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Stay for Good, Ex-OFW Business Execs Advise
ONLY sixth sense can help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to succeed in business: common sense.
That’s according to Miguel Bolos Jr., a former OFW who now runs a shopping mall and spa after a quarter of a century of working in Saudi Arabia.
Bolos said that sense applies to the OFW’s decision to come home and stay home in the Philippines.
For Bolos, the doing began a quarter of a century ago when he worked as a financial comptroller in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But that length of being away may have also become the death knell for his marriage.
He brushes the latter aside, saying he has moved on.
The sign that he did so was when he spent time managing businesses such as a three-storey shopping mall in his hometown of Guagua, Pampanga, and a spa in Pasay City since returning to the Philippines in 2005.
“[OFWs should] not make the mistake of being an absentee investor because, in all probability, the business will not prosper,” Bolos said.
If an OFW wants to succeed in business, it’s only “common sense” that he or she stays home for good, he added.
Bolos’s advice comes at a time when a strong peso has weakened the value of remittances amid an upswing in local business.
Exporters, even of electronic products, are even unfazed as a weakening greenback further fueled the Philippine peso to maintain its strength at a two-year high.
In its Business Optimism Index released October, Dun & Bradstreet’s data revealed exports were up more than 33 percent for the third quarter, similar to the pace in the April-June period.
The D&B BOI, which measures optimism of business leaders and owners, revealed six sectors positive of volume of sales, at over 60 percent of the 260 companies polled. Only those in the construction sector were below 50 percent, as a slowdown in public construction is likely a fourth quarter expectation.
A former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Saudi Arabia, Teresita Perez-Villanueva, manages the family-run Pervil Cosmetics Philippines that produces facial products. It takes patience while in the country.
However, Catholic church-based Scalabrini Migration Center said that for Filipinos thinking of returning home, the time’s not now.
“Return migration by OFWs is not viable at this point,” the SMC said in its study titled “Realizing Migration and Development in the Philippines.”
“It was not realistic to encourage return migration at this time —or until such time that the local economy can offer alternatives to overseas jobs.”
“[Coming home for good] is a ‘do-or-die‘ situation.”
But former KSA-based nurse Teresita Perez Villanueva said there is no such thing as a “better” time to come home and go into business.
Villanueva, who has been running a cosmetics company since 2002, said risks are always present in business, whether it be in countries like the Philippines or elsewhere.
She cited as example the proliferation of local imitations of her Pervil-brand whitening cream, which angered customers some of who aired their complaints in national television.
Bolos, on the other hand, cited also his problem of lack of tenants after having shelled out P20 million to own a third of the shares of the P60-million One Crowne Plaza in Guagua in 2007.
Villanueva was unfazed with the flak fake products did to her brand and personally invited the TV host and crew to visit her factory in Cabanatuan City.
She also changed her product’s packaging to make it difficult for imitators to copy Pervil.
Bolos, on the other hand, continued to market his space for lease.
Now, the mall has leased all available spaces to mostly local entrepreneurs, including former OFWs.
Still, Bolos said he has yet to generate profit since he continues to pay for monthly debts.
These business-related situations thus become difficult for OFWs to run homeland businesses from abroad, and letting relatives at home handle problems, he added.
Or handle the demand, as Villanueva said what prompted her to quit her job eight years ago and go home.
Different from Bolos, she got the idea to go serious in business when, according to her, a Saudi prince grew a liking to her skin whitening cream and orders swelled.
She said her husband handled the marketing side in the Philippines.
The business growth brought her to a crossroad of whether to come home or not.
THE experiences of Bolos and Villanueva only reveal that OFWs still need sound business advice and training, especially if most of them have limited knowledge in starting or growing a business, according to Nueva Ecija-based rural banker Andres Panganiban, Jr.
“Remember, when they come back,” Panganiban says, “it is for good.”
However, recent studies by the nonprofit Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (Ercof) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) showed that some Filipinos want to go back to overseas work.
In particular, the studies by Ercof and IOM showed that while many Filipino workers in Malaysia and Italy want to go into business upon their retirement, a visible number surveyed want to continue working overseas “after ‘retiring’.”
This finding is supported by government data, like the Cebu City-headquartered Philippine Cooperative Central Fund Federation (PCF).
Those who mix up profits of their businesses with daily family expenses were among OFWs who availed of loans from a government-bankrolled enterprise loan program of the PCF. But after securing credit, they returned to overseas work.
PCF officials said its Livelihood Development Program for OFWs, with funds coming from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), is trying to find out how to bring down the high number of OFW entrepreneurs with past due loans.
Bolos, however, said returning to overseas work is “not a sensible idea.”
The entrepreneur must be on top of his or her business, doing the daily grind and personally handling the problems associated with running it, he said.
For Villanueva, it takes patience to grow the business.
She said her business began from a makeshift laboratory near her house in Cabanatuan City.
Slowly, she hired workers. Now, Pervil –a combination of the couple’s surnames– is tapping export markets such as the United States, Canada, and some countries in the Middle East.
Dreams of entrepreneurial success, many times aspired by cash-awash OFWs, require a life-changing moment: coming back home to the Philippines, for good, according to Bolos.