Chinoy Entrepreneurs Bare Challenges Behind Success of Multigenerational Family Businesses

This is how they do it: Geri Chua of Eng Bee Tin and Marvin Uy of Sincerity Cafe and Restaurant

Different generations of entrepreneurs have different ways of running a business. In Chinoy family-owned businesses, traditions and family values are highly regarded. This type of culture is likely to have benefits to the business but can also make it difficult for rookie family members to lead.

Take it from Chinese entrepreneurs Gerik Chua of Eng Bee Tin and Marvin Uy of Sincerity Cafe & Restaurant who are now leading the Chinese deli shop and eatery, respectively.

Gerik and Marvin shared their business journey in the online show “At your SerBIZ!” hosted by award-winning author and speaker Francis Kong, where they shared how they work with their elders, the challenges that come with it, and their roles in their success.

Challenge: Thin line between professional and personal life

Gerik shared that one of the hardest parts of owning a family business is literally bringing work home with him because he lives in the same house with his parents. He said that “it’s basically a 24- hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week job” because they still discuss work at the dinner table.

Solution: Listen and learn best business practices

Despite the challenge, putting in extra hours proved to be beneficial for the business in the long run. Gerik learned from his father and mentor Gerry Chua, also fondly called “Mr. Ube” by customers, some of the best practices of running a business.

For one, Gerik is always reminded that ups and downs in businesses are normal. In managing Eng Bee Tin, his father reached a point where he could not afford to pay suppliers because of low sales. His father persevered and later tried introducing a new product—the ube hopia that clicked with the masses.

Among the lessons that Marvin, for his part, learned from his parents is to keep failure in proper perspective and never give up. Sincerity Café & Restaurant started after his family members failed in their initial business ventures in merchandising and importation. Sincerity started as a small “mami house” with P600 capital before expanding to a restaurant with more items in the menu.

Challenge: Conflict of ideas

In family business, it’s common for parents to be resistant to having their children or the next generation to make changes in how things are done.

“We came from a traditional family so they [elders] are not open when younger generations suggest something new because they think that we lack experience,” Marvin said, adding that his age is a factor that prevents elders from easily accepting new ideas that he pitched.

Solution: Active listening

For one, the idea of partnering with third party delivery applications was initially dismissed by elders.

Practicing active listening allows the next generation of business owners to know where their elders are coming from. In doing so, they can properly respond and explain to them why changes are necessary.

Through time, Marvin’s elders agreed to partner with third party delivery applications which helped their business survive at the height of the pandemic.

Gerik adds that proper communication is key because it helps in getting the inputs of all family members before coming up with any decision, especially during disagreements. When conflicts arise, Gerik said, “We just talk it over. Subukan lang mag-usap, wala namang mawawala.”

Challenge: Traditional ways of thinking

Some beliefs and superstitions can be perceived to hold businesses from thriving. In China, there is a belief that black can bring bad luck, so Gerik initially had difficulty convincing his father to let him use a black-colored packaging for Eng Bee Tin’s then-new product, the Triple Chocolate Lava Mooncake product.

Solution: Innovate

Refusal to innovate and introduce something new will make it hard for business owners to stay relevant, and this is what Gerik made his father, who later agreed to his proposal, understand.

“Innovation is important para hindi mawala yung ‘sawa’ factor. There should always be something new that we can offer to the customer so they would keep coming back,” shared Gerik.

He also convinced his elders to innovate by incorporating the use of social media regularly to promote their products. Through TikTok and Facebook, Eng Bee Tin manages to gain new customers and keep the old ones. Marvin, meanwhile, shares how he innovated by improving the interior design of their restaurant to make the customer’s dining experience even better.

Mixing family and business may pose a lot of challenges, but sustaining it across multiple generations is possible with all family members on board and sharing the same goals and commitment.

According to Francis, “Digitalization doesn’t necessarily mean breaking tradition, but rather elevating it.” He also emphasized that innovation, mentoring, and learning go both ways: the older generation may have the knowledge, network, and resources to share, but they can also learn from the younger generation about technology, connectivity, and business as a community.

Learn more negosyantips from the country’s most successful entrepreneurs by tuning in to Globe Business’ YouTube channel to watch all the episodes of “At your SerBIZ!”.

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