Featured image courtesy of Archie King’s family.
There are events that happen in our lives, which leave an indelible mark. We never forget what we were doing the exact time it happened.
When I received a word from a friend that entrepreneur Archie King passed away last July 5, 2015, I had just come from church and was preparing to finish the final few pages of a report that had taken me all of the previous week to complete. It would have been a huge relief to complete the project with still a few hours before the conclusion of yet another Sunday. Maybe then I could finally unwind, have my customary beer, and enjoy the rest of the evening with my family.
However, like a black hole, the news sucked my energy. I could not lift my hands to check the Internet if the news was real or another hoax. It wasn’t until I checked my cell phone for messages that I read the text message from my brother that my worst fear was confirmed.
Archimedes “Archie” King, my good friend of 30 years, passed away in a tragic accident.
I first met Archie in the mid-1980s. We were regular trainers in an exclusive gym; I was still in college when I was training for both track and field and powerlifting, while Archie, who had already been running the Victoria Court chain of motels, lifted with his personal trainer, Milo.
Back in those days, not many people lifted weights. It didn’t take long for Archie and the tightly knit gym community of hardcore lifters to develop a bond that would last 30 years.
We became training partners for a while. Archie wanted to strengthen his legs, and as a competitive powerlifter, I would put him through several squat programs. Within a month of training, Archie improved his squat from 135 pounds to 205 pounds.
In between rest periods and whenever we found time to hang out at the sports lounge, I would use the opportunity to ask Archie about business. I was a BS Economics major in the University of the Philippines, and King Development Corporation has been already established in the commercial property development industry.
Archie never hesitated or shied away from sharing his experience, knowledge, and wisdom. The discussions were informal, light-hearted, and candid but genuine, sincere, and honest. I had engaged other successful entrepreneurs before in an effort to prime my expectations in the world of business. However, most of them only talked the talk.
Archie talked the talk and walked the walk. He had no pretensions; who you saw was exactly who Archie was.
I decided to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Archie by sharing with you the valuable lessons I learned from my friend on becoming an entrepreneur.
1. On Becoming an Entrepreneur
Few months after I graduated, I asked Archie if I should start my own business instead of working for someone else. I had some ideas and I was planning to ask my Dad for start-up capital.
He said that starting a business isn’t just about having an idea or capital. The most important aspect was getting experience because once business starts, challenges would come from every corner, every single day, and at the most unexpected moments. Without experience, I would not have the capacity to formulate decisions at crucial junctures.
“Work for someone for at least two years. It’s a good way to gain experience and build discipline plus you get to work with people at different levels. You’ll get to compete and learn what it takes to get ahead. Most of all, if you want to build your own business, you should experience how it is to be managed before you manage other people.”
I took Archie’s advice and worked for 2 years as a trader and market analyst at a financial investments company. Those 2 years became a valuable learning experience not just for my professional life but also for my personal life.
I was promoted but I was also castigated. I made money and I lost money. I was fired but found work right away. I made friends and lost friends. I created loyalties but also experienced betrayal.
These experiences made me see life from a different perspective; that the real world was far, far different from what we learned in textbooks and classrooms.
To become an entrepreneur, you must be prepared to take on all these challenges at all levels, in every area, and even from those you least expect these challenges. You must not also expect to win all the time. Instead, become a better person every time.
2. On People
There was a time I did not see Archie in the gym for nearly a month. When I chanced upon him in the sports lounge, he said he had been running during his time away from the gym.
“Running? Man, that’s going to shrivel up every ounce of hard-earned muscle we built on your legs.”
Archie gave out a hearty laugh and said he set up a 5-kilometer fun run for his company. Everyone was asked to join and he had to set a good example.
“So you’re going to fire anyone who beats you?” I said in jest.
Archie laughed louder and said, “No, the purpose of the fun run is not to win but to teach everyone the value of teamwork. Life is a race; business is competitive but the company has to stay together and help each other out.”
During a visit to his office last December 2014, I learned Archie had set up a leadership development program for his people. Those who were qualified for the program would go through a two-year course with the purpose of developing future managers of the company and, importantly, leaders for the next generation.
At a time and age when companies continued to spend millions on the latest processes, tools, and technologies, Archie chose to invest in the most important yet most overlooked asset of any organization: PEOPLE.