Our best kept secret
IN our country, a resounding sociological reality is that our children were raised to study hard in order to get high-paying jobs and not become entrepreneurs. Senator Manny Villar was once quoted in saying, “Ang Pinoy na tatay, tatanungin niya ang anak niya: ‘Anak, bakit wala ka pang trabaho?’ Pero ’yung tatay na Tsinoy, ang sasabihin sa anak niya, ‘Anak, bakit wala ka pang negosyo?’ “Even in schools, our curriculum is focused on training us for life-long work skills instead of highlighting individuality and creativity, two things that spur the most successful businesses. In government, our policies are likewise oriented towards developing a labor force instead of promotion of businesses and investments” (Agustin M. Tome).
Inspired by the unique business success of DDBS Advertising Unlimited Inc., I ventured to pick the mind of its current Chairman of the Board and Founder, Mr. Darwin S. Hortel, CPA; in order to fully understand how Darwin and his longtime business partner Ms. Delia Lucero-Magtoto ventured to grow their initial business capital culled from a monthly savings scheme (or “paluwagan”) into what their company is today; and possibly serve as “guide posts” for up-and-coming entrepreneurs out there.
On the get-go, Darwin attributes the foundation of a person’s business sense on one’s family upbringing. On June 5, 1954; Eufrocina Sebe Hortel and Diosdado Hortel, received their second blessing from the Lord, when their second son Darwin was born. Darwin and his elder brother Danilo, was born in Bohol, but in 1956, their parents decided to move to Davao, considering that time, Mindanao was believed to be the Land of Promise.
Since Darwin and his siblings were growing up, their expenses likewise increased and his parents found it hard to support everyone’s education. Fortunately, Darwin’s parents were able to save enough money that helped them purchase a small property along the roadside where they placed a small sari-sari store. At the same time, they leased their house to get an extra income, while they all moved into their small space inside the sari-sari store. As Darwin had to take on the shoes of his eldest brother Danilo (who decided to enter the St. Francis Minor Seminary in Davao), he was tasked to go to the market to buy their merchandise. Early morning before going to school, he woke up before sunrise to catch the first trip going to the town capital. After getting things done in the store, Darwin would then have to prepare to walk for a mile to attend his class. “My four years of high-school was spent in that store. So, I think my entrepreneurial spirit started there,” shares Darwin.
Another crucial facet of an effective business mindset according to Darwin is education: “They (Darwin’s parents) would counsel me that I will only be prepared to face the challenges of the world if I graduated from college. I remember my mother told me, you cannot go into battle without the required ammunition. Not being able to finish college was like going to war with an axe, while your enemy has a cannon.” True enough, Darwin finished his accountancy degree (from the University of San Carlos) and earned his license as a Certified Public Accountant.
If there was likewise one thing that you would learn from Darwin in his quest for learning the rudiments of business was his sagacity in balancing school and life. He believed that learning was not just found in the four corners of the classroom but in the experiences of life itself. So before partnering with Ms. Delia Magtoto in founding the DDBS Group of Companies, Darwin would further learn from his professional experiences at the Commission on Population, Producers Bank, Ayala Corporation, RPN Channel 9 and eventually ABC Channel 5 as the head of Finance.
In today’s interconnected and knowledge-based economy, your business is only as strong as its weakest link. Darwin believes that surrounding yourself with the right people will guarantee the success of any business venture. On the personal front, Darwin was blessed by the support of his family and loved ones … his children Daruell, Michael and Darwin, Jr. are living testaments to this familial support mechanism. On the other hand, in all of his business successes, Darwin attributes all these to his collaboration with his business partner and close friend for 25 years, Ms. Delia Magtoto: “I think the reasons why we (Darwin & Delia) really go along together is because we have the same foundation in a sense that we are both CPAs so we have the same orientation, we both came from province; thus, we know that life is not easy and we know that we have to face a lot of sacrifices so we can achieve our goal, so those ingredients became the core for us to come up to conclusions on critical situations.” In fact, th
e initial fund which started their business ventures (which includes Golden Arrow Properties, Lands & Rivers Philippines; and now the DDBS Group of Companies) was fondly called as “allied fund” for each would refer to the other as “allies”.
Finally, a successful business is a business that gives honor to God, which for Darwin is the source of all blessings. And for Darwin, this same faith in God was likewise the source of his personal strength when he fought and conquered the big “C” during the height of his business successes. So how do we sum up Darwin’s Business sense? Well, you get the 5F’s … Formation, Financial-IQ, Family, Friends and Faith!
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