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Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur

We need to stop being a nation of employees.

This is the imperative that came to my mind as we begin another school year of educating young Filipinos to become future leaders of the country.

I have always maintained throughout my professional and political career that the solution to many of our development problems is entrepreneurship. Specifically, encouraging strong entrepreneurial spirit among our people.

But what is an entrepreneurial spirit? And how do you acquire one? I do not have answers but I do have a story to tell.

In 2010, I experienced some sort of a rebirth, a renaissance, if you will.

A day after losing the 2010 elections I was already presiding over a meeting of the officers of Vista Land and I told them that I am ready to rejoin the company after two decades of serving our people.

I would rejoin Vista Land in 2013 after my second term as senator of the Republic has ended. One would think that after having spent 21 years in government, I would be a bit rusty going back to the private sector.

But the complete opposite happened. I immediately rekindled my love affair with entrepreneurship. It was a like a reunion I was so excited about. I felt like an apprentice. It felt like my first day at work.

Upon my return to business, I began to see the world differently. I love comparing it to watching television. When I was in politics, my view was hazy, it was in black and white, it was blurry. In entrepreneurship, I am seeing the world in super high color definition!

It is that entrepreneurial spirit that keeps me going. I could have easily retired and do what retirees do but this new challenge keeps me up. I leave my house at 5:00 am to go to work. It’s a 24/7 job. Even on Sundays, I would go to the gym, have a light breakfast and then start my meetings for the day.

I never imagined doing anything else other than business. Entrepreneurship is fun! I read an article a long time ago that says that many workers are not happy with their work. My advice? Put up your own business and be happy being your own boss!

Look for inspiration from the stories of other entrepreneurs. Why would billionaires like Lucio Tan continue to work? To make another billion? John Gokongwei was leading his business until he was 90 years old! The same is true with George Ty who continues his successful ways even after building a banking empire of his own.

These entrepreneurs-at-heart will continue to work until they die because they love it. We do it because our companies are our creations. Our companies are alive; they are works in progress. This is the reason why I lived my life as an entrepreneur and would die an entrepreneur.

By the way, this is one of the areas of improvement in our curriculum. While we respect our national heroes – Rizal, Bonifacio, Luna, et al – we need to expose our children to innovators, captains of business and industry who contributed to nation-building.

I have always believed that entrepreneurship is the key to both personal and national progress. But despite many success stories, our society is still designed to train our young people to work as employees. We need to push for a radical change in the way our people, especially the youth, view wealth creation and progress.

When Filipino parents have extra money, they give their children cars, send them abroad to study, open a time deposit. The big Filipino dream is to get a job. We tell our children to study hard so he can find a job in a multinational company. Even our professionals want to be employed.

Generally, Filipinos have a negative attitude towards entrepreneurs. I was an industry leader, a “Ten Outstanding Young Men” awardee, long before I became a politician but I gained public recognition only when I became a congressman.

Entrepreneurship is not about working for a big corporation, dressing in a coat and tie or some hip corporate attire, sitting behind a desk, buying the latest smartphones when you get your bonus. That is not success.

Rather it is when you build something from the ground up with your blood, sweat and tears. When you can put up something that can provide you profit, give other people jobs and help in building our nation. That is success. That is the Filipino dream.

*This column is a slightly revised version of an article I wrote for FranchisePH magazine. (Senator Manny Villar)

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