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Hans Sy Jr. on post-COVID 19, and lessons from SM elders




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What will the world be after the global COVID-19 crisis? What are the prospects for global businesses?

On July 22, the 38-year-old, SM Engineering Design and Development Corp. (SMEDD) president Hans “Chico” Sy Jr. delivered his speech and shared his 10 tips.


Hans Sy Jr.(the first from the left) with his parents


1.    The SM Group is bullish on post-COVID-19 future.

We are now fighting a battle against fear, this is a mental battle. Everyone should wear facemasks and do all the health safeguards, in this case, we need to go out and work to support economic recovery. Protect the vulnerable and the elderly is vital to our society.


2.    Malls will still be relevant.

Shopping malls — as places for socializing and for cost-efficient, safe, unique one-stop convenience — will continue to thrive in the post-pandemic era. Even with the growing importance of online shopping, SM Group has also pivoted to include online services. But the constraints of online shopping, like fulfillment challenges and delivery costs, will keep malls relevant and comparatively convenient.


3.    Take advantage of this crisis to evaluate and improve

Take advantage of the downtime of this crisis, evaluate systems, crack it open and think of what to do to make it better. Don’t accept ‘no’ for an answer.

4.    Never stop learning; keep asking questions.

We need to encourage more critical thinking. “You never stop learning. Keep asking questions. Ask why, how, etc.”

5.    Work hard and persevere.

SM Group founder Henry Sy Sr., his parents Hans and Carol Sy, and the second-generation leaders, his aunts and uncles have made good example of being “Sipag at tiyaga,” or hard work and perseverance. Chico Sy said his parents work six days a week, while he works five and a half days a week.

6.    Lead by example

The family elders have positively influenced him through “leadership by example.”. “There’s the SM DNA: you will see the bosses are doing work 110 percent every day, and you need to follow. Up to now, all second-generation members of our family are still on the frontlines.” Hans Sy, as a great exemplar of hard work, while his mother, Carol Sy, upholds “morals, ethics, humility and family values.”

the founder of SM Group, Mr.Henry Sy Sr., (the second from the right) with his children

7.    Lead a simple lifestyle

The younger generation in SM Group were never spoiled and led normal, simple lives. “We never had a high-flying lifestyle, but we really couldn’t, too, because everything was in the business. My grandfather, he had no luxury and no vice. In his office, the most expensive thing was a statue of a hawk or eagle, which was a gift from somebody, nothing grand. There were no Rolls-Royces, no Bentleys. He just had a Mercedes-Benz, nothing flashy. All that kept us grounded.”

Sy revealed that as kids, they had “baon” for lunch, so they weren’t given allowance money until he reached Grade 5. He recalled that his first-ever allowance from his parents was five pesos a week. When he told his father Hans that he couldn’t even afford to buy one soft drink at the school canteen with this weekly allowance, his dad replied, “You can, if you save your allowance for two weeks.”


8.    Put effort into the family

Speaking of family rapport and unity, have a family constitution and a family council are good, but it is most important to have strong communications because you cannot just rely on a piece of paper to bind people together. “You need to put effort in the family. We go to family gatherings, joke with each other, attend each other’s parties. We’re close. We treat our cousins as siblings. We grew up together.”

9.    Base your hiring on meritocracy.

Whether for family members who want to join the SM companies or professionals, everyone has to want it and earn it. SM Group is guided by “Meritocracy, meritocracy, meritocracy.”

10. Love what you do.

“Love what you do. My work involves making a lot of positive good for society, the economy and industry. I’m excited by our work in helping make the magic happen; that’s what keeps me going.”

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