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Jeff Hoffman together with Go Negosyo entrepreneurs and mentors. (From left are) Rey Lapid, Richard Sanz, Rex Daryanani, Mylene Abiva, Grace Tiongco, Marissa Concepcion, Isabella, Jeff Joffman, Joey Concepcion, Rose Ong, Emma Imperial, Ginggay Hontiveros, Myrna Yao, Cherrie Atilano, Sandy Montano and Bettina Quimson.
Last Oct. 7, we invited Jeff Hoffman, the man behind the immensely successful travel booking websites: Priceline.com, Booking.com and Agoda.com to come talk to our mentors. He’s also the genius behind the check-in kiosks at the airports. He had developed these after missing a flight due to the long lines at the check-in counters.
I first met Jeff in Thailand last Sept. 20 when I attended the conference of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Thailand. After talking to him, I knew that we needed to invite him to the Philippines and have him share some of his thoughts in helping our micro, small and medium enterprises.
He joined us for an intimate forum. Though it was a Sunday, more than 200 entrepreneurs attended, and all were inspired and encouraged to take part in the greater entrepreneurial vision.
During the talk, Jeff clarified that he wanted to widen the definition of “entrepreneurship” as many associate the word simply with technology, leaving out other important industries such as agriculture. “Entrepreneurship is not about the business and is not about the money. I want to (redefine) it to ‘self-determination.’ Entrepreneurship is your opportunity to design your future – the future of the city, the region, your country.”
More than being visionaries or dreamers, he said, “Entrepreneurs are the ones busy building the world the way they think it should look like and envision.” As we have always said at Go Negosyo, entrepreneurs are problem-solvers. We look at a problem and we think of possible solutions for that certain concern.
Jeff underscores the main priorities of the Go Negosyo community: “First, we have to create more entrepreneurs. Second, we have to ensure that they will stay here in the Philippines and build the things here. And lastly, we need to create a stronger network of entrepreneurs and help other MSMEs succeed. I genuinely believe that these three are critically important to the entire business community, most especially to the micro and small entrepreneurs of the country.”
Let me share with you some of the other points made by Jeff that really made an impact on all of us who were present during his talk.
Focus on the problem; find a solution. As Jeff had mentioned, good entrepreneurs are problem-solvers and they are focused on finding the solutions. “It’s not about the company, it’s not about being an entrepreneur, it’s about solving a problem,” Jeff says. The serial entrepreneur recalls a time when he was approached by an investor while he was in the middle of product development. They were asking him about paperwork and patents and other business stuff, but Jeff didn’t want to be distracted. “I wanted to build this thing first.” So you see his focus and determination in creating the solution.
Another point that I wanted to share, which we all learned from Jeff, is “Don’t chase money. Chase excellence.” He shared that entrepreneurs should focus on building something of quality, and money will follow. “Once people become distracted by money, they will and can never create something excellent.”
I was also delighted to have Jeff discuss the 3Ms model (market, money and mentorship), which Go Negosyo advocates.
On market, Jeff shared the importance of having a clear brand. “Branding is different from marketing. A brand is a personality. It is a way of life… A brand is bigger than your marketing and is the tipping point of scale.” Indeed, there are so many good products in the world, but not everyone knows about them because they don’t have a clear brand image. He related his story when they started one of their companies. After visiting a lot of hotels to sign up with their company, he received a call from a certain hotel, which they never pitched to. Because of their clear branding on who they are and what they wanted to do, hotels knew exactly how his company could help them. Soon, more and more hotels and resorts signed up with them.
Another common problem of our entrepreneurs is funding. This is why many of our entrepreneurs have not been able to scale up. Jeff explained that in order to receive funding, an entrepreneur must highlight the company’s significant milestones. Instead of just asking for financial assistance, entrepreneurs must know how to manage these funds in order to reach more milestones. In addition, he said, “You should segment investors the same way you do your customers. Find the investor who is most likely to give you money.” Know who to pitch to, impress them with your accomplishments, and plan how you’ll manage your investment.
Lastly, and I think the most important part of his talk, was when Jeff highlighted the importance of mentorship. He said, “The most valuable thing you can give is not money. Entrepreneurs need funding, but funding without mentorship is wasted money. Human capital is most important.” I truly believe in this tenet, and have pushed for mentorship in our programs. I know that the most successful entrepreneurs, if not all, have found success, because they had/have someone to guide them through the journey. Jeff adds, “Pick a mentor by finding somebody in the world that you wanna be like.”
It is true that the power of money, market and, most especially, mentorship can help define an entrepreneur’s future. Success takes time, but if everyone worked together as one, we can all achieve our long-term goals.
I am glad to have hosted this forum with Jeff Hoffman, and am happy that all attendees left with greater appreciation and wisdom. I believe that even successful entrepreneurs need to be reminded of the key tenets of entrepreneurship. Moving forward, I will make sure to include more talks of this kind, with successful and inspiring entrepreneurs who understand the greater need for mentorship.