Money & Power

SM's Tessie Sy-Coson Shares 7 Tips to Kickstart a Business

The SM Corporation vice chairman recounts how she started working in her family's business as an inventory clerk and then a cashier.
IMAGE JENNIE CASTILLO
Comments

Some of the Philippines' most successful female entrepreneurs shared their insights with the approximately 10,000 women who attended Go Negosyo's 10th Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit.

Many of the speakers are considered mentors in various fields, and they shared lessons they’ve learned through their own ventures. Among the speakers was SM Corporation’s vice chairwoman Tessie Sy-Coson, who gave the crowd practical advice on how to kickstart a business.


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
The panel for the first forum of morning, which was aptly called "WOMENtorship"

These were her key points:

1. In conceptualizing a business, find a gap that needs to be filled.

When the Sy family began one of their biggest companies, the idea for BDO Unibank sprung from the need for smaller change for their department stores, as none of the bigger banks at the time would take on a bulk of coins. “It started as a need, so we started with only four [bank] branches at that time to serve our four branches of department stores,” she told the crowd. The bank would deal with coins and small change, convert them to larger bills, and deposit them to the bigger banks. “Then we grew out of serving only SM, so we [expanded] into 18 branches, then 23, and the rest is history.”

2. Find a mentor. Your greatest mentor could be closer than you think.

Sy-Coson didn’t need to look far for hers. Henry Sy Sr. served as both father and business mentor. “You learn from everyone in an organization but the mentor I really look up to is my father,” she said. Another unexpected mentor masked itself as the immense pressure Sy-Coson faced as her father’s heir. “The best mentor is pressure,” she confirmed.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW


Tessie Sy-Coson

3. Start from the bottom and earn your title.

Being the daughter of the owner was no guarantee that she’d take over the family business one day, so Sy-Coson immersed herself into the business early, with her first job as an inventory clerk and then a cashier. Unlike the echoing list of achievements that accompany the SM name today, the business was essentially a small family business when Sy-Coson was growing up. “Through the years, I learned the ropes and took on more responsibility and that’s how you learn.”

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

She stressed that the value of responsibility pushed her even further. “With those behind me, I really had to work and learn,” she said. “I really had to learn the ropes and earn respect as the one leading.”

4. Save as much as you can.

Knowing what it was like to start from the ground up, the Sys learned to value every centavo. And since they were paid mostly in coins, “people called us the five and ten cent store,” she said, a clear reference to the American discount establishments popular in the past. “We were very frugal. Kailangan matipid because you really have to control the cost.”


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Sy-Coson with Go Negosyo's Joey Concepcion (left), moderator Issa Litton (right), and fellow speakers Georgina Wilson Burnand, Merle Arnaldo-Paete, Clarissa Delgado, Anne Curtis Smith-Heussaff, Natividad Cheng, Lizzie Eder Zobel, and Vicki Belo.

5. Don’t be afraid to take the unexpected route.

If there’s anything the entrepreneur thinks any business needs to succeed, it’s perseverance coupled with passion. Sy-Coson always looks to exercise her passion even after years in the business. “I do things which are not within the corporate management’s expectations but I need to do it because I need to keep that passion alive in me,” she said.

6. Big or small, entrepreneurs should help other entrepreneurs.

With a panel of fellow female entrepreneurs, some with years under their belt or just starting out, Sy-Coson believes that there’s always an opportunity to help other businesses grow. “As a big business, we provide small businesses with the opportunity to showcase their products and their talents as a part of mentoring,” she shared. It’s always about the customer and if businesses need to partner for the sake of the customer's needs, then it’s better to work together.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW


7. Pattern your growth after demand.

The idea that the customer is always right rings true in Sy-Coson’s business values. It’s looking at the customer’s needs, the quality of a product or service that fuels the business and will eventually bring it to growth. “It’s not a matter of wanting to expand just because we have the funds,” she explained. “It’s because we follow the customer.” She added that when a business has amassed more customers, then it’s time to scale upward. “You start small, but in the future, you will grow big.”

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW


The speakers pose with the Go Negosyo crowd

Comments
View More Articles About:
About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
View Other Articles From Hannah
Comments
Latest Stories
 
Share
No official word yet, but construction of a bridge nearby is raising eyebrows.
 
Share
 
Share
Jewelers have always looked to the heavens, but the Apollo 11 mission inspired a new era of designs.
 
Share
After years of rumblings, the beloved show is finally getting a reboot.
 
Share
 
Share
The collection is up for auction, and a private buyer could take it home for good.
 
Share
This week, the birds on the Thames were checked and counted.
 
Share
Rixo acknowledged the designs used on several pieces of its apparel were Feanne's designs. 
 
Share
After an extensive search, Luhrmann cast Austin Butler to play the King.
 
Share
The label's Autumn Winter ’19 collection by Paul Andrew and Guillaume Meilland is an undefined, androgynous delight.
 
Share
On July 20 and 21, memorabilia from the Quezon Residence will go under the gavel in an online auction.
 
Share
Load More Articles
CONNECT WITH US