Lopez Group chairman Manuel M. Lopez (MML) told top Lopez Group executives at the annual budget conference on January 31 that the group’s strength lay in its “unity and determination to succeed.”
Although the stock market has largely discounted share prices of ABS-CBN Corporation and Lopez Holdings Corporation in the last two to three years, MML noted that First Philippine Holdings Corporation and First Gen Corporation outperformed the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) in 2018 with increases of 4% and 18%, respectively, while the PSE index declined by 13% year-on-year.
MML believes taking Energy Development Corporation private and the joint development agreement with Tokyo Gas for the LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal project drove the favorable revaluation of First Gen. Tokyo Gas is a global gas utility and a leader in the industry with 50 years of experience in LNG.
He was also optimistic about the prospects for Rockwell Land Corporation, especially with the “very good response” to its resort project in Mactan. Work on the Power Plant Mall expansion and Aruga Hotel are also “proceeding relatively smoothly.”
The conference was in fact held at The Fifth at Rockwell on the fifth floor of Power Plant Mall. MML called the events hall “Rockwell’s newest pride and joy.” It sports the biggest Samsung LED wall in Southeast Asia, measuring 23.04 meters by 4.32 meters, and digitally controlled lights. It can seat as many as 600 for banquets and can accommodate as many as 900 for cocktail events.
Empathy for customers
In his remarks at the end of the conference, Lopez Holdings vice chairman and ABS-CBN Corporation chairman emeritus Eugenio Lopez III (EL3) drew business lessons from the stories of Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) and British Joseph Lister (1827-1912).
In 1847, Semmelweis instituted washing hands and medical instruments with soap and chlorine but was rejected by his peers. At that time, the existence of germs was not generally known or accepted, and the entrenched belief was that disease was caused by an imbalance of body fluids. Even when presented with clinical evidence, the doctors were irritated at being blamed for spreading disease because they had not washed their hands.
Semmelweis was posthumously and much later recognized as a pioneer of antiseptic policy because the germ theory of disease developed only after his death from blood poisoning. Lister suffered the same rejection when he first developed his sterile surgical method. Nonetheless, he lived to see the eventual acceptance of his new method.
Drawing parallels in business, EL3 said: “We see it as excruciatingly difficult to let go of past success and seek new ways of solving a customer’s problem. We all work hard for our success and following that formula, things become easier for us, safer and more comfortable. But bear in mind the day that formula no longer applies, we begin to punish customers by becoming deaf and blind to what they truly need… What made us successful in the past may no longer be what determines success today. We must unlearn things which are no longer appropriate, among them sometimes the very things that made us successful. Customer well-being is the overriding goal. Empathy, not ego, must prevail.”
EL3 said many lives would have been saved if the doctors who rejected hand-washing set aside their egos to try the Semmelweis way. In behavioral science, the Semmelweis reflex now refers to the knee-jerk reflex to reject new evidence contradicting established norms. “I hope we will never have the Semmelweis reflex in our companies.”
EL3 concluded: “May I ask you to review your plans once more, this time with eyes that seek to ensure that the plans are driven by customer empathy and sterilized, so they are free from ego and counterproductive ways of doing things.” (Story/Photos by: Carla Paras-Sison)