Yempo Employee Spotlight: Ronnie

Being a general manager is not easy, especially if the company is still trying to establish standards and protocols. This June’s employee spotlight falls on our very own Ronnie, who decided to give up his life in the Netherlands and work and live here in the Philippines.

How did Ronnie become part of Yempo, and why did he choose to join the company?

Michelle Fiegehen and Ian Parkin gave Ronnie the opportunity to join the company toward the end of 2015. Ronnie, incidentally, knew Michelle through a common friend. At that time, Ronnie was looking for a new job opportunity after walking away from a previous job. He was looking for a role that would best suit him, something similar to what he did before, and the opportunity that Michelle offered him fit like a glove.

Like any expat who is offered a job abroad, Ronnie knew that it wouldn’t be easy working away from home, away from family, but he also knew that it was a great opportunity—an opportunity that he couldn’t afford to pass up. Ronnie is never known to back down from a challenge, so he decided to pack up and take on the challenge of helping run a company in the Philippines as general manager.

Why Yempo?

Ronnie chose Yempo mainly because being a general manager was a new and challenging role for him. He also considered that the opportunity might not present itself again, the opportunity to be able to work abroad and be in a different kind of environment that he isn’t used to. He didn’t want to turn down the job and then regret the decision later on for the rest of his life. He thought that he could always go back to the Netherlands anyway if things didn’t pan out, but two and a half years later he hasn’t felt the need to fly back home. He’s loving the country, the people, and the company so far.

What can he say about Yempo as a company, the people, and its culture?

Yempo as a company, Ronnie admits, is still new. But being a new company also has its advantages—everyone is still somewhat learning and changing, everyone is always open-minded and willing to learn new things and not afraid of change.  Ronnie loves the company culture in particular—it’s relaxed, not that strict on rules. The company makes sure that people are happy.

“The culture that Michelle and Ian built, open-office, bright, relaxed—it feels more like you’re going into a living room than going into an office.”

Ronnie believes that Yempo can still keep the same company culture even if Yempo grows. He believes that the company’s back office and management will have a huge hand in that.

What can he say about Yempo’s future?

Aside from the fact that Ronnie loves working with Michelle and Ian, he believes that a bigger office might be needed, or even two big offices in two cities—Cebu and Manila, so it would be easier for back office to do their job. He sees Yempo growing to around 400 employees in the next couple of years.

What was the most difficult challenge he has experienced as an employee of Yempo, and how did he overcome it?

Although Ronnie cannot name a specific instance where he encountered a difficult challenge that he was able to overcome, he still thinks that working as a general manager day in and day out is still very challenging. After all, he is responsible for the company’s IT—in 4 sites, together with Ian, and it’s not easy. But everything always gets worked out, and then it’s fine. Ronnie also thinks that it’s a good thing that Yempo now has more senior resources who can help with tasks. That, then, is what Ronnie sees as his own personal challenge—to make sure that people are still doing their jobs while he is doing his own.

Is it challenging for him to work with Filipinos?

At first, yes, Ronnie admits that it was a challenge, owing to the totally different culture, different mindset, but “I now know how to ask the right questions. One thing that I don’t like about Filipinos is that if they have to deliver bad news, they tend to be silent or tell you what you want to hear, and that’s basically what happened to me when I dealt with contractors before. Because I was so used to ‘I can’t do it, I’m sorry’—I tell if I can’t commit or If I did a mistake.

But now I know what to do especially with contractors, so if I ask for a timeline and then they provide me with something, I try to challenge them if they can do better. And that’s the same with colleagues, if everything seems quiet, you have to fish if there’s something wrong. If something takes longer, then I will ask what’s going on, but I also try to tell my colleagues that they can talk about it. I prefer that they tell me because if I don’t know, I can’t help. And that’s not a failure on your part because we have to do it all together. It is a failure if we don’t do anything.”

He adds that what he likes most about Filipinos is that they are hardworking, smart, speak almost perfect English, and are friendly.

Is it difficult for him to be honest and straightforward since he started managing people?

“I’m less strict and straightforward than I normally am. I’ve changed, and that is one thing that Michelle told me—don’t be too Dutch. As long as I know that we can improve, then I don’t have to be too strict.”

Is there any inspiring quote or piece of advice that he can give?

“Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Yes, we have all heard the saying, ‘Eat the elephant one bite at a time’ when dealing with a large task, goal, or project.

That’s how he usually works, one bite at a time until you finish the task.”