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5 ways to #BeTheBoss

MANILA, Philippines – Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are now challenged not only to excel at management, but to take charge of every facet of their business, particularly as it comes to braving the digital shift. SMEs need to go online to meet customers where they most often are.

In a Rappler-hosted Twitter conversation #BeTheBoss, the business owners and entrepreneurs who chimed in on the #BeTheBoss Conversation all hailed from a variety of industries and shared their best practices on how to do so. Here are the top 5 takeaways from them:

1. An online presence is a 24-hour ambassador.

SMEs need to be online not just to obtain new customers, but also to maintain their reputation.

Roxie Sanguyo, the owner of Hog’s Breath Cafe Alabang, said that she searches for a business online when she hears about it. She said that people do this to check how legitimate it is. Such consumer behavior may be particularly pronounced in the Philippines, where scams  and our fear of falling victim to them  are always rife.

A well-developed web presence, including a website, social media profiles, and even reviews on relevant third-party platforms, would thus speak well to your brand. It would tell prospective customers that you are legitimate as well as worthwhile.

2. An employee-centric culture is crucial.

Even Mystery Manila, which has risen to success largely via word of mouth over social media, does not neglect its employees who manage their mystery rooms. The team said they make it a point to take care of their staff, as the staff will, in turn, take care of their customers.

From a western perspective, this approach may seem like common sense. But in the Philippines, where labor is so comparatively cheap, it is easy for management to take employees for granted.

Mystery Manila’s focus on its employees has surely contributed to its many achievements, which includes expanding to multiple locations and the opening of sister brand Murder Manila.

3. Sustainable is shareable.

Janine Chiong, the co-founder and CEO of Habi Footwear, which actually started as a thesis project at the Ateneo de Manila University, described her products during #BeTheBoss Twitter conversation as “comfy shoes made with sustainable materials.”

One of the main threads of the conversation was finding ways to distinguish your business, and there has to be none greater than having a social impact. People, after all, like to support social enterprises and local businesses, and it is easy to do so through conscious consumerism.

In the case of Habi Footwear, consumers support at least two beneficiaries – the environment and the women weavers who upcycle the materials for the shoes.

4. Be searchable.

There may be the misconception that if you simply have a website or online store, potential customers will flock to you in droves. This is not true, of course, seeing as how there may be thousands of businesses like yours competing for the attention of the same target market.

You must be easily searchable, which is accomplished through off page and on page search engine optimization (SEO). John Joe of app and web development company White Widget noted the importance of SEO during #BeTheBoss.

When someone searches for “app game developer Philippines” on Google, White Widget is the first entry that comes up. This makes their website more likely to be clicked on, and in turn, their services to be more likely availed of.

5. Manage your time, before it’s too late.

When operating a small business online, it is easy to get distracted with every little ping and notification. It thus becomes all the more crucial to focus on what needs to be done versus what can realistically be saved for later.

April Cuenca, the co-founder and CEO of, said she creates to-do lists that are organized by urgency as long as the time it will take to complete each task. These lists help her as she scales, which aims to help both Filipino and foreign travelers find off-the-beaten-path destinations in the country.

As Cuenca assists travelers to find the best journey for them, she is also on her own journey as an entrepreneur, which millions of Filipino SMEs go through as well on a day-to-day basis.

As we can see from the #BeTheBoss conversation, your path will depend  entirely and absolutely  on you. The question then becomes: Where do you want to take your business?

Rappler Business columnist Ezra Ferraz brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Connect with him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz