August 13, 2012

Driven to succeed

GINIA R. DOMINGO, president of Columbian Autocar Corp. (CAC), has always loved a good challenge.

It is this trait that has marked her successes from her earlier days peddling pre-stressed concrete wire strands and then motor vehicles—both male-dominated industries.

Even her choices in the car industry have not really been conventional. After honing her selling skills at Toyota Shaw, she moved to an American firm—General Motors Corp.—at a time when its global leadership had already waned. She then went to Ford Group Philippines, another US brand, to help pave the way its re-entry in the local market, when sales in its home country had already stalled.

Widening the market share for CAC’s Kia brand poses a formidable task, but Ginia believes its “advanced design, superior technology, performance and, most especially, product reliability,” will help her drive the brand to new heights.

“In the first half of 2012, we are up 78 percent versus the same period last year. This is primarily because of our Kia Rio, which we launched last January. This accounted for more than 40 percent share of total Kia sales. This was followed by our second and third bestsellers, the Sportage and Picanto, respectively,” she enthuses.

She adds that CAC will be launching the Optima at the Phil International Motorshow this August, and “we will also be revealing the new look of the Sorento plus one other surprise attraction. The motorshow is open to the public from August 17 to 19.”

Ginia’s tenacity, which has made her a star in the local auto sales and marketing world, was most likely shaped in her formative years as she watched her parents drive their own careers.

Her father, Ramon Roxas, for instance started his career as a school bus driver in San Beda College. “The Americans at Sangley Point taught him how to drive and speak English,” Ginia narrates. He would leave home before 6 am every day to pick up students and bring them to school, then back again to their homes at the end of the day. He was then promoted to several positions until he finally retired as a liaison officer of the college.

Even though only a high-school graduate, Ginia’s mother, the former Virginia Vidal, was a schoolteacher in Bicol. But when she started working at the Insurance Commission in Manila, Virginia couldn’t get promoted to a higher post because she didn’t have a college degree. “So she went to night school at the Lyceum, and finished a degree in BSC Accounting. She graduated when I was in grade school and she became qualified to be a supervisor,” Ginia says, proudly.

So even at a young age, Ginia already knew that if she was diligent enough, and put in the hard work, she would get somewhere someday. At the University of Sto. Tomas where she studied from elementary to college, she was a remarkable student. She graduated with honors, and was either president of her class, the Student Council, or the Economics Society. “Ewan ko ba, bata pa lang ata ako, type A personality na ako,” the statuesque beauty says with a giggle.

Ginia also liked learning new things and abhorred boring desk jobs where one had to do the same thing every day—which was why she eventually quit her job as a financial analyst in a bank after three years.

So when her old boss Severino Lim told her to sell cars when he put up his Toyota Shaw dealership, she accepted and was unfazed that she had to start at the bottom as a sales agent, when she was already Lim’s executive assistant. “S’yempre pag-EA ka, right hand ka ng amo, maganda na stature mo, magandang sweldo mo, me driver ka pa, pasusundo ka pa. Eto hindi, balik ako dun, ahente ako, basic ka, may commission, which was hard,” Ginia recalls those early years.

But at 25 and at the peak of her career as a single woman, she found “a knack” for sales. “To me it wasn’t just selling. I found the exercise mentally stimulating.... I have the cars you, the head of purchasing, need. At the end of the day, it’s only the price we have to agree on.” She says it was also about creating relationships with the customers, which she enjoyed as she had an outgoing, friendly personality. Many of these clients have become good friends over the years.

“We develop friendships after a while. I know them. It becomes beyond the product.... The brand you’re associated with may change but the relationship stays. If I see the purchasing manager of Novartis who was with Ciba-Geigy before, we can still catch up and all that. Of course, at the end of the day in selling cars you had money in your pocket. Don’t get me wrong, it was really stressful, you’re only as good as your last sale. You have to like [the job].”

In five years, Ginia made sales manager. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Asked about car-buying habits among Filipinos, Ginia says more men buy cars than women. But she humorously narrates the differences in the buying styles of both. “Men have more brand loyalty than women. To women, a car is more about function, katulong sa buhay. Men will look at the size of the wheels, the speakers [‘maganda ba ang sounds?’], the engine and its power, the aircon, etc. Women will check if the seats are comfortable for their children—‘Can I fold the seat to put a crib or stroller in there; will the yaya be able to sit there,’ stuff like that. The brand is secondary to them.”

“’Pag pasok ng babae sa kotse, tapon ’yung gamit sa likod, alis na. ’Yung mga lalaki, hindi. Bubuksan nila ’yung trunk, lagay nila ’yung gamit nila doon. Walang nakalagay sa likod na upuan. Ang mga babae, ’pag bukas ko ng pinto, kailangan malalagay ko ’yung mga pinamili ko,” she continues.

A woman will also consider her friends’ opinions before buying a car, making sure that the vehicle will be roomy enough to accommodate them for their road trips, for instance, while a man, Ginia notes, thinks about his own preferences. A man will also spend more on a car purchase than a woman, she says, such that he will be able to justify an P8 million to P12 million car as a reward for his hard work. A woman would rather reward herself with a vacation—with the family. “But both of them go through the same methodical process in buying a car,” she stresses, “except that they have different priorities or reasons behind it.”

Columbian Autocar Corp. President Ginia R. Domingo with her sons, Francis Roy (left) and Ramon Manuel, on a recent vacation in the US. (Photo courtesy Domingo family)

Ginia lives in a modest home in Quezon City with her two sons—Ramon Manuel, 19, a college sophomore at the Ateneo de Manila University taking up literature; and Francis Roy, 17, a freshman also in the same school, taking up communications. She is thankful that her sons have not given her any cause for concern, even after her husband, Raymond Domingo, passed away in 2004. “They’re very good children; I don’t have any headaches with any of them. Walang girlfriend, walang bisyo,” she says of her pride and joy.

Both are extremely independent, she says. Her youngest, for instance, chooses to take public transportation despite having cars at home they could drive, and both are financially responsible. “They’ll save up to buy their stuff, or ask me to pay for it first, and then pay me back. Kasi they know naman na, yes, you will buy it because it makes sense. ’Pag luho, forget it; pag-ipunan mo. They know the value of money.”

She is happy that her sons are enjoying their college life. “After 12 years of just having boys for classmates, they are now benefiting from a coed class plus a more flexible class schedule. They also like going to class in casual clothes and enjoy the more informal setting in college.”

Ginia and her sons usually try to have one grand vacation every year just to bond and catch up with each other’s buys lives. “We finally were able to sneak in a summer vacation in the US in April. As expected, we had to fly in separately due to conflicts in our schedules, and just met up in Los Angeles.”

Ginia is extremely pleased that a year since her appointment as CAC chief, Kia’s sales have been moving at a rapid clip. “The year’s gone by so fast. I’m so blessed to have been given my extended family in CAC! Everybody has been very supportive and I have such a wonderful team.”

In Ginia, CAC employees can find an inspiring leader who has gone through the same challenging route they are on today. No doubt, that makes them all the more driven to succeed.

(UPDATE: In June 2012, CAC received the regional distributor of the year award in Asia Pacific from Kia Motors Corp.)

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror - unless it gets bumped off by an ad. ;p This piece was originally published on Aug. 10, 2012.. Photos of the red Kia Rio and silver Kia Sportage are from the Kia Phils. web site.)

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