Injap Sia on Building Businesses That Last
WHAT I'VE LEARNED
39, founder of Mang Inasal; Co-Chairman and CEO of DoubleDragon Properties
Making a fair decision isn’t always the easiest thing, but looking back at my journey in Mang Inasal, I see how the business became stronger and stronger through making fair decisions. Whatever difficult decisions I had to make were made more difficult because they also had to be fair, but they paid off over time.
Conducting fair business opened up other doors of opportunities for me. For example, the business I am in now, DoubleDragon, evolves with the same people [who I did business with in Mang Inasal]. This partnership was made possible because we’d been fair to one another since early on.
Courage is when you are able to make difficult decisions, and pursue those decisions even when they’re not initially perceived by other people as the correct decision.
I think majority of people base their judgments on the superficial. If you go a notch lower, deeper, you see a different picture. I think that’s the key, and I still practice that in everything—in the way you assess the industry, the way you assess the business opportunities, the way you assess anything. I always make it a point to look beyond what you see from the outside. I have noticed that most people base their decisions only from what is indicated on the business dashboard. But you will have greater advantage if you base your decisions before it even reaches the dashboard.
Building a business that will outlast my lifetime is the worthwhile pursuit. I’m not into building something short-term. Sure, I may make money out of a fad, but I’m not really too keen on that. I think Mang Inasal is well-designed and well-executed, and it was built to outlast me.
I have to remind myself from time to time that my business endeavors should uplift everyone involved—that’s always the intention.
Putting up a business in the beginning is more art than science. You cannot rely on a template for it. Later on, when the business is more established, it becomes more science than art.
I consider myself a risk-taker. But I think there’s also a defensive side to taking risks, which is very important. There’s a very thin line between being aggressive and being purely reckless; I’m aggressive, but not reckless.
I go full throttle most times, but I don’t go beyond the limits. Though every situation is different, and so your limits vary, too. It’s like driving: The speed limit is different whether you’re driving on a small road or a highway, or whether you’re going straight in clear weather, or turning during rain. You have to adjust your limits to the factors around that specific circumstance.
You get first-degree burns at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people might take their hands away at the first sign of heat, but if you know that your limit is 100 degrees, you can tolerate up to 99 degrees. In the same way, you have to anticipate difficulties, so you know how far you can push yourself safely.
I think success is a series of correct decisions. Every decision that’s made today was made because you thought it was right today; and, as a leader and a business founder, that’s your job—to keep making decisions all day.
For ten decisions you make, maybe seven will be perceived as immediately correct. While others may not perceive the other three decisions as right, however, if you’re blessed, it will turn out correct in the long run. And that blessing comes about as a combination of instinct and guidance.
I think I had the confidence to compete locally [in the province]; but it was different thing to compete with [businesses in] the larger, more sophisticated, the more organized and crowded cities like Metro Manila. Most probinsyanos like me don’t have the confidence for that—parang given na that you have less experience, you have less capability. Like in my case—I think I’d only been to Manila less than five times when I was expanding Mang Inasal—so it was like going to the Olympics after coming from a town sports league.
Over time I have come to realize that being a probinsyano became an advantage—I discovered that when you are able to quickly learn the complex business ways in the big city and then mix those learnings with what you have naturally learned in the streets in the province, it will result in better decision and direction. I think if I had a different and more comfortable background, the decisions I have made over the past ten years would have been different.
I am thankful for all the experiences I’ve had—from my childhood years growing up seeing our parents build their grocery store brick by brick, my high school years of commuting by public jeepney every day, eating in the carinderias, and traveling to visit almost all the provincial cities in the Philippines. These all gave me a good foundation that I am able to make use of in my daily grind.
When a person starts to think that all his success comes because he’s so good, he’s already off-track. I always remind myself that I’m here for a mission, and it keeps me grounded. I have to keep checking with myself, is this aligned with why I was given these blessings? Am I on track with my mission in life?
Up to a certain level, money makes your life more comfortable. Only up to a certain level. After that, you don’t feel a significant difference anymore especially if you have set your personal contentment level low. But I still continue to work, no longer for myself but for a greater purpose.
My first million made me more conservative. Earning that first million was so difficult, that when I finally had it, I knew I had to take care of it because I have poured in so much sacrifice and hard work for it.
Making my first billion put my character to test. In 2010—I was 33 at the time—Jollibee bought Mang Inasal for P3 billion for a 70 percent stake. Having that sum of money in front of you, at 33, can make or break you. It’s an acid test of your personality, your character, your sense of self. I thank the values that our parents have instilled in us, their children, that made me able to stay whole and grounded.
I knew I did okay because I didn’t squander that money. Money, fame, and fortune needs to be managed properly—I don’t know the statistics, but I noticed that most people, like Hollywood personalities, cannot preserve their wealth for a long period of time. I think a person needs a good solid value foundation built up over time to handle that special situation properly.
The best way to handle wealth is to pour your heart and soul into making it. Knowing the kind of sacrifice it takes to make money is the best foundation to help you handle wealth. If you built something brick by brick, drop of sweat by drop of sweat, over a long period of time, you’ll naturally take care of it.
The first luxury I bought myself was a Rolex. It was considered as a sign of achievement then. I bought my first and only Rolex in 2004; a few months later, I bought one for my father, my mother, my wife, my brother, my sister. I still keep mine, although I seldom wear a watch now.
For many years I have always tried to give value and importance to family. At the end of the day, your family is your core. It keeps you whole, which is necessary as you navigate your life journey. Every member of the family has a role to play, it’s like a big basketball team.