Not another career talk

September 1, 2008 – I was expecting a normal career talk earlier in the Industry Orientation Seminar, only to be surprised by the presence of Proctor and Gamble’s president, in casual clothing. X) That was really really really unexpected, since most of the companies only sent someone from the HR department or a middle manager. Yet there was P&G Philippines with their President Jim Lafferty. And so he began his short talk about what in P&G for us after we graduate sharing 2 stories (of his life with P&G).

Story No. 1:

James Lafferty is not a graduate of any business course. He’s not even an MBA. He’s a graduate of a BA degree meant to make him a PE coach or teacher of junior high students. Funny but see how great he is to have achieved such. He started his own company and handles fitness training of his corporate clients — basically making old fat men work out. P&G was one of his clients that time and someone offered him to try marketing in their company. And he said yes. WIth no educational background in business, he learned everything from “Life U.” After 24 years, working in 40 countries, he is now the President of P&G Philippines. He said education provides no assurance that one will get a really good job. What’s important is the hunger or determination of one to achieve things. He can teach anyone how to make financial projections and analysis. He can teach anyone how to market. But he cannot teach someone to be determined enough, hungry enough for achievement.

Story No. 2

It was December and he received a call from P&G Thailand asking him to conduct a training. So December 23, he and his family went on a vacation in Thailand. December 26, the tsunami devastated the shorelines of Vietnam, Thailand and other SEA countries. He and his family survived but 7 P&G employees were missing. He called his boss, and his boss instructed him to find those who were missing no matter what the cost. So he bought a helicopter (with his American Express Credit Card, mind you) and searched for the missing employees. All seven were found; sadly, one was already dead. Just to give you an idea how P&G mean its statement that they CARE for their employees, the other companies during those chaotic times only relied on the embassies to find their employees or take care of those who were injured. I think only P&G created their own search force and even helped find those who are not related to their company. Many companies say, ” we care for our employees” or “we value our employees” but as what Mr. Lafferty said, you can only measure how a company values its employees at the worst times. Make sense right?

Here are some interesting quotes from Mr. Lafferty

When asked about whether an MBA degree would matter, he said: (may not be his exact words)

“Harvard Business School only transforms one from mediocre to arrogant….”

“An MBA is like a kiss. It’s a manifestation of a possibility”

His thoughts on what a great company is in terms of HR management:

“A great company is measured on how it treats the lowest in its ranks.”

He shared his experience in one company who tried to hire him offering a salary 4 times his current salary in P&G. Who would say no to 20 million dollars per year (man, with that you’re one heck of a millionaire; you can even have your own plane!) so he went for the interview. He said that when we go to interviews we should “smell at the back of our neck” what kind of company we are planning to enter. It’s like choosing a boyfriend or girlfriend. You don’t ask them to let you make an analysis of the pros and cons of saying yes to you, but you vibe whether you are a fit. SO back to his story, while walking around the office the first thing that entered his mind is that company is full of “sharks.” The office is so silent; it’s as if fear is all over the place. To confirm his observations he asked the manager to let him have lunch with the secretaries. During the lunch with 3 secretaries he kept on asking questions regarding the culture of the company but no one gave a unsafe answer. After a while one of the secretaries said to him “Since you are an honest person Mr. Lafferty I’ll tell you this as a compensation, honestly, the moment I get a better job, I’ll leave this company the next day and I don’t care what they will say.” Then another secretary shouted, “you go girl!” then they high-fived each other. No need to explain further; the three secretaries already said everything about the company.

Now, how can we be part of his company? Mr. Lafferty looks for three things first in the applicant — a resume with no typo error, a firm handshake and the hunger. I’m sure you would be thinking that only a heartless man would not allow a small/petty typo error. But we’re talking about big business here. If you don’t even have time to proof read your resume, then imagine how much it will cost the company for any small mistake you commit for not checking on the figures even just for a while. About the handshake, the rationale behind is simple. A handshake tells you a lot of things about the person — we all know how. And hunger matter as explained earlier.

I really admire Mr. Lafferty for the wisdom he has. I learned a lot from him. :)

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