Apple Esplana-Manansala’s Speech at CEO summit 2023

Dear CEOs,

Good afternoon, everyone! It is a blessing to be with you here today and have a conversation on FUNCTIONING IN SYSTEMS. 

First of all, I understand that we are all CEOs here today, right? Raise of hands, please…

Ginusto natin lahat to, so wala ng sisihan ha, panindigan natin. 

May I know who here are CEOs in their 30’s, 40’s, younger? More experienced? Senior? 

I was recently asked, so I thought I’d asked you guys too, para fair… So how long they have been in the business? Show of hands to those in business 10 years just like me? More? Less? 

Stephen Covey, an American educator, author, and businessman believed that all of our actions are the result of past conditioning and that we must change our habits, and who we are, to succeed in making large changes in our lives.

We have a very limited time this afternoon, so I decided to write and read this letter instead. Disclaimer, I’m not a big fan of telling my story ha, but fasten your seatbelts (ooops, I meant do not leave your seats) as the next 15 minutes are worth it.

For us to function accordingly, we need to first find our why and understand it. Here’s a fun and one of my favorite videos which we can all watch as it inspired me to find my way… Let’s all watch it (and you’re welcome to dance with it). 

Thanks so much, Will I am and my son’s favorites, Elmo and his friends from Sesame Street. Yey! 

Finding ourselves is the first step in finding the right system that will work for us and our businesses. As someone who has always wanted to become a jill of all traits and a master of 10. Here’s one system that worked for me that is likely not new to many but has proven time and again that works for many. 


As we journey into finding our personal and business we must regularly conduct business SWOT and do SELF SWOT as well. Can you guys help me define what SWOT means? 

As you can see in the examples, even big and successful brands like Starbucks, Apple, and Amazon, among others do assessments regularly.  

Simply put, SWOT is like a regular business review. SWOT means, self-reflection. 

Is anyone here who has done SELF SWOT? To those who have had it and are doing it regularly then great job! Carry on! For those who haven’t perhaps it’s about time. I hope we have enough time today to do this, but otherwise, please request from the organizers that we do it in a separate session. I would love to conduct this with and for all of you. 

Moving on. In finding a system that works. Sorry to break the ice guys – but – what works for me doesn’t mean will also for you. However, instead of providing you systems that we can just lift from books or Google, AI, and ChatGPT –my husband (who also happened to be my business partner aka boss) and I decided to show you something worth more than a decade of our experience as business operators.  

Here’s a quick historical narrative of how my journey into where I am right now, professionally happened. In 2002 fresh from college, this Tarlaqueña leaped fate and worked as a PR and brand manager for a candle brand. Since it is almost Halloween, itago na lang natin sa brand na Liwanag Candles. It is the oldest yet the best candle brand that is made in the Philippines. Disclaimer, no offense meant, but hindi lahat ng old the best ha. Char 

I was 20 when I started to market a product. I hopped from that job to the others from tech companies such as Level Up! Inc. the publisher of Ragnarok Online in the Philippines (where BTW I met my husband, kaya I need to special mention), to SM Supermalls where I had the best and the worst days of becoming a corporate slave. And yes, probably just like some of you, I was once a corporate slave too, and no regrets because those days have prepared me… Then I moved to start-up brands such as Galileo Enrichment Learning Program, a Filipino company that brought Singapore Math here in the country. Village Choice, a community centered print publication and the advertising industry’s top media publication called Adobo Magazine. I wanted to skip na lang and say the rest as they say is history –but I realized you guys are the perfect audience to talk to because I know in one way or the other you will be able to relate to my journey into finding the right system that worked for me. Oh diba, ganun talaga yun kailangan ibalik sa main topic. Hehehe

Between the years 2013 and 2014, my husband and I gave birth to 2 babies. One is PuzzleBox BPO, Inc., and the other one is our one and only son, Andrei –who means the world to me. 

PuzzleBox is a customer service solutions company that offers intelligent outsourcing for digital marketing solutions. We have been in the business of helping brands solve their digital marketing crises and manage their day-to-day operations. 

Here’s a quick diagram of a system that works for PuzzleBox. Here’s a reference to the key results items highlighting 4 important factors why our company has continued to sustain its operations. 

The first function is SOLUTIONS. We at PuzzleBox understand why our clients need us and we offer solutions that allow them to operate and even expand their digital marketing services in an instant. We exist because there is a problem that needs to be addressed. 

Second, Technology. At PuzzleBox, we offer a system that allows our client to try out or test new technologies that will work in solving their business crises. 

Third, we allow some flexibility on the costs of our services which results in efficiency. 

Fourth, we make sure that we provide the correct people to conduct and manage the services that we need to render for our clients. We sell reliability to our clients and that is one intelligent solution that we provide for them.

Externally, we emphasize to our clients these two system frameworks that have worked in keeping our business afloat in the last decade. Our ability to make our clients understand that we exist to provide these solutions for them, with emphasis on staffing flexibility, risk management, and cost efficiency. And our ability to openly share our organizational values focusing on teamwork (yes that has always been part of our deck when presenting to new clients) as core to what we offer and sell. Wait this is not a pitch ha, but if you would like to talk more about expanding your business, let’s discuss na lang later. Hehehe

Going back to SWOT, Linked IN recently suggested to me “Turn your strengths into opportunities for growth by sharing them with others…” 

Wait, let me continue with my/our professional journey. In 2015, my husband and I decided to turn his passion for cooking into a business. In 2019, we decided to open a concept barbershop which is a legacy project. We decided to name it after our father, Ernesto which we want others to adopt when we open the business into franchising –which was an opportunity until the global pandemic happened. We only soft-launched Ernesto by BarberBOY when the pandemic occurred which also had a drawback on our main bread and butter which is PuzzleBox. 

What was that again, “turn your strengths into opportunities by sharing it”… No one was prepared for the pandemic, even if I took a Digital Leadership course back in 2017 that focused on disrupting our business, it was different when the effect was happening right before your eyes. Some of our clients at PuzzleBox had to cease operating and some had to cut down their operations to only 50%. We had people whom we had to let go –until we thought of creating The New Channel. PuzzleBox’s extra people now had a reason to be kept because there was something new to do. Not only that we have created a new business, the business even came with an advocacy of helping people and communities. One of the best things that I have done during the pandemic aside from TNC is Global Women Who RULE, GWWR allows empowered Filipino women from different parts of the world to be recognized, lift each other up, and influence and drive the www to appreciate (and not abuse) the use of digital-only for good. 

TNC has a purpose… The channel has allowed us to showcase what PuzzleBox is capable of doing and providing as 99% of TNC’s business operations are intelligently outsourced through PuzzleBox even to this day. 

Ladies and gentlemen, my CEO friends, it is my honor to share with you TNC or The New Channel (play video) 

Since 2020, TNC has had over 7M reach on Facebook, has grown in other platforms, has published more than 2 thousand online conversations, has reached and helped on publicity at least hundreds of MSME’s around the country and has allowed many Filipinos to pay good things forward (and back to our country). 

In the last 3 years, TNC has continued to create online shows and featured stories not only from the Philippines but also from other countries like the US, Dubai, Singapore, and other countries while showcasing Filipino talents, Global influencers, cultural intelligence, and ingenuity. At TNC, I have met professionals who create content online for their shows that offer a compilation of ungarnished, relatable, and responsible stories. Through this alternative online platform, the lives of those we are featuring, and their businesses including the viewers and listeners are transformed into something great unimaginably. TNC has reached a certain milestone at this point and taking into account our experience, I’d like to share that at the core of its business is yes the word is to SHARE. Like I always say, TNC is God’s gift to me –that He wants me to share with everybody. 

Since then and until now, the system that works for me in finding a new show, or a producer and/or sponsors/partners for the shows (which BTW, we are open to partnering with any of you ha, shamelessly plugging it) is entirely built on purpose, community building, advocacy and unique storytelling that share something new that Filipino people need and deserve. Like what we always tell on TNC, “Enjoy our life-changing shows because we made them for you.” 

As I was finishing this narrative at 5 AM earlier today, I’d like to share with you this framework that summarizes the system that works for me too. 

You are important. 

You are an integral part of the system that you are creating. It is equally important for you to know and understand that you are gifted with a voice to be used for whatever platform you have chosen. You are a catalyst of something good, and you have an audience to share your goodness with. 

As for me, despite the many hats that I wear. A system that easily identifies my purpose in each business that I do/helps keep me on track. 

Any system will work for you. Many systems will work (or may not work) for you. At the end of the day, the system will depend on you. 

To end, here’s a quick summary of the key takeaways from my story. First, find a system that will allow you to operate a sustainable business, if the system cannot sustain the business, then it is not it yet. Keep trying. Keep going. 

Second and third, a system has to allow you to run a socially responsible business. If your business (Say an online business) doesn’t offer to help promote, the use of digital-only for good then please take a U-Turn and evolve your business. Shameless plug, the show U-Turn on TNC is looking for a new host/producer. Hehehe

Fourth and lastly, I am glad to share with you that I am at a point in my life where I can operate based on what makes me happy. I pray that you are as CEO’s are at that same stage in your life too. 

Let me end this by sharing a quote “People do not buy goods and services, they buy relationships, stories, and magic.” 

Thank you so much everyone for listening to me. Just one last favor…Guys, please help me change the world. 

Let’s change the world. 

Written by Apple Esplana-Manansala

📸: Joey Biteng

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