By Tito Serafica, BCBP National Treasurer, BCBP Makati
Once upon a time, a court jester went overboard with his antics and had badly insulted his king. The king was so enraged that he sentenced the jester to die. His courtiers pleaded with him to exercise mercy as the jester has served him faithfully for a good many years. After much thought, the king relented… BUT only enough to give the jester the choice on how he would like to die. True to form, the jester replied, “would it be please, my sovereign lord, if you will allow your humble servant to die…. of old age?”
They say that the difference between grace and mercy is this – grace is when you get good things, while mercy is when you are spared from bad things you do deserve. If you were the king, what would you have granted the jester – grace or mercy? Pardon or punishment? Death by hanging or death by old age?
PHA’s Humbling Beginnings
My stint as the Chairman and eventually becoming the Chief Executive Officer of Premiere Horizon Alliance Corp (PHA or “Premiere”) started in the second half of 2010. It was clear from the onset that the position was beyond my comfort zone as an investment banker. With both excitement and dread, I accepted the offer. I was excited because it will be my first time to be elected as a director of a listed company, and a Chairman at that!
I was equally anxious because, as the Chairman, apart from setting the Company’s strategy, I was also expected to solve the “tragedies” that befell Premiere at that time. It would seem to me that strategy and tragedy looked and sounded similar. We have to takeover because of the mismanagement of our foreign partners. Specifically, we were left with dried up financial resources, huge unpaid debts of close to Php 80.0 million and a staggering deficit of over Php 1.2 billion. On top of these problems, the business that we inherited was involved in operating PAGCOR gaming parlors!
Brothers and sisters, if you were me, would you be excited or would you be anxious? Would you call this grace or punishment? Clearly, from where we were coming from, we really believed, we would need tremendous amounts of grace and mercy to turn this company around!
Premiere’s Amazing Pivot
Given the problems that beset the Company, our team were constantly convincing ourselves that the efforts and resources we were pouring in were all worth it. In short, binobola po namin ang aming mga sarili, believing that we had enough deposits of miracles in our emotional bank account with God. With regards to the inherited online gaming business, the nagging dilemma was on how to deal with it.
Should we continue to operate it because of our responsibility to the shareholders? Or should we sell it, given our moral principles? How do we reconcile and settle soonest the gray areas between the two warring objectives? In a pilgrimage that we joined in 2013, I opened up to our then chaplain Fr. Jerry Orbos. He advised me to arrive at a decision soonest because the gray area cannot stay for long. The choices would be, to sell the business, or resign and let others operate it.
My friends, not only did our Mighty God help us steer Premiere through those rough waters, He also mightily assisted us to transform its very existence! Thus, in the middle of 2015, we were able to completely the sale of the gaming business, with cash proceeds of over P500.0 million. To date, we were able to restore Premiere’s financial health, wipe out the P1.2 billion deficit, and miraculously churn in about Php 200 million in retained earnings! More importantly, we repositioned Premiere from the entertainment and gaming business to an investment company involved in businesses focused on the countryside.
Now I can say that God’s Grace and Mercy descended mightily on Premiere. Like the jester begging for his dear life, God’s mercy spared Premiere from its untimely death, and God’s Grace enabled it have a new lease on life! Indeed, I can attest that amidst us, awesome miracles continue to exist!
PHA’s Newfound Luck
As He has blessed and transformed Premiere to a countryside enabler, we cannot but be grateful for this newfound LUCK that was bestowed on us. By LUCK, we mean, “LIVING UNDER CHRIST’S KINDNESS”.
Just like the apostles, we in Premiere were once lost and now found, were once broken and now blessed. From a ragtag team of diverse, competitive and impatient individuals, we have become a very “Lucky” team of focused, persistent, and empowered professionals who have responded immensely to God’s miracles. By being always out of our comfort zones due to constant problems, we found ourselves adopting an “On-the Job-Training” mindset. In fact, OJT has taken on a new meaning for us — it now means Obedient, Joyful and Trusting Servants and Stewards!
Busy, blessed and bearing fruit. Yes my friends, Premiere is very much a meaningful workplace to its team! We believe that we have an environment where everybody is a leader! Given the manifestations of various out-of-the-box solutions, we have fostered an apostolic perspective to surrender to the Holy Spirit, for His power to collectively inspire, and move us all.
With our aligned intentions, our focus beyond the bottom line is to contribute concretely to nation building. Specifically, Premiere is now a corporate steward involved in natural resources development, food security, shelter and communities where we view our businesses as providers of employment and livelihood to local talents, as well as, linkages to small entrepreneurs.
Thus, our corporate initial of “PHA” would best describe our current team alignment: Positively Harnessing All!
With the PHA Group, we have ten company officers who belong to several renewal communities. Of the ten, six of us, including yours truly, are all active members of the BCBP Makati Chapter! Thus, given our calling to be servant leaders, I am forced to consistently walk my talk and lead by example.
Specifically, both my management team and my co-shareholders agreed to share responsibility where the culture of excellence, fairness, teamwork, meritocracy and transparency is mightily manifesting. The battle cry “one for all, all for one” is so true in Premiere. I really believe that Premiere is a company that constantly practices the Christian virtues of humility, care, patience, acceptance and unity in our workplace.
And what a continuing joyful journey it has been! I have concluded that God decided to be merciful to us because we are always trying to take that leap of faith, trust and surrender! It is when we joyfully obey and exert effort to cooperate that His plans continue to unfold. On a lighter note, in our prayers for ourselves and for PHA, we decided not to give God any set of instructions, and just regularly report for duty!
Premiere’s Ultimate Alignment
To borrow a line from the founder of Chick-a-fill-A, we in Premiere are in the business “to glorify God by being faithful stewards of all that is entrusted to us…Success to us is to work for what is important in our lives…God, Family and Service.”
Of late, we again are facing business transition challenges that will test our patience and capabilities, and as well as our resolve to surrender to the grace and mercy of a benevolent God. Specifically, as a mining sub-contractor to two publicly listed mining companies, our operations will have closer scrutiny with the recent appointment of Sec. Gina Lopez as head of the Department of Natural Resources. This is in addition to the challenges of low mineral prices and the economic downturn of China.
In addition, the issue of the clash between an entrepreneurial culture and a corporate culture in our shelter/real estate subsidiary, and the continuous start up issues in our cold storage business involving delays, over budgets and inefficiencies, are pressing additional financial and operating burdens on us. But because of a more expansive view of our Key Success Factors that include lots of leaps of Faith, we are now more patient and accepting. We now view the current challenges as opportunities to align our priorities to His liking, to define success not so much in monetary gains, but more of significance and contribution.
Because of our paradigm to view our corporate existence beyond profits, we have allowed Premiere to be a pasture for mission, both within its corporate mandate and as a player in the marketplace. Anchored on Premiere’s continuing struggles and victories, we essentially become Christ’s missionaries, proclaiming our dependence on God’s grace and mercy, even if the marketplace does not seem to care.
As I continue to echo in the various BCBP weekly breakfasts nationwide, where my wife Josie and I are invited to do our life sharings, let me proclaim for me and for Premiere, “LET GOD BE ENOUGH!”
Yes, my brothers and sisters, for the remaining fruitful years of my vocation, I have decided to align it with my calling as a Christian steward. Allow me to invite you to do the same. However difficult and challenging it may be, may we all draw strength by being reminded that “following Jesus is not always easy, but it is always right!”
Thank you. Hail to Jesus, the King, and to God be the glory!