As a student of lifelong learning, I always search for ideas and knowledge as well as great minds and conversations to challenge my ways of thinking. I like seeing white spaces of opportunities for new methods, new frameworks and new possibilities.
I was especially intellectually stimulated with a concept of a strategy book in the mid 2000s and was so enamored by it that I purposely sought its authors based in Europe to bring the concept to the Philippines.
It was smooth sailing for the first three to four years until I was stopped by the new Asian regional headquarters set up in the late 2000′s. I would like to share some key learnings from that phase of my life.
At the beginning, the authority to teach was personally handled by the co-authors themselves then, people I really admire up to this day. We had to pass a series of written exams before we were deemed qualified and allowed to meet the authors for a briefing in France and attend formal trainings in New York. I subsequently attended additional trainings in Australia and Singapore as well.
At that time, the priority was to ensure quality of teaching and no royalty was asked except attendance in the certification-training seminar and a 15% referral fee if a client was referred by them. Airfares and hotels were of course on our account. By then, I was both qualified and certified, two terms they created internally to distinguish two processes versus those teaching without their sanction. The authors kept encouraging us to spread the concept as they were on a mission, I felt it was my mission as well.
The concept was unknown in the Philippines when I started, I accepted many invitations to give free talks to different professional organizations to create awareness and spread the word. I taught this as a 3-unit full semester course in a university. I also sponsored various seminars, and this might have helped the book become a bestseller although I was not the book distributor.
A new system and office in Asia were set up in the late 2000′s. I was personally visited by the regional president who told me he paid for the regional rights for 3 years covering 10 countries. A new scheme of US$120,000 plus 30% of all revenues (including sponsorship) was asked from me if I wanted to continue. I explained that the new scheme will price us out of the Philippine market, is contrary to the compelling pricing advice of the book authors and will affect the advocacy thrust of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. of using our profits to sponsor many educational and youth empowerment activities as a public service.
I was in fact told they were in a hurry to recover their investment and needed to know my interest right away as they were also in talks with another person in the Philippines who was ready to pay them. They even asked me to conduct a train the trainers seminar in their office to train their people on this strategy concept. I wasn’t available on the specified dates so I declined and by then talks had bogged down.
Another person took over the right to promote the concept in the Philippines but it was short-lived. I knew the authors required a facilitator qualified and certified to run the course and I was the first and only one in the Philippines then. In less than a year, my staff handed me the phone, I was surprised the COO from the regional Asian company wanted me to take over the Philippines at a more flexible term and that they were now willing to listen.
By then I already moved on, I launched the Mansmith framework for Market-Driving Strategy (MDS) and subsequently Business Model Innovation (BMI) Bootcamp. I even consulted a top copyright lawyer as I didn’t want to violate any intellectual property.
I have grown intellectually because of challenges like this. Crises indeed are opportunities. Without the unexpected interruption, I would not have bothered developing my own frameworks.
The independence also allowed me to continuously be updated as a lifelong learner – I pursued an executive scholarship with Kellogg (in Marketing and Sales Management) and MIT Sloan (in Strategy and Innovation) as part of my credentials. Business, like life, has many investment options indeed – we just need to see opportunities in our blue skies and white spaces.
Josiah Go is Chairman of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. He is the first and only Filipino to have been awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) in business education. Follow him at twitter @josiahgo.
(Thank you to BusinessWorld for featuring this article in their paper).