“In good times, I continue to work; in bad, I work harder,” said Henry Sy, the richest person in the Philippines whose estimated net worth amounted to US$19 Billion when he died on January 19, 2019. He is a Chinese-Filipino business magnate who founded ShoeMart (SM) in 1958.
Aside from being known as a philanthropist, he was also known as the “Father of Modern Philippine retail” with 77 SM malls in the Philippines and China, 62 department stores, 56 supermarkets, and over 200 grocery stores.
Henry Sy's Vision
SM definitely changed our lifestyles when it was newly built. And where I am, it became a place you should go to, and it still is today as it continued to improve further and better.
This was because of the vision that Henry Sy had. His life lessons have so much learning and inspiration both young and old can glean from. And in this age of digital technology, where freelancers like us abound in our endeavor to strike that aim of success.
Some of the many things we can learn from Henry Sy’s life have been shared in different medium and fora. Having read many of them then and now, it will show you that he was always willing to share part of his life to everyone.
First and foremost, this is the one thing that freelancers can learn: when you are ready to give, there is always that return. It will come back to you in good measure even if you don't ask for it. With that, here are life lessons we can learn from Henry Sy as a freelancer.
Set a Long-Term Vision
He introduced retail, but he didn’t just stop there. Now that the digital platforms are here, he is already thinking ahead by investing in integrated supply chain operation and in digital platforms to prepare for online shopping escalation.
He said, “We don’t do things 6 months, 1 year ahead. We always look at what can be 5 years from now.”
This outlook can enrich a freelancer’s view of the way things are done from here on. It truly helps when you think of how things will be like 5 years from now and how are we going to prepare for it.
What can we do to be able to still be relevant when things changes and even more if it will change drastically?
Looking out to the horizon, there is a need to arm ourselves with the right tools and skills because being left behind in the very toil that we like to do, will not be something good to hear.
It is better to be ready, and it is best to be strategically positioned, especially in the changes that are inevitable.
Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast
Henry Sy has been heard giving advice not to be afraid to think big, start small, and move fast. Otherwise, others will just be ahead of you. While there are freelancers who fancy hitting that dream break, there are others who just wanted to deal with things as they come, often labeled as realists.
It is fine to see reality as it is, but it is necessary to have dreams, for dreams give us wings to fly to new heights.
The best thing in this lesson is the idea that we can always start small because everything starts from a tiny picture of what could be. From there it cannot entirely take place unless something is done. Others get there fast because they moved fast.
While there are goals that take some time to reach, there are things that can be done that becomes a factor to reaching that star.
A freelancer’s job can be frustrating at times, and in these times, we sometimes feel downcast and we lose focus. It helps to think that there’s always something to look forward to, to take action for.
Henry Sy is known to have already started working when he was still very young age of 12 when his father started a sari-sari store arriving from China. Mr. Sy never doubted the value of hard work.
This is not always an easy mindset, especially for a freelancer, whose primary reason for doing freelance work is because we want to own our time. Although that’s a misnomer, since to be a successful freelancer, we have to have that discipline and appropriate attitude to be able to deliver quality outputs.
For a freelancer working hard comes with improving what you do as the days go by, giving more and better results.
Hard work comes with innovations, reinventing ourselves, making sure that the things we know and learned are consistently applied in how we deal with the things that matter in our life.
It is known that as consumers became more affluent, SM’s malls have evolved as well. I can remember it to be from just a big box matchstick kind of a building and evolved as consumers become more finicky with not just a place where they can shop, but also where they can relax.
Freelancers who chose to this work as a pursuit of happiness will think of what the client wants otherwise it will be difficult to make a quality result.
Turn Crisis to Opportunities
Henry Sy credited his success to his optimism and hard work. He recalled that many of their milestones occurred during difficult times, which occurred during Martial law in 1972 where he built his first department store in Quiapo.
Another one was in 1983, after the Aquino assassination. In the midst of the Asian crisis in 1997, he had his considered greatest project, the SM Mall of Asia. He believed that there are opportunities in crisis.
There are downtimes in the market of freelancing – clients are hard to find. During these times, it would be helpful to improve skills and learn more. Like Henry Sy, he studied the market, he gathered information and came back with ideas in merchandising.
Conclusion: Rise Above Your Circumstances
Each individual, whatever circumstances we may be in, can learn from Henry Sy’s attitude in dealing with challenges and seeing things that others have not yet seen.
Here’s a beautiful quote from Mr. Sy, which is a good reminder especially for freelancers.
“There is no such thing as overnight success or easy money. If you fail, do not be discouraged; try again. When you do well, do not change your ways. Success is not just good luck: it is a combination of hard work, good credit standing, opportunity, readiness, and timing. Success will not last if you do not take care of it.”
As a freelancer, what is the impact of Henry Sy in your life that we haven't included? Comment down below! We want to know your thoughts!