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If RFM was a real person, then she/he would be qualified for a senior citizen discount as she/he celebrates 60 years.
I was born the same year as Republic Flour Mills (RFM) was established, and I remember seeing my baby picture (dressed as a young baker) on the walls of our office. My father had posted it there, perhaps foreseeing the future wherein I would be leading the company 60 years later.
Looking at it now, God has indeed blessed me with a fulfilling role. Just over the weekend, I had invited Jeff Hoffman – co-founder of Priceline.com, booking.com, and agoda.com, among others – to speak to more than 200 Go Negosyo mentors. He gave an inspiring message that espoused the advocacy of Go Negosyo and which highlighted the importance of the 3Ms (mentorship, money and market) model, which we use in helping entrepreneurs.
When it comes to the three, I believe mentorship is of the highest priority because it ensures the continuation of success. We achieve greater things through mentorship as we build on what has already been established.
My grandfather, Dr. Salvador Araneta, started it all for RFM and we are now challenged to build on his legacy. I, especially named after him, have always taken great pride in living up to his name.
My grandfather started the company with 10 other founders, building a flour mill on a seven-hectare property, along Pasig River. He was a relentless advocate of the “Filipino First” policy, prioritizing Filipino businesses over foreign investors and entrepreneurs. During his leadership, RFM was able to meet the demands of the Filipino appetite and grew the company to include the manufacturing of margarine and cooking oil, before diversifying to poultry and hog feeds.
Aside from leading the pioneer flour-milling company, my grandfather was also a member of the Philippine Constitutional Convention and the founder and twice president of the Philippine Constitution Association. He also served in several Cabinet positions including secretary of economic coordination under former president Elpidio Quirino, secretary of agriculture under former president Ramon Magsaysay, and was a member of the National Economic Council. He was a man of integrity and vision as he pushed for the industrialization of the Philippines.
Years after, my father, Jose Concepcion Jr., took over the company and brought it to a new level of excellence. His leadership led to the establishment of many partnerships with foreign companies. The company also started exporting within the Southeast Asian region to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.
My father, known to many as JoeCon, was a proud nationalist, and he expressed his love for country by fighting the dictatorship and protecting the democratic institution. He stayed and fought even when our family was threatened, and when almost all our relatives flew abroad for safety.
He stayed and established the Pasay Citizens League for Good Government and National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL). “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – his battle cry for all his civic engagements. He called on all Filipinos to head to the voting booths and to defend their ballots at all cost. And thanks to his tireless work and commitment, a clean and honest election was achieved and a peaceful revolution was assured.
The fight for a better Philippines did not stop, rather it only intensified when my father joined the government and became the trade and industry secretary. It was under his leadership that the People Economic Council was established, the PEC was intended to benefit micro and small entrepreneurs.
As he focused on serving the country, it was at this time that I took over as president and CEO of RFM Corporation.
During the transition, we started buying brands like Cosmos Bottling Co. and Selecta ice cream, among others. Through the years, RFM adapted, evolved, and grew stronger. We faced major crises, including the Asian Financial Crisis and the US banking crisis, which we fortunately survived with more lessons learned and wisdom gained.
I was happy to lead the company and steer it through its different phases of growth., I never thought that I would be involved in any form of civic or advocacy work. My focus was on building RFM to become a giant in the food and beverage industry.
That was until 2005, when the president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approached me and asked if I could come onboard as adviser for entrepreneurship. This, in turn, led me to start Go Negosyo.
I was invited again two years ago by President Duterte to be trade secretary. But I could not relinquish my role in our corporation. It was good that the President accepted Go Negosyo’s executive director Ramon Lopez as his trade secretary. Mon had worked with my father during his DTI days and had been with the RFM Corporation as one of the top executives for more than 20 years. I felt that he was the most prepared to take on the job and eventually help champion the MSME development advocacy. He is doing great work today!
I believe mentorship is, indeed, the reason for all our success. Jeff Hoffman agrees. We should look at the opportunities – more so the challenges – as blessings because these help us grow and evolve, and become better mentors to the next generation.
As RFM celebrates its 60th anniversary, we take the time to reflect not only on the leaders and visionaries like my father and grandfather who paved the way for us to succeed, but also on our greater vision and purpose, which is to “influence positive change and provide affordable, quality goods to the Filipino people.”
RFM has stood the test of time, and we thank all those who have helped us get this far in our journey. And now, we ask you for your continued support as we take on the next 60 years.