Life Lessons from the Corner Office


Without batting an eyelash many would be quick to say that company bigwigs are intimidating figures in any workplace environment. They look stiff, don’t smile, and are difficult to deal with, spending their work days hidden in their corner offices.
Francis Flores, however, breaks all those stereotypes. When I met with him recently, he projected a youthful and engaging image. One wouldn’t think that he holds a very critical position in one of the country’s most prestigious companies. Yet, 38 year-old Francis is the Vice President and International Business Head for Mainstream Markets of world-renowned Jollibee Food Corporation. Francis and his team are in charge of bringing the Filipino favorite fast food chain to overseas markets with large populations but small Filipino communities. In the past two years, Francis has helped establish and create a solid following for Jollibee in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and China.
Before his current position, he was the General Manager for Greenwich overseeing the brand’s marketing efforts and operations. He brought a youthful vibe to the brand with unforgettable and funny “barkada” ad campaigns featuring actor John Lloyd Cruz (remember the sobrang cheesy campaign a few years back?). Under his leadership, Greenwich not only won awards for its compelling ads but also became the second favorite fast food restaurant in the country, next to Jollibee.
An overachiever while growing up, Francis is a product of the University of the Philippines education system—having studied there from pre-school until college—graduating with a degree in Business Administration and Management.
At 20 and straight out of college, he worked for Unilever as a Management Trainee and soon became the youngest Area Sales Manager at the age of 23. It’s safe to say that at this point, he was on the road to a really fulfilling career, but right before he turned 30 and while holding the position of Regional Brand Director at Unilever, Francis found himself questioning his purpose.
While he was extremely comfortable and happy at his job and his career path, a nagging sense inside him couldn’t help him wonder, “What can I do to give back?” At 29, it wasn’t enough that he was passionate about his work; he realized he needed purpose as well.
He realized his life’s mission in, of all places, an airport in London, when his flight was delayed. “Being in that international setting, I concluded that Filipinos are the best Asian marketers. We’re good communicators, very creative, and strategic.
So it made me think, if we’re good marketers, why don’t we have brands that are successful globally?
Francis knew right then that the best way to give back to the country was by creating a global brand that will help fuel the economy. “Jollibee could be a good global candidate.” Two months later, he received a call from a headhunter saying that Jollibee needed someone for a new position that would help Jollibee go global. Instantly, Francis found the purpose he had been longing for.
Purpose is what fuels Francis every day. “What drives me is that it’s not just a job, it’s a mission. I feel like I’m on a mission that’s aligned with my personal mission and at the same time (my desire to be) nationalistic. My mission is to make Jollibee a truly global brand that everyone can be proud of.”
He also aims to be the kind of leader that develops others to be the best versions of themselves. “It’s important to have the right mindset of what a leader is. A leader is not there to be served, but to serve. When I first became a general manager for Greenwich, my former boss, Ariel Fermin, told me, ‘You only have two roles as a leader: lead them to the right direction; and take care of them.’”
This servant leadership mentality has developed leaders within his team and he is quick to say that nothing brings him greater joy than seeing members of his team accelerate both at work and in life.

He also strongly believes in eliminating politics in his team, with emphasis on leading by example—which he does through transparency and calling out negativity the moment he sees it.

When asked for his success secrets, he was quick to point out the importance of marrying one’s passion and purpose. “The first thing is to know your passion. That requires a lot of self-awareness. The earlier you have self-awareness, the better for you. That includes being honest about what you want and what you don’t want. Number two, you have to work hard; there’s no substitute for that. I always tell fresh grads, being in your twenties is crucial. Sayang yung time because at that age, you can still afford to make mistakes. But you have to invest time and energy, especially in your first few years at work. Think of it as depositing in your own personal bank account. And when you fail, learn from it. Be humble enough to know that you don’t know everything. Always go beyond what’s expected of you. Always aim to exceed.”

Francis adds, “Attitude goes a long way. Honestly, in the long run, your intellectual capacity or your intelligence is not enough. It’s attitude and character that make you succeed.”

Francis is a devoted Christian. He believes that without God, none of his successes would be possible. He believes that everything that has happened in

his life, both good and bad, are for a purpose. This is the reason why, despite his success, Francis remains grounded, not lost in the trappings of position, power and material possessions or luxuries.

“Everything I have, including the title, and the position, is from God, pahiram lang; and if I don’t use it well, He will take it away. He gave that to me to not use in the wrong way. For me, leadership is a position of influence where you can make a difference in the lives of people.”

And with that, Francis’ life is definitely one that will leave an impact beyond the four walls of his corner office, out to where it matters most.