Don't keep me waiting, or I will set up my own company
"Oh, sorry I'm late," my friend Pierre said the moment he saw me in the restaurant. "I thought you'd be late," he added sheepishly.
He arrived 15 minutes after our planned lunch at 12 noon. I said it was fine, but he seemed absolutely surprised (and a little disturbed?) by my punctuality.
To be fair, both our concept of time has been skewed because of the last few years of not seeing each other. Pierre is a French national and expat based in Cebu for the three years. I, on the other hand, had left Cebu for three years in Manila and the US to finish my graduate studies.
He has been more accustomed than myself to the Cebuanos' concept of "punctuality" (virtualy nonexistent), so to see me arrive on time was probably quite an anomaly for himself.
I wasn't the most punctual person, too I admit. But thankfully, I have improved radically since getting myself into the whole American culture of efficiency and inheriting the American "sense of urgency."
My French friend has certainly taken a good dose of the Cebuano chill pill, while I have become the more hotheaded one.
The agenda of our catchup quickly evolved into whining about our daily work affairs.
When he told me about his frustrations with his staff, he just chuckled and said, "She is a typical Filipino, she would say things she would do and then won't."
I, on the other hand, could not let go of my last job interview experience I had in Manila for a big company.
I recounted to him my experience as I was asked to wait for two hours for the interviewer. When he came, he did not apologize, but I could not help but say "you must be very busy." The interview seemed amicable and successful, but of course I didn't get the job in the end.
No wait, let me expound: the company never got back to me whether I got the job or not, but after a month of no response, I had figured I had been rejected. Even if a rejection email sucks, I think everyone would agree that it is still better than being seenzoned by a company and hoping for something that would never come.
I couldn't blame the company for unprofessional attitudes, because it is already social cancer in this country. No one seems to value other people's time. My experience was certainly not the first and only time where I was asked to wait for nothing, in and outside the professional setting.
In our culture, it seems to be a status quo thing: the last ones to arrive are normally the most important ones in the room. The program will not start unless the VIPs have arrived, even if the rest have to wait two hours.
"It's probably because you commented 'you must be busy' that you didn't get the job!" Pierre laughed. "So what did you do next?"
"I had two other pending applications, but likewise, they wouldn't give me a final deadline or offer. I was growing frustrated and was considering going overseas again and give up on Philippines," but then I read this story by John Gokongwei Jr. in his biography."
When John Gokongwei was on his younger years as a businessman, he applied for a loan at a bank and had to wait for two hours for the banker and was still rejected after that. The shock and humiliation of his failed attempts so steeled him that he refused to fail. Of course, later on, he owned his own bank Robinsons Bank, along with holdings from various industries from manufacturing, transportation, petrochemicals, property development and more.
It's amazing to me how this happens to someone like John. And although I couldn't claim I would get the same success as John, I wish we could fix these social cancers in our own little ways.
I was inspired by John's story and decided also to start my own company because I would never want to treat my clients like that.
Because when there are inefficiencies, most people will see them as a problem or hurdle. But a rare few would see them as a grand opportunity.