Ninja Van Boss Martin Cu Needs a Family Van of His Own
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
During the past few months of community quarantine, many of us stuck at home have been dependent on courier deliveries for our business needs. Ninja Van has been one of those relevant services, with its country head Martin Cu making sure operations have been running smoothly despite the events he describes as "norm shattering."
But perhaps his most important delivery of all was one made by his wife, Arianne, when she gave birth to their first child, Parker William Kader Cu. Below, Martin tells us how his life has changed now that he is a father:
I'm a pretty nerdy guy. I grew up reading comic books and as a big Spider-Man fan somehow managed to convince my very giving wife to allow me to name our son Parker after Peter Parker. He was born six weeks into quarantine.
It was a stressful experience and the birth was the most stressful part of it, to be honest, because there were some complications. We had to spend a couple of days in the hospital at one point and it all kind of culminated in an emergency C-section for my wife. But at the same time, he came out beautifully. They're both doing fantastic now. It's been tiring but it's been extremely rewarding.
The best part has really been just watching him become more of a person every day, going from this little blob on day one to this smiling kid who starts responding to interaction, laughing when you pick him up, or crying and trying to communicate with us. All these little things, these little ticks that make him a person, has been so rewarding to watch the last couple of weeks.
The amazing people in my life, the same people who mentored me for business, are fathers themselves. They gave me great advice about what to expect or what not to expect.
And I think the most common thing I heard was you can never really be prepared, right? You just kind of have to roll with it. Every kid is different. What he needs at any point in time is a little bit different.
It's been a really amazing journey trying to communicate with him because obviously he can't speak and he's crying and screaming all the time and we try to guess what he needs. Is he hungry, does he need to burp, does he need to be changed?
So yeah, we try to respond to him in a way that is very reactive.
As a grandfather, it's been interesting to watch my Dad (Globe Telecom CEO Ernest Cu), as well. He really loves Parker. He finds time in his busy schedule to visit him as often as he can. When we make it down to their house, it's awesome to see him get really excited and jump off a call and run downstairs to pick up the baby.
My parents have been laboring over what they want to call themselves as grandparents. My Mom’s been driving herself crazy trying to figure out what she wants to be called. And up to now, she walks in every day and she tries a new name out on Parker. And she just tries to gauge his expressions.
My dad has taken to "Poppy." We've been calling him "Poppy" so that's a change for me, as well.
Lessons from Dad
A lot of my memories with my dad are of him working really hard and growing these incredible companies—his work ethic, what he brought to the business, this kind of drive that he had about really wanting to succeed.
That has been a huge inspiration to me. It's been something that I really aspire for. I feel competitive with him in terms of benchmarking my own career against his and with Ninja Van. That's something that I really want to see through. I want to see Ninja Van be the kind of success that my father always aspired for and has succeeded in.
Dad brought drive and energy to work but, at the same time, he would still come home and have something left in the tank for us.
That’s something I personally really appreciate: Dad finding a way to harmonize that work-life balance where his kids and his family are still a big part of his life. I hope that's something that I can also bring to, not just my team, but of course also my family—that I can be a big part of Parker’s life without compromising my career professionally.
Spidey's Uncle Ben
As far as father figures are concerned, I think a big part of why I like Spider-Man so much is because of the relationship he had with his Uncle Ben. He didn't grow up with a dad, but this profound relationship he had with Uncle Ben taught him a lot about responsibility.
And for me, as a kid, I think this really black-and-white sense of morality he brought to the story and the very hard lesson that he learned through Uncle Ben's death was a big part of why I fell in love with the character. And I really want my son Parker to experience that and know why he's named after this amazing character and all these amazing stories that have been told over the last you know 60-odd years.
The biggest challenge for me has been finding a way to juggle my son literally and metaphorically speaking along with my business.
Given that he's so young, the kinds of things we do together are mainly burping him and a lot of diaper changes—an ungodly amount of diaper changes. I'm trying to find different ways to integrate him into my workspace so that I can have him around and hold him while I'm answering e-mails or something like that. But yeah, just trying to find as much time to spend with him while I work.
The biggest thing really has been finding every opportunity to spend with him. Even though I'm home all the time, I feel like I'm holed up in one part of the house. I have to be away because things have to be quiet while I'm on a phone call or I'm just trying to concentrate.
So every pocket of space that I can find to spend with Parker is a big deal to me and, if there are opportunities where I have more understanding, I can even hold him while I'm on the call and they don't mind a little bit crying or even a random diaper change. That's a big deal for me.
I think what I'll miss most after quarantine is being able to duck out between meetings, duck out between doing e-mail to see my wife and son. My wife works a lot, too. She's the country manager of a startup (VIU, the K-drama streaming app) and, in the past, we would see each other in the early mornings before work and in the late, late evenings after, typically after dinner. So now, to have every meal with my wife has been really awesome. Sometimes I duck out and help her mind Parker for a couple of minutes while she gets some sleep. And I think those are the things that I'll really miss once the new normal begins.
Heading to the New Normal
Working at Ninja Van has been really great. The team has been really accommodating and, being a technology-first business, we've been able to find ways to stay engaged, not just me but the entire team, while working remotely.
The quarantine was really challenging for logistics. Ultimately, as much as we are a technology business, people are a big part of what we do. We rely on our teams and riders to go out and deliver parcels every day and interact with our customers. This pandemic was kind of norm shattering for us where everything changed.
We had to shut down the business for a couple of days, which was a huge decision for us. We had thousands of riders who needed to work badly and we had to find a way to get them back online. Ultimately, our priorities were very much trying to figure out how could we adapt to the new normal and how could we ensure that Ninja Van was a safe business. We were able to redesign the organization in a couple of days and find ways to operate that were fully contactless in ways that we felt comfortable for both our staff and our customers.
Ninja Van will always be my first baby. I started the company here four years ago and I think what I am most proud of is the team and what we've built. Going from a nothing business, literally working out of an Airbnb for the first few weeks, to a company with more than 200 facilities and 8,000 employees nationwide.
It's been so rewarding to see the company grow and see the world that we've come to play in, in terms of keeping the Philippines connected, especially through the quarantine.
The biggest lessons we learned were how to be adaptive and how to respond to these situations that, I think, we were mentally and, to some extent, physically unprepared for. We had to redesign the business in a really meaningful way, completely retooling our processes.
We learned a lot about the company as far as where we were deficient, what we were missing, and how we had to get better. For me, this idea of adaptability has become something I want to be a bigger part of the company's DNA and I want us to grow the business around it in the future.
I think the biggest lesson was finding ways to really adapt to the new normal but being very dynamic in responding to situations that we, as a business, and myself, as an executive, had been fundamentally unprepared for.
This has become something we have learned a lot from, and Ninja Van has grown as a business because of this. And I hope that this kind of dynamism that we've gained as a team will be a big part of our DNA moving forward.