Four Chinoy business practices to guide you into the Year of the Rat

Tomorrow marks a very important day for the Chinese community: the start of a new year, specifically: the Year of the Rat.

Considered one of the most auspicious signs for business due to its wit and perception, the Rat heralds what is widely expected to be a  great year for entrepreneurs.

In celebration of Chinese New Year, we asked young Chinoys to share some cultural business traits that they expect will carry them into a prosperous new year.

1. Diskarte or street smarts

When the Spanish started colonizing the country, the Chinese community faced much oppression in the form of various restrictions including taxes and predetermined residential areas. Through these experiences, Chinoys learned to succeed by making the most of what they have.

“For me, that’s really sticking to your roots, that you don’t get swayed… to gain brownie points if your business doesn’t need it,” said Rebecca Lee, social media analyst from an e-commerce company.

“That’s one thing that I want to emulate… remembering that sometimes people may want to withhold things from you but that’s not the end of the world.”

2. Frugality

Given these historical limitations, Chinoys also learned to save up– a habit that they carried with them even into prosperity. Since childhood, Kimberly Tiamlee, finance officer of her family’s construction business and co-owner of Pulseras ni Kim and Makers Café, had been trained to be frugal in her day to day life.

“I remember that when I started working, I would bring a packed lunch,” she said. “It was really important for me to do that because little things, they add up. A lot of people are excited for payday because they get to spend their money, but it’s different for me.”

“I’ve worked in corporate before and one the stark similarities I noticed between [non-Chinoys] and [Chinoys] is how we viewed money as a means, not an end,” said Lorina Tan, business unit head for baby care brand Tiny Buds. “It’s not unusual for co-workers to splurge on paycheck days while the Chinese people I’ve worked with tend to be more reserved with their money.”

3. Entrepreneurial mindset

Most Chinoy families run their own businesses, constantly finding ways to get the biggest bang out of their buck.

In this day and age, being an entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily translate to doing it full-time. Lee cites childhood friends who are able to juggle employment and operation of their own small businesses.

“Technology also affords us that kind of capability to not only be an employee but also have a small business that you grow from scratch,” she said. “You can be a good employee and have side hustles.”

4. The value of “face”

As entrepreneurs, Chinoys put high importance in the value of mianzi or “face”, which roughly translates to trust, honor, or dignity. This means upholding your image and trustworthiness through your words and actions, and following through with your obligations.

Tan learned the delicate dynamics of “face” through business deals. “In the beginning, as a new entrepreneur with a corporate background, there were times when I wanted everything on paper. Thankfully, my mom was there to guide me on when this is appropriate and when it could even harm a business relationship.”

“Now, I’m proud to say some of our closest partners are people we have a genuine friendship with,” she said. “It makes work so much more fulfilling to be able to do what you love with people you genuinely trust and care about. No piece of paper could ever do that.”


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