Honored

The Philippine Business for Social Progress – Enterprise Development Group held last Tuesday a forum  for SMEs (that’s small, micro and medium enterprises) on how to make their business operations more eco-friendly.  The same event also honored PBSP’s Volunteer Advisors (VA) under its Business Advisory Program.  I have been a VA for PBSP for some time already, making myself available for small enterprises that need support in the areas of Service Marketing, Customer Service,  Business Planning and Strategic Management.

As an aside, and for you to better appreciate why SMEs are important to the national economy, read today’s A View From Taft column in BusinessWorld written by Aida Velasco of DLSU.  In summary, “SMEs comprise more than 96.6% of all registered establishments in the Philippines (NSO, 2002). Ninety percent of business establishments are micro industries, and 59% are engaged in wholesale and retail businesses. Only 2,984 or 0.4% are classified as big businesss, and 43% are in the manufacturing sector”.  This figure alone tells us that the SMEs are the real engine of commerce, supplying big business and houselholds alike and employing a large number of people at the same time.  Unfortunately, the SMEs are also the least supported sector.  They lack skills, technical know how and capital among many other support mechanisms.

I am sharing below the speech I gave that afternoon, as a response to the recognition PBSP conferred to its volunteer advisors.  Taking inspiration from President Noynoy Aquino’s inaugural speech and SONA, I also prepared my speech in Filipino.  Here you go:

Bagsik ni Ondoy, Tapang ng mga VA, Tibay ng PBSP, at Syempre, Tagumpay ng mga Maliit na Namumunuhan

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

Buong galak po naming tinatanggap ang karangalan na iginawad sa amin ngayon ng PBSP.  Sa ngalan ng mga kasamahan kong VA, maraming salamat po.

Noong una kong tinagpo ang mga kababaihan ng Women for Progress of Nagpayong Multi Purpose Cooperative (see previos post) para sa isang strategic planning session sa Intramuros, malakas na ang ulan noon.  Medyo nahuli sila ng dating kasi bumaha na sa ibang parte ng Kamaynilaan, at mahirap na din humanap ng masakyan patungong Manila.

Pagkaraan ng ilang linggo, para naman sa aming follow up session, nakatakda kaming magkita sa kanilang lugar sa Nagpayong, Pasig.  Lingid sa aming kaalaman, iyong araw na din yon pala ang nakatakdang pagdating ng mabagsik na si Ondoy.

Syempre pa, na-stranded kami sa daan- ako, si Weng at si Edwin ng PBSP.  Bago pa man lang kami makarating sa Nagpayong, nakatanggap na kami ng tawag mula sa coop na nagsabing huwag na kaming tumuloy.  Hanggang bewang na po daw ang tubig.  Kaya naman bigla din kaming nag U-turn.  Madami na kasi kaming nadaanang mga kalsada na lubog na sa baha.  Madami na din kaming alternate routes na sinubukan.  Nakikinig man kami sa radio noong mga panahon na iyon, pursigido pa din kaming makarating.  Sige lang…sabi namin…makakarating din tayo.

Hindi po kami nakarating sa Nagpayong.  Na-stranded kami sa kalye.  Naghanap ng malulusutang daan na hindi pa lumulubog.  Naipit sa trapik ng mga sasakyang ilang oras na ding nakatigil sa daan.  Hatinggabi na kami nakauwi, sina Weng inumaga na.

Si Ondoy ay matagal pa bago natin makalimutan.  Mas matagal sa apat na linggong pamamalagi ng bahang dulot ni Ondoy sa mga naninirahan sa Pasig.  Mas matagal kaysa sa mahigit 8 oras na walang tigil na pag ulan noong araw na iyon.  Mas matagal pa sa mga madilim at mahabang sandali ng paghihintay ng tulong habang natatakot at nangangamba ang mga nasalanta ng bagyo.

Sa tagal ng pananatili ng alaala ni Ondoy sa ating mga kamalayan, gamitin din natin ang panahong yan sa pagsisikap na maintindihan kung bakit may mga Ondoy o unos o bagyo sa ating buhay.

–         May bagyo para gisingin ang natutulog nating kakayahan para makilahok sa paghugis ng ating lipunan.  Di ba, madami ang nag volunteer, naki-alam, tumulong, nagpaka-bayani?

–         May bagyo para sabihin sa atin ng kalikasan na hindi na nya kayang buhatin pa ang mabigat nating mga basura at pagsasawalang bahala sa ating kapaligiran.  Kaya naman, ibinalik ng kalikasan ang mga basura natin…sa loob mismo ng ating mga tahanan.

–         May bagyo at pagbaha para mamulat tayo sa ating mga angking kakayahan, at upang lubos na maunawaan ang kahalagahan ng pagiging responsableng mamamayan.

–         May bagyo para tayo ay matuto.

Ang bagyo, tunay man o metapora sa mga suliranin sa buhay, ay kasangkapan lamang upang ipaalam sa atin ang mga kelangan nating malaman o matagal nang alam pero tila ay binabalewala. 

–         Na lahat tayo ay may angking kakayahang tumulong sa kapwa.  Kelangan lamang ay panatilihing buhay ang ispirit ng boluntarismo at pakikilahok – bilang propesyonal, bilang negosyante, bilang isang mamamayan. Lahat tayo ay humuhugis sa ating lipunan; nagpapanday sa ating kinabukasan.  Walang sisihan.  Pero wala din dapat lamangan. 

 –         Na lahat tayo ay may pananagutan sa kalikasan.  Kaya dapat tamang sakto lang ang paggamit sa enerhiya, tubig, kahoy, gasolina, papel, hangin, bakal at iba pang likas na yaman. 

 –         Na hindi na natin kelangan ng isa pang bagyo para alamin ulit ang aralin o lessons sa mga sakunang pwede naman talagang maiwasan.

Ganyan din sa buhay mangangalakal o negosyante o namumuhunan di ba?  Kelangan tapat sa mga suki at mamimili; kelangan responsable sa mga kalat o basura at gumagamit ng mga materyales na angkop at hindi nakakasakit sa kalikasan o sa lipunan.

Sa mga VA, ito ay hamon din para sa atin na rumisponde hindi lamang sa mga oras ng kagipitan.  Mas makatutulong tayo kung maging instrumento tayo ng wastong pagnenegosyo – handa, tapat, malinis at may silbi sa kapwa. 

Bilang pagtatapos, maraming salamat sa PBSP sa mga pagkakataong ibinigay nyo sa amin upang maging kapaki-pakinabang.  Sana ay madami pa tayong matutulungan.

Tag ulan na ulit.  Madalas na naman ang bagyo at ang pagbaha.  Sana ngayon ay mas handa na tayo.  Maraming salamat po.

Interested to volunteer as Business Advisor?  Click here.

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Lessons from the Automated Elections

Now it can be said, that on the 10th day of May 2010, the Philippines has attempted its first nationwide conduct of automated elections…er, automated counting of ballots.

For it was really the counting of votes that was computerized.  The rest was laboriously and painfully manual.  Like most people, it took me 5 hours to line up under the scorching midday summer heat before I got hold of the ballot and the magic smartmatic pen.  The queue was a long S-curve going on all directions and intersecting at various points, with people lining up for Clustered Precincts 312, 301 and 314.  Finally when PCOS sent me his Congratulations! and the election inspector marked me with the indelible ink,  I didnt notice how I got my neck and arms burnt by the unforgiving sun. 

As to the lessons, here are they:

Plan. Do. Evaluate.  The plan includes management of queues, placing directional signs in strategic locations, making voter- citizens comfortable while waiting- better if waiting is reduced to a minimum, train volunteers to be effective, courteous and knowledgeable service representatives.  This is not asking too much from the Comelec.  This is raising the bar of government service.  Citizens, on a special day such as the elections, must be treated well by the state, like what many local government units now do in their Tax Divisions.  Nobody deserves the shabby treatment millions of us, including President- elect Aquino experienced last Monday.  Automation should introduce a new culture of government service:  fast, reliable, convenient.  We should not allow that to be negated by the traditionally inefficient lines.  On that note, we should move out from decrepit classrooms to a more people-friendly venues like the mall theatres or the now popular event clamshells or tents- airconditioned, secured, comfortable! (Read Reinventing Government by Osborne and Gaebler, 1993).

Rule of the morons.  Much of the discomforts during the election were caused by ill-prepared bureaucrats who may not be competent at all to oversee such a big event.  Who knows how many voters got disenfranchised by the mere sight of disorganized queues in and outside of the polling precints.  I don’t want to discriminate but this is what we get for tolerating gardeners and manicurists to run our government.  Ayn Rand has a word for this:  the secondhanders. 

The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he’s honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he’s great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison . . . . They’re second-handers . . . .

We see these secondhanders everywhere in the bureaucracy, stepping over our respected and experienced (not to mention competent) career officials, occupying juicy positions, and dispensing authority like kings and queens.  In the end, they achieve nothing but dismal failure.  They are not just qualified.  They know nothing, they can do nothing; thus the imminent failure.

Measuring Success.  Our government has declared the May 10 elections as a successful event.  Both the police and the military concurred,  with a lot more people, despite all the troubles that the voters underwent that day, echoing the same sentiment.  It is frustrating that for most of us, our idea of success has become so bastardized that as long as one survives an ordeal, however atrocious it was, it can be called successful.  Thankfully, foreign observers corrected this misperception by stating firmly that no, your election was neither fair nor honest.     

Vigilance is king.

 And lastly, I’d say we owe it to the doomsayers for pressing the alarm whenever the Comelec overlooks (wittingly or unwittingly) some significant preparations for the automation.  The doomsayers are our heroes, for staying cynical throughout the whole process, never buying in to Comelec’s often moronic excuses.  Without our own collective vigilance, the May 10 elections would never have happened.

The Real Dud

Philippine Airlines announced last week its REAL DEAL promo, with roundtrip air fares from Manila to several destinations at its lowest ever, enough to get my excitement to log on and book myself and family for a visit to Hongkong.

5713-man-shooting-a-dud-gun-with-a-bang-flag-clipart-illustration

 

It was a dud.  My theory is that PAL created this promo only to increase internet traffic to their website; whatever gain it will give them i don’t have the slightest idea.

My cousin and I were up and about at 12:01 in the morning of 27 April, the first of the 2-day promo.  We waited for more than an hour to start our transaction but couldn’t get through the website.  So we called it quits and vowed to try again in the morning.

Monday morning came and both of us were busy logging on to PAL website, from two separate locations.  The promo is only good for on-line purchases.  Unfortunately, not one of us had a success in getting those precious promo tickets.

Tuesday came and is about to end but tickets are nowhere to be found.  Have I been duped? 

If it is of any consolation, I found out that Inquirer columnist John Nery  also tried and failed in this overly frustating commercial misadventure:

I borrow the term “unexpected error” from an unlikely source, the Philippine Airlines website. I must have been one of thousands enticed by the airline’s radically reduced prices to actually try to make an online booking yesterday, the first day of a two-day promo; I failed to do so, however, despite spending at least five full hours trying to engage the website. I logged on at midnight, and for the first hour could not go much beyond the first page. I set the alarm and went online at 3 a.m., spending two hours figuring out the best itinerary. When it was finally time to make a purchase, however, I got an error message. I was back online from 8 to 10 a.m., again with the same results. I failed to complete any transaction. Throughout it all, I kept getting error messages, the most persistent being a pop-up that read: “The application had an unexpected error in processing your request. Please try again later.”

I relate all this, not as prelude to a rant, but as constructive criticism. I noticed that the website had a patchwork feel to it; for instance, at one point a message cautioned me, thus: that if the page did not redirect in 10 seconds, I must refresh the page. In doing so, I would encounter a page with the words UNALLOWABLE ITINERARY OPERATION; would I be so kind as to click Yes to proceed?

It felt like an IT guy had suggested a temporary fix. In other words, the “unexpected error” that kept popping up seemed to me, after the second hour online, to be neither unexpected nor an error. It seemed like a feature of the system. Perhaps PAL can replace its online booking system altogether.

I still maintain though that the errors don’t have anything to do with their web system.  My guess is that is has been pre-calculated.  PAL don’t really want to sell those seats on sale.  They have other reasons for doing the Real Deal Promo.

Sa Globe, Im-po-sib-le!

I used to admire Globe Telecom, particularly the efficiency of its customer service representatives at their 211 hotline.  Not anymore.

I am a Globe subscriber since my first handyphone back in 1998 (prepaid) and 2002 (postpaid).  There were times in the past that I thought of switching to Smart, its foremost competitor but there was no real and compelling reason to really make the move.  So I stayed with Globe kasi nga sa Globe, po-sib-le (everything is possible), or so they claim.

My 2-year subscription lock out period with Globe will expire in July 2009.  As with other network providers, customers are offered with attractive incentives so that they will renew their contracts with Globe for the next two years.  Not a bad marketing ploy, considering that changing a network provider would also mean changing your mobile number and losing your contacts in the process.  The incentives, which range from a brand new top of the line handset to a rebate of so much amount depending on your post paid plan and maybe, just a personal hunch, one’s level of consumption. 

To cut a long story short, I did accept the offer of a new handset.  I was told some two weeks ago that the handset will be delivered on the 27th of April 2009, at a Globe Business Center of my choice.  The customer service rep was courteous enough to warn me to confirm first with their 211 hotline before proceeding to the business center.  That was a fair warning, I wouldn’t want to waste my time dropping at the mall for nothing.

Today, I called 211 to inquire if my phone unit was indeed delivered as promised.  The customer service rep told me that their computer system says otherwise.  So what should I do, I asked her.  She told me to call again to confirm.  I said it should be the other way around, I already called as instructed and you don’t have a definite answer for me.  You should call me once you get the confirmation.  She agreed, and told me that she will email the service center at once.  What was that again, I was curious.  Send an e-mail?  Why don’t you call them up? I’m sorry sir, she replied, we dont have their contact number and the protocol is for us to send all communications by e-mail.  Anyway, sir, if your unit was indeed delivered today, she added as if to assure me, the business center will call you up.  I got furious.

I got mad because I have already waited too long for the delivery.  Two weeks was a very long lead time.  I expect nothing short of fulfilling a service promise, whatever it takes, and do more than say sorry to recover from a service failure.  It was not me who set that expectation.  It was them.  It was Globe.  Possible, di ba?

It was impossible if that was true, that all communications should be sent via e-mail.  Impossible and inefficient and impractical.  Globe must have forgotten that their core product is mobile communications, and if they have not discovered it yet, mobile communication allows users to get in touch with each other on real time permitting instant feedback at the speed of light…or something close to that.   

Lastly, I was not at all satisfied with the way my call was handled.  I asked for the phone number of the business center in Parañaque, she don’t have it was the reply.  I asked the lady if I can talk to the supervisor.  She said yes, and put me on hold—for 5 minutes!  When the line was back, there was no supervisor, and no explanation as to where the supervisor is.  It was the same girl, apologetic but visibly (aurally?) irritated at my assiduousness. 

Sir, we did what you told us to do and what we should have done in the first place.  I looked up for the phone number of the business center, found it, dialled their number and inquired.  And guessed what we found out—your unit was already there ready for pick up.

Of course she didn’t say those things.  That was how I imagined her to say those few precious lines.  But she did not. 

My phone was there, at the business center and a single call made it possible to confirm its whereabouts.  Curious: what happened to your computer system?  Thought it would prompt you once it is delivered.  And…nobody from the business center called me up.  So I guess, if I followed the service rep’s advise and waited forevermore for that call to come, nothing would have happened.

Or am I speaking too soon?  The worst may yet to come…at the business center later tonight. 

Heaven forbid.