Successful companies know that people are their most important asset. People can make a difference in how a company serves its clients and achieves its business goals. This is the reason why North Star Meat Merchants managed to transform itself from a struggling small enterprise to become the cold chain backbone of the Philippines.
An Iloilo meat shop that started over two decades ago as a thesis project of business school student Anthony Mark Ng, North Star is now the major supplier of fresh meat products to the largest retailers in the country including the SM Group.
Its growth was driven not just by its ability to bring fresh, high-quality meat to a fast-growing market, but also the hard work of its people—many of whom started out as butchers and rose through the ranks within the company.
Thanks to North Star’s commitment to its people’s professional growth, the company now has a cadre of highly-motivated and committed managers working together to achieve business goals. It has three cold chains serving over 1,250 stores nationwide, with operations supported by 2,200 butchers.
Butchers have played an important role in the success of North Star as their on-ground perspective gives them a deeper level of familiarity with the company’s overall operations. North Star recognizes the essence of butchers especially when it comes to making decisions such that the management continues to create a working environment that will enable each of them to grow. Key managers who started as butchers shared how their personal journey within North Star proved to be life-changing.
One of the most inspiring journeys is that of Renato Gomeri, head of cold chain operations, who started out as a balut vendor, then worked as a dishwasher, waiter and merchandiser. North Star has always invested in the training of its people and encourages them to learn—regardless of what their beginnings are. Renato first heard about the company from his brother-in-law, who worked as a security guard at the school that Anthony attended.
“When I saw the company start, I saw its potential as a pioneer in the agribusiness industry. With a great amount of hard work, this company could grow,” he thought to himself while working at the company’s Banawe office.
Renato’s foresight proved right, because North Star grew exponentially. Through the challenges of starting up, the company was ever supportive of its people. “We just believed in the company and worked hard, especially at the beginning. I could not think of how we were able to reach this far and take these positions. We really just worked hard, and the blessings came along in return,” said Renato.
Renato learned everything about meat with the staunch support of Anthony himself, who was always there to help them in their growth journey, and continues to do so now that the company has attained its current size.
“I studied the different carcasses and how to cut them properly. Once I learned how to do it properly, we were transferred to different stores to train the other butchers. Eventually, our group of butchers grew,” said Renato.
Other butchers had similar experiences. Randy Caoile, who moved to Manila in 1989, was personally interviewed by Anthony at North Star’s Banawe meat shop. Randy recalls that he was paid P100 per day while he was being trained—a definite surprise since most other firms did not pay trainees.
“They made us carry pigs,” he recalled. As the company flourished, so did Randy’s career advance, and he was promoted through the ranks to eventually become an account manager.
Romeo Ople, who started out with Renato as a butcher at SM, said being a butcher is a challenging role. “You’ll never really know the accidents that a knife can cause. No matter how careful you are, an accident will occur,” he said.
The company rewarded him for his loyalty and perseverance by promoting him to butchering supervisor. Romeo received mentoring and coaching support as he handled 60 stores, which paved the way for his eventual promotion to officer-in-charge, then operations manager, when North Star opened the SaveMore account. In North Star, there is a culture of learning and people are willing to learn from each other and share their knowledge.
North Star recognizes the potential of its people, and believes in their capabilities. Krizza Salino, who now heads integrated management system, started out as a custodian, but eventually moved on to learn accounting, then became the company’s inventory management services head in her seventh year – a leap that was made possible with her hard work.
Staunchly supporting the professional journey of these butchers is Ruben Castor Ranin, general manager of North Star. He joined the company in 2004—when North Star was already expanding.
“I witnessed how Romeo, Nato, Randy and Krizza grew with the company. The treatment of the company is like family—everyday, you learn and share your ideas and knowledge to better guide each other,” said Ruben.
Through its culture that nurtures people and supports their growth, North Star reaps the benefits of their shared learning. This enabled the company to expand its operations, and given it confidence to further grow its business.
The company plans to expand its main integrated plant in Bulacan and build more facilities across the country to reach new markets. In doing so, North Star can lean on its people to make this possible.
“We value each other. North Star would not be complete if it weren’t for all these individuals of North Star. As we grow older, we want to leave a legacy when it comes to the company’s culture and values,” said Ruben.