FPH Chairman Federico R. LopezFirst Philippine Holdings Corporation
(FPH) chairman and chief executive officer Federico R. Lopez
(FRL) shares his immediate predecessor’s vision of making companies that are built to last. Toward this end, FRL lists three top priorities as FPH moves into its next 50 years.
“The first is to ensure that we are always mindful of the strategic positioning of our companies amidst an ever-changing environment locally and globally. A company with strategic clarity moves more effectively, hires the right people and wastes less time and resources. Nothing could be more tragic than a company finding out that it’s been running a hundred miles per hour in the wrong direction,” he says.
Each company’s strategic positioning is so crucial because it determines appropriate action going forward. “If you’re armed with a clear knowledge of yourself, your competition, as well as your external environment and where it’s headed, it becomes clear what distinctive capabilities you need to build up for the future,” says FRL.
Yet he remains utterly aware of a dynamic and constantly changing world. “The great Prussian general Helmuth Von Moltke liked to say that any strategy or ‘battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy.’ Thus, even the best plans have to be flexible enough to adapt to encountered responses and changing circumstances on the battlefield. You can only prepare for this effectively by continually building up that broad range of unique capabilities in your arsenal.”
FRL’s second priority relates to deploying human resources, or having the right people occupying the right seats, so to speak. He believes a firstrate team of self-starters that can work well together is vital to the success of any company.
“I pay close attention to the maturity and chemistry of the team because it has a great impact on my third priority, which is to create the right environment that encourages our people and subsidiaries to work closely together, aligned by the right culture and values. We have to leverage the collective experience, capabilities and ideas that abound in our group of companies,” FRL says.
In line with these priorities, FPH has moved toward deepening shared activities to include fun group-wide Christmas parties, Music Icon competitions and two-day Strategies & Synergies conferences among top officers that focus solely on each company’s strategic positioning.
Harvard Business School professors Ranjay Gulati and Tarun Khanna have conducted learning sessions, providing valuable insights and a common language that aid in the crafting of the strategies of the respective companies. They also became opportunities for mixed groups of officers from various FPH subsidiaries to discuss relevant business cases and practice problem solving together.
“A great outcome of all these is that we’re all getting to know each other much better than we have in the past, and know that each of the subsidiaries is just an easy phone call away,” says FRL.
The last 10 years prior to his assumption of the FPH chairmanship, the Lopez Group experienced great difficulty under a hostile political regime. Yet he notes that the Group has grown like it has never done before. This only reinforced his belief that a crisis always presents opportunities to make things better.
“However, despite all the foresight in the world, you can never accurately predict where and when the next crisis will come from. You can prepare your risk management matrices diligently and cover every conceivable threat possible but nothing prepares you as well as having good self-starters who think on their feet, won’t let you down, are solid team players and can deliver results under pressure. People with those qualities are invaluable and allow all of us to sleep well at night knowing you can depend on one another. Well-run companies have little tolerance for self-centered, divisive and dysfunctional personalities, no matter how brilliant,” FRL says.
FRL is very much aware of the damage that silos or turfs can mean to a conglomerate like the Lopez Group. There would be many lost opportunities as the Group loses its ability to leverage collective capabilities and experience. Hence, FRL encourages members of the Group to take to heart the Lopez Credo and Values being championed by his father, chairman emeritus Oscar M. Lopez. He believes that having a shared legacy, “the consistency of values and the way we do business can be a powerful binding force for all of us…While it’s impossible to eliminate walls between companies, it is achievable to bridge them…Only as people get to know each other and enjoy being together can you even hope to see the beginnings of synergy. Hopefully, after that, you progress toward solving problems cooperatively and begin creatively generating new ideas.”
Despite the two major sectors of the Lopez Group (ABS-CBN Corporation and FPH) being very different in terms of business drivers and industry dynamics, FRL and his cousin, ABSCBN chairman Eugenio Lopez III
(EL3), find themselves learning about each other’s businesses and coordinating their actions a lot more these days. “Hopefully, it also leads to our management teams and employees becoming even closer in the future,” FRL says.
His message for LopezLink readers?
“I can’t begin to express my excitement over the platform of businesses we have today in FPH and in the Lopez Group. We’re now poised to create significant shareholder value in the coming years. However, as Gabby (EL3) pointed out in his closing remarks at the last Lopez Group midyear planning session, the businesses and industries we operate in have gotten more competitive and complex. I know we all need to step up to the plate, up our game and leverage the strength of our Group in the coming years if we want to rev up the full potential of what we have. It’s crunch time, let’s work as one!”