Q&A with Penshoppe CEO Bernie Liu on Aligning Strategy with Values


Penshoppe was founded in 1986 and is now the flagship fashion brand of Golden ABC. It has expanded not just nationally but also internationally. Bernie Liu, Penshoppe CEO, a recent awardee of the 10th ASEAN Business Awards, shares his insights about Penshoppe’s strategy to be the most admired fashion brands company in Asia.

Q1: Your vision for Penshoppe is to be the most admired fashion brands company in Asia. What brand associations would you specifically like to own and where are you now in your vision?

A: We envision the group to be synonymous with on-trend fashion at the best value. So far, the market has responded well both locally and internationally. In fact, partners have engaged us to open stores in Bahrain, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brunei, and Macau. By end 2017, we will have over 900 retail points dotted across the Philippines, and approximately 80 abroad.

Q2: While vision is important, you believe the journey is what matters most. Tell us the five most important lessons in your journey as the founder of Penshoppe.

A: 1. Business is all about people – both customers and employees. Take care of them and your efforts will be rewarded.
2. You are the same person both at home and at work. Live with integrity.
3. There are many ways to make a profit, but we choose to do it honorably.
4. Collaboration is key. Treat diversity as a strength and learn from one another’s different ideas – draw unity in diversity.
5. Maintain a sense of stewardship. We have to take care of today, so we can help ensure the future. As a business entity, financial success and profits are important, but success also serves a higher purpose: to serve others.

Q3: Penshoppe maintains a wholesome brand image when many brands have resorted to sexy or even shocking images. Why is branding with a conscience important?

A: The decision to keep the brands wholesome and respectable emanates from the family values that the founders of the company – my parents – have instilled in us, their children and which we have reinforced in our corporate core values. Furthermore, given that our market is the youth, we use our voice to influence our customers in a positive way.

Q4: Does using international endorsers give good return on investment? How do you choose your endorsers?

A: It is an expensive investment, but like most of our investments we look at the long term. Competing side by side with global brands, the scope of our current audience is international so we also select international endorsers in order to be relevant in all the markets we serve. Our thrust is to keep the brands strong and grow at a pace that challenges us. We aim to pass on to the next generation a business that is robust and dynamic.

Q5: Your recognition system in the company does not reward business results alone but is also matched with values. Why are these two inseparable?

A: It all boils down to integrity. We cannot separate performance and values. One can never be at the expense of the other. When you embrace the core values, it defines your behavior and mindset then it translates to your actions, and equates to outward performance.

Q6: How do your personality and values as founder shape your team to win?

A: As founder of Golden ABC, I value profit with honor, which is translated to our company’s core values that all employees are expected to abide by. In terms of personality, I can say that I am the kind of person who demands a high level of excellence. There are times when a manager or director hits their performance levels, I will tell them that’s very good – why not aim for more? By making them uncomfortable, they are pushed to be better versions of themselves today than they were yesterday. To have a winning mindset. The end goal is to make them better than who I am – to run the business way better than me when their time comes.

Q7: What innovation are you most proud of in Penshoppe?

A: Being able to marry both the art and science. From our products to our marketing campaigns and even the in-store experience, we are able to deliver on our brand promise by constantly aligning them with highly technical business analytics.

Q8: Internet has been an equalizer to many businesses, accessible to both start-up and big businesses. What’s Penshoppe’s direction on this?

A: Our digital transformation office, while new, takes on this mission seriously of disrupting our own processes, before our challengers can do so. This is very apparent in our Penshoppe app. Instead of a linear distribution model as in the brick-and-mortar channels, a cross-functional team of managers, digital specialists and creatives use a collaborative e-commerce platform to co-design our app. By using new collaborative systems, we prepare everyone in Golden ABC to be truly digital natives.

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