When 'yes' means 'no' and GrabHeli ends: Lessons from a high-flying boss

Cathy Yang, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2018 10:28 AM

When 'yes' means 'no' and GrabHeli ends: Lessons from a high-flying boss 1
PhilJets CEO Thierry Tea is shown in this photo from the company's Facebook page

MANILA - In Asia, a "yes" is a polite, but not necessarily straightforward answer, according to an aviation boss who is planning his rise to the top 5 years at a time.

PhilJets is the third biggest player in business aviation in the Philippines, exactly where CEO Thierry Tea, envisioned it to be 5 years ago.

"We have to look long-term. We want to do business in the Philippines. It's not eat and run, win and go," Tea told ANC's The Boss.

"I believe the reason why we've been able to be successful, we are looking long-term. We are thinking, where we want to be in 5 years," he said.

Tea, who headed Airbus' Philippine operations, is among business advisers to the French embassy in Manila.

One of the "don'ts" when doing business in the Philippines and Asia is taking for granted what a "yes" reply really means.

"For foreign investors, business people, employees, clients, sometimes yes doesn't mean yes," said Tea, a multilingual who was born to Cambodian parents.

"This is the reason why we have to have a strong relationship. We have to be also very friendly," Tea said. "We have to adapt the way business (is) in the Philippines."

When 'yes' means 'no' and GrabHeli ends: Lessons from a high-flying boss 2
PhilJets CEO Thierry Tea speaks to Cathy Yang for ANC's The Boss

Tea said PhilJets was working on new ways to be the market leader. He said a recent venture with Southeast Asian ride-sharing service Grab for "GrabHeli" was a "very good working experience."

"It brought me closer to the e-commerce scene and startups," he said.

The venture, however, did not take off. Looking back, Tea said: "We were not prepared enough because Grab did not have a license to sell tickets."

As PhilJets looks to expand its fleet, it also plans to raise its employee count to around 100 from the current 70, 95 percent of whom are Filipinos.

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