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Henderson Consulting International, Manila, Philippines
It is my pleasure to launch this column and join the illustrious company of such informative business writers as Kriengsak Nirattapannasi and Boye Lafayette de Mente as part of the Asia Pacific Management Forum. As an independent management consultant living and working in Manila, not to mention someone who has long marveled at Filipino culture, I welcome the challenge of providing perspective and information for the ever-expanding number of international professionals already doing business here or who are interested in doing so. The content will include commentary, analysis, and random thoughts -- and feedback from you, the interested reader. Whether that content will ultimately prove of value is, I suppose, about to be put to empirical test.
First off, let's get the necessary caveats out of the way. As a white, Anglo-Saxon male and red-blooded Americano, I am of course wide open to charges of cultural chauvinism, imperialist bias, and related sins. Point taken. In defense, I can only note that I have worked closely with Filipinos in many capacities over the last two decades and have been part of a very traditional Filipino family for 16 years and counting. I also studied the culture while in graduate school at Cornell many years ago, and have spent the last year engaged in the [at times] excruciating exercise of creating a consulting business from scratch here in Manila. Some bruises have been incurred.
None of which, of course, guarantees that I'll get things right or that some feathers won't be ruffled. It's probably bound to happen. There's a delicate balance between objectively describing the unique characteristics of a particular people or culture on the one hand and making biased judgments or using offensive stereotypes on the other. There is also no basis for assuming that our Westernized, rational, left brain, pragmatic, problem-solving approach to business and management is perfect and applicable in every situation in every culture. It's not. We need to recognize it as being just one of several models, albeit the one that is becoming increasingly dominant as we march forwards into the new millennium.
There's obviously a lot to be learned on all sides. This is not an easy place to do business, as reflected in ubiquitous snake oil salesmen, elusive promises, and failures to follow through (this is putting it charitably). Just ask some of the red-faced ex-pat execs who have set up domestic branches of big stateside management consulting firms here over the last few years, only to beat a hasty retreat after 12-18 months of increasingly red ink. There's just no denying that it requires tremendous patience, cultural sensitivity, and intestinal fortitude to succeed in Manila.
However, those with sufficient perseverance, good cultural understanding, and appropriate interpersonal styles can take advantage of tremendous opportunities over the next few years. The Philippines is an important and growing market and, if current projections hold true, should be back on a healthy growth track as we enter the new century. The country is certainly at a crucial point in terms of making the transition to market-driven companies that understand the need to focus on consumer/customer demand, increased productivity, and flexibility/responsiveness. It's a tough transition given the cultural and historical context, but domestic firms are going to have to adapt if they want to survive. At the same time, international firms and their executives need to adapt their own management and operational procedures to conform to the Philippine business and cultural environment.
Anyway, to finish up this little opening song and dance number, let me just say that I'll do my level best to give you the inside skinny on doing business in the Philippines without falling into the traps of ethnocentrism, racism, or any other -ism. Please slap me upside the head with an irate e-mail the moment I stereotype or otherwise offend. I especially extend this invitation to Filipino readers of this column. As a longtime admirer of Filipinos and their culture, I took the liberty of lifting the Pearl of the Orient Seas title from J.P. Rizal's La Ultima Adios (Huling Paalam in Tagalog, My Last Farewell in English). I hope that significant input from Filipino readers will help this column become a valid and stimulating forum for the open sharing of ideas, intercultural stimulation, and mutually beneficial ideas among professionals of all cultures operating in the Philippines.
|...from Clarence Henderson's Pearl of the Orient Seas|
|Clarence Henderson Henderson Consulting International Manila Philippines|
|Clarence has had over 20 years of consulting experience in New York, Los Angeles, and the Philippines. He brings to the forum many years of experience in the Philippines and his monthly column integrates the experience of working in the Philippines with business tips earned the hard way! You can learn more about Clarence by clicking on his photo.||
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|See also Clarence Henderson's Philippines Capsule and Prospect Reviews at Asia Market Research dot Com|
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