AT 22, MICHAEL MAGLIPON, then studying business communications, was already planting the seeds for his graphic design business. That was 10 years ago when, during class breaks at the Ateneo de Manila University, he would work as a freelance graphic designer on the side. "I started by simply asking family and friends if they would want to have basic graphic design done for their businesses," said Mr. Maglipon. "Next thing you know, Magcon Graphic Design was born."
TRIAL AND ERROR
To put up his first venture, Mr. Maglipon had to request for funding assistance from his parents on top of the capital that he and his then-girlfriend Cathy had saved. He spent roughly P200,000 on a new computer, scanner, printer and for some office improvements. "We officially filed our permits in September 1999. At the time, we just had one laptop. We did everything, from the sales calls to secretarial work, collection, billing and delivery."
The pair, who lived on opposite ends of the metro — he in Alabang and she in Quezon City — also had to find a business location that they could both conveniently reach. "Luckily, a family-owned unit in Valle Verde in Pasig was available. The office space was once mine back in college. It had two rooms and a big enough common area to accommodate our employees. The office location was perfect as it was situated at the center of everything," he said.
Next, the couple had to hunt for potential clients. "[Initially] all sales calls were made to family and friends; then, family and friends of those people. It was maximizing who we knew and who they knew," he said.
Indeed, Mr. Maglipon’s first bite at business had been far from sweet, with Magcon serving only five clients in its first six months in operation. "It was hard to convince people to try out a newbie in the business. We had days when we would just sit and wait for the phone to ring. When it did, we’d actually jostle just to get to the phone — only to find out that it was just an erroneous phone call. It was a test of patience and an exercise in beefing up the company’s portfolio," he said.
It would not be long before Magcon landed a big account that would catapult it to the center of the design scene. "Before [our clientele ballooned] we managed to cope with overhead expenses by minimizing our resources. Telecommunication and electricity expenses were on top of the list of payables. Since we only had one computer at the time, our electricity bill was kept at a minimum."
The small design firm specialized in adding a personal touch to their projects, which their clients appreciated. "This, I believe, was what the whole business was about," he shares. "It’s important to constantly give [clients] updates and never leave them hanging. It’s also wise to educate clients of certain limitations in your work and production, and to suggest new techniques in print execution."
But while the young entrepreneurs tried to impress customers with proper project execution and on-time delivery, mistakes, they found out, were inevitable, and in its worst instances, costly. One such misstep set them back by P30,000. "[There was a misprint] and for our carelessness we had to reprint 50,000 pieces of the project," he recalled.
In another, the firm failed to have the recipient sign the delivery form. "This was a hard lesson to learn, because no matter what post documentation — hard copies, digital files — you provide the client, [without the signed delivery receipt] he’s going to think that no product was delivered, no service was rendered; therefore, no payment will be made. After this, we made sure that no matter what time or day our deliveries were scheduled all deliveries must be received properly, with the printed name of the recipient and the time of delivery, whether using our official delivery receipt or any piece of paper."
But rather than blame these errors on his lack of experience in the field, Mr. Maglipon credits his young age for his experimental streak and entrepreneurial zest. "Since we are in the art industry, age is subjective as you would have artists in their 40s still doing exceptional work and young artists trying to find their niche," he said.
In 2004, a year after their wedding, the couple moved the Magcon office from Pasig to Alabang, where Mr. Maglipon lives. "We knew there was a possibility of losing clients if we moved. Nevertheless, it was a great decision because we were closer to home and, as such, more work was done," he said.
They also pared down the firm’s manpower upon realizing that quality will always beat quantity. "What is important is to train ’a few good men’ and make ’super artists’ from them. As such, you minimize overhead while retaining quality of work, and you also increase their value to you and your value to them. Placing your money on timely investments in manpower, machinery, and telecommunications is also a major plus," he said.
The firm has also been increasingly dependent on communication technologies, which it uses to stay connected with its clients. "With our move from Pasig to Alabang, clients learned to communicate via e-mail. [And] as a company working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., we have to make sure that every move we make has and could equate to exponential growth for the company. No time is wasted — but this could only happen if we replace the physical meetings with virtual transactions via e-mail, the Internet, SMS or cellphone. With just one SMS, clients could already deliver valuable information to finalize an artwork and send it to the production line. [Thus] processes are cut short and results are easily quantified," he said.
The company also launched its own Web site, www.magcon.net, which showcases its work portfolio and contains information about its products. "We have local and foreign clients alike. Most of the clients who inquire from our Web site would have jobs done for their multimedia requirements such as Web sites and flash animation presentations," he said.
CARING FOR CLIENTS
Magcon’s clients range from individuals looking to have their business card customized to corporations asking for the whole print-multimedia package. The majority, however, are small and medium enterprises.
Their services, which consist of graphic design and layout, are priced from P2,500 to P150,000 for print, and P15,000 to P80,000 for multimedia projects. The firm is also set to expand its service menu to creative event planning and management, collaborating with events specialists for in-mall and traditional projects.
Given the rapid change in graphic design techniques, the ability to evolve and innovate, said Mr. Maglipon, is crucial in every stage of the business. "Further studies, exposure to different art styles, and being in the look out for trends would elevate the level of your work." Magcon’s team is encouraged to research online and read books, and to take additional short course lectures in design and client management. "In this digital age, minor tweaks in your artwork could already be a new material," he added.
At present, Mr. Maglipon acts as the firm’s graphic director, while his wife Cathy is in charge of the firm’s day-to-day operations, handling quotations, payroll, accounting, supplier transactions and deliveries.
Ten years after he opened shop, Mr. Maglipon retains the same faith in the design field that he had on day one. "Long hours due to unforeseen delays, overtime, and client demands could lead to disturbances to anyone’s balance. But if your passion for your work could overcome these trials, then you will certainly rise above them and provide a service worth appreciating," he said.
Magcon Graphic Design is located at Unit 3C, Unioil Bldg. Acacia cor. Commerce Ave. Madrigal Business Park Alabang, Muntinlupa City. For details and inquiries, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.magcon.net.
Raul L. Locsin Building I
95 Balete Drive Extension,
New Manila, Quezon City,
Extensions: 706, 709-711
Direct Line: (632)535-9923
Fax No.: (632)535-9925
Email: New Media Group