Hello, my name is John. Like many of you, I am an American citizen living and working in the Philippines. Also, like many of you, the business climate was not what initially attracted me. Rather, it was the beautiful weather and a vastly different social experience from the United States. However, during my first visit in 2008, I learned that the Philippines has much more to offer.
After being in business as a certified public accountant for over 30 years in Cleveland, I was looking for somewhere with a decent climate and lower cost of living for retirement and the Philippines seemed ideal. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this place can be a great place to set up shop, if you can navigate through the road blocks and obstacle courses.
After nearly 10 years, I can attest that transferring the bulk of my operation to Cebu was the best decision I ever made.
That being said, I’m writing this article to share some of the benefits of doing business in the Philippines as well as how to avoid some common pitfalls.
Why the Philippines?
The thing I noticed right away is that great hospitality and work ethic are always on full display in the Philippines. Filipinos are among the hardest working people I have ever seen, and they do it with a smile!
The positive attitude of Filipinos is even more amazing considering that wages are so low, especially when coupled with the high educational standards for professional employees. In some cases, salaries can be up to 90% less than what you would pay a worker for the same or similar skills in the U.S.
Another major factor is a very low language barrier. Unlike other Asian countries, most of the talent pool is fluent in English, which makes doing business in the Philippines much more attractive
How do customers react?
When I tell my American colleagues that I have an office in the Philippines, the first questions I get is, “Do your clients know and how do they react?” It’s a fair question to ask, particularly in today’s political climate. To be honest, even I was a bit apprehensive about discussing it at first, but I’ve learned that it’s a subject that must be addressed and should be carefully managed.
The key to maintaining your clients’ trust and confidence is educating your clients and addressing their concerns head-on with transparency. Part of that education is explaining the difference between outsourcing and off-shoring and how HWA Inc. fits into the equation.
The next most obvious question is security. “How can you insure that my data is secure?” That’s also a fair question that will be discussed in more detail at a later date. What I can tell you now is that I have not lost a single client because of my decision to off-shore and most are extremely happy with the exceptional service provided by our Filipino team.
How to recruit and hire?
In today’s world of technology and social media, recruiting and hiring top talent is not as challenging as 10 years ago. In my case, the first person I hired, after the attorney was an HR Manager. Even on a part time basis, the HR manager was able to recruit and perform the screening based on my requirements and conduct the initial interview.
In today’s world there are numerous web resources and apps for this purpose. I’ve also relied heavily on referrals from employees, which is a proven method for recruiting and retaining talent.
What are the obstacles?
Like they say in real estate, it’s about location, location, location. As advanced as it is, there are still areas in the Philippines where the internet connection, electricity or even water supply may not be reliable. This isn’t as much of a problem in major cities, but there is a trade off in terms of congestion and traffic.
There are also many things that are done differently or not at all in the Philippines. It’s easy to forget that the Philippines is a Catholic country and as such it’s laws are heavily influenced by Catholic doctrine and tradition.
There are also many “protectionist” laws and practices in place which prohibit foreigners from owning real estate or even participating in certain professions or businesses. However, that doesn’t eliminate the potential for being successful in business in the Philippines!
It’s best to seek the advice of a local attorney before attempting to do business here.
Goals and Dreams?
For me personally, it’s all about “quality of life”. Living in the Philippines has allowed me to defer retirement since I work less, earn more and enjoy an improved quality of life at a lower cost. On the professional side, my business is more profitable as a result of lower overhead and labor costs.
Needless to say, I miss family and friends, but I still enjoy family vacations and holidays. It’s surprising what you can do with a little extra income and frequent flyer miles. I even found an awesome health care facility which has me feeling great both physically and financially.
Life is good here in the Philippines.
It is my hope that this short article has given the reader a few insights into some of the benefits of living and working in the Philippines.
In future articles, I will share best practices, entity structure, tax advantages and investment opportunities.