The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 has concluded its search for the country’s most undaunted and unstoppable entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc., with the participation of co-presenters the Asian Institute of Management, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. In the next few weeks, BusinessWorld will feature each finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022.
AN IMMERSIVE, hands-on approach gave Lisset Laus-Velasco a headstart in the family business. Even at a young age, she would spend summer break working as a cashier at the family-owned gas station. In 1995, she joined the family’s dealership, first as a sales consultant before being assigned to different departments and business units.
Following its exit in the 1970s, Ford reentered the Philippine market. The Laus-owned Global Cars Philippines, Inc. (GCPI) established a small Ford dealership in San Fernando, Pampanga in 1999.
Working at GCPI, Ms. Laus-Velasco witnessed Ford’s relaunch. At that time, she was in the middle of obtaining a Master’s degree in Business Management at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).
In 2001, her father, the late Levy P. Laus, acquired the Ford Libis dealership, where she was assigned to the finance department. She eventually took on a more active leadership role as chief financial officer.
Finance, Ms. Laus-Velasco said, was initially a challenge but she soon learned to enjoy digging into the company’s numbers. This gave her a much better understanding of the business beyond just selling and marketing cars.
This holistic understanding of the financials, operations, and servicing led her to the importance of after-sales, which she focused on when she became executive director at GCPI.
In 2004, Ms. Laus-Velasco became chief operating officer and managing director of GCPI after the company opened its third dealership in Dagupan City. Under her leadership, the company continued to expand and now has 10 Ford dealerships in its portfolio.
Ms. Laus-Velasco attributed her entrepreneurial traits to her father. She fondly recalled how her father used to bring her along to different business and social functions to expand her network, even teaching her how to change tires. This made it even harder to cope with his unexpected death in 2019.
Losing her father while bearing the responsibility of upholding his legacy was one of the most difficult times in her life. As the eldest female and head of the business, Ms. Laus-Velasco assumed the position of chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Laus Group of Companies (LGC), assuring stakeholders of business continuity.
She had big shoes to fill while navigating the new, challenging family dynamics. Since then, the Laus family continued to nurture both their business and close ties through consistent family governance sessions. With their strong family bonds and shared vision, they were able to work through the challenges together.
Little did Ms. Laus-Velasco know the challenges she had to overcome would prepare her for an even bigger disruption — the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Seeing the need to innovate, she introduced virtual selling, where customers can buy a vehicle without leaving their homes.
Her father had always expressed his desire to help in the development of Pampanga and the rest of Central Luzon. Ms. Laus-Velasco honors her father’s legacy by continuing the programs of the Levy P. Laus Foundation. This led her to become one of Ford’s 2021 Salute to Dealer Honorees, the first Filipina entrepreneur to ever receive this honor. She was also the lone honoree from Ford’s International Markets Group.
Aside from the foundation, Ms. Laus-Velasco also champions education by providing scholarships and on-the-job training for technicians and partnering with the Department of Education (DepEd). She helped facilitate the donation of unused engines to a Pampanga technical school to provide students with hands-on experience.
To advocate environmental sustainability, she piloted the Balik Baterya Program, which collects used lead-acid batteries at LGC-owned Ford dealerships for recycling and use in the production of new industrial and automotive batteries. The company is also exploring solar options for its offices and use of accredited disposal groups for their used oils.
In 2019, LGC partnered with Rise from Hunger, an Ayala Foundation program that provides food for undernourished children.
As a patron of Central Luzon arts and culture, Ms. Laus-Velasco also started the “HeART of Central Luzon,” where LGC dealerships hosted free art exhibits in their showrooms.
She recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the automotive industry. As a woman that had to embark on her journey in a male-dominated industry, she rose above the stereotypes by elevating her leadership and personally demonstrating her passion for cars and customer care.
Today, Ms. Laus-Velasco runs all 65 dealerships of the LGC alongside her siblings, and handling the diverse business units of the Pampanga-based conglomerate.
At the end of the day, she measures the success of the business by the happiness of her customers and her people. GCPI focuses on providing convenience, innovation and value-added services to ensure customer satisfaction.
One cannot help but think that the late Levy P. Laus would be very proud of how his daughter inherited his drive for excellence and service — this time, in the driver’s seat.
The media sponsors of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2022 are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. Gold Sponsors are SteelAsia Manufacturing Corp., Uratex, and Navegar. Silver Sponsors are Intellicare, OneWorld Alliance Logistics Corp., and Regan Industrial Sales, Inc. Banquet Sponsors are Uratex and MerryMart Consumer Corp.
The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 will be announced on Nov. 21 in an awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Manila. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2023. The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is produced globally by Ernst & Young (EY).