MPCTI President and CEO Derrick Ang Tan shares his secrets to success

By Bjorn Biel M. BeltranSpecial Features Writer

Since he was young, Derrick Ang Tan had a knack for finding problems. He had an inquisitive, entrepreneurial mind, and he had always wanted to seek solutions for the everyday problems he encountered throughout his life.

At the time, the news was dominated by titan industrialists such as the late John Gokongwei and business magnate Lucio Tan. As an aspiring entrepreneur, Mr. Tan wanted to emulate them.

“When I was younger, my focus really was more on profit. So the reason I started this business was profit and so it was more of me, me, me,” he told BusinessWorld in an interview.

Mr. Tan started his business in 2001 as more of a distributor of various goods and products, working with that notion of success.

Years later, Mr. Tan is now the president and chief executive officer of Magna Prime Chemical Technologies, Inc. (MPCTI)  along with various leadership roles in Philippine manufacturing and construction industry groups like the Philippine Dry Mix Mortar Association and the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers.

Mr. Tan admitted that he would never have gotten this far if he had never changed his mind-set. Starting out as a selfish businessman who was determined to make his wealth, he realized there was more to business than the selfish drive to make money.

“When architects are your end-customers, they will ask you for a product like this or that. So we came in and adjusted, we started hearing them out and listening to their needs. It was only when we did this that we experienced a kind of a multiplier effect, where we saw exponential growth,” he said.

“It was a hard realization for me that I had it all wrong. When doing business, it was never about myself,” Mr. Tan said.

Necessity is the mother of all invention

Listening to their customers and end-users, Mr. Tan found a use for his talent for seeking solutions to everyday problems. Magna Prime transitioned into the construction chemicals business and has since built a reputation of innovation and a customer-centric strategy for growth.

Mr. Tan with his MPCTI Technical team

The company, Mr. Tan said, had four core pillars of innovation. The first was to have a listening ear for all of the problems of their customers and find opportunities providing solutions to those problems. When there are no obvious problems, the second part of Magna Prime’s strategy is to send in technical experts to examine how their products are used in the workplace and find the areas where things might be improved.

Another method of keeping in touch with the issues of the industry is through monitoring innovations abroad and find ways to incorporate new discoveries into the Philippine setting. Lastly, Magna Prime invests into research and development to find new opportunities.

“What I say to our employees is if you’re not helping our customers, then we’re not going to sell anything. Selling is just the byproduct of us helping others,” Mr. Tan said.

“If you want to be successful, you have to help others. If you’re a salesman or saleswoman, you have to help your customers. If you are an employee, you have to help your boss and your company for you to get promoted. In short, it is always about others. So if your business is not about helping others, if it’s not about providing for the needs of others, then it doesn’t really have meaning,” he shared.

“Because construction chemicals as an industry is dominated mostly by multinational companies, we’re happy to say that we’re one local company that is now competing with these big multinationals,” he added.

The vision and mission for Mr. Tan is to bridge the innovation gap between the Philippines and more developed countries like the United States and China, and spark a new era of innovation and discovery in the country.

Mr. Tan with his wife Sabrina and their two sons Jacob and Noah

Magna Prime is pursuing this through strengthening its foundation on which the company reaches out and communicates with its customers through digital platforms, social media, through training workshops and the technical hubs it has established all over the country.

Currently, Magna Prime has technical hubs in CW Home Ortigas Pasig, CW Home Commonwealth QC, CW Home Sta. Rosa, Laguna, CW Home Balintawak, QC, CW Home Alabang, Muntinlupa, Trust Hardware Buhangin, Cebu Home Banilad, Mandaue, MC Home Ortigas, Pasig, MC Home The Fort Taguig, MC Home San Fernando, Pampanga, and Olivan Hardware, Naga City.

“In this sense, if you’re able to set up all these channels in educating people, then it would be easy for us to teach them about new innovations in the space,” Mr. Tan said.

“Our core mission really is helping educate Filipinos on what construction chemicals are and what are the advantages of using them to construct more resilient buildings.”

Looking forward, Mr. Tan identified the current demand for more sustainable cities and green buildings as areas for further innovation. He hopes that a generation of future innovators can find the most significant problems in the future, and find their own opportunities in coming up with new solutions.

“Filipinos are very creative. They have to focus on new unique products that solve new problems. Invention will never end. There’s always a need for it,” he said.

“To be a good inventor, you need to be a good listener and have an eye for opportunities. Every problem is a gold mine,” Mr. Tan said.