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How Does Lance Gokongwei Know When the Investment is Right?

The JG Summit CEO talks leadership.
Just now
Photo/s: Noel Celis/AFP

Lance Gokongwei, CEO of JG Summit, focuses resources on businesses where he can be the "natural owner." It entails quick decisions, leaving at the right time, and as to how he puts it, not falling in love.

The conglomerate founded by his late father, industrialist John Gokongwei Jr, can claim the "largest" tag in a wide range of industries from airlines, retail, food, and digital media. JG Summit is also one of the few Filipino companies that are growing abroad.

Gokongwei said successful conglomerates need to get the right people, foster the right corporate culture, and focus on the right industries.

"We are disciplined about our portfolio. We don’t fall in love with a business. We exited certain businesses at the right time. We are adaptive and take quick decisions. We have focused on a few businesses where we can be leaders," Gokongwei told social network LinkedIn.


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In industries where JG Summit can't be the "natural owner," Gokongwei said it will take a minority stake. While it is hard to accept for some CEOs, it does give more value to shareholders, he said.

Gokongwei ensures that his father's entrepreneurial spirit lives on in JG Summit. Mr. John, as he is called in the conglomerate was "pragmatic, down to earth and frugal," according to his son.
"My father, our founder, had a strong point of view. He was very entrepreneurial and full of new ideas...He wanted to ensure that our organization could think long-term, and not be consumed by family dispute and disagreement," Gokongwei said.

"He had a uniquely strong sense of responsibility towards his country, reflected in his significant philanthropic initiatives. We have tried to codify these elements in our culture," he said.

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Gokongwei said COVID-19 fast-tracked JG Summit's digitization efforts, which had led rival Philippine conglomerates in terms of speed even before the pandemic.

"In the past, a 'manager' could lead a business. Today, given the speed of change, you have to be entrepreneurial to win. The entrepreneur mindset is essential," he said.

"Agility, collaboration, dealing with ambiguity, quick decision making, and experimenting and failing fast are critical themes. Scale alone can no longer be a differentiator. Today, speed is as important as scale," he said.

He also had this advice for new CEOs.

"Being CEO is a lonely job. People want to help; you just need to reach out! Have a strong point of view, but brainstorm and engage with colleagues and mentors to gain multiple perspectives. And most importantly, listen to the customer!"

Disclaimer: Summit Media, which publishes Reportr.World, is part of JG Summit Holdings.
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