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The spirit of loyalty...

The spirit of loyalty: Ramil Nañola’s commitment to P&A

Sun Tzu once said: “Treat your soldiers like your own children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.” While he spoke in terms of war, the core idea can be applied in any context, especially in business. If you truly care for your people, they in turn will care for you.

Ramil Nañola, Partner for Audit & Assurance of prominent accounting firm Punongbayan and Araullo, is a firm believer in the power and merit of loyalty. He rose through the ranks of the firm over the course of 18 years, and he has every desire to stay.

A native of Cotabato City, Ramil was first hired by P&A in 1990 as a junior staff member for the nascent Davao City office. He was a graduate of Notre Dame University with only average academic accomplishment under his belt, a fact he openly admits to and is not at all embarrassed about: “At the time, and even now, when a firm as established as P&A looks for new people to hire, the candidates are usually the cream of the crop: the board topnotchers, the ones with awards.

Leadership roles
I was only an average student, and it was a very big break for me when the firm decided to hire me. I was very happy for the opportunity, and I decided I wanted to make the most of it.”

He started out with the Davao office under the advisement of then-HR head Fred Damian. “He really made me feel welcome, giving me the chance to work at the Davao office,” Nañola explains.

“Even though it was a four-hour drive from my home in Cotabato City, I didn’t mind it at all. I was glad for the career opening. Fred told me that what impressed him was actually my extracurricular exposure.”

During his college years, Nañola had been very active in a number of leadership roles and was a very consistent team builder: qualities that were key to the roles that Damian had selected him for.

“The Davao office wasn’t a large one at the time, and very often I had to do a lot of things myself. I met with clients, I handled the paperwork, I oversaw administrative matters.

And often I had to do a lot of legwork myself, too.” He admitted that it was a challenging life for the first seven years, but he neither resented nor shirked the tasks that were placed upon his shoulders.

“I took every chance I got to develop myself. It was through my work with P&A, those first few years, that I understood the value of diligence. I really wanted to make something of myself and give back to the firm, so I quietly did everything I could to develop my personality and my skills.”

Nañola made a good name for himself and his efforts: he became active in the Rotary movement and organized tax and accounting seminars for clients and the public at large; and he led the efforts to form the Davao chapter of the Institute for Internal Auditors.

Extended family
Over the years, Nañola integrated himself into the Davao office such that it was like an extended family for him, and he felt a strong sense of community and belonging.

This self-cultivated perspective of loyalty served him well, because it was the foundation upon which he built his consistent standard of work excellence.

His achievements and his loyalty to the firm were not lost on P&A’s upper management, and he was eventually given leadership of both the Davao and Cebu offices of P&A. “That was when I knew in my heart that being in P&A was where I was really meant to be,” Nañola admits. “I could really see myself having a lifelong career with the firm by then: there was no question in my mind.”

Grueling year
Nañola was recognized time and again for his efforts in almost single-handedly carrying the torch for P&A in Visayas and Mindanao. “When I took over the Cebu and Davao operations, things got really hectic.

Most of the time, I was on the road. The most grueling year that I had in the branches was in 2005, when they gave me the opportunity to handle the Cebu branch. For example, there was a time when from Davao, I had to go to Cagayan De Oro to meet a client.

It was a six-hour trip over 300 kilometers, and then right afterwards I had to go back to Davao. Then the next day I had to fly to Cebu, and then on to Dumaguete! It just so happens that I love to travel, so even though it can get a bit taxing at times, I really did enjoy the experience.”

It was that same year, 2005, when Nañola received the Primus Award, the highest accolade that P&A can give one of its own. “I was really flattered when they gave me the Primus, because I really just enjoy doing my job and giving back to the firm that gave me my big break so long ago. I’ve come to love P&A, and it fills me with happiness that upper management appreciates the work I do.”

Big opportunity
The Primus Award, however, was not the greatest boon that P&A would grant him for his commitment to service. In September 2006, Nañola was elevated to the position of Partner for Audit & Assurance, as well as Partner-in-charge of the Cebu and Davao offices.

It was a promotion that came with a very big concern, however: he would have to relocate to the firm’s main office in Makati City. “I know it sounds like a very big change, and it really was. I would have to uproot my life.

It was clear to me, though, that it was another big opportunity that was being given to me. I was so enthusiastic about it that when they asked me, I said ‘yes’ right away. I didn’t bother asking about the compensation, or the perks, or anything else. I just knew that it was the right thing to do,” Nañola said.

His faith was rewarded almost immediately upon his transition to Makati, when CEO Greg Navarro explained that the firm would help him with his relocation expenses, in exchange for helping create closer coordination between P&A’s main office and its branches. He also now works closely with Yutaka Yamada, the director of the Japanese Business Group.

“I fly every so often back to the branches to take care of business,” Nañola says. “It’s not as heavy on the travel as it was before when I was really based in the South, but the work is still both very tough and very rewarding. I cannot emphasize enough how happy I am doing these things for P&A, because P&A has also consistently taken great care of me.”

Nañola’s acceptance of the Makati posting was not at all a small decision considering his wife, Sandy Grace, whom he had also met through P&A back in 2002, was pregnant with their first child.

Difficult transition
“I really did my best to convince my wife that moving to Manila was the best thing that could happen to us, and thankfully she understood because she also comes from the same line of work. We knew it might be a difficult transition, but we were ready and willing to take the plunge.”

Now comfortably settled in Manila with his wife and his one-year-old son Lance, Nañola is still every bit the loyal, career-minded and cheerful executive that he has always been to the firm.

“Accountants are like nurses. They can easily go abroad, and have triple the salary. In fact, I’ve been offered lucrative chances to move to foreign firms. It’s not all about money, though. I think what I have now, all the things I’ve become, learned and built for myself, I would not have if I hadn’t stayed with P&A all these years. Leaving the firm is really not an option for me.

Secret to success
I’ll be here for as long as P&A will have me, and if the firm needs me anywhere, like if I have to move again, no questions asked: I will go.”

Nañola is sometimes asked what the secret of his success has been, and he says it’s actually very simple. “Because of the stiff competition in the industry and the opportunities abroad, it’s rare to have employees who will stay long in one firm.
 
In my case, P&A gave me a great opportunity in 1990. I gave what is due to P&A, and in return I was recognized for being consistent, being diligent, and being dedicated to my craft. That’s why I’m a Partner now. It’s not a magic formula. Loyalty and commitment are your tickets to becoming a Partner and becoming successful in your chosen career.”

(As published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 April 2009.)