Business lessons from SM founder Henry Sy


Having built his empire from a small shoe store called ShoeMart to the largest chain of shopping malls in the Philippines, the late Henry Sy Sr. was truly an admirable man! Before his death, he was declared the richest person in the country, with an estimated net worth of $ 20 billion.

He left a legacy that continues to inspire so many people. Here are some of the management lessons from Henry Sy Sr.

Photo credit: PhilStar

Get off the beaten track

I’m only a college graduate, but I always think outside the box because Harvard theory might not always be the best theory. You must find better ways than Harvard (formula), ”Sy said.

This was best illustrated by Sy’s purchase of land too far from the urban center. Many real estate developers had looked at the same land but did not buy, saying it could not pay off in any way. Sy bought the land, built an SM mall and the rest, as they say, is history.

Think big, start small but move fast

Don’t be afraid to think big, start small and move fast. If you don’t do this, the others will be right in front of you», Sy advised.

It helped that Sy’s private business was run by the family.

Decisions can be made in an hour or even a minute. If I have an opportunity worth exploring, discuss it with the family council. This time a decision is made: to go or not to goHe said, adding that in government or other companies, decisions could take several months or even more than a year.

Be ambitious, set a long-term vision

Sy revealed that at SM they don’t just think about the next 6 months or 1 year. They set a long term vision and could plan for the next 5 years. That’s why they were able to build an online store ahead of the competition, knowing that e-commerce will be the next big thing.

Seek market leadership

Even with its small businesses, Sy has sought to be the market leader. Thus, the BDO Savings Bank became the largest bank in the country, SM Development Corp. has grown into one of the largest real estate companies and SM malls are, of course, the largest and most popular malls in the country.

Photo credit: Eastern Securities

Go in public

If you want to move forward, let’s go public. Use other people’s money. By going public, you can get up to 30 times your income. Use that money and go public, then you can go faster, ” Sy said.

The move obviously worked.

Work hard

No matter how good your plans are, if you don’t work hard, those plans will be nothing. In addition, Sy also taught her children to work hard. So unlike many family businesses that fail because the second and / or third generation are lazy, Sy’s children are just as hardworking as he is.



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