Rags to Riches: Tony Tan Caktiong
“If you dream big and put your dreams into action you will indefinitely make mistakes. But don’t be scared to make mistakes. Just be quick to recognize them and learn from them as fast as you can.” -Tony Tan Caktiong
From humble beginnings to the top of the world, Tony Tan Caktiong who came from a poor family became the 5th richest man in the Philippines with a net worth of $4 billion as of this year. More famous than his name is the Jollibee Foods Corporation which he founded and manages with several famous food chains under it including Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich, Mang Inasal, and Red Ribbon.
Tony Tan was born in China on the 5th of January 1953 to a family that was financially struggling. His parents decided to take the risk and moved to the Philippines hoping to have a fresh start to a better life. Back in China his father used to operate a kitchen which is the origin of Tony’s association with food services. When they moved to Manila after saving up, his family started a restaurant business in Davao.
He was the third child. With seven siblings it would have been extremely difficult for their parents to raise them and meet their needs if the siblings didn’t help in the family business. They helped each other out – due to this, young Tony was equipped with the knowledge of handling a business. Having witnessed all the ups and downs of the restaurant, he learned how to resolve issues from observation and practice. Until one day he decided to open a venture of his own.
When you’ve just started going after success, you wouldn’t know exactly what you need to get it. And that’s alright. As you go on your journey, you will learn and make adjustments accordingly. Pay very close attention to determine which works and which don’t; keep an open mind for change. At the beginning of Tony’s business venture, he didn’t know exactly what would sell. Jollibee didn’t start as it is now, several changes were made from the time it was founded even until now. New menu items are released as the customers’ tastes and preferences change. Actually, it didn’t even start out as a fast food restaurant.
It all began as an ice cream shop. At the age of 22 Caktiong saved up ₱350 thousand and franchised an ice cream parlor from Magnolia. The business had a smooth start but he soon had to change it up because people don’t eat ice cream daily. He needed to adapt to customer requests in order to sustain the store. In response to the requests and suggestions, Tan decided to add hot meals and sandwiches to the selection. His patrons liked these menu items more than the ice cream so he decided to halt the franchise and re-brand. Thus Jollibee was born.
The commercial success of this fast food chain are mainly from Tony’s intuition to tailor the recipes according to Filipino taste, most notably the Chickenjoy and the sweet spaghetti. This is how important it is to pay attention to your target market or clients. To build a lasting relationship, you must find out exactly what your customer would want while maintaining the quality of your products and services. As you adapt to society’s demands, success is inevitable.Steadily progressing towards your goal builds up the necessary foundation you need for handling bigger responsibilities.
In Tony’s case, most of his business management skills originated from the first Jollibee. Through this first store he conducted a series of trials and errors until he figured out the best way to market the brand and cater to the people. The quality he built for the brand was set as a standard to follow for the next branches he opened. It was also the strict standard that franchisees are required to follow. Handling business is similar to handling money. When you learn how to manage a small amount, then you are ready for more.
Since the late 1970s, Jollibee has remained as the leading fast food chain in the Philippines. “Make money and use it to make more money” following this principle, Tony used the profit to establish the Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) and acquired other fast food chains. The JFC has also planted its roots in other countries, tailoring the food in accordance to the residents’ tastes just as it did in the Philippines, overtaking giants like Mc Donalds and KFC which are not as good at adapting to the market. The company continues to expand – now acknowledged as the third most admired company in Asia and number one in overall company leadership for being the most professionally-run company.
In an interview he was asked what was the secret to Jollibee’s success and his answer was “sharing”. Tony shares his success with the people and as he gives back to the community, more blessings come his way. Following his example and that of many other successful people I admire, I also want to share my knowledge and help anyone who is willing to learn. Feel free to download a free copy of my e-book to serve as a guidance on your path towards financial freedom: https://junpasion.com/blueprint-to-financial-freedom/
The journey to every big milestone starts with a small step. Take yours now and start building your dreams.
Here’s to your success!