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12 business success tips from Nanay Coring

Socorro Ramos

By Patrick King Pascual,VERA Files

The success story of Socorro Cancio Ramos includes incidents of failure.

Ramos is known more as Nanay Coring, founder and general manager of National Book Store,the leading retailer of school supplies, academic and various kinds of books and everything in between.

"I think it's everybody's purpose to achieve more," said the NBS matriarch.

At a very young age, Nanay Coring displayed a remarkable interest in the world of retail. At five years old, she was selling bananas, vinegar and wooden shoes to help her grandmother and mother in a wet-market stall in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

But it wasn't long until the family business failed. They decided to move to Manila, where she and her siblings worked while they were trying to finish school. To sustain her daily expenses in school and to contribute to the family's meagre income, Nanay Coring worked in a candy factory, a cigarette factory, a garment factory and then as a waitress in a small restaurant.

After she finished high school in the 1940s, she began working as a salesgirl in a bookstore in Escolta, owned by her brother. After she showed exceptional selling and management skills, she was assigned to be in charge of the store.

"You must be interested in what you are doing. You must love what you do so you will continue doing it, in spite of a lot of hardship," Nanay Coring said.

It was only after Nanay Coring married Jose Ramos, when the dream of finally establishing their own bookstore materialized. Thus began the National Book Store.

"Noong una nagtindera muna ako, hindi ako marunong sa bookstore. Nagtrabaho ako sa kapatid ko na (may) bookstore. Natuto ako about the book business. Noong nag-asawa ako nagbukas ako ng National Book Store," Nanay Coring recalled.

The business faced a lot of challenges during its early years; it was built and rebuilt three times from scratch. Most notable was during the Japanese occupation, when they were forced to stop selling majority of the books because of censorship.

Today, 70 years after the first National Book Store branch (in Escolta) was opened, the company has branches in over 125 locations in the country, plus its first overseas branch in Hong Kong.

As part of National Book Store's continuous growth, it expanded its variety of offerings to include: a convenience-type of store named NBS, another book store named Powerbooks, publishing companies named Cacho-Hermanos printing press, Anvil Books and Capitol-Atlas Publishing, and a department store.

The achievements of Nanay Coring as an entrepreneur have been recognized by institutions like SGV & Company, which named her Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005; and Ateneo for her contribution to building literacy among Filipinos and her commitment to making education more affordable.

To inspire more entrepreneurs to continue following their dreams, Nanay Coring gave the following 12 tips on how to be successful in business and in life:

  1. Know what you want to do and believe in yourself. If you want to be a salesman, make sure you are the best salesman you could possibly be.
  2. Find out what your customers want. Ask them. Ask around. Sell them what they want.
  3. Make sure every customer feels important. Be humble and always be willing to serve them.
  4. Buy something from one centavo. Sell it for more, but always less than the people who are selling the same thing.
  5. Be frugal. Live simply.
  6. Always be on time. Never be late.
  7. Don't be afraid of anyone. Speak out when you have to. All people are the same.
  8. Work hard, very hard. There is no express elevator to success — you have to climb the stairs.
  9. If you have the love and passion for what you do, hard work will not be a sacrifice, but a joy!
  10. There will always be hard times. There will always be failures. If you fall down, get back up. Never give up.
  11. Invest in your mind. Read more. Know more. Earn more.
  12. Buy lots of books.

For Nanay Coring, the key to being a successful entrepreneur is to improve and develop the work that you're most good at.

"I wish I could be a good example to them (entrepreneurs). Money does not come easy. You have to work hard for it, and also, you have to love your work, that's important. And you have to go to school to study, because you have to learn more. If you want to earn more, you have to know more, and you have to read more," Nanay Coring stressed.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

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