Retail Executive: Eileen Grey, The Picture Company

As part of a new series on this blog [Retail / Restaurant Executive] we will be interviewing restaurant and retail executives from all over the world to gain insight and perspective into how they make their decisions, grow their businesses and deal with challenges.

First up is Eileen Grey, owner of The Picture Company in the Philippines.

Eileen Grey The Picture CompanyQ. When and why did you start The Picture Company?
A. In 2002, I was a new mom to 2 little boys and I wanted every moment frozen in time through photos. My search led me to dark photo studios. The photographers did not enjoy interacting with my babies to capture precious moments for me and my family. Within 6 months of that search, we opened our first “home” in The Podium Mall in the Philippines. We made a studio where kids and moms can feel at home, not just with the surroundings but with their personal photographers as well. Bright studios were put up, colored backgrounds, lots of play and fun. Our aim was to create magic in our studios everyday. Today, we continue to love what we do. We love babies and we love creating keepsakes for your family. The Picture Company has grown but we still keep it personal – just like the first day we opened our doors more than a decade ago.

The Picture Company Philippines Logo | PayrollHeroQ. What is your background? (retail? or you figured it out as you went?)
A. My background is hotel management. I figured it out with the help of EO members that served as my mentors.

Q. How many locations do you have in the Philippines?
A. We have 9 locations across the Philippines. (The Podium Mall, Greenbelt 5, Power Plant Mall, Alabang Town Center, Glorietta 4, C1 Bonifacio High Street Central, Shangri-la Plaza and Ayala Center Cebu)

The Picture Company Locations in Philippines | PayrollHeroQ. How do you choose a location for The Picture Company? 
A. We look for malls that appreciate our product. Locations that have a lot of foot traffic for families and strollers.

Q. Will you ever take a sub-par location, if it is in an area you want to be in? or will you wait for the right spot?
A. We will always wait for the right spot. Our business is a weekend business (when the parents can go to the malls) and we have limited number of hours to do business (we can take maximum of 8 sessions a day for only 2 days a week), it is too risky to take a sub par location.

Q. How big is a Picture Company location? What have you learned about store size?
A. Our stores range from 36m2 to 120m2. In the beginning, we kept getting a bigger space to accommodate strollers and nannies and extended family, but we realised that when the store is big, it also lacks coziness. More attention is given to the customer when the space is just right. Another thing we need to consider is the malls have doubled and tripled their rental rates.

The Picture Company Philippines | PayrollHeroQ. Does a corner location matter for The Picture Company?
A. No. Of course good foot traffic is important but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a corner store.

Q. Are malls better? or street level locations?
A. We were successful in locations like Podium and Rockwell where clients expressed they feel safe. So when we first went street level like Bonifacio High Street, we were taking a chance. It turned out okay. A little warm and exposed to the weather changes like rain. More dirt comes in which isn’t friendly for a baby environment but it worked.

Q. At what point did the number of stores change how the business is run? I have been told, 1 or 2 stores is ok, but 3+ requires a different management approach, systems, procedures, etc. What was the tipping point for The Picture Company?
A. You are very correct! It was very personal and mom and pop until 3 stores. And then I had to consider personnel, training, back office space, production, logistics, etc.

Q. Anything you would like to add?
A. I wish we could locate The Picture Company in more spaces but new malls sprouting up (or the ones renovating) are creating bigger spaces and bringing up rent because of the international brands coming in. I wish they would always make spaces for the Filipino retailers so we have character in our malls and not look like every other mall with the same big brands. We also need to help the Filipino retailers thrive in their own country. I think the fight for all these brands to enter the malls is making every mall look alike and not offer anything new for its customers.

– Thanks to Eileen for participating! 

Would you like to be profiles in our Retail Executive series. Reach out by commenting on this blog post or emailing support at payrollhero .com.

Are you interested in learning more about PayrollHero? Our payroll software is live in the Philippines and Singapore and our Time & Attendance solution is used all over the world.


Philippines New Minimum Wage Effective April 2015

PayrollHero is hiringAs you might be aware, effective April 4th 2015, the new minimum wage for non agricultural workers in Philippines has raised from P451.02 a day to P466 (+P15.00 COLA) a day. (Source: DOLE)

PayrollHero clients were updated of this a few weeks ago and our Philippine payroll software had the adjustments in place for companies that need it. If you are not using PayrollHero for your Philippine payroll (yet) then make sure to double check your software or excel document to make sure that you are onside with the changes.

Adventure Engineering in Da Nang, Vietnam

Editors Note: Introducing Vincent Paca, Adventure Engineer at PayrollHero. He will be contributing to the PayrollHero blog from time to time.

Not so many months ago, a talkative fellow wandered in my small Cebu office by chance. Dressed in shorts, flip flops and a black shirt with a man in a red cape. Turned out that was Mike Stephenson, CEO of PayrollHero. He talked about adventure, learning, teamwork and improving one’s self and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Manila two days later to pair with a few of their engineers. A little under a year and here I am, in Singapore, busting out a blog post about the adventures and misadventures of Adventure Engineering.

Adventure engineers often travel depending on the client’s need. We go wherever we can be more effective at our job. Being ridiculously client focused, as we always say. (yes, we are hiring)

Da Nang, VietnamOne of the things that we wanted to try out this year was to partner up with 3rd party engineering teams to help us increase our velocity. In comes AgilityIO, a 150-strong engineering team based in Da Nang, Vietnam. We believe that a lot of problems can easily be solved when you’re in the same room together with your team. Making the communication loop so much shorter meant making things move faster.

At the beginning of April, Adam, Mike, Piotr and I decided to meet up in Da Nang, Vietnam to personally meet and work with team Agility. Adam, and Mike flew in from Singapore, Piotr arrived from Whistler and I catapulted all the way from Manila.

Getting to Da Nang is no simple task. Flying from the Philippines meant that I had to take a flight to either Hanoi or Saigon, then take another domestic flight to central Vietnam. I landed in Saigon around 12am bags in hand waiting for my next flight at 5am. DO NOT fly at these hours. Saigon domestic airport closes at night and the earliest they open is at four in the morning. I had to stay outside of the building and wait for it to open. Fun times indeed. I arrived in Da Nang around 6:30am. Being in Vietnam also meant that we had to wake up an hour earlier. Our daily huddle always happens at 6:47am GMT+8 and no, it doesn’t matter where you are.

I downed a can of RedBull and a shot of Cà phê sữa đá and headed to AgilityIO’s office with Piotr. Agility has a HUGE office in Da Nang, 5 floors of mobile and backend developers, it seemed like they had it all. We knew from the start that this wasn’t going to be a breeze. Communication and getting your thoughts across was definitely a challenge, but we didn’t let that wall stop us from where we’re going. We’re now two weeks into the project that we’re working with Agility and we’re almost near completion.

piotr, vince and agility team in da nang

A selfie with some of the Agility team in the background

Da Nang wasn’t all work and no play. We went for a food tour around Da Nang at lunch time. Summer from Funtastic Food Tour took us around Da Nang to its secret foodie gems scattered all around the city.

The next day we hopped in a cab and ventured to Hoi An. Our first stop was the Marble Mountains. The Marble Mountains is a cluster of mountains made of, you guessed it, marble. Going up one of the mountains wasn’t that difficult. Partly because the local government attached a modern elevator to the side of the mountain that takes you up halfway of the mountain.

(Adam, Piotr, Mike and myself)

(Adam, Piotr, Mike and myself)

Scaling the peak wasn’t all that bad either. All that marble makes for perfect steps when crawling up to the peak.

da hang, vietnam marble mountain stairsWe just made it in time for lunch at our hotel and just enough time to prepare for our motorbike tour around the countryside of Hoi An. This was the very first time I learned how to ride a motorbike and surprisingly enough it wasn’t that bad. Vuong took us around the scenic countryside of Hoi An, we rode on floating bridges, elevated bamboo bridges and along the rice fields. Exhilarating and enjoyable, the whole 5 hour ride was quite the experience.

bike tour around da nang

Finishing at 7pm left me little time to prepare for my 9pm domestic flight to Hanoi to get to Manila. Even though I left Vietnam a bit exhausted with mud on my shoes and a little bit of dirt here and there, I had a really great time. 10/10 would definitely do again.

Want to read more about our Adventure Engineers? Check out Nico’s story from when he left Manila to work from the Whistler office while getting his Canadian residency.

Interested in joining our team? We are always hiring!

What is an Adventure Engineer?

Tired of Commuting?

philippine traffic problemsEditors Note: Introducing Kieran Peppiatt, Head of Client Success at PayrollHero. He will be contributing to the PayrollHero blog from time to time. 

So it might seem a bit peculiar to make my inaugural post to be about commuting! I actually plan to write about Client Success in the Philippines. However, if you live in the Philippines you’ll know it’s a pretty big problem. Traffic in Manila is some of the worst I have experienced. There are now over one billion cars on the planet and I am pretty sure they’re all here!

According to the average American’s commute to work is 25 ½ minutes, well the average commute in the Philippines is around 2 hours. The Philippine’s is ranked 9th worst for traffic in the world, and although that’s better than their airport rating it’s still not a ranking to be proud of.

Manila’s rush hour, like any, is a total misnomer. In fact the Philippine government estimates that Manila’s traffic costs the country around $3 billion per year. This is from wasted fuel, break downs, road works, deaths (you will go nowhere in an ambulance) and productivity.

Something to think about…

What does commuting mean for ensuring clients are successful?

Studies have shown that commuting will increase your blood sugar levels, cholesterol and likelihood of depression. The UK office of national statistics has also shown that your anxiety levels drastically increase, and another study by the University of Utah shows that your blood pressure temporarily spikes as direct result of a long commute.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg and keep in mind that all of these studies based their findings on commutes that exceed thirty minutes, which is way below the standard here in the Philippines.

Think about that for a moment. Your team arrive, there was a big pile up on the highway.  There late and already frustrated before they’ve even logged in to their computer. There’s a backlog of tickets because they’re only just in the door. Is that really going to create an environment that is conducive to excellent customer service?

Commuting means it’s not 9 to 5… it’s more like 7 till 7.

It’s really hard to build a team of truly exceptional employees in any industry. Add to the fact that even a two mile commute is a one hour mission. It starts to shrink the area of your employment pool. People just don’t want the hassle and who would? If you commute for two hours each way you are wasting 43 days of your life every year stuck in traffic. Not to mention the travel conditions for some commuters.

When it comes to Client Success attracting the right people is important. Without truly empathetic people whatever you try it’s all irrelevant. You want people who instinctively put themselves in the clients shoes, who can evaluate situations quickly, figure out a problem and act to create an environment in which your clients can thrive. These types of people are hard to come by.

So, how do you get them to commute to you? What should you do to try and attract the right talent into making the trip every day to your office? You don’t. We made a rule, you either live within walking distance of the office or you don’t come in. All you need to have is a computer and internet connection that is good enough to bring the office to you.

It’s quite early in our trials and this is definitely going to be a topic that I write about in the future. I’ll keep you guys informed on what we learn from it. That said, the staff who have opted to go down this route are genuinely happier and definitely more productive. They choose to spend more time helping out and don’t have to worry about getting up early to commute to work, or leaving late to miss the traffic home.

The plan is to meet up every second weekend so we can have face to face time, good food and a few drinks. We will also do a retroactive look back on the last two weeks. This is where we can see what we did well, not so well and most importantly learn how we can improve. Something I definitely plan to share more with you on in the future.

By the way, if you didn’t notice we’re hiring in a big way. If you love customers even more than we hate commuting get in touch.

How To Get To Fort Bonifacio (From The 4th Worst Airport In The World)

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in the Philippines is no longer the world’s worst airport, rising to fourth spot after topping the list for the past four years.

With a slight improvement in its ranking as a result of increased positive votes for its Terminal 3, the same can be said about the country – looking ahead despite ongoing challenges.

We have visitors coming to Manila all year round and continue sending out information about the taxis at the airport so I figured I would post it here for all to use. For our purposes, the fees are based on getting from NAIA to Fort Bonifacio.

Metered Taxis

Metered Taxis are the yellow ones that are found under the “Metered Taxi” sign. There is a desk there that will grab your name and give you a slip of paper with the vehicle’s license plate written on it. This is meant to give you some comfort incase there is an issue or you forget something, but best to make a note of the plate yourself as many times they are not legible (see below). The costs from NAIA to Fort Bonifacio should be about P220+/- (depends on traffic and route)

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Coupon Taxis (aka Fixed Fare) 

The Fixed Fare taxis are just down the road a little bit and marked with a similar sign. They are white, and usually larger than the metered taxis. They are a bit better quality vehicle and will take you to Fort Bonifacio for a flat P440.

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Here is what the paperwork looks like. What license plate is my taxi?


What to watch for at NAIA?

1. There are a lot of random people running around asking you if you need a taxi. Many don’t have “official” ID. I find it best to go straight to the counter where the taxis are.

2. The taxis drivers love to say “no change” – so best to bring pesos with you.

3. Keep an eye on your items.

Welcome to the Philippines!! Make sure to get out to some of the beaches, they are the best in the world. 

12 Reasons Why Emerging Markets Rock

employee count in the philippines

Most software as a service (SaaS) companies focus on the US market, or other western countries with little regard for emerging markets. While there are definitely challenges with focusing on emerging markets (internet, power, traffic, corruption, to name a few) there are some big advantages.

For example, the above photo was taken at a department store in the Philippines. In this photo, of one of the many areas of the 3 floor department store has no less than 12 employees. For a company like PayrollHero that charges based on employee count, you can see why we like emerging markets. In Canada or the US, if I took the same photo, you would be lucky to see 1 employee.

But it is not all as easy as it seems. These employees are actually not employees of the department store but rather merchandisers who work directly for the brands they are standing beside. So while you might see 12 employees, they most likely work for 12 different companies. Making selling a product or service to them a bit more of a challenge.

But still, employee counts in restaurants, retail, etc are usually much higher in emerging markets due to the cost of labour.

Would you like to learn more about PayrollHero? Contact us and we would be pleased to speak further or visit our country specific websites; Philippines, Singapore with the rest coming soon.