Giving Your 101%

Yesterday, Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. CEO, Women’s Business Council Philippines Chair, and my better half Chiqui Escareal-Go gave a graduation speech for the Marketing Management and Accountancy graduates of Rizal Technical University. In celebration of Mother’s Day, I am sharing her words here to serve as an inspiration to the youth and the young at heart to give their 101% in pursuing their dreams. (Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. is the center for executive education in marketing and sales in the Philippines. Check out their courses at!)

Speech of Chiqui Escareal-Go
Rizal Technical University Graduation
May 10, 2018

To the Marketing Management and Accountancy graduates of Rizal Technical University 2018 – congratulations!

I am honored to have been invited on this important day in the lives of over 500 future marketers, accountants — who hopefully, will also become entrepreneurs. I am both a marketer and an entrepreneur, and in both fields, I know that an understanding of financial statements is such an important competency that can make or break a business. And I am particularly sharing this to affirm my decision in college not to give up on the COM of my LIACOM course because of… accounting, and I am glad I didn’t because, I really need it in my life and in the line of work I do today.

So yes, these are two fields I have much respect for. But allow me to speak as the entrepreneur and the marketer that I am, as these are the areas where my credentials are set.

The discipline of marketing and entrepreneurship is surely one that is action-packed and relentless, a way of life I am used to and actually thrive in. As a teacher, trainer and consultant, I cannot afford to relax on my pursuit for knowledge as I need to be always updated and ahead of the curve – something a marketer and an entrepreneur must also do.

I believe that marketing and entrepreneurship have as much ability as science and technology to “change the world” or at least to really “make things happen” in the most relevant ways. And this is because our jobs put us directly in touch with people on the ground, our customers or constituents. As marketers, that connection enables us to create innovative products and services that address customers’ real unmet needs, (making whatever science and technology put together scalable and sustainable) allowing our brands and companies to grow as one works his or her way to climb the corporate ladder.

For entrepreneurs, customer understanding and intimacy give you the ability to start applicable businesses that will create more jobs and to contribute to the country’s economic progress, while gaining your personal and financial freedom.

The numbers, on the other hand, give us the discipline and metrics by which decisions are made so risks are taken but clearly managed. When we entrepreneurs and marketers become reckless and too daring, we need our financials to guide the speed, scope, breadth and depth of our actions so we do not become careless. In the same way, it would be good to remind the conservative world of accounting that these innovations will require much risk-taking and this is a balance we must prepare for. As a marketer who must keep innovating, I know I must invest to reach my tipping point. Yet as an entrepreneur who must invest my own money, you bet I watch my finances closely.

I don’t know what your motivations were when you applied in these courses some four years ago, or if your purpose was something you just realized along the way. But you’ve done the drill, you’ve passed your subjects, completed on-the-job trainings and defended your theses. All done, you know what it’s like to work and to reach the finish line and here we are. Everything is happening exactly where you are meant to be – this is your place and your time – that is your advantage, the advantage of youth and a Philippine economy that remains bullish. These are interesting times to live in.

Now the word interesting doesn’t always mean the good and the positive. And in business, there will always be ups and downs; in business, we are always one step away from being obsolete, and we need to always be ready for the next disruption. And so I must stress, what we do in business are not for the faint of heart. How do you prepare for failure, how do you balance the bold and the conservative, especially high potential vs high risks? How do you manage stress, how do you handle uncertainty?

I hope you have gained that kind of preparation while completing your degrees – because in these fields you have chosen, the real world will expect you to come up with solutions, to bounce back or get up when you fall or fail, to be quick and mindful of changes that are hurled at you ceaselessly at amazing speeds. These situations point to four important traits that I learned to hone in my very own marketing and entrepreneurial journey which I hope will help every graduate here to survive and thrive.

(There are actually many, but I chose these 4 as the most important to my own development as an entrepreneur.)

These are resilience and agility, passion and commitment.

Resilience is having a positive attitude that enables a person to recover from crisis or adversity, or to even see failure as feedback for one’s mistakes. This makes a person comfortable with the unknown or uncertain, and brave enough to challenge the status quo. Being comfortable with the ambiguous so I can take risks is the most important trait I had to learn in becoming an entrepreneur.

Agility is the ability to think, understand and act quickly, layered with mindfulness of the right ways and moments to pivot, each time a challenge poses itself. This makes a person focus on the job-to-be-done rather than on the stresses or demands of change.

I would be the first to admit that while I have always been positive and quick, it was not in the context of business and entrepreneurship that I applied these traits. I was not raised to be an entrepreneur. You see, I was raised in a traditional Filipino family where my father was a government employee and my mother was a housewife who took care of us 7 siblings. I was raised to value my exclusive Catholic and private education as my way to establishing a secure future. Our parents had to borrow money from relatives just to make sure we were able to finish from good schools that correlated with good jobs. And so we did well in school out of respect for the many sacrifices of our parents and because we wanted to make them proud. (Dear graduates, don’t forget to thank your parents and guardians.)

I graduated with a double degree in Communication Arts and Marketing from De La Salle University, was a consistent dean’s lister, active in extracurricular activities as Editor-in-Chief of the Green and White Yearbook and was Student Council batch president of my senior class in the College of Liberal Arts, among others. I had a remarkable resume which I was so sure was going to impress my future employers. I knew I was ready for the brand management dream job in one of the top multinational companies in the country.

As fate would have it, as we were taking our final exams (under the trimester system), Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, and with that historical event the economy was in shambles – massive capital flight, freeze hiring, retrenchments. Despite my impressive credentials, I could not get that dream job – which I stubbornly or arrogantly felt the economy owed me as a hardworking student leader who did well in school. I surely felt entitled, and then frustrated.

And so I became an entrepreneur when I married an entrepreneur. Now I didn’t think I had it in me to be one. While I was always driven, focused, and intense, that was only half of the entrepreneurial success formula. As an honor student, I was not comfortable with failure. As a perfectionist, I didn’t like uncertainty. As a segurista, I needed assurance I was always doing the right thing.

All that changed when I saw my husband marketing guru Josiah, live and work the entrepreneur life and I understood (and appreciated) what it took to be one. He worked long hours and yet knew how to enjoy the fruits of his hard work (through travel and good food). We lived frugally, something I learned from the Filipino Chinese who invested money in business first before buying cars or houses. When I say frugal, we lived simply – from our very simple honeymoon in Baguio where we took the Pantranco bus at the Quezon Avenue terminal to the apartment we rented as a young couple, before owning a humble townhouse while our family was growing, before we bought out dream house 10 years ago – debt free.

But first, I had to overcome my fear of failure and fear of the unknown, my pagka-segurista. I had to learn to be an entrepreneur.

For many Filipinos like me who are risk averse- that fear is often borne out of two things – loss of face and loss of money I can’t afford to lose. We didn’t have a lot, how can I afford to deplete the funds more? I was an honor student known for high standards, how can I fail?

But I also told you I was quick and positive. Since I didn’t like to fail, I always made sure I got things right and did things 101%, never saying “pwede na yan, pagod na ako, bahala na,” (this is enough, I’m already tired, whatever happens, happens). And even when things didn’t always go well, I had enough experience to know that hard work mitigates risk – I know that if I have done my research well and have worked hard enough to put things together in the best way I could, I can always lessen the risk. (Of course prayer always helps.) After quick wins, and small losses, (well there were a few big ones), I learned to be bolder. I learned what it took to be an entrepreneur.

And then there are impossible or difficult things that can be overcome because of passion and commitment.

Passion is an intense and strong emotion, something we even relate with being in love. We are all motivated to pursue things we love. Love is the most inspiring motivator. When we love what we are doing, we will do things well. When we love and are loved, we grow – both professionally (at work) and personally (in life).

I think we can all say here that we are at our best when we love… or even more intensely, when we are in love with our work and what it brings out – ideas, structures, values and ethics. And it is said in a different sense as an engineer or a scientist might describe their love for their work. I guess it is different when one talks about an output and calling that love, say, an architectural design, a new drug that cures cancer, or a new app that will help you lose weight. In marketing and entrepreneurship, you can almost feel it in your heart when you fall in love with a creative idea, laughed or cried with a viral campaign or a funny meme, or even felt passion and obsession with an innovative new business especially with that first paycheck or profit. Did you sense the different emotions – not just with the words I used but how I expressed them? Everything is more powerful when done with love.

So remember what I said about being 101% in everything? That’s because I do what I choose to do and I always choose what I love. That’s why I am always intense – I love what I am doing, and if I love what I am doing, I will do that things always guided by high standards of excellence. It’s like really loving someone or your dog… you will do things for them even beyond 101%.

Finally, I share the fourth trait which is commitment – and we define this as a dedication to a cause or endeavor.

What makes you want to get up in the morning because something out there needs to be done and you are excited for it? When you check your social media feed first thing – do you look for inspiration for the day or do you stop with comparing your life with others? I always advice my students or mentees – to find your meaning, what makes you happy and choose to commit to that. Do you wake up wishing you can go on vacation like your friends in the beach or do you wake up raring to visit that young orphan you promised to read a story to every week? A selfie of you on the beach or a selfie with a child with cancer or cleft palate in a hospital ward? Which smile do you think is more precious, more priceless?

I choose to commit to my values of truth, integrity and accountability – very important to maintain in our chosen fields. One of the things that I realized as I went through my marketing and entrepreneurial journey is how being clear with boundaries have always helped me in my choices especially during difficult times, how integrity is a non negotiable that helps me in quick decision-making, and how service to others is always a priority that makes me happy with my choices.

Because we give more than we take, we have been much blessed – for surely, no one can outdo the generosity of God. I hope your marketing classes have already included the 8th P of marketing which is purpose – not just as a higher and noble cause, but research has actually shown that companies that cater to the bottom of the pyramid, or are for social causes have actually performed better financially and in terms of employee and customer retention. Your generation is known to support brands and companies with social causes. I know you understand this.

There are many more traits that make a successful marketer, entrepreneur, or accountant and I hope I have been able to share enough – the four traits of resilience, agility, passion and commitment – I focused on these four not just because these are what I feel can help you succeed faster or with less pain, but more importantly, help you to be happier. The path before you is all about your choice – so choose well, including choosing where to spend your time, energy and resources (at work and in your advocacy), how to handle and manage risks that life always offers, as well as choosing your future partners or spouse, or even your elected officials in our next national elections – our country needs your dreams and idealism, and I am hopeful you will choose wisely. My prayer is for you, young men and women, future Businessowners or CEOs, future Chief Marketing Officers and future Chief Finance Officers, will lead the way.

I wish you all good luck, God speed and congratulations once again to the marketing and accountancy graduates of batch 2018.

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