Q&A with Inspirational Speaker Francis Kong on Personal Branding

Q1: As the top inspirational speaker in the Philippines, can you share with us how this path all began?

I never knew I would go into the lecture circuit. But my very first exposure to public (or shall I say…Private) speaking started with only 6 people in the audience. It was a bible study group and our bible study teacher was not feeling well and could not make it. Gave me a phone call the day before the event and asked me to take over. I crammed, I studied and I was so nervous my only concern was that people were there and someone has to take over the chore.

I remember giving the lesson and the audience was gracious. They encouraged me and told me they enjoyed the session. They probably saw a nervous wreck and wanted to boost my confidence but one thing clicked in my mind and here it is: The process of study, gaining knowledge, acquiring information, setting my own personal insights, sharing the ideas to the group was what made me enjoyed speaking.

I was still running my garments company then but I felt the exhilaration of studying, learning and sharing and that started my speaking stints. The 6 became 12, the 12 became 40, some would invite me to speak in service clubs like Rotary, Lions and I would readily accept the invitations, then companies came in and before I knew it, I was doing 120+ talks every year for 12 years and I refused to accept fees or honorarium. I felt like this was a mission for me, a ministry of challenging people to achieve excellence and live a life of fullness.

Q2: While at Uno High School, you once shared that you were not the most diligent student but graduated with honors in college at San Sebastian. What was the turning point? At hindsight, what would you suggest high schools could do to help students in reaching their potential earlier?

I flunked high school and it took me 6 years to complete it. I hated failing so much such that the moment I entered college I promised myself I will graduate top in my school.

Today I came to know that the process is called “Goal-setting.” I had my eyes on “Summa” and after 4 years missed it by one point but that was good enough for me.

In hindsight, I had teachers who laughed at me and made things difficult for me and to my surprise till today…some teachers relished seeing their students fail and their ego stroked. High school teachers should inspire students and challenge them to become better for after all, intelligence and creativity is multiple and is not predicated only on high scores derived from memory work.

Q3: Whenever you have to give talks outside Manila, you always travel with your wife, more popularly known as ‘The Ilokana’. Can you share the advantages of this set-up for others to follow?

This is our “date” and it’s cheaper this way 🙂 But my wife has been my helpmate and the source of my strength and confidence.

When people see the two of us together, the hope is that they would give importance to their marital relationship development and put priority to building relationships with the people who matter to them the most. And now my youngest daughter travels with us so we’re a team. She does the slide presentation and she gets to travel with me and meet people. By the way, I pay her well. She is likewise doing web design for one of the top cement companies in the country and she does this professionally while she gets to travel with us. So we are a team now.

Q4: Can you share a challenging personal experience where you had a leadership crisis. What indispensable leadership lessons can you share with our readers?

What I have observed concerns me. Good people, high potential talents are driven away by bosses and managers who do not have the right leadership skills. Some do but their character are in question and their business ethics more so.

The most important leadership lesson readers need to understand is this: We hire people for what they do, we fire people for who they are.

Skills become useless when the ethics and character of the person is in question and when this person is empowered, company resources are compromised and squandered leaving a big mess for others to clean up.

Q5: What life skills will you recommend for ambitious people to learn and why?

To channel the ambition, energy towards self-development with the sole purpose of empowering others and not the self.

To have money and earnings as a delightful surprise for a job well done and not as an end in itself.

To understand that success requires a process and they are never instant and that in anything they do.

The preservation of integrity, the protection of one’s credibility should come first before anything else.

Q6: You always make people laugh at your talks. You also have a serious side. What’s the Francis Kong brand really like? What is your life purpose?

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) is what I want to maintain.

My audience laughs at my stories. My children too.

When I teach serious stuff to my audience, my children listen too.

I guess the Francis Kong you see on stage is the same Francis Kong you see in my house and the only difference is that in my house I wear shorts and T-shirts 🙂

My life purpose is very simple. God has created me uniquely and for His Purpose and I am going to have Him use me up until He takes me up and then that would be an entirely different episode and story.

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Josiah Go features the movers and shakers of the business world and writes about marketing, strategy, innovation, execution and entrepreneurship


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