Culture

Learning From 'Big John' Gokongwei

John Gokongwei has been named MAP’s 2017 Management Man of the Year.
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John Gokongwei Jr. has just received the Management Association of the Philippines’ prestigious Management Man of the Year award for 2017. Since 1967, this honor has been given to those who have attained “unquestioned distinction in the practice of management and for contributing to the country’s progress.”

As the founder and chair emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, Gokongwei is the second richest man in the Philippines with assets worth $5.5 billion. But he didn’t always have it so good—when he was just 13 years old, his father passed away, leaving his family mired in debt. Their financial situation was so dire that Gokongwei’s siblings had to be sent to China, while Gokongwei stayed in Cebu to make a living by selling roasted peanuts.

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His story of overcoming adversity to build the country’s second largest family-run business is one of the reasons MAP chose to award him this year. As they put it, Gokongwei has “contributed to shaping national values and inspiring others by his outstanding achievements attained from humble beginnings through hard work, perseverance, frugality, and discipline.”

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The group also cited Gokongwei’s “foresight and exceptional ability to launch new ventures and transform existing ones to better adapt to challenging times and an unpredictable future.”

You can read Gokongwei’s inspiring life story in a children’s book called Big John: The Life Story of John Gokongwei Jr.


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Ateneo de Manila University published a biography called John Gokongwei Jr.: The Path of Entrepreneurship. Apart from his life story, it also details Gokongwei’s nine rules for business success.


His son, Lance Gokongwei together with Town and Country editor in chief Yvette Fernandez penned a tribute to Gokongwei titled Lessons from Dad, John Gokongwei Jr. While it isn’t available for sale commercially, you can read excerpts here.

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Gokongwei’s life is clear proof that no matter how bad things get, you can always bounce back with courage and hard work.

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Angelica Gutierrez
Angelica is currently Editorial Assistant for Esquiremag.ph.
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