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Fashion companys new building reflects

corporate vision
By Marge C. Enriquez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:02 am | Sunday, March 10th, 2013
6 269 247

LIU believes in work-life balance, working hard but making time for the family, being creative
but disciplined, keeping fashion wholesome.
In 1984, Bernie Liu, then a fresh college graduate from Cebu, first worked in the family lumber
store along North Edsa, Quezon City. I was a salesman dealing with the hardware stores, he
recalls.
Twenty-seven years later, the site is now a visually-arresting, 12-story building which has
become the latest landmark along the highway. It is the headquarters of Golden ABC Inc.
(GABC), the fashion company that focuses on six home-grown brandsPenshoppe, Oxygen,
Memo, ForMe, Regatta and Tyler.
Designed by Australian and Filipino firms, the place says a lot about the management style and
core values. As president and CEO, Liu envisions Golden ABC Inc. to be one of the most
admired Asian brands. A licensed (but non-practicing) architect, he understands how the
corporate building reflects the corporate identity and how a new building can influence peoples
perception of the company.

CONTEMPORARY oratory with a Crucifix handcarried from Rome and Rafael del Casals
paintings in the altar.
The colors are modern-black, white, anthracite and the finishes in sleek-graphicote walls and
granite.
At the executive private lounge, the head honcho arrives in a black Versace jacket over a
chambray shirt and black jeans.
My brands dont carry my size, says Liu. Penshoppe jeans have to be customized for him.
Nonetheless, he looks younger and trimmer after losing 30 lbs.

Transparency

PODS designed for instant creative meetings.

In his career in fashion, Liu and the company have received many awards in retail and
management. The latest feather on his cap is the MVP Grand Bossing Award, organized by the
PLDT SME Nation. One of the criteria for the merit is Lius concern for his people.
Im very transparent, says Liu. A lot of companies have a great vision but, it is not felt
below. Genuine leadership provides the vision, shares it and engages everyone.
His precept is reflected in the design of spaces. The 25,000 sqm edifice houses 500 employees. It
is so spacious that it can accommodate as much as 1,000 employees in the future. Lius aim to
increase the number of GABC stores from 600 to 1,000 in the country.
Majority of the spaces are made to encourage business and social alliances and worship. Among
the striking elements are the two-story atrium with a garden deck, 30 meeting rooms with views
of the cityscape, pods, training rooms, and a laboratory for experiment. Even in the offices, the
layout is an open plan to encourage teamwork.

THE grand lobby with the vision statement in bold graphic design.
Our work environment is collaborative. It is ingrained in our culture. When people have ideas,
there are short huddles for pods and discussion rooms. Then there are vendors and suppliers who
come to show their samples. We can have 25 groups meeting at the same time, he says.
The two-level cafeteria provides a space where employees can hold their own private functions
such as birthday blow-outs.
There is a three-story car park which can accommodate over 200 cars. Thirty percent of GABCs
colleagues drive their cars to work.

EXECUTIVE lounge for interviews and private meetings overlook the city.
My employees have nicer cars, says Liu. I sometimes ride in a 10-year-old Suburban.
Hi-Jinks
At the lobby, the corporate vision and philosophy are emblazoned in bold graphics across the
accent wall, titled House of Contrasts.
We are a creative company but we also expect discipline, says Liu. People have to do their
work right and well so that the person, who receives their work, can serve the customers better.
Ive had to struggle with that in the past. Some creative people dont come to work on time.
Somebody suffers. Meetings are not held properly. You may be creative but lack discipline, then
you are not for us.
Underscoring the importance of balance, he explains, If theres an occasion or a milestone, we
celebrate. We know how to party because we are demanding. When its time to perform, people
understand you have to perform. But we dont take the fun out of work. Fun has to be embedded
in a creative organization. If its all performance, the workplace can be boring and stressful.
He keeps the employee morale high. On moving to the new headquarters last March 4, Liu
ordered yellow-gold T-shirts splashed with the company initials for the 500 employees to wear.
After the Mass and socials, they enjoyed Pinoy ice cream all-day.
The hard work is acknowledged. In 2011, when Penshoppe celebrated its 25th anniversary, he
flew in the 500 employees and store personnel to Cebu, where the brand was established. They
savored a three-day stay at Mactan Shangri-La.
In the past decade, the company annually rewards employees with an Asian trip for their
professionalism, integrity or going the extra mile in their jobs.
In other companies, employee recognition is given to those who make the numbers. As valuesbased organization, we recognize the positive qualities that our people manifest, he says.
Challenging years

The elegant building is a long way from what started out as a mom-and-pop operation. A secondgeneration entrepreneur, the CEO acknowledges his parents, Lim Liu, a Chinese migr, and his
mother Norma, for his success.
When they were studying in Cebu, his mother invested in a floundering garment company in
Meycawayan, Bulacan. It would produce T-shirts for corporate give-aways. Since she spent most
of her time in Metro Manila, the factory was moved to Cebu in 1980.
Liu and his classmates at the San Carlos University College of Architecture and Fine Arts would
use Normas garment factory to produce varsity shirts. Being businesslike, they sold the shirts
with their designs at double the price. The profits were used to pay for the rent of the pad where
they could work all night or take a quick nap.
After graduation in 1984, Liu was sent to Manila. However, the loneliness of big city life drove
him to come home. Liu called his former college buddies to start Penshoppe in 1986.
The first 10 years were challenging. Although it was not financially attractive, the market
share was growing. We were opening shops, making our presence felt not just in Visayas and
Mindanao but also in Manila. We werent recovering. I almost gave up, he says.
There were mistakes like any start-up company. We made wrong decisions, and we didnt
understand our customers. The economies of scale and volume were not there. The costs were
not efficient. It took me 10 years to scale up to the level where we could be competitive.
Still, his parents encouraged him. They were entrepreneurs who also took risks. Like most
supportive parents, they saw the son took an interest in something better than gambling the
money away. They saw my pursuit and passion.
Back to the center
The experience has given him the patience and determination in developing other brands. The
direct-selling company, Red Logo, a subsidiary, also had its difficult beginnings.
For mass retailing, you need to hit a certain scale to make money, says Liu.
Founded in 2008, it was a strategy to target the lower classes. All my retail brands cater to the
ABC market. This is a chance for us to bring sophisticated fashion at very affordable prices to
the bottom of the pyramid.
With over 600 stores and 20,000 dealers, business today has surpassed expectations.
On the whole, GABC posted double-digit growth in sales turnover last year. However, it was not
as hefty as in the past years because of the influx of foreign brands.
Unfazed, Liu has been setting his sights overseas. Penshoppe is thriving in the Saudi Arabia,
Dubai and Bahrain because of the strong brand recognition from the Filipino community.

He then partnered with Mitra Adi Perkasa or MAP, the largest lifestyle retailer in Indonesia,
which opened two Penshoppe stores in Jakarta and hopefully a total of 150 in a decade.
Ultimately Liu says he offers all the success to God. Known for valuing quiet time and worship
in the workplace, Liu sent local architects to Rome to study religious architecture. The
headquarters houses a contemporary GABC Holy Family Oratory. It is decorated with the Holy
Family done in Murano glass and religious paintings by Rafael del Casal, no less.
Its the architect in me. Ive always wanted to build a nice clean chapel. Its good to remind our
people to take time to pray. In the fashion business, everything is intense, so we have to remind
ourselves of going back to our center, says Liu.

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