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What I learned about resilience, leadership and serving the Filipino people — one celebration at a time — through our toughest times

By RICHARD YEE Published Jul 27, 2022 5:05 am


In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the entire food sector faced its biggest challenge, and no one was spared. Everyone was gripped by uncertainty and doubt. I, for one, did not know that one day I would be making the hard decision to close hundreds of Goldilocks stores.

Two years later, as I sit in my office and look back, I find myself grateful that I kept my faith in my team strong. I am grateful that the food industry is slowly reopening, and that we have been patient enough to carry on keeping our businesses running.

Read what Richard Yee wrote about Goldilocks in InBetween: Food businesses will stabilize and grow again

Goldilocks has just celebrated its 56th anniversary this 2022. What have made these years richer are not only the moments we spent in joyous celebrations with Filipino families, but also the ones where, despite the difficulties and hurdles, we decided to strive hard to continue to be part of Filipino celebrations.

Today, Goldilocks is steadily rebuilding its business. This, despite the challenging backdrop at the start of the year with global inflation, oil price hikes, and the fluctuating supply of raw materials. The general trend of business is still looking favorable, and our outlook remains optimistic for the rest of the year.

How has the pandemic changed Goldilocks? Let me impart what I have learned about leadership, our business values that were reinforced by change, and the truth about celebrations during the pandemic.

Leadership that impacts your people

It is in the hardest of times where strong leadership is most needed. At the time when it seemed impossible for us to operate because the movement of our people was very limited, we had to make tough decisions on what to protect and what to let go. And with this came the first lesson: Protect your people — they will help take care of your business when you take care of them.

Resilience is not tested in calm waters, and no leader can do it alone.

The moment we reopened, we started slowly and with safety in mind. When we asked our people to start going back to work, we had to ensure safety in the workplace so they would have the confidence to show up, knowing that they would be protected inside our doors. Because safety was (and still is) our key priority, we provided transportation services to our employees and strict health protocols were enforced on the ground. Management also provided financial assistance to those affected by the crisis.

We implemented initiatives to support our employee safety programs, among them rotational work, work-from-home setup, and staggered work schedules, and breaks. We installed safety barriers and sanitizing stations at our stores, implemented strict physical distancing measures at the workplace, and even started a Bike Program for our employees who needed their own transportation to and from their work sites.

Ensuring the physical safety of our people was one thing; uplifting their spirits in times of uncertainty was another. Thus, the second lesson: When your people are anxious and fearful, that is when you have to demonstrate strength and resilience.

Resilience is not tested in calm waters, and no leader can do it alone.

At the height of the pandemic, our management team focused on addressing critical challenges, such as plant efficiencies, store openings, and skill-based training. Further empowering our leaders became an integral part of our efforts, because each of us had to be strong for everyone.

From here, we knew that the values of communication and teamwork were integral to our success as a team.

If there is one universal truth about change, it is that it forces people and businesses to be creative and innovative.

Two years later, I have come to realize that the abrupt swing from onsite work to working from home has further strengthened these values, and it has even reinforced our trust in and interdependence with each other.

Changes that demand creative business decisions

If there is one universal truth about change, it is that it forces people and businesses to be creative and innovative. The pandemic pushed us to manage risks while balancing sound business decisions.

That dark day in 2020 when the lockdown was announced, our immediate response was to look after the welfare of our people. We all needed to be healthy and fit for work, because that was the only way we could deliver on our commitments to Filipino families. After that, we tackled operational challenges through product rationalization, manpower review, reassessment of delivery operations, and review of store reopenings.

Since our manpower was limited, we had to look for ways to drive more efficient work. Our teams had to learn how to multifunction. To save the business, you don’t only look at cutting costs, you also have to be creative in maximizing the resources available.

Changes also open up opportunities. Our Goldilocks Delivery Service would prove to be an effective way to continue reaching our customers during the pandemic, so we invested in its promotion and visibility via digital advertisements and initiatives. We also became more active with our food delivery partners, so our customers could continue enjoying their Goldilocks favorites in the safety of their homes.

When the government slowly eased restrictions to safely jumpstart the economy, we expressed full support for the Safety Seal Certification Program of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. We implemented the Safety Seal guidelines in all our Goldilocks stores, sites and offices, to ensure that we were compliant with government health standards. This also included the use of the mandated contract tracing mobile application.

Filipino celebrations through good times and bad

Over my decades with Goldilocks, I have been witness to both the grand and simple joys of Filipino celebrations. What I saw during the pandemic made me realize that no amount of fear, uncertainty, and challenges will keep Filipino families from celebrating milestone moments.

I am humbled to be reminded of our purpose as to why we do what we do at Goldilocks. We will keep persevering to keep our commitment to Filipino families: to provide heartwarming experiences through affordable quality cakes and products.

And Goldilocks will remain devoted to our duty to take care of the people around us our employees who have helped us weather the grave challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our customers who continue to choose to make Goldilocks a part of their life’s milestones and celebrations, with or without a pandemic.