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Financial Adviser: 5 Business Lessons Everyone Can Learn from R. Lapid's Chicharon and Barbeque Founder Rey Lapid

Lapid’s is the most recognized chicharon brand in the country today.
IMAGE LAPID'S CHICHARON
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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Rey Lapid, the founder of R. Lapid's chicharon, had always wanted to become a policeman and join the Manila's Finest police force in the 1970s. But when former President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, it discouraged him to finish his criminology course, and later made him decide to drop out of college.

Being out of school, Lapid spent his time working for the family business with his father who was a meat vendor in Quinta market.

One day, he noticed that every time they closed shop, his father would always throw away a large amount of excess pork skins.  

When he asked his father about it, he was told that the wasted pork skins were already paid for by their regular customers, who would normally request his father to remove the pork skin from the meat.

Lapid thought that the excess pork skin should not be wasted, so he suggested to his father that instead of throwing away the pork skins, he would just collect it and resell it as chicharon.

Lapid soon put up his own small kiosk selling chicharon in a corner space in the public market. He wanted to test his idea if there was a market for his product, and much to his father’s surprise, the chicharon business succeeded.

Since then, Lapid would regularly collect excess pork skin, even from other meat vendors, as business slowly grew.

A few months later, he expanded his business and added another store near the public market in R. Hidalgo street in Quiapo.

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With a bigger store space, Lapid began trying out additional new products such as tocino and longganisa, but it was the barbeque that became a big hit among his customers.

Because the business became known for its fried pork rinds and grilled pork, Lapid formally named his store as R. Lapid’s Chicharon and Barbeque.

Today, 47 years after the first outlet in Quinta market, R. Lapid’s is the most recognized brand for quality chicharon and barbeque with over 100 outlets nationwide. It is also the largest manufacturer of chicharon in the country, catering to large food and beverage operators.

How did Lapid develop his competitive advantage and grow his business to be the leading chicharon and barbeque chain in the market? What were Lapid’s business strategies that help strengthen his brand for the past 40 years?

Here are the five business lessons every entrepreneur can learn from the founder of R. Lapid’s Chicharon and Barbeque, Rey Lapid:

1| Use experience to get ahead of the competition

There is a saying that formal education will make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune.

Lack of formal education did not prevent Lapid from succeeding in business. He learned his early lessons in business from his failures.

In the mid-1970s, when R. Lapid’s proved to be a successful business concept, Rey Lapid thought that he could duplicate his success in United States.

At that time, he was invited to join as a partner in putting up a restaurant in California for the Filipino community. Lapid left his chicharon business to his wife, while he went to United States to establish a new business.

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When he arrived, he realized that his partners wanted him to run everything in the business, from food preparation to handling customer service to purchasing and cleaning the store.

Unfortunately, the business did not do well. It was barely surviving so after two years, Lapid gave up and went home.

When Lapid returned to the Philippines, he applied what he learned from his experience in the US to improve his chicharon business.   

“Pag uwi ko sa Pilipinas, yung experience ko sa US ang pinairal ko. Halimbawa, hindi ko malimutan paano maglinis ng plato,” Lapid says. “Hindi mo pwede hindi ilubog sa mainit ng tubig. Yung mga natutunan ko sa US na apply ko dito. Sinara ko yung pwesto naming sa R. Hidalgo kasi tumaas yung upa ng triple. Lumipat kami sa may Nagtahan bridge at inayos ko ang business.

“Yung isang mahirap to maintain sa negosyong ito ay yung quality. Yung how to maintain good quality, how to chill and marinate, lahat ng sistema pinag-aralan ko.

“Kaya maganda yung na-experience ko sa US. Natutunan ko na kailangan walang germs sa area ng processing mo. Dito makakita lang ako ng isang ipis, galit na galit ako, kaya na-approve kami ng HACCP. We follow ung GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice). Lahat yun sinusunod namin.”

Entrepreneurship is like roller coaster ride because it can be difficult and messy, but when you have the right business experience, you will have more control of what you want to do.

2| Use creativity to create opportunities out of problems

If you want your business to grow and expand, you need to bring in new ideas that will add value to your customers.

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With the fast-changing business environment, especially changing consumer preferences towards healthier food consumption, Lapid knew that he needed to come up with creative ways to keep the interest of his market.

Lapid marketed his chicharon products as a healthy snack alternative, emphasizing on its rich nutrition and benefits. He also raised the standards of his raw materials, the pork skin, as well the processing to make sure that his products are of high quality.

“Yung ginagawa ng iba sa pag luto ng chicharon ay binibilad sa araw. Madalas ito nilalangaw at naaalikabok,” he says. “Yung sakin, hindi namin binibilad. Cooking yung processing namin.

“Para mabenta ko ng maayos, pinaghati ko sa tatlo yung produkto. Yung isa may laman, yung isa cocktail pure skin, at yung isa naman, belly skin. Lahat yun idea ko, imagination ko.

“Yung style ng dating Pinoy, yung chicharon daw puro taba, mataas sa cholesterol, pero hindi, ang ginawa ko naglagay ako ng nutrition fact. Chicharon is very rich in protein and low in carbohydrates. Ni-market ko yung chicharon as better than snack food—pwede ulam, pwede snack, pwede rin pulutan.

Yung supplier ko lahat ng biik may birth certificate para pag may diprensya ung baboy, alam agad kung ano problem sa pagkain.”

3| Use innovative ideas to increase sales

One way to stay on top of your market is to come up with innovative solutions for your customers’ needs before they even know they need them.

When Lapid was planning to expand his outlets, he thought of innovating the way his chicharon products are served by copying the concept of French fries.

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“Nung araw nakikita ko kasi yung French Fries na dini-deep fry, so sabi ko, gawin ko kaya yan sa chicharron,” he says. “Ginawa ko niluto rin naming yung chicharon sa harap ng customer. Lulutuin namin in three minutes para fresh. Aba, nag click, grabe! Ang haba ng pila sa SM Southmall. Simula nun, lahat ng outlet ko may ready fryer na.”

As sales grew with more outlets, Lapid soon ran out of local supply of pork skin to meet his requirements. He resorted to importing pork skin from overseas to fill up the production gap.

“Yung raw material ko na pork skin ini-import namin kasi mas maganda yung quality ng balat kaysa dito. Bago ako mag-import, pinapasyalan ko yan. Tinitingnan ko paano nila ni i-process yung balat.

“Yung supplier ko ayaw nila pumatay ng baboy na sumisigaw kasi tumitigas yung muscle. Ayaw nila yung nagagalit yung baboy, so ginagawa nila pinapasok nila sa vacuum room and three minutes lang patay na. Paglabas nung baboy, tahimik at nakangiti pa.”

4| Use trust to build relationship with customers

Every entrepreneur needs to understand how important building trust is in the business. Without trust, there will be no customers, and if there are no customers, there is no reason for the business to exist.

You need to retain your customers by building a relationship with them. When you establish an emotional connection with your customers, you can build loyalty and trust.

“Trust is important,” he says. “Pag kausap mo customer, lalo na yung mga big companies, importante yung trust kasi kailangan mo maintindihan yung customer mo para matulungan mo.

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Naalala ko noong araw si Henry Sy. Dati madalas bumili yung nurse nya ng chicharon sa Makati. Gusto nya yung chicharon na may laman, pero nung pinagbawalan na sya ng kanyang doctor, hindi na makabili yung nurse nya.

Isang beses tumawag yung crew sakin at sinabi na andun daw si Mr. Henry Sy sa outlet. Naka-wheelchair at wala raw mautusan kaya sya na mismo ang bumili. Kung special ang product mo, bibilin talaga ng customer.

Naalala ko rin noong araw yung malakas pa dati si Mr. Sy at naimbitihan ako sa opening ng SM Batangas. Noong nakita nya ako, sinabi nya sakin, ‘Your business is very good. Do your best.’ Muntik nako maiyak noon. Biro mo big-timer sinabihan ako.

Kaya sinabi ko sa kanya, ‘Yes sir, Thank you sir. I will focus on that. I will do everything the best way I can.’ Yung nagsabi sayo hindi ordinaryong tao. Sundin mo yan. Natanim ‘yan sa isip ko dahil nagtiwala siya sayo ng bongga kaya hind ko pwede sirain.”

5| Use positive thinking to succeed in life

Every business is a struggle. You will always have your ups and downs.  Sometimes you cannot avoid not to worry or be discouraged when things are not going your way.

Having positive mindset can spell the difference between success and failure. When you nurture a positive attitude, you can overcome any negative thoughts by changing your perception of a bad situation into a good one.

By focusing on the positive in any situation, you can overcome your doubts and fears with every victories you have each day.

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“Bago ko pasukin ang isang negosyo, kung ano ang nasa isip ko sinusulat ko para ma pag-aralan ko kung ano pinakamabuting gawin,” he says. “Ginagawa ko yan hanggang ngayon at kung alam mo na ang plano mo, you, you have to trust yourself to execute it.

“Hindi ako masyado nagfo-focus sa negative. Lahat ng negosyo dapat pinaghihirapan mo. Meron nag-nenegosyo madali, pero madali rin bumagsak. You must work hard for it.

“Kailangan sa negosyo pag aralan mo kung ano ang tamang gagawin. Are you sure with your options? Kung sure ka na, that’s the time you have to trust yourself. Don’t focus on negative. Focus on the positive. Kung mangyari man yun niwo-worry mo, kaya mo ‘yan. Focus lang on positive. Don’t ever lose your sight.”

Henry Ong, RFP, is president of Business Sense Financial Advisors. Email Henry for business advice [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @henryong888. 

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