JAZA’s After Six: The Gokong-Way

When Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala or JAZA said he wasn’t going to ride off into the sunset after stepping down as CEO of Ayala Corp. in April, I imagined him focusing on the lighter side of things – perhaps the conglomerate’s CSR projects and the like.

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I didn’t expect to see him in front of the camera as a talk show host, interviewing business leaders, change-makers, and captains of  industry.

But there goes JAZA with his own YouTube talk show, After Six, now on its fourth episode since its debut last July.

I watched Episode 4 with tycoon Lance Gokongwei on the hot seat. It was aptly titled The Gokong-Way.

With JAZA’s gift of gab and charming presence on and off-cam, and Lance’s wit and infectious smile, Episode 4 was really engaging and fun.

It tackled quite a lot in 15 minutes – from Lance’s relatively humble beginnings to the urban legend about his sister Robina’s mystical snake-twin.

Child of owner

Lance, the only son of the late John Gokongwei Jr., isn’t your typical COO or ‘child of owner,’ as he shared in his interview with JAZA.

He studied in the US “to develop an identity outside the Philippines,” or in short, to experience a normal life.

And that’s what he got. While studying at the University of Pennsylvania, Lance had to survive on his own, deal with a really diverse student body, and even wash and iron his clothes, something he did not have to do as a billionaire’s son back home.

“You have to do your own laundry there, Lance?” JAZA wondered.

“You learn to pick clothes that don’t require ironing,” Lance quipped.

Spending summer back in the Philippines, Lance worked in the warehouse of the family’s department store, putting price tags on bras and all sorts of underwear.

So I guess Lance can accurately tell one’s bra size – or vital statistics – with just one glance at any lady.

After graduating summa cum laude from Wharton, Lance joined the family business.

“All my friends were saying, ‘hey I got a job at Goldman Sachs, I got a job at Morgan Stanley, and all the top jobs in the US.’ Wow. Me, I’m like, ‘I got a great job working for my father in Universal Robina Corp. as a salesman’,” Lance said in his trademark self-deprecating humor.

The Ivy League graduate went around supermarkets and sari-sari stores selling Jack ‘n’ Jill snacks, driving a 20-year old Datsun with a broken A/C system. The car was  an added incentive he received from his father, perhaps  to compensate for his first paycheck amounting to P2,300.

Now in charge

Turning serious, Lance said that being at the helm of his father’s empire now as president and CEO of JG Summit Holdings, he constantly strives to work on the goal John Gokongwei envisioned – to provide choices for the Filipino consumer.

Lessons from Lance

JAZA then asked him what advice he could give to young people.

Perhaps recalling his hot summer days in the warehouse putting tags on bras, Lance said success doesn’t happen overnight.

“Things that are worthwhile always take a long time. Things don’t come easy. If you want to be successful, you have to be patient, resilient, and you have to learn to bounce back,” he said.

Fun facts

There were fun facts, too, unearthed in a quick TRUE or FALSE session where the two gentlemen threw questions at each other to put to rest some age-old urban legend and quirky rumors.

Here are some things I learned: It’s TRUE that JAZA visits Robinsons Malls to snoop around and check out the competition; It’s also TRUE that Lance goes incognito around his malls to check operations once in a while. I wonder how he does it though. Does he wear shades or a cap like a fugitive on the run?

“The mall staff, they indulge me and pretend they don’t recognize me,” Lance said in jest.

Does JAZA get free credits from Globe? FALSE, he says, but he gets a free phone while Lance answered FALSE, when asked about impressions that he can use Cebu Pacific’s planes for free for his personal trips.

Downtime

Now what does Lance do after six or at the end of a day’s work?

Lance reads The Economist, The New Yorker, and has also discovered the joy of listening to podcasts; he likes Malcom Gladwell. And then there’s Netflix.

He likes to play basketball, too, but he says his skills aren’t exactly proportional to his aspiration. But he gets invited to join alumni basketball competitions. “I’m the 12th man…they need somebody to sponsor the team,” he said in between laughs.

It was, indeed, an engaging episode and JAZA seems to be really enjoying what he calls his “new hobby.” It was his daughter Mariana who got him to do it for BPI, Ayala’s banking arm, JAZA shared with me when I congratulated him.

Props to Mariana, BPI deputy head of marketing, and the rest of the BPI team led by president TG Limcaoco, for this project, which “aims to further strengthen the bank’s relationship with its preferred clients by building a like-minded community.”

I am eagerly anticipating the next episodes.

As for Robina’s snake-twin, Lance said it’s definitely FALSE.

Otherwise, Lance said, chuckling, his sister would have turned her snake-twin into snakeskin bags that she sells in Robinsons.

 

 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales Column archives at eyesgonzales.com



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