Monday, August 18, 2008

Carson Tan: Giving his Best through Aquabest

One of the inspiring franchisers I met in the Association of Filipino Franchisers, Inc. (AFFI) was Mr. Carson Tan, GQWEST chief executive officer. He is an open-minded entrepreneur and overflowing with sensible ideas.

After reading the book about Entrepreneurship which was authored by AFFI pioneering leaders and members, I came to know more the story of his business and his background. I gained insights from his integrity and capability in managing business - Global Quality Waters and Environmental Solutions Technologies, Inc. or GQWEST.

Our executive editor Jojo M. Ocampo made an article about him…
Carson Tan, GQWest CEO
Today, at the helm of Aquabest, he has learned to commit his business to God. It is no surprise that the company is doing very well. But in the beginning, it was a hard uphill climb for Carson and Aquabest. He used to be a silent partner, part of a group of businessmen who in 1997 saw a big market for water refilling business.
Initially, they were skeptical because only one water shop brand existed at that time. Nobody bought water then – there was plenty of water gushing out of the faucet. But with skillful marketing and educating of the public, the market soon became ready for the health benefits purified and mineral water brought. And so the Aquabest company flourished.
The good times were short-lived however when, due to mismanagement, the company soon found itself in the brink of bankruptcy. Carson and his family decided to buy out the shares of the other incorporators in order to save Aquabest and its franchisees that would be left orphaned if the company closed down.
With the help of family and friends, Carson raised P1 million to buy out the other partners and pay for the company’s debts. He started anew with nothing in the office except two tables and a skeleton workforce.
Since he used to be a silent partner and the business was so highly technical, he let the current manager operate the business. The initial goal was to just sell water, to pay the debts, and survive. Little did Carson know that inside that store, massive stealing was going on in the form of unrecorded sales. Until someone blew the whistle on the perpetrators then Carson learned the full extent of the problem.
From the time he took over in 2001 till 2004, Carson had to clean the ranks of dishonest employees, while trying to get the company back on its feet. He worked for a non-salary per diem of P200.00 with minimal commission, but eventually his efforts and faith paid off, as 2005 was a tremendous year for Aquabest.
Right now Carson has over 250 franchisees in the Aquabest network. Their approach to franchising is slightly different as they do not collect franchise fees or royalty fees, but rather flat and minimal monthly dues which include free marketing and tri-media exposure, uniforms, streamers, and filters. Aquabest is proud to provide their franchisees with top quality machines and consumables for the water refilling business at a very low markup.
To date, the Global Quality Waters and Environmental Solutions Technologies, Inc. or GQWEST’s portfolio of brands has a combined total of over 500 water-refilling stations operating nationwide, with franchises making up the majority. Added to this, GQWEST has started producing its own bottled water under the Aquabest Premium brand. “We set up an industrial water treatment system for a bottling company here. Since it’s our design, our machine, we asked them to toll pack for us. We’ve started looking for distributors of our bottled water,” announced Tan. GQWEST has also begun diversifying its business line and is now ISO certified to serve its customers better.
GQWEST is one of the top providers of water purification products and services in the Philippines today, introducing more innovations to achieve industry leadership.
Carson believes that if an entrepreneur has a plan or a vision and commits this to God, and works hard on achieving it, this will eventually lead to success. He also believes in not just jumping onto the bandwagon, but being original in some way, tweaking the concept to give the market better with innovative products.
“Keep on visualizing what the future. It’s not the product, it’s the idea. It’s the concept of what you have.”
Aside from vision, Carson believes that timing is also very important. Therefore entrepreneurs should be able to time the carrying out of their vision perfectly. Part of this is having the conviction to forge ahead even if those around you do not support your vision.
Carson believes one big advantage that Filipino entrepreneurs have is their creativity. He is amazed at the constant innovations being done on existing products – he calls the people who are behind this “innovators”.
Carson also sees the need for the Filipino entrepreneur to be more serious about controlling the quality of its products and their way of doing business. He has tried oftentimes to be a supplier or distributor for foreign corporations but is often disqualified due to the bad image the country has when it comes to product standards and how business is done in the country. As a result, the Philippines lose out on many opportunities to bring its business to the global market.
The best way to develop these entrepreneurial skills is to develop one’s character, Carson advises, as having good character means being disciplined and diligent, having integrity and vision. There are no short cuts to success, he adds.

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