Life at new normal, Men of the society

Life At New ‘Normal’ : A Wise Man’s Master Plan

Life at New ‘Normal’ is a running series of quarantine stories looking at how human beings are adapting as their lives continue to confront the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic. As of writing we are nearly at the 6th month of Quarantine in the Philippines, unfortunately COVID-19 cases are still on the rise.

The society have no other choice but to think outside the box and adapt to the drastic changes in their lives brought by the current pandemic. Some may have temporarily shifted careers to survive, while others are bravely venturing with unique techniques while staying in line with their professions. For this batch of interviewees, I have stayed in touched with five (5) wise and well respected men of the society who were willing to share their thoughts and provide insights on some of the most pressing topics in the Philippines today.

In order to share a wider range of understanding, this time I opted to focus on various firms and professions to discuss timely issues in no particular order:

  • Entrepreneurs Conquering New ‘Normal’ | Leisure Property Business
  • Digital Advertising transparency in the New ‘Normal’
  • Architecture Firms and Profession reshaping life in the New ‘Normal’
  • Engineers rebooting life in the New ‘Normal’
  • Entrepreneurs Conquering New ‘Normal’ | Catering – Food service provider

As the society redevelops under the numerous changing quarantine protocols and restrictions, now is the perfect time to consider the evolving practices of how we function as human beings, needless to say reflect on our purpose.

Allow this batch of honest interview to enlighten us with what’s really going on beyond the press from the stories told by real people. Below are questions I have personally prepared and purely raw answers by some of the esteemed men in the country.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the policies or position of Hugging Horizons ™ .  Any content provided by our interviewees are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual , anyone or anything at all.

 

Entrepreneurs Conquering New ‘Normal’ | Leisure Property Business

Paolo Lorenzo Tirador | Businessman

Paolo Tirador , Damires hills

Paolo Lorenzo Tirador is a young businessman who spends most of his time at his family’s leisure property, Damires Hills Tierra Verde Leisure Farm. A management graduate, he helps his family with their business interests and enjoys reading novels, studying history, collecting koi, good conversations, and some peace & quiet in his spare time. He has a new puppy that eats more than it should.

  1. What is the current situation of Business industries in the Philippines today?

The current business environment is difficult these days. We can first see the damage to businesses in the last six months, especially those engaged in the service and hospitality industry. Worldwide, losses in tourism which include ancilliaries ranging from F&B to transport are expected to be around $1.2 Trillion. In our service-industry reliant Philippines, losses are already around Php 140 Billion. Whether in outright cash bleeding or in opportunity costs or both, it is clear that most of us are in the fight of our lives trying to keep our businesses afloat. The sizes of our boats may differ, but we are all certainly on very rough seas. Second, it isn’t easy to predict the future. Businesses always rely on the usual indicators or spend their time forecasting trends based on established concepts. Unfortunately, the environment now is erratic and unpredictable, and forecasting gives even less guarantee than before. Planning long-term through Covid-19 entails more risk than ever. Even in the “New Normal”, there is no “new normal” behaviour for our markets yet that we are sure of. It is still a wait-and-see kind of game, taking it one week at a time, as the medical situation constantly evolves and we ping-pong back and forth between quarantine statuses. It does not help that the economic situation and outlook is also grim. This continues to widen the disconnect between businesses and the markets they rely on. Of course one must ask the role of the government in this, in their handling of the situation, and if there is a concrete national plan to help affected businesses. The local government of both Iloilo Province and Iloilo City have been pro-active, shown leadership, and have been sympathetic to the private sector, but there is only so much they can do. All we can say is that as of the moment, businesses cannot find comfort or security in the National Government’s actions and that is all there is to say for now. With health hazards, dwindling cash flow, and with no assurance of the future, one can just imagine what kind of miserable swamp businesses are in. 

2. Effects of the Pandemic in your business today?

For Damires Hills, the effects have been severe. We had to temporarily close the property for 3 months. During that time, there was so much uncertainty for the business and our staff. We didn’t know (and we still don’t know) when the Pandemic will end or at least stabilize. What kind of situation might meet us on the other side? Sadly, by the time we reopened at the onset of the MGCQ, we have had to temporarily lay-off sixty percent of our workforce to give our business a fighting chance. Our offerings and services have also been reduced and consolidated so we can observe efficiency while maintaing what’s important to our guests, which are cleanliness, desirable food choices, and genuine service. We are currently down to 15-20% of our worst pre-Covid revenues and continue to walk the tightrope between operational viability and losses. Still, there is some hope we will come out of this a lot stronger. That is still in the distant future. 

 

3. The role of a good Businessman in the country today?

I am a firm believer in the concept that “All boats float with the rising tide”. A good businessperson should be a collaborator in their community – always willing to allow others to win as much as themselves. Obviously, one must remain competitive and encourage competition, so that the industry evolves and offers more to its market. The more good players, those who work together, are aware of each other, and fill all the gaps in the market, the better for society in general. We believe that if there is friendly competition, the industry and the market grows, allowing those who actually work hard and pay attention to details to flourish. If we find success, it should not be exclusive and we try to drag everyone deserving with us. Following this, a good businessperson must also balance out their desire for efficiency with an advocacy for job creation. As amateurs in the industry, we constantly seek the balance of both. We’ve fallen short many times, but we continue to learn and hold this to heart. A good advice we’ve gotten from older, vastly more successful businessmen is that for good business relationships to flourish, one must try to constantly find a ‘win’ for all parties. “Everybody happy”, they would say, and that should translate too to relationships with our personnel and those who work with us. With this crisis, all this still holds true – more than ever. 

 

4. What vital lessons have you learned in these challenging times as an entrepreneur?

There have been many many lessons we learned and continue to learn during these times. First off, one cannot discount the power of observing good financial fundamentals. The biggest challenge most businesses face now is cash flow. Those who found themselves with depleted cash reserves and equivalents and/or with a high debt-to-asset ratio before the onset of the pandemic are the ones suffering the most now. It is definitely unavoidable to be in this situation from time to time, but reducing the instances where one has to borrow heavily and saving cash for rainy days will go a long way in providing a buffer for unforeseen crisis. Second and quite similarly, we have learned that reducing overhead and preferring variable costs has been the key to navigating the contentious circumstances. By having less fixed expenses, we were able to reduce our breakeven points even as revenue dropped, while having more items in our variable expenses allowed us the flexibility to scale them according to our revenue flow. Third, we have learned to be more grateful to our staff. Having a team you can entrust with tasks and have good judgement have really helped us to come out with more sensible and empathic decisions. As being only a single person in an organization involving dozens of people, having key personnel to help as eyes, ears, and heart does do wonders for team cohesion in a tense working environment. We are very thankful to the officers and staff of Damires Hills who continue to stay by our side. 

 

5.  How else are you preparing for the new normal? Please share some tips in surviving the business in the new ‘normal’.

At this point in time, nothing is set in stone. The medical situation may get better or worse from here. It can be daunting and frustrating to look at the long-term, and for a while now, the trend has been to make plans for a shorter timeline anyway. We used to plan by the year, by the quarter, and recently by the month, but now establishing clear goals by the week is most essential. There are many dangers businesses still have to navigate on the way out of this nightmare, and it is now better to focus on task-based goals to eke out small wins here and there. This allows us to be operationally flexible in the near-term while of course still being aligned with our long-term vision for the business. Conversely, making compromises to service philosophy also seems to be a strategy that works. In effect, businesses have to make some necessary evolution. What is clear for now is for businesses small and large, short term survival is the priority. 

 

Digital Advertising transparency in the New ‘Normal’

Mujee Gonzales | Digital Marketing Specialist

Life at New Normal

Mujee Gonzales is the founder of Eats in the Philippines . He is also a freelance nomad who lives and breathes food and travel. A photography aficionado and an innately potent influencer, he quit the 9-5 life, went out and engaged in the exploration of the undiscovered and the unknown. Currently he is a Digital Marketing Specialist and has been spending his productive days with food service business based in the Philippines.

1.What is the current situation of the PR and marketing business firms in the Philippines today?

No one has was prepared for anything like COVID-19 in history. The pandemic cost all business millions, and billions forcing entrepreneurs to compose a long-term solution to remain operational, protect their customers, business, and staff. Sadly, many companies already declared bankruptcy and regretfully shut down their operation affecting all the job structures including, for some the PR and Marketing Businesses. 

Though some still managed to get through the situation and was privileged to go virtual with their services, hence the Digital Marketing aspect.

 

2. The Relevance of a Digital Marketer in the New ‘Normal’?

When our top priority should be about health and safety – our ‘business-as-usual’ as PR and Marketing officers can appear insensitive and useless. This is the effect and a challenge I would say for Digital Marketers during this season. One should know how to redirect and build positive exposure and generate new leads and sales, even during a difficult moment, in order to keep our businesses and accounts profitable and more importantly to continue to give value to our followers.

3. Do you believe that going fully digital in Marketing is strength even after the Pandemic?

Going Digital is one a company should consider a strength after the pandemic. This lockdown should be enough to teach entrepreneurs to look at the importance of having a digital structure in their company in cases their business needs to go remote and resort to going in this path.

4. Any secrets you wish to share for survival during the New ‘Normal’?

Aside from practicing COVID safety measures and precautions, one should remember to have a strong and genuine connection with friends and family – be it digital or at home. This will help you to be centered and align in these trying times. Ask God for wisdom, love, and enough grace to get through the day. I believe if we have all these, we soon, all together can get through this crisis.

 

Architecture Firms and Profession reshaping life in the New ‘Normal’

Christiano Salvacion | Architect

Architect Christiano Salvacion

Christiano Lorenzo Y. Salvacion, is a licensed and registered Architect, running CS Studio [Architectural Design Services] and Dayop PH [Nature Aquarium & Terrarium Design Services]. He’s currently studying Master in Tropical Landscape Architecture at the University of the Philippines Diliman and is also a registered farmer in Quezon Province, that will be specializing in Organic Farming and Aquaculture/ Aquaponics.

  1. What is the current situation of Architecture firms today?

The Covid 19 crisis has affected a lot of projects, professionals, employees, and workers. Several firms that I know of incorporate WFH policies depending on workload, also leaving a skeletal workforce in the office. Depending on phases, workload and company size, several departments can go in rotation such as Design, Accounting, Procurement, Construction, e.g. determined by the requirements deemed necessary for a particular project. 

Scheduling and Logistics play a big role in the new normal. Some bigger firms can provide company shuttle services, while smaller ones provide a more flexible WFH policy. It really boils down to specifics, as to what businesses can still provide amidst the pandemic. Some firms are forced to downsize whether in office space, employees or both. Like other businesses, some contracts were put on hold due to the client or stakeholders’ limited budget that might also lead to severance. This can also be the case in construction projects, where operations are paralyzed due to budget constraints and/or availability of manpower. Nevertheless, those construction projects who are able to continue ensure precautionary measures against the spread of Covid 19 including social distancing even among workers (unfortunately resolved by downsizing as well). 

 

2. Effects of the Pandemic in practicing your profession as an Architect?

I resigned from my previous job fourteen months ago. Since then, I’ve been working on my own projects at home or any cafe that I fancy. If I had to go to a site for ocular, I just continued working on projects afterwards in nearby cafes to get the vibe of the surrounding area. Nothing much has changed considering that during the design phase, all I need is a laptop for me to make progress. But since the lockdown, the hindrances that I needed to overcome during this pandemic included delayed site visits, cancelled client appointments (transferred to online meeting platforms) and harder procurement of materials and finishes. Given the limited library of actual materials and finishes that I have at home, it is still favorable for me to go to physical stores to get the actual feel of it. Researching online won’t cut some of these requirements. 

Project execution is the one that needs to be carefully thought-out, or worse, rescheduled to a safer time period. Constant delays in construction would entail more funds to be expended just to continue operations. Manpower is also scarce considering that some went home to their families and respective provinces. Some areas would also require medical certificates amongst other extra requirements which makes the process longer prior implementation. 

 

3. The Relevance of Architects in the New ‘Normal’?

Architects are more than just the designers of tangible human structures and dwellings. Aesthetics is just one thing. A design is conceptualized through a scrupulous process, incorporating ideas imbued with human psychology and experience. The paradigm was modified since the Coronavirus struck the country. I’ve attended a web forum that tackled the response of Architecture to a pandemic. It explained how existing structures can metamorphose to spaces that can uphold mass cubicle units alongside proper medical facilities. Architects specializing in this design are ought to study the patients and medical personnel’s flow of activities, characteristics of the virus, e.g.

Architectural firms started designating research teams for a holistic architectural approach. To expound more, several strategies can be used before, during and after a pandemic. Modular construction can be erected in a shorter span of time while still being resilient to the country’s climatic conditions. Design is not only limited to the medical field. Transformation of existing spaces (small to large scale) in our own homes or workspaces can be more practical. For example, the proper location of home gardens must be considered with factors such as Sun and Wind path to maximize yield. Houses can also be designed in such a way that portions of the house can be quarantined without confining a patient to his/her own bedroom and hampering day-to-day activities of other household members. This is possible via alternate access within spaces utilizing primary and secondary paths. 

 

4. How has the pandemic affected project timetables?

From pre-design to post-design processes, schedules are inevitably adjusted to conform to the new norm.  Safety and security of the people are the utmost concern of all involved in projects, whether it be in an Architectural firm or construction site. To observe social distancing by being limited to a skeletal workforce, less manpower might mean slower progress. But that’s not always the case, proper planning and resource allocation must be practiced to reduce or eliminate any forms of delay. 

Given that budget is also imperative for operations, projects can still be halted despite the necessary planning and preparations from the firm’s end. Clients and stakeholders might still prioritize other budget allocations since everyone is just trying to survive this pandemic. Given the budget, minor delays can also be caused by routine disinfection of offices and construction sites, medical check-ups and quarantining workers and personnel.

 

5. What vital lessons have you learned in these challenging times? Please share some tips for survival during the New ‘Normal’.

Apart from keeping yourself and others safe by practicing the necessary precautions, one must also protect their business assets. Given the limited sources and accessibility caused by a lockdown, every business owner and practicing professional should keep expanding their network. Creating and improving an online page or portfolio  for free marketing (spending for promotions and advertisements can also be advantageous). There are always clients who want your products and services, you just need to learn about your niche and market. 

Never stop learning, have that thirst for knowledge. There are always things you can improve on. I’ve been speaking with my friends and colleagues, trading nuggets of wisdom especially living life in the new normal. Researching online has never been this easy. Organize your Pinterest for your own private collection of ideas. Build yourself a shelf, and start stacking those reference books of yours that you last opened back in college. Always make sure that you learn something new everyday, it can be knowledge or through realizations. 

 

Engineers rebooting life in the New ‘Normal’

Martin James Paguirigan | IT Engineer

Martin James Paguirigan graduated in BS Computer Engineering. Before the pandemic Martin used to travel and hike on his free time. Currently he is working as an IT Engineer based in San Pedro Laguna m Philippines.

Martin James Paguirigan graduated in BS Computer Engineering. Before the pandemic Martin used to travel and hike on his free time. Currently he is working as an IT Engineer based in San Pedro Laguna, Philippines.

 

  1. What is the current situation of the Engineering Business firms today?

So far, many employees are currently working from home as requested by our president. In a positive way, it is convenient to work because there is no need to travel. Luckily, the company that I’m currently working at provided everything we need to continue doing our job safely at the comfort of our homes. Not all companies do that, and some are still forced to report to their respective offices, which I find as one of the reason or the cause of rising COVID-19 cases.  

2. Effects of the Pandemic in practicing your profession as an IT Engineer?

To be honest, nothing changed in doing our jobs. We still do the same process like we did before the pandemic. The only difference is now we are doing it at home. I’m missing our breaktime chats with my colleagues though.

 

 3. The Relevance of an Engineer in the New ‘Normal’?

I’m proud to say that we are badly needed during these days. Even though we are not considered as frontliners, I’m happy to contribute in enabling the industry to continue despite these circumstances.

 

4. What keeps you inspired in the dark days of the pandemic?

Even though we are living through this pandemic, I am lucky and blessed that I didn’t lose my job unlike others. It’s sad to depend on our government regarding our current situation. That’s why I continue to do my job properly because this is what enables me to provide for my family’s needs while staying safely at our home. Also, all my friends and loved ones are alright, so I keep a positive mind that we can get through this.

5. Any secrets you wish to share for survival during the New ‘Normal’?

Well, not really a secret but just continue to eat well, exercise and avoid crowded places. Be aware of the current events, then adapt to it.

 

Entrepreneurs Conquering New ‘Normal’ | Catering – Food service provider

Ariel Castañeda | Chef

Ariel Castañeda , Chef at New normal

Ariel Castañeda is a Chef/Consultant by profession. He is the owner of 86’d Culinary Creations and Consultancy and Creative Culinary Partners (CCP) catering services.

1.What is the current situation of Business industries in the Philippines today?

Right now, majority of the industry is greatly affected, since that purchasing power of the consumers has dropped drastically due to the high rate of the working class losing employment and source of income.

2. Effects of the Pandemic in your business today?

The nature of our business somehow, has been totally effective since that it is a commodity and people at this time chooses to buy/order food rather than invest it into other uneconomical things.

3. The role of a good Businessman in the country today?

It is to consistently provide reasonable products for consumers, and of course create a sustainable livelihood to support the working class. Also, it is their social responsibility to also share to others their knowledge in the line of their business to also help others sustain their own.

4. What New ‘Normal’ Practices do you think will stay even after the Pandemic?

Probably the way we should consistently keep ourselves healthy, clean and sanitized. Also, creating and delivering products which is also the same.

5. Secrets you wish to share in surviving the business in the new ‘normal’?

Innovation, simple as that, if we want to survive we have to have that hunger for innovation and of course the willingness to adapt to the trend and needs of the consumers.

 

This batch of Quarantine stories end here.

 

We are bound to read more of confessions on how human beings adapt to these challenging era in the coming months. An official Facebook page was created to gather relevant stories on ‘Life at New ‘Normal’ . Expect more honest interviews to enlighten us with what’s really going on beyond the press from the stories told by real people.

To these eligible men of the society, in behalf of our readers, I would like to extend my warm gratitude for giving this platform the chance to see and grasp various views of Life at The New ‘Normal’, through your personal experiences. May we all one day look back and see this era as something that has inspired us to be in the service of the greater good.

Thank you so much everyone for your time. If you find this article useful, feel free to share this to your friends and family. Stay home as much as possible. Don’t forget to whisper a little prayer before you go to bed tonight. Stay safe and sane. See you all on the road soon.

 

Sincerely yours,

Levy Amosin

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