Life Lessons and Business Tips from Jollibee’s Tony Tan Caktiong

Everyone assumes that Jollibee’s founder and CEO Tony Tan Caktiong was born rich. But his rags to riches story is one that truly inspires, particularly because he really made it big! Jollibee is among the most recognized Filipino brand across the country and in many parts of the world.

So, what lessons can we learn from Jollibee’s CEO and what business tips did he share with people?

Be Optimistic

In one of our early planning sessions, my vision was to create the largest food company in the world. That was when we had 5 stores. Some people thought I was overly optimistic,” Caktiong said in an APEC Summit.

While it might not yet be the largest in the world, it’s the largest food chain in the Philippines! And the corporation has even expanded to include other food outlets such as Red Ribbon (cakes), Mang Inasal (roasted chicken), and Greenwich (pizza and fried chicken).

tony tan caktiong
Photo credit: TeaHub

Take Risks

If you don’t take risks, then you’ll never know what you can achieve.

Those early days were not easy. We faced many challenges and took many risks. In taking these risks there were times we lost money due to the mistake we made. But during those challenges I continued to have high hopes and optimism that anything is possible,” Caktiong admitted.

Innovation starts in our minds. Our mindsets determine what we’re able to accomplish. The story of Jollibee Food Corp is a story of finding opportunity amidst difficult times.

Don’t Be Scared to Make Mistakes

Jollibee only had five stores when multi-national chain McDonald’s entered the Philippine market. Friends told him to sell out but Caktiong held on to his dream. He pursued this dream and tried (sometimes failed) new things or menu offerings.

We thought that (barbeque chicken product) was our best product. We did a lot of work on it. But it didn’t do very well. Do I call it a major mistake? Maybe not a major mistake but it’s a failure we have in our history,” he shared.

But don’t be scared to make mistakes. Just be quick to recognize them and learn from them as fast as you can. Learn from each mistake and it will not be a waste of time.

Grow Your Brand and Defend It

Jollibee was soon able to grow its brand and became the number one fast food chain in the Philippines, despite the overwhelming presence of McDonald’s. In fact, the Philippines is the only country in the world where McDonald’s isn’t the number one fast food chain!

That clearly shows how much Jollibee was able to grow.

Caktiong also makes sure to defend the brand from copycats and those that open stores with the name ‘Jollibee’, whether a food business or something else. They take copyright infringement seriously.

Trademarks increased a lot of value to our business. To the consumer, they represent either trust in the company or trust in the brand…they will remember that the brand connotes very tasty food and also the experience, the ambiance, the service, and they are also proud to be a part of that brand,” he explained.

We have to enforce [our trademarks] properly. If you do not enforce it properly, your brand image will get diluted over time.

Joy Adalia

Leave a Comment