There is No Fast Track: 7 Habits All Entrepreneurs Should Nurture to Succeed

What does it take to become a game-changing entrepreneur? We sat down with our very own Nico Jose “Nix” Nolledo, Xurpas’ co-founder and CEO, to hear what he thinks every aspiring entrepreneur should do—and keep doing—if they ever hope to make it in the business.
After all, who better to talk to than someone who already has?
Before becoming the successful entrepreneur we know today, Nix Nolledo spent some time learning what he could as an assistant manager at a KFC. In that first job, he gained invaluable experience in customer service, marketing, sales, human resources, logistics, operations, and finance, just to name a few. He was able to use the various skill sets he acquired then to build Xurpas: “When you start your own business, you’re going to have to fill in every role,” Nix shares. “You have to maximize what you do, or you risk draining your resources and still not get far.”
In 1998, the year Nix graduated college, the global financial crisis made it almost impossible for fresh graduates to land jobs. So what did he do? Along with a friend from school, he printed out piles of his resumes and stuffed them into his bag, before walking the stretch of Ayala Avenue to hand them out to whoever would let them into the building.
“When you’re in school, you have all of these larger-than-life aspirations,” he tells us. “But then reality bites. I went to all of these major multinationals, all of their offices—nothing. Finally, I said, hey, you know, someday I want to be an entrepreneur. Maybe food is a good space to be in.” And that’s how Nix found himself saying yes to a job offer from KFC: he took what he could get during a difficult time, and decided to learn from the experience.
The fact is that aspiring entrepreneurs need to be innovative, or else their business will have to compete with those of people with more experience. Banks are also unlikely to lend to those who are just starting out, because these first-timers lack a solid track record. On top of that, very few people will want to join a brand-less business venture, because even fewer people can vouch for it.
Aspiring entrepreneurs will inevitably face a mountain of difficulties on their road to success. What they make of the challenge is up to them: “In 2001, who were we? What in the world was Xurpas?” says Nix. “We had to be resilient. Competition is stiff. If you’re not resilient, you’ll quit when times get hard.”
There’s a saying: the secret to success is being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes. “I think a lot of people regurgitate that, but it’s very, very hard to follow through on really living it,” Nix observes. “Empathy means putting myself in the shoes of my customer, my employees, my suppliers. It means evaluating my business from their point of view as closely as I evaluate it from my own.”
Empathy pushes the entrepreneur to ask himself the questions that his customers ask: am I willing to pay for this? To use it? Why this option over another? It pushes him to consider his employees, their goals, their vision for the company. It pushes him to work well with his suppliers, to consider how doing business with him might benefit them. Ultimately, empathizing with other people helps the entrepreneur to grow his business in a way that will help everyone involved.
When times are good for your business, it’s easy to talk to the people you work with. It’s when times are full of setbacks that initiating conversation with your employees, clients, and investors requires a dose of courage: “When people see that you’re trustworthy, that you’re forthcoming, they become more willing to work with you,” Nix advises. “Delays with a project, unexpected revenue drops—these are difficult to talk about with the people who are relying on you, but you have to talk about them. Eventually, your initiative will help strengthen ties.” Difficulties in business don’t need to drive a wedge between you and your people. You simply need to have open, honest lines of communication with them.
When asked what the most outrageous idea that he came up with in the last ten years is, Nix simply says, “To list Xurpas.” Prior to listing in December 2014, Xurpas had never raised any realms of venture capital. “No one was investing in us. No banks were lending to us. We had Php 62,500 to our name, and that’s all we’d been growing and investing over the years.”
But finally, in 2013, we decided to list the company. It was outrageous: Nix and his partners did their due diligence, consulting with investment bankers and everyone they could get some time with, and they all told them the same thing. “They told us that we were unlistable, that no one will understand what we do, that we’re too small, that there were no grounds for evaluating a company like ours,” shares Nix. “Everyone was rejecting us.”
In 2014, Xurpas became the first ever consumer technology company listed in any Southeast Asian stock exchange, and this is thanks in large part to Nix’s willingness to take risks: “I think you have to keep asking yourself: what would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? Sometimes you have to live your life like that, so that’s exactly what I did.”
The risk paid off: upon listing, Xurpas’ access to capital became exponentially higher than what we were previously allowed. Being listed also provided us with the opportunity to expand geographically, open new business units, attract more talent, and grow our customer base. “Just because no one else had done it before us, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Nix muses. “In the end, the advantages and opportunities that this risk would open up were far greater than all the uncertainty associated with it. So we went for it.”
“When you empower someone else, that’s a very gratifying thing,” says Nix, when asked what among Xurpas’ many accomplishments he’s proudest of. “I think the success of a company isn’t just the growth of its financials or of its business, products, services. I think a company should be measured according to its impact on its community.”
Nix sees the potential for the Philippine tech start-up community to grow into a robust and healthy ecosystem. As more investment capital is entering emerging markets, the country is in prime position to absorb some of that capital and be at par with other emerging markets such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. He sees hope in Filipino start-up entrepreneurs, students and aspiring business owners.
The future belongs to those who are brave enough to keep raising the bar for the Philippines. “You need a combination of guts, passion and acumen to succeed in business,” says Nix, “The odds are stacked against you.” The risks and challenges may be overwhelming, but through grit and perseverance, the rewards can also be great.
“You’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but eventually you’ll come up with a eureka solution. Embrace failure and learn from it. And don’t forget, always dream big.”

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