On the last Saturday of February, a reunion of executives and employees of the automotive division of DMG, Inc. was held in the house of DMG or Domingo M. Guevara, the founding entrepreneur behind DMG, Inc., which actually stands for Diesel Motors Germany Inc.
The founder started the enterprise in 1955, given his passion for electronics and radios. Soon, this led to the establishment of Radiowealth, a brand of radios, stereos and television sets that conquered the Philippine market before the invasion of Japanese brands. It was the same passion of the founder which drove the enterprise to undertake both backward and forward integration.
Among other things, Radiowealth produced components like the TV picture tubes and speakers. The enterprise also moved forward into service operations and financing. There was no doubt that DM Guevara’s passion for electronics served as the foundation of his enterprise.
When he set up the Volkswagen line for the Philippine market, DM Guevara demonstrated a different value -- persistence. The founder communicated directly with head office of Volkswagen in Germany. He wrote the firm and asked if he could represent the Volkswagen line in the Philippines. While at first the request was ignored, he continued his pursuit.
The ultimate display of persistence was his visit to the Volkswagen head office in Germany. This was further manifested by his willingness to patiently wait outside the office of the VW official designated to look into his request. He did not leave until he got what he wanted.
As we reminisced through the night during the DMG reunion, the topic of discussion among those who were in the automotive division gravitated towards the good old days in both the company’s Libertad and Espana Ext. plants. Stories looked back to how the major marketing and service outlets or the Karbayan and People’s Car were run. Not only were former office/factory mates and mentors who were not present sorely missed, but so were the values practiced in the early years. Besides passion and persistence, top of mind was the value of malasakit (the closest English translation is empathy).
Some of the executives have had (and many still have) office/factory experiences after their stint with DMG. A few became entrepreneurs themselves. The consensus was that the value of malasakit is missing in today’s workplace today. However, we all agreed that it was practiced by everybody at DMG. Whether a person was an executive or an employee, malasakit for the company was manifested. Likewise, many recalled other incidents when the family showed malasakit towards the executives/employees.
I personally recalled one such incident that could describe the value of malasakit. One weekend in 1979, a typhoon was raging towards evening and more winds than rain were predicted as the typhoon was expected to pass near Metro Manila by midnight. Since the automotive plant was in the area, one executive in-charge of the automotive manufacturing division visited the factory at about midnight to check the situation, especially if the factory roof was holding up due to the strong winds.
In another incident, the factory was operating in three shifts and marketing was selling the units faster than they could be produced. The factory had to work at a faster pace to meet the production volume for the month. At three o’clock in the morning of the last working day of the month, an executive in-charge of the automotive manufacturing division visited the factory with a vehicle-full of freshly baked pan de sal (salty bread that is standard fare in a Filipino breakfast) personally purchased from the nearby bakeries so that the supervisors and workers of the last shift could have breakfast.
Anecdotes about the DMG chairman included a session with a corporate planning executive who went for a final briefing with him regarding a joint venture project that was about to be discussed with the partner. He brought over a tattered brown envelope containing a sheaf of papers on the industry analysis and projected financials. The chairman then invited the executive to sit at his conference table but, before he could start the briefing, the chairman stood up and pulled out a leather portfolio from his back table and said: “Here, use this for your paper. It does not look good that you are using that tattered envelope. Your good work deserves a better container than that. Besides, you will look better carrying a leather portfolio.”
While it is had to translate malasakit in precise English, one can interpret it to be a little more than “loyalty”. The word “caring” does not quite capture its essence nor does “selflessness” even comes that close to describe what it really means in the vernacular.
Repeatedly, the term malasakit surfaced all through the reunion night. Since some of the DMG alumni were not that well paid, a senior executive proposed that a foundation be set up to help other graduates of DMG in time of need. The foundation would serve as a helpline they could access. The first task was to record attendance and indicate contact details including names of other alumni, so that a network could be set up. The second step was to raise the initial fund for the foundation. The ultimate expression of malasakit was when a senior executive declared that he will double any amount raised by the alumni for the foundation.
Indeed, values play a big role in the life of an entrepreneur and in the life of his/her enterprise. The final test is whether the values survive even long after the entrepreneur and the enterprise have gone. In this case, DMG’s passion, persistence, and malasakit still live in the hearts and minds of alumni to this very day.
(Alejandrino J. Ferreria is the Dean of the Asian Center for Entrepreneurship
of the Asian Institute of Management. For comments/inquiries, please email
email@example.com. Published Entrepreneur’s Helpline may be viewed on the
AIM Website at www.aim.edu.ph)
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