientele.

5. “Develop specialized expertise that can’t be reduced to a simple formula,” says Dr. Ketchum. “Improve your communication, business, industry, and strategy skills. Your ability to see the big picture at work and understand how business works will allow you to see new opportunities and be able to personally add to the bottom line.”

*names have been changed

This article appeared in the April 19, 2010 issue of Business Agenda and originally published in the February 2010 issue of HIPP Magazine.

ll rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Just How Much Personal Stuff at Work is Really Tolerable?

(Originally published on June 5,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Nikki Constantino


In work scenarios where Skype and Outlook are switched on side by side Facebook and Multiply, the line drawn between official and personal business is growing finer and finer.

Just exactly where does the buck stop—and where can certain activities be allowed?

“Anything that does not have to do with your work is personal,” says Czarina Teves, independent organizational development consultant and online career advice columnist for “The problem is when time is spent in favor of the personal, at company expense.” That explains why the landline is sometimes a personal effect.

It wasn’t so long ago when it was easy to define what “personal business” is: that quick trip to the bank, or to the nearby preschool to pick up your kid, but these days, the definition takes on a whole new meaning.

“Most companies make  reasonable allowances for personal business: calling your kid, texting your husband, calling your sick mother—as long as it does not affect the flow of real business,” says Teves.

According to the “Xylo Report: Shif ts in Work and Home Life Boundaries” (November 2000), “Seventy-five percent of employees who work outside the home take care of personal responsibilities while they are on the job at least once a month. Just over one-third of employees, 36 percent take care of personal responsibilities on a daily basis at work, spending an average of 1.35 hours per day on those personal tasks.”

What’s Okay and What’s Too Much?

“Go back to objectives,” suggests Teves, when asked how to tell what’s just right and what’s overboard when it comes to doing personal business at work. “Why are you at work? Why do you need to take that call now? Why do you need to answer that Facebook comment now? Anything that negatively impacts your productivity and on the company’s profitability is too much. Check your company’s rulebook. A lot of companies have strict rulesabout Web and Internet access. If it’s not in the rulebook, take a look around and see what the culture allows. But just because the culture allows it, however, does not mean it’s okay. It turns off customers to see people conducting their personal business on company time.

“If you’re the boss or the employer, you should model the behavior you expect from your staff or employees. You can’t expect them to be working seriously when you’re busy with your Blogspot or with Solitaire. It sends the message that the work does not deserve serious attention.”

‘But I’m Just Taking a Quick Break!’

Good for you if you really just want to rest your eyes from the strain caused by having to stare at tiny Excel grids for hours. Better if you have the discipline to actually give yourself a time limit: “I’ll just chat with my US-based friend for 10 minutes and go back to work.” Sadly, it is not for the weak of will.

“You can’t do two things at the same time with the same effectiveness,” says Teves. “The time you spend on your Yahoo account can’t be spent on preparing your call report—unless you live in two parallel universes, or have two minds and two sets of limbs.”

‘I can prove it. Facebook widens my network!’

“If it promotes productivity then it isn’t a distraction,” Teves supports. “For example, people who work in advertising agencies need to have as much exposure to multimedia resources as possible because you need to keep feeding the mind so you always have a fresh store of ideas. But there is a thin line between research and dawdling.

“Sure, Facebook is good for networking, but your network is only as good as what those people in the network could deliver.”


Top sites that eat up an employee’s time in the office

1. Facebook Though vital for networking in media-related companies (and sometimes an important tool, too, for keeping up to date with breaking news, like Twitter is), Facebook can be distracting. E-mail a friend, check. Send an instant message, check. Play Scrabble, check. Answer stupid quizzes, check. Feed a pet, check. Snoop into your boss’s personal life, check. Facebook all day and your company will have to fire you. Here’s your check.

2. Multiply The office is the perfect place to upload your 65 photos from last week’s beach trip because you’re on LAN and the Internet is doing 90 on the freeway, right? Wrong.

3. Yahoo Messenger Not really a site, but this feature allows you to connect with friends while looking like you’re actually working! No wonder they call it Yahoo! But look, unless you work for Yahoo, you don’t really need to spend so much time using that tool in the workplace.

4. Games are usually aired locally while our husbands are on their way to work, so the moment they turn on their office PCs, they log on to NBA where they can see/read about/watch the game they missed.


This article appeared on Business Agenda’s June 14, 2010 issue and abridged from HIPP Magazine July/Aug 2009 issue.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)


The New After-School Specials

You’re never too cool for school, especially if there’s something you’re itching to learn

(Originally published on June 1,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Anna Gamboa Gan

Most people believed that learning stopped after you left the four walls of your alma mater. Then people started believing that if you wanted to get ahead in your career, you had to invest in a master’s or doctorate. Now, people are waking up to the fact that with so many classes or courses around for one to get a taste of the arts, active pursuits or even broaden one’s mental horizons—5 p.m. can signal the start of a different type of after-work pursuit.

Not everyone is where they want to be, career-wise. But some of them carve out a measure of satisfaction by indulging in something they (wish to develop the skills or) have a talent for—be it stand-up comedy, hairstyling, painting or photography, cooking or perhaps filmmaking.

AyalaMuseum,Vargas Museum and places like My Little Art Studio are good places to start when you want to try your hand at painting or drawing, and it helps if your artist-teachers are as generous as Jason Moss, Lena Cobangbang or Electrolychee (a.k.a. the amazing tandem of Marcus Nada and Bernie Sim). Even former magazine editors can make a living during weekends by teaching photography workshops, as is the case with Winston Baltasar, who teaches classes on lighting, pre-nup and other forms of photography, and regularly posts class schedules on his Facebook account. With the various ways one can create a short film (cameraphone, digital camera, laptop) getting started in filmmaking, scriptwriting or animation is now as easy as signing up for a lecture or short course at Ateneo de Manila, Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street, or browsing the classes offered at And the teachers are respected industry pros, from Lyle Sacris, Emman dela Cruz, Paolo Villaluna and Raymond Lee.

If reading subtitles isn’t your cup of tea, sign up for a language course at Instituto Cervantes, Goethe Institut, Alliance Francaise de Manille, or even Berlitz. Those who prefer less cerebral pursuits can sign up for running clinics at ROX, boxing at Elorde’s, dance classes at Studio 116 or Steps in Makati City, or Google for the nearest dance studio (believe it or not the Julie Borromeo studio is alive and well in the Wack-Wack area, a testament to the enduring appeal of the terpsichorean arts). As for those who want a little more practical application, there’s always Krav Magaclasses (and tai chi, wushu, arnis/kalima/escrima for those who may not be attracted to taekwondo or karate) inSan Juan.

Those who seek the middle way can look up a yoga class, whether it focuses on poses or breathing (or both), and with the boom in yoga studios around the city, you’ll even be able to take on a trial week at a low cost. Some canny shoppers are great at sniffing out deals online at sites like Ensogo, Groupon or Just as plentiful are the culinary schools with respected instructors like Reggie Aspiras, Heny Sison or Gene Gonzalez—and while the main CCA campus is being renovated, it has other satellite schools in Eastwood and at the Podium (soon to open).

Learning nowadays can be more engaging than just picking up a book, and the affordable classes available in many cities allow professionals to blossom in other ways just when they think that their professional growth is stunted.

For more information on CCA, visit; call (2) 426-4840, 426-4841, 994-2520, 994-2530; email and


(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)



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