5 Valuable Lessons I Learned on Becoming an Entrepreneur from Archie King


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.

3. On Networking

Sometime in 1991, I receive a call from Archie in my office. He asked me to join him at the Wine and Cheese Club; I would be his sponsored guest for the month.

“Trust me it will be worth your time.”

Free wine and cheese? Why not?

Shortly before we entered the event, Archie took me aside and said, “Networking is how you build your contacts. The first thing you need to learn is to NOT talk about business right away. Get to know them as people; find out who they are and what they like to do. Second, be a good listener. It’s better to let them lead the conversation then just follow. Eventually, they will create the openings for business talk usually when they ask for your calling card.”

Although I was not successful that night, I continue to apply Archie’s advice when I network for new clients. The advice on becoming a good listener is especially important. When two people are talking too much, the conversation grows from a discussion into an argument or debate.

Archie’s advice resonates loudly in this day and age of digital technology and social media marketing. When we are networking through the virtual world, we experience a false sense of entitlement that we often lose sight of the need to be disciplined and responsible. We need to remain mindful of those whom we reach out to as well as those who reach out to us.

Companies use social media to solicit feedback and conduct due diligence. Social media has given companies the avenue to uncover who you are outside the formal setting of a job interview or a product presentation. An irresponsible post or share can potentially cost you a career or a client.

The lesson I got from Archie is that networking is like a dance; you have to learn how to lead your partner and allow your partner to lead you. This way, you don’t get to step on each other’s toes and just let the performance flow.

4. On Money

One night, while I was walking home after a workout, a black, 190E Mercedes Benz pulled up alongside me. The passenger car window rolled down and I saw it was Archie behind the wheel. He offered to give me a ride home since we were practically neighbors.

As a college student who was surviving on a daily allowance of P100 a day, I didn’t exactly have financial freedom. Mercedes 190E was my dream car.

“Man, how long before you were able to buy this baby?” I asked Archie.

“Took a long time. I had to earn it by working my way up the family business. Whatever profits the company made, we plowed back into the business. You need to constantly build your business; take care of your people and never lose sight of your goals. The rest will take care of itself.”

We drove the 190E around the village longer because I wanted to learn more about his views on money.

Archie was never ostentatious. He was a good dresser. He was always neat and his workout clothes probably cost more than my entire wardrobe, but he was never extravagant. I knew he could order a more expensive food but when we ordered food at the club, he ordered the same thing: grilled cheese sandwich with pickles.

He never talked about expensive watches or Italian shoes. Never did he mention his latest “toys” nor expensive acquisitions.

Everyone I knew who reached the pinnacle of success, much like Archie did, would relish the opportunity to disclose material possessions, but not Archie, and I had to know why.

“Money is important only because it helps you pay for what you need. Money gives you the means, but its value is not measured by what you can buy.”

I thought at that point, Archie was alluding to his earlier statement of plowing money back into the business to keep it on its growth path. Fast-forward to 2014, I found out that all of the charity works that Archie had done in the past decade were for those who were less fortunate—orphaned children without education and homes.

I then realized what Archie had meant the night we drove around in his 190E.

The true measure of success is not measured by the size of your bank account but by the number of lives you have transformed.

Archie King had dedicated his life to transforming the lives of people who were less fortunate through his various charities and foundations, which include the following:

  • Angelo King Foundation, Inc.
  • Gawad Kalinga
  • Haribon Foundation
  • Martin de Porres
  • Francis Learning Center Foundation, Inc.
  • Child Protection Network
  • Sagip Kalikasan Watershed Protection Council
  • Dream International Creative Ministries
  • United Nations Environment Program
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Manila Foundation, Inc.
  • Conservation of the Tubataha Reef

Archie’s legacy in supporting these charities will be carried out by his two sons, Atticus and Ian, who have grown to be fine, socially responsible, young men in their own right.

5. On Failure

Last December, I made a pitch to Archie’s company. My company represented a Canadian business consultancy firm, Light-Core, which specialized in leadership development through the principles of behavioral leadership. Light-Core had a 100% success rate by navigating clients through economic turbulence and considering ASEAN Integration was upon the Philippines. I figured Archie’s group would be interested.

I made the pitch and gave it my best shot but it was not approved. Archie was not able to attend my presentation but it mattered little. Their company already had a successful leadership development program in place.

I sent Archie a message thanking him for the opportunity and that hopefully someday, they would consider our services.

That evening, I received a call from Archie who invited me for lunch the following day at our old hangout. We talked for a few minutes. He just wanted to know what I was up to. It had been awhile since we got together.

He never referred to the proposal or the pitch but simply advised that in any venture, sometimes, things don’t go your way but it doesn’t mean you failed.

“Sometimes it’s just the timing that is not right. You just have to keep trying. In business, doors are never permanently closed.”

Unfortunately, we could not synchronize our schedules. I was already based in the South and was available only on weekends. On the contrary, Archie had his weekends booked for out-of-town excursions.

If I were to sum up these nuggets of wisdom into Archie King’s Golden Rule for Entrepreneurs, it would be this:

Whoever you are in life should be who you are in business.

At a time when executives sought to distinguish themselves from those who worked for them, Archie clarified that there was no distinction between the Archie at work and the Archie outside work.

He was exactly who he was; he had no pretensions and he never discriminated against anyone. It didn’t matter if he was in the company of high-powered executives, influential politicians, room boys at Victoria Court, his household helpers, or among hardcore powerlifters.

He was just Archie.

Archie’s purpose and vision were aligned with his values simply because he was true to who he was.

In business, trust is the underlying component that determines success. However, trust is a function of truth and honesty, which are qualities that become fleeting in the face of greed and opportunity. So how can you be true to others without first becoming true to yourself?

The first thing I noticed when I visited his office was how genuinely nice and happy his people were. Everyone was well mannered, and visitors were greeted warmly. I spent a few minutes talking to his managers and staff before my presentation, and it was obvious how grateful they were to work for Archie.

In my experience dealing with human resources in BPO, it was refreshing to see a company that chose not to fear its own people. This company embraces its people wholeheartedly. It was evident that Archie’s values were cultivated and well ingrained in the company culture.

I can call Archie a visionary.

The business environment has changed; the events that greeted the new millennium transformed the world into a truly global economy. We had 9/11, Iraq Invasion, the 2008 economic meltdown, climate change, and Euro Zone crisis that started in 2009 and culminated in the Greek Referendum of 2015. There are few structures and few barriers, and the world is making a concerted effort to bridge gaps between regions. This scenario is what Army College referenced as a VUCA economy: volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous.

However, businesses here in the Philippines remain structured. Most of the companies still follow rigid management structures over mobility and flexibility. HR lives in fear of its people; the management is fearful of unionization and infiltration so it invests heavily in tools and processes.

Archie continued to trust in his people because he knew that in a time of VUCA, people are the only asset that can adapt to change in the face of economic turbulence. Without the ability to adapt, you will not find opportunity within a time of chaos.

When I found out that Archie had passed, I regretted not being able to hang out with him one last time in December 2014. If only I had some way of knowing the events forthcoming on July 5.

But that is the mystery of life. It is unpredictable and unknowable. We can only make the most of the time we have on this earth, and that time should be well spent. Not on the acquisition of things, accumulation of wealth, or gathering of prestige but in transforming the world one person at a time.

The beauty of our life is what we make of it.

Even in passing, my friend continues to teach me valuable lessons.

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