THE RELUCTANT CEO

Lafayette A. Lim, NCCC Group President/CEO, reflects on Agora entrepreneurship award

Lafayette A. Lim (center), president and CEO of NCCC Group of Companies, bags the Outstanding Achievement in Entrepreneurship – Large Scale award during the 40th Agora Awards held last January 20, 2020 at Okada Manila.

Homegrown businessman Lafayette A. Lim, President and CEO of NCCC Group of Companies, was recently conferred with Outstanding Achievement in Entrepreneurship award–Large Scale award during the 40th Agora Awards held last January 20, 2020 at Okada Manila.

The Agora Awards, an annual recognition created by the Philippine Marketing Association, Inc. (PMA), is a distinction given to Filipino Marketing Luminaries and given to individuals and companies that have proven marketing excellence in their respective field and notably contributed to Philippine business and economy.

From what was once a company engaged in selling textile products,  has now established itself as a major player in the retail industry. It has diversified its business, which now includes NCCC Malls, NCCC Supermarket, NCCC Department Store, ChoiceMart, HB1+ Pharmacy, HardwareMaxx, Cinemas, Breadfactory, Citifoods, Helen’s Farm, Dos Palmas, and PrintLife.

In his acceptance speech he posted in Facebook , Lim shared the story of NCCC as a testament that Mindanao is indeed a land of promise with still lots of potential waiting to be actualized.

“As CEO of the company, I had a front-row seat in witnessing how we need to radically adapt to the fast-changing needs and demands of a disruptive market in a Mindanaoan setting. We know from the start that our company had to ditch a survival mindset, that we need to have a trailblazing philosophy that is aware and responsive to the real pulse of the emerging market in Mindanao,” Lim said.

Just like famous reticent leaders like Moses, who didn’t believe he was a worthy messenger for God’s commandments, Lim didn’t consider himself an ideal choice for the job and hesitantly took on the role of Chief Executive Officer of the NCCC Group of Companies almost five years ago.

“It was never ever in my bucket list to become a CEO, and yet there I was thrust into where I was most needed at that time,” he said.

Last year during the Navigate Mindanao marketing conference organized by IPG Mediabrands, he admitted being absolutely petrified to be onstage, yet, he had to put his money where his mouth is, because on an earlier occasion he mentioned that Mindanao needs a better marketing approach different from Manila-centric marketing strategies and that was what inspired the research that culminated with the event.

Inspired by the story he shared during the said event, he found himself nominated for the Agora Award.

“Thank you for believing we have a story worth telling, one that can hopefully speak to many and can lift spirits. However, although I was deeply honored, and utterly shocked, by the nomination, I would not have given it a second thought to not even consider entering, because personally, and I believe as a family, we have always wanted to remain low key. I actually didn’t ask their permission to submit our entry. Sorry, Mom, siblings, but, hey, we won! And so I decided to go ahead with it for the love of Mindanao and my city, Davao, and as an opportunity to share our story, and to honor the legacy of our founders and the amazing work of everyone who were with us from the start,” he said.

Lim said the award was not single-handedly achieved by any individual, but it’s a cumulative effort and a true testament of grit and excellence by amazing people in their organization.

“That is why I honor them with this award,” he said.

He said being a recipient of the award gives him an opportunity to share the company’s story and to honor the legacy of the company’s founders specially mentioning three generations of his family – his grandfather, father, and older brother.

Lim’s late grandfather, he fondly called Akong, Lim Tian Siu, came to the Philippines from Jìnjiāng, Fújiàn, China when he was 14, worked hard for a living and sent money back to his parents. After World War 2, he moved out of war-devastated Manila and moved to Cotabato, where he set up business and eventually got married.

In 1952, together with his wife, Ko Giok Loo, he started the company, New City Commercial Corporation, in Davao City primarily selling textile. They overcame many challenges while sowing the seeds of integrity, humility, and hard work that have continued to be part of our culture and the foundations of our success.

“He never stopped working up to his last days, and he never stopped reminding us that despite all the hardships, he never lost his integrity,” Lim said.

Lim also mentioned his Dad, the late Henry Lim, who jumpstarted the family’s accelerated growth in the retail business when they opened their very first supermarket and department store in 1978, which celebrated its 40 years last December 1, 2018.

With entrepreneurial boldness and vision, his father opened new stores in still unfamiliar areas like Tagum and Palawan. He added the seeds of excellence, care, and fun, instituting into their company a culture of not only being a leader, but a leader who cares.

“His memory lives on with the success of the NCCC brand, and the love of everyone inside and outside the company who benefited from his caring leadership, which inspires and guides us to this day. Every year, several times a year, I continue to meet the hundreds of retirees of our company especially during their yearly outing, and they always express their gratitude for the love my Dad has given them. Every year we continue to acknowledge many who have worked for us for 20, 25, 30, and even 35 years. I believe that from his eternal retirement, he is watching over us with pride,” he said.

He also remembers his elder brother, the late Javey Lim, whose innovative and enigmatic leadership accelerated their supermarket business growth through his multiple store format development and elevating retail shopping experience to become nationally competitive.

“Our supermarket ranks number 1 for many of our national suppliers not only in Southern Mindanao but also, for some, in the whole of Mindanao and even the VisMin area,” he said.

He lauded the passion, enthusiasm, and energy of their employees in whatever task is in front of them.

“Truly, our family has been blessed with highly empowered employees or associates, as we refer to them. As we connect and involve them to be a real stakeholder in our company, we ensure that we return the goodness of their service by being a channel where we can fulfill their ultimate aspirations. As we give, so our associates are delivering more,” he said.

Towards the end of his speech, he expressed his gratitude to PMA for being cognizant of the unique and distinct character Mindanao has to offer in the field of marketing and is assured of its commitment to continue to pursue and recognize Mindanao’s contribution in defining what truly makes a Filipino brand.

“That is why I invite all of you to take another hard look at Mindanao. Mindanao needs marketing experts who can see Mindanao not only for its tapestry of culture, but can breakdown and analyze each segment so that we can formulate a playbook on what Mindanao really needs marketing-wise. I am excited to see what we can do and achieve together in the marketing community about this,” Lim said.

Apart from Lim, another Dabawenyo, Dennis A. Uy, President/ CEO of Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc. received the coveted Marketing Company of the Year award.