Top bosses share management tips for budding founders

Cover Art Erka Capili Inciong

Words by


The great thing about heading your own startup is that you get to handpick your own people. The daunting thing about heading your own startup is that you have to handpick your own people. There’s no HR department to hold your hand, you have to be familiar with your labor laws and regulations, and then there’s managing who you’ve hired.

Fortunately, SparkUp is here to guide you on the road to business success. (Just don’t forget us when you get there.) And if you weren’t there to attend the Spark Series last October 25 at the UP School of Economics, don’t worry. We’re coming to more schools soon with more insightful topics. But for the mean time, here’s the rundown of what happened and what we can learn from stellar heads of Filipino startups on how to manage your future party.

For Qwikwire co‑founder Ray Refundo, hiring starts early. “How did I start my first hiring? I started with interns and students,” Refundo said during the Spark Series. “The most important employees in my company are still students.”

Sure, students don’t come with training and experience, but Refundo made that work to his advantage. “The good thing about hiring interns is that once you get them on board they become independent,” he explained. “And when you train people well, you can trust them.” That cuts off from the stress of having to do everything by yourself as the head of your company. You can delegate tasks to the people you can trust, which makes life less stressful for you later on.

Your employees can and will still make mistakes, he admits. Again, not exactly a bad thing, since that’s a natural part of working with human beings. “Employees need the freedom to be creative and the freedom to make mistakes,” Refundo said. “As long as they understand that a mistake is made they can rectify it later on.”

Meanwhile, Dindo Marzan, managing director of Voyager Innovations, the digital innovations arm of PLDT and Smart, advises budding startup founders to stick to their PEEPS: People, Education, Experiment, Pivot/Perish/Persevere, and Solution.

“Choose the right people with the right attitude,” Marzan explained the first P, adding that it isn’t always about qualifications and educational attainment. Sometimes it’s about personality. “As an investor I would rather invest on a person who knows his stuff and can keep a low profile.”

And then there’s education, which he said has to be continuous, especially with how quickly technology develops nowadays. “Sometimes you need to unlearn because either your business has been disrupted or things have changed,” Marzan said. Related to quick changes are Experimentation, and the second set of P’s. Experimentation means doing constant testing of your product. “If you’re creating a product, you better test your RAT (riskiest assumption test),” he added. And after that, to cope with the changing times, you to decide if you have to pivot your company to a better position, perish and accept defeat, or persevere and go through with what you’re already doing.

In the end, “it always boils down to the solution. Identify the pain point and find the solution,” he said, on how to make a successful startup business. -Lucia de Guzman

Hastings Holdings, a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

Catch more informative talks as SparkUp continues its Spark Series caravan across Metro Manila’s top colleges and universities. Like our Facebook page to stay updated.