National University (NU) remains strong and riding on a wave of campus expansion across the country as one of the oldest universities in the Philippines. NU already has 9 branches to date. The venerable yet always dynamic and forward-looking institution has learned so much from the past two years—lessons that university president, Renato Carlos H. Ermita, Jr., wants to share with other entrepreneurs and executives.
“The pandemic caught everyone by surprise, of course. But the intense and widespread community quarantines were really the biggest challenges for businesses in general. In our case, the lockdown came right in the middle and towards the end of the academic year. Our graduating students were finishing their school requirements including exams, projects, laboratory sessions, and then we had to put an abrupt stop to our operations. We had to figure out how to resume academic activities with the least disruption for everyone, whether for students, faculty, and administrative staff,” said Dr. Ermita.
In learning to adapt to, cope with, and survive the pandemic’s challenges, the owners and management of National University learned five lessons that businesses, from SMEs to corporations, can learn from.
Lesson 1: Never forget who you are
This means knowing and committing to what your core business is and adhering to your corporate values, especially during times of crisis.
“Despite the restrictions—from the anxieties about our health, to the lack of transportation, and the suspension of face-to-face classes-we kept a strong focus on who we are as a university: our mission to provide programs that are innovative and relevant to our students, to be able to prepare and qualify them for job opportunities here and overseas,” said Dr. Ermita.
Dr. Ermita added that the strong academic team of the University kept them focused on the vision of reaching out and educating more Filipinos. “Together, that focus and that commitment keep our programs up-to-date and attuned with the needs of our students vis-a-vis the various industries they will be entering after graduation.”
Lesson 2: Digital and non-digital innovations
Dr. Ermita explained that new challenges in the 21st century require a fresh, creative perspective, out-of-the-box thinking, and a passion for innovation.
“For example, even before the pandemic struck, the University already had an online platform. In short, we already had the basic infrastructure for conducting online classes. So then, when health protocols put a stop to face-to-face classes, we already had the digital and online structure to build on,” Dr. Ermita said.
With a digital, online portal already in place, National University proceeded with adapting its academic content and learning processes to the new “school-from-home” normal. They spent a month preparing learning materials and training their faculty members in the new online teaching platform. By April of 2020, the university was able to resume classes.
Lesson 3: Picking the right partners
No business during the pandemic can make it all alone. In order to not only survive but also thrive during the pandemic, National University relied on its long-time dependable partners. Dr. Ermita made mention of their partner bank, BDO, which kept on providing crucial banking solutions before and during the pandemic.
“Like other organizations, the University had a disruption in its access to funds. With school operations scaled-down and students staying at home to follow safety protocols, it was a challenge to maintain the smooth flow and efficiency of our financial transactions. Whether this was for payments of tuition fees, or payments for diplomas for transcripts and all those things—and then, of course, we also had bills to pay to our utility providers and suppliers. We had financial commitments that had to be honored,” he said. BDO was able to provide the University with very effective services and solutions that addressed these concerns.
According to Dr. Ermita, National University and BDO became banking partners in 2008. “From the start of our relationship with BDO, our needs as a university have evolved and BDO was right there to help us adopt new solutions both non-digital and digital. These solutions also evolved from very simple products to more advanced facilities like cheque writing via BDO’s Business Online Banking. We also availed of BDO’s bills payment facilities which really helped our students and their parents transact with the school online.”
Lesson 4: Winning, can-do mindset
Along with resilience, Dr. Ermita says that NU always maintains a winning, can-do mindset. “I congratulate our students and faculty for staying true to their common goal of achieving quality education and a meaningful learning experience. NU is able to do this because we have a campus culture that fosters a winning, can-do mindset. Whether it’s in academics, or sports, or life in general, we never give up. We always do our best. And if we need to catch up—and there was a lot of catching up to do this pandemic—then we don’t just catch up. We make sure that we win and come out on top. It’s a mindset that our best partners also have in common with us.”
Lesson 5: Putting people first
Dr. Ermita also said that in running a business, it’s best not to lose sight of the fact that, in the end, what matters most are the people you work with, the people you partner with, and the people you serve.
“We are blessed to have very good academic leaders, faculty, support personnel who were tried and tested during this difficult crisis. The faculty, in particular, have shown how much they truly care for the welfare of our students. The same holds true for the people of BDO, who are continually aware of NU’s needs and objectives. The crucial point is really that BDO always keeps track of our development. So, they are aware of our objectives and because of that, they’re able to introduce products and services that continue to help us,” said Dr. Ermita.
BDO is a valuable partner to many SMEs, corporations, and organizations. For more information on how to achieve a productive partnership, go to the BDO website, the BDO Facebook Page, or visit your nearest BDO branch. For more information, please visit www.bdo.com.ph.