"They have their sleeves rolled up!"
This was my first impression of the Tans when I was introduced to them during my first week of employment at Jollibee.
Back then when the Jollibee corporate headquarters was at the Culmat building,all new employees were given the tour of the building and introduced to everyone else, including the Tan brothers. This was part of the initiation into the Jollibee family and it really made one feel a sense belongingness to the organization.
It was Mimi Sison, my direct supervisor,who took me through the rounds of the departments and introduced me to Ernesto "Sir Ato" Tanmantiong, who was then the Assistant Operations Manager; William "S' WTU" Tanuntiong,who was head of the Engineering department then, and finally, Mr. Jollibee himself, S' Tony "TTC" Tancaktiong.
When Mimi introduced me to them, I don't remember feeling any sense of nervousness or any bit of awe, since they were all smiling,unassuming and dressed up simply...no signature shirts or ties! And like I said,their sleeves were all rolled up,something you wouldn't see in San Miguel or any of the Ayala Corporate offices.
The reason this detail caught my attention is because, again, I couldn't but help contrast this with my experience at Foodmine (KFC). There, the President and his VPs were all dressed up in signature long - sleeved shirts and tie, or barongs. And there was a certain air of power and authority in the way they carried themselves. Their offices (well at least, the President's and his special assistants') were huge and lavishly decorated. So when you entered their rooms you had a feeling of some fear and awe, because the rooms told you these were the people in power. But the trappings did not appeal to me because I knew the caliber of the people who were running the show. There was a lot of show...but lack of substance.
At Jollibee though,there was no such thing. The rooms of the Tan brothers were bare and one didn't get a feeling of being intimidated by the surroundings when you entered their rooms. You wouldn't even think that you were in the office of one of the owners because these were small!
But it was this seeming lack of pomp...this simplicity... that made working at Jollibee attractive for me. The owners' rolled up sleeves told me that here at Jollibee, everybody,from the President down to the lowliest of employees were going to work hard.
And work hard we did! I was to find out for myself that what Jollibee lacked in terms of "show" it made up for with a lot of substance.
Fact is, a year after I joined the company, in 1986 Jollibee rose to assume the leadership position in the fastfood industry.In 1986, we were number 1...but surprisingly, we didn't feel like it!
It was in the following year that we would proclaim it during our first ever Managers' Convention.