From show biz to big business
HE could have become another Gary Valenciano or Ogie Alcasid but big business prevailed.
Like the two singers, he was also a member of Kundirana, a singing group that often held concerts outside the school (La Salle Green Hills). The group required that no member had failing marks despite the rigid, almost daily practices.
Evaristo Sanchez Francisco Jr. or Titoy for short, had the highest grade point average of his graduating year in the early ’80s.
Francisco finished Mechanical Engineering from the University of the Philippines Diliman. He graduated cum laude.
“At one point during my childhood, I wanted to be a professional band member. That was the time of the Minstrels, Circus band, etc.”
“The closest I got to it was having a one-year stint in Kundirana.”
After a series of jobs in major international firms that included Unilever Philippines, Kraft Foods Inc., Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc. and Interphil Laboratories, Francisco is now the executive vice president and general manager of Coca-Cola (Japan) Co. Ltd.
Below is a Q&A with one of the country’s successful expatriates:
Global Pinoy (GP): Please describe a typical day for you.
Francisco: It’s been exciting working for a global company like Coca-Cola. We operate in more than 200 countries and we have more than 100,000 employees worldwide.
One of the strengths of the Coca-Cola Company is we work in a very connected way globally, within the Asia-Pacific geography and across functions.
It is therefore difficult to describe a typical day for me. The business does not actually “switch off.”
E-mails come in 24/7, and I have the normal office and field activities during the day, which can range from 10 to 12 hours. Then there are evening teleconferences with our colleagues outside Asia-Pacific two to three days of the week.
What’s important for me is to prioritize well. An example is with e-mail. Upon checking my inbox in the morning, I immediately decide which ones need urgent attention, and which ones I can group together to be worked on later in the day.
Throughout the week, I strive to achieve a balance between my work, my spiritual health, physical health, and emotional well-being and that of the people I care for.
I make it a point to include within the day the Holy Mass and short moments of prayer and other acts of piety.
I also do some running and exercise three to four times a week. I read something outside of work every day. I also use Facetime to converse at least once a week with my son Carlo and daughter Isa in the United States, and most importantly make time to spend special moments of the day with my wife Meg of 27 years.
It is a challenge to achieve this balance, but the key thing is to keep my mind on this, and to keep trying.
GP: How do you make decisions?
Francisco: In the Coca-Cola Company, leaders are developed to be inspiring and engaging. I fully believe in this.
In this fast-paced and technologically connected world, the strength of an organization comes from its people—highly capable, engaged, inspired and connected. Therefore, in decision-making, I guide my team to create options, and allow them to have a good view of which decision path would be best. I reinforce their thinking by pitching in my own thoughts and points of view.
This builds their capabilities as they tackle complexities and challenging situations, their self-fulfillment as they are directly contributing to the business, and their confidence as I provide them guidance and reinforcement.
GP: Are you influenced by particular principles? Or people?
Francisco: My work can be very challenging, and I find myself being stretched many times. The key thing which keeps me going and even looking for more is a sense of mission. Yes, there are the business and organizational missions which directly drive this, but my deeper personal mission is all about people.
A huge success parameter for me is if I am able to positively affect the lives of people who work around me, even in a small way, every day. I spend a lot of my working time with people—in addition to my regular team routines, I build into my schedule 1:1’s with my direct reports and key talents, indirect reports, and I provide mentorship to several associates in Japan and across the Asia-Pacific.
We talk mostly about the here and now, their current challenges and guidance on how to approach these challenges. We also go deeper and discuss personal difficulties, career paths, how to move toward their aspirations.
A highly energized and engaged organization brings in the results. In addition to this, there is that personal fulfillment of making the work better for others, of making life better for others.
GP: You’ve been head in different cultures. How would you compare each (including Filipinos)?
Francisco: This is one of the highlights in my work for Coca-Cola. I’ve had the opportunity to closely work with teams from a diverse range of cultures across Asia-Pacific.
It has been important for me to gain sufficient knowledge of the cultures I work with so that I know the best way to approach them, their nuances, what clicks and what does not click. What’s considered humorous in our (Filipino) culture may not be taken the same way in other cultures.
There are cultures which will give you direct feedback when you ask them for it as a team, while there are cultures where they will approach you one-on-one after keeping quiet during a team feedback session.
There are cultures which take idioms literally, and therefore I have to be very direct and simple in my language. This is because they “process” what I say and translate this into their language.
There are cultures which need (and even welcome) a follow-up call or message to check on their assigned tasks, while there are cultures which consider this offensive, because it seems to suggest a lack of trust in them.
What is common in working with such diverse cultures are the basic principles of showing respect, especially for the differences from my own culture, true empathy, and genuine concern for their career and personal well-being.
What’s also common is the respect for each person, for his dignity, for his humanity.
An important fringe benefit in my work has been developing friendships across different cultures. This is the beauty of working in a multicountry environment.
But there are also differences. The depth of personal friendships varies from culture to culture, and it has been important for me to know this and to give space where I see it is needed.
There are those friendships that go beyond our physical distances and go beyond working for Coca-Cola.
GP: Please describe your nonwork activities.
Francisco: I use my weekends to decompress and to try to achieve that balance in my life. I spend a lot of time with Meg—watching TV shows if we can, exploring more of the city we live in, taking a road trip outside the city.
The sights to see in each city and country we’ve lived in are innumerable. We also enjoy the different cuisine each city offers—a fantastic and different experience for each location we’ve lived in. When I can, I play golf, but the game of golf has not been that kind to me. I make it a point to exercise (running and gym), since there are weeks when it is difficult to exercise before or after work hours. I go online, Facebook, news on Twitter, Facetime, mainly to stay in touch with my children, and friends and family in Manila.
And I participate and help out in organizing spiritual formation activities for friends and the Catholic community around us.
“My mother had hoped that one of us four brothers would become a priest. I hope I am not too far from that right now.”
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