Philflex President Jaime Que points proudly to the projects his company has made possible and speaks of a bright future for the firm – both at home in the Philippines and in rapidly expanding export markets.
I would say our hallmark is that we have core values of integrity and trust.
When asked to share the secret of its success, rather than crediting the company’s core competencies in manufacturing sophisticated wires and cables, Que attributes it to Philflex’s underlying values.
“I would say our hallmark is that we have core values of integrity and trust,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “We have trust within the organization, among the families who own Philflex and with our personnel.”
Management places enormous trust in employees and they do not exercise excessive control or supervision. Que prefers trust instead of coercion or threats, explaining, “Staff perform on what we trust them to do.”
Without such levels of trust, it’s hard to imagine Philflex ever growing to become one of the Philippines leading industrial firms – or a recognized world leader.
“Today, we have become very well known for building wires for shopping malls, for high-rise buildings,” he says. “But also for our values. I mean, we are always giving a good price, good value for money, and high-quality products.”
Philflex was founded in 1969 as a partnership between the Sia and Que families in the Binondo district of Manila. The families commenced operations after purchasing the factory of a bankrupt wire manufacturer and initially produced wires for real estate developers and served small companies in the provinces.
From the beginning, innovation has always been at the heart of the Philflex business ethos. The company spotted an opportunity to start manufacturing magnetic wires and cables in 1971 and quickly dominated the fast-growing market segment.
It also struck a technological partnership with Japanese manufacturer Kuhara Seisakusho. It was the first in a series of alliances with foreign firms, which have enabled Philflex to produce products of uncompromising quality and obtain accreditations from regulators around the world.
“We went into the industrial sector and we came out with a very good product using Japanese technology,” Que recalls. “Our brand came out in the market prominently and we outperformed the imports from the United States and Japanese products at the time.”
Our brand came out in the market prominently and we outperformed the imports from the United States and Japanese products at the time.
Philflex has never been content to rest on its laurels and never failed to seek out new market opportunities. The company expanded its product line in the early 1970s to include automotive flat cables and portable cables for pumps and heavy appliances and later it also started producing power cables and aluminum wires.
“During the 1980s, we were prepared for the construction boom to be realized after enormous political change in the country,” he says. “We bridged through the Asian finance crisis with flying colors.”
A commitment to quality propelled Philflex to the to the top of the Philippines market, according to Que. It capably served a construction boom in the Philippines and later pounced on further opportunities amid the rapid expansion of telecommunications services.
It started with the more straightforward products such as copper wires, opening a facility to increase production.
“Telecom opened up in the Philippines and we took advantage. We had a brand-new factory to make telephone cables, supplying all the major telephone utilities,” he explains. “We garnered quite good vendor points with PLDT and other telephone companies.”
We are actually in expansion mode, from our two factory buildings. We’ve built factory number three, and we’re building four, five and six.
Philflex always stayed ahead of technological advances too. It once again partnered with a Japanese firm, Taiyo Electric Wire & Cable, to gain the necessary know-how for manufacturing telecom infrastructure and meet the standards of foreign accreditation agencies.
When copper wire started becoming antiquated, Philflex began preparing to manufacture fiber optic cables as thin as a strand of hair. But the company quickly realized the Philippines market was limited, only requiring 25 percent of Philflex’s potential output. “Fiber optics is just too efficient,” Que says.
Philflex partnered with a large regional fiber optic maker to have products for its telecom customers. It then established a wholly owned subsidiary factory in China for the fast-growing Chinese market.
The company’s five decades of expertise in manufacturing wires and cables has it poised for more growth over the next decade, according to Que, who sees new markets opening as the economy transitions to clean energy and net zero policies are increasingly adopted in the Philippines and around the world.
“We are looking into the solar cable market and, of course, the EV market; we are also looking at that,” he says.
Philflex is also doing its part on sustainability. It’s a strategy that Que describes as prudent for cutting costs, staying competitive and increasing its share of the market. As an example, the company recently installed a solar project in its own installations. “We are the very first one in the industry to do this,” he says proudly.
Along with adjusting to meet the challenge of new technologies, Que envisages Philflex increasing exports from its China facility. Indeed, Philflex already exports to the United States, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
“We intend to capture more of the world,” he reveals.
With the demand for cable and wire strong, Que and Philflex are undertaking an ambitious expansion of the company’s manufacturing capacity.
“We are actually in expansion mode, from our two factory buildings,” he says. “We’ve built [factory] number three, and we’re building four, five and six.”
Achieving Philflex’s ambitious goals won’t be easy, however. Que points to the subpar post-pandemic economic conditions as a challenge, along with rising manufacturing costs in the Philippines.
We have so much trust in each other and there’s a lot of unity in the company. It’s actually my cousins, my brothers and I, and we all work very well as a team with trust and respect for one another.
“The construction boom that was there before the pandemic is not there anymore,” he says of the Philippines. “We can export with our very high standard quality, but with costs as they are, we just can’t.
“Electricity costs are so high, and producing cable is using more electricity than labor. So our labor cost advantage is not there. We are using machines but it’s using a lot of electricity.”
In the face of rising costs, Philflex has doubled down on digitization and technology. Que, an engineer by training, regularly attends the world’s most important wire and cable trade fair in Germany, where he seeks out the latest technology and innovations to implement in the Philippines. The company also regularly reviews and modernizes its equipment.
“We just invested in a program to digitalize everything from sales to cable,” he says. “We have the latest manufacturing equipment, test equipment and material. We are all up to date.”
Philflex has made its name by manufacturing to quality wire and cable. But Que considers the company’s adherence to its core values to be its true competitive advantage.
Trust exists between the founding families, he says, which has allowed the firm to flourish over the past 54 years and endure difficulties such as domestic political turmoil, the 1998 Asian financial crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A very prominent feature of our company is that the two families who established this company are still very much actively in control,” says Que, whose family is among the shareholders.
As a CEO in the company, I try to be very humane. I am very friendly to my staff and I help them and talk to them personally as often as possible.
“We have so much trust in each other and there’s a lot of unity in the company,” he explains. “It’s actually my cousins, my brothers and I, and we all work very well as a team with trust and respect for one another. That’s how the company grew so fast.”
That trust extends throughout the company’s management ranks and down to the employees. It also includes outside stakeholders such as suppliers.
“We have a very good image with our suppliers, they trust us. If you ask our suppliers in the cable business, they would say Philflex would be their favorite buyer. I’m sure of that,” he says.
“We also have trust with our dealers whom we give comfortable and favorable credit terms. Our competitors are always mad with what we are giving in credit terms. But we trust our dealers so much.”
Philflex occupies a prominent place in Philippine industry and is a national success story. Que, however, prefers humility and maintains a low-profile leadership style.
“My style of leader is that I’m very humble and we are very low profile. We don’t want to brag, but we’re very straightforward and honest,” he reflects. “As a CEO in the company, I try to be very humane. I am very friendly to my staff and I help them and talk to them personally as often as possible.”
While his solicitousness with staff comes naturally, Que says pursuing positive relationships with employees also benefits the bottom line.
“Once you have a good relations, they will work very hard for you,” he says.
It’s yet another example of Philflex’s core values of trust and integrity in action.
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“Business excellence with integrity describes Philflex. As its major copper provider, we battled and came out victorious during the pandemic by looking out for each other. Jaime Que is truly a great ‘captain’ of the industry.” – Nguyen Chi Linh, President, LiOA Dong Nai Electrical Equipment Company
“The past 40 years of our business relationships with Philflex have been a time of value exchange beyond simple sales transactions only. It’s Philflex President Jaime Que’s firm management philosophy that puts trust and honesty first without prioritizing immediate interests.” – Seungho Baek, Executive Director, Taihan Cable and Solution