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Q&A with Jonathan Yabut on Marketing Execution and Grit

Q&A with Jonathan Yabut on Marketing Execution and Grit

Q1: You have emerged as the overall winner of 1st Apprentice Asia. Part of your prize is a one-year stint as Executive Assistant to the Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandez.   It’s about to be over soon but so far, what are three important things you learned from him?

There’s too much to mention! But so far, the most striking ones that I will forever keep with me are the following:

  1.  EQ is more important than IQ as you go up the ranks of the corporate ladder. Success does not happen through sole efforts, you will always need a team to deliver your KPIs and as such you will need people skills, networking prowess, and charming influence. These cannot be taught in the best MBA school, you learn and develop them over time.
  2. Vision is always important to success. Leaders usually steer the boat. But a great leader delegates this to the right people while he’s away looking for other opportunities in the vast ocean.
  3. Always keep score. In any business, no matter how creative or strategic you are but you fail to keep score of your sales, and the indicators to your sales, things will be too late to act on.

Q2: What are your top three contributions so far to your employer, Air Asia, the most admired low cost airline is Asia?

Perhaps I’ll share the biggest thing I think I have contributed so far—I’d like to think I’ve shaken up people in AirAsia to appreciate the beauty of stealing best practices from other industries. Most airline employees come from the same industry all their life and hence they can be boxed-out with their approaches to marketing and sales. I’ve gone a long way from telecommunication and pharma and when I suggest new ideas (ex. installment plans for purchasing tickets via credit cards or applying “unlimited” offers to airfare tickets), they all realize that there’s value to peeking out of the window and see how others “do it their way.”

Q3: You have mentioned that you won Apprentice Asia because of GRIT, Mansmith and Fielders Inc. invited you to talk about grit and success before, can you share with our readers what is it to you and how they can also be winners too if they have grit?

Grit is the enduring belief that no matter what are the obstacles to a task, one can succeed and get through. It is sticking to a committed goal not for days, weeks or months, but years. I chanced upon this concept when I watched a TED Talk by an American psychologist, Dr. Angela Duckworth, who made studies understanding what makes people succeed in the National Spelling Bee, the military academy, working in dangerous neighborhoods, etc. Her studies show that it wasn’t IQ, nor good looks, nor social skills—it was grit. The beautiful moral lesson of this story is that success is therefore for everyone to grab as long as you have the commitment and the guts to pursue it.

Q4:  Tell us about your best marketing achievement and why you feel proud of it?

I was thinking of the brands I launched, or the projects I executed but I think my best marketing achievement is—marketing the Filipino talent worldwide via the Apprentice Asia! We always know that Filipinos are great in sales and marketing and if you notice in many multinational companies, we’ve got lots of expatriated talents who are sent to regional offices. The problem is that this reality has not been amplified to the greater masses. I believe showcasing the Filipino talent on regional TV did a good impression that Filipinos are strategic, creative, good communicators, and best of all—passionate in what they do.

Q5: Based on your experience as a marketing executive in Manila and now as an expat working in Malaysia, if there were a formula for perfect execution of a project, what would these be?

Assuming you got the right strategy, I always believe that execution is highly dependent on your talent. Get the right people who believe in your leadership, who believe in the project, and people you also work well with. If you get this right, you’re arguably 50% successful already. These guys will do everything in their own capacity to get things right. The next part is equipping them. You may have the right people, but if left with no clear goals or directions set by a leader, or left with no tools to deliver (whether it be physical tools like a conducive work environment, or skills), the project will not succeed.

Q6: Can you share with us a failure story? What are things our readers can learn about tasks that should not be missed?

Here’s my classic failure story. When I was on my 3rd day in a telecommunications company as a management trainee (I was 21 years old), I communicated the wrong size for a flyer needed for a marketing campaign. The company had printed thousands of that flyer and I was so scared I was gonna be fired. I gave the specs in inches, not centimeters because I assumed the printer knew it well. I did not take the task seriously. I wasn’t fired, but until today it reminds me about the power of clarity in communication—whether it be as simple as communicating the size of a flyer or as complex as communicating the vision of the company to your employees. Communication in the corporate world requires concrete, measurable, actionable, and clear parameters. And they should be communicated with emotions that are understood well—whether it be something urgent, not urgent, important, or not so important, etc. The person receiving the message deserves these criteria, and that the best leaders are the best communicators of their times.

Q7: I know you have a humble family background; can you share a part of it and how it influenced your outlook and actions subsequently?

I’ve always been insecure believing that only rich kids who can afford to good private schools make it big in the real world. Our media and society also seemed to have perpetuated that “reality”. My parents who were both government employees pushed us hard to achieve good education, and I’ve sworn to myself that despite my humble beginnings, no one can be too small to dream big. I did dream big, and I worked my way up. I am thankful that this same insecurity led me to where I am now.

Q8: What is your vision for the future? Where do you think Jonathan Yabut will be ten, twenty years from now?

I’d like to be the next start-up rockstar after my corporate stint. The Internet these days has been yielding stories of start-up/venture success on a daily basis. It has been democratizing the “entrepreneur” spirit through the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Tumblr, Rocket Internet, etc. I’ve been a fan of the likes of Blake Mycoskie, Brian Chesky, the Samwer Brothers, etc. and I wanna be the first Asian (if there isn’t one yet) who would ring the bells of Wall Street exchange because my Internet-based venture company is finally opened for an IPO.

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Josiah Go

About Josiah Go

Record-breaking, bestselling author Josiah Go is the Chairman of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (the leading marketing and sales training company in the Philippines), and Chairman of Waters Philippines (the market leader in the direct selling of premium home water purifiers in the Philippines). He is Chairman / Vice Chairman / Director of over a dozen companies.

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