John Gokongwei Jr. has a net worth of 3.4 billion dollars according to Forbes as of July 2013. He is a Filipino Chinese businessman with interests in telecommunications, retailing, manufacturing, petrochemicals, power generation, livestock farming, financial services and aviation. He’s the one responsible for the establishment of Digitel, Sun Cellular, Universal Robina Corporation, Robinsons Mall, Robinsons Land, Cebu Pacific, and other companies in different industries.

Gokongwei started at 14 in the business of buy and sell. He used his bicycle for delivery and sold textiles and soap. Now, he owns and controls several different companies that deliver goods and services to millions of people. Many people want to know what’s behind the success of Gokongwei and what he did when he was a teenager onwards. Let’s explore his younger years and gain some insights about why he became a success:

He suffered a great loss at age 13

His father died when he was 13. In addition, he lost the things he enjoyed before. They were wealthy before his father died. Along with the lost of his father, their family also lost the big house, the movie houses and the cars. What did he do then? He was the eldest of six children and he had to work to support the family. He woke up every day at 5am and used his bicycle to buy and sell goods at the market. He was making 20 pesos in profit each day and that was enough to feed the family and put something back to grow the business. It was the foundation of his huge businesses today. After his father died, he didn’t retire in misery and accept his fate. He decided to work and support his family. Even when he was very young, he recognized that he should do something.

He’s not afraid to venture out and travel even as a teenager

At age 17 and 18, he started trading goods between Cebu and Manila. That’s about 565 kilometers. He sold tires and other goods to Cebu by traveling more than five days. He was so young back then and he still managed to do well in business. During those travels, he spotted other opportunities and goods to sell. Travel is a good way to refresh the mind and spot other opportunities. He did that with C2, the bottled ice tea. When he was in China back in 2003, he noticed the popularity of bottled ice tea. He spotted an opportunity when he was away and he brought it home for others to see.

Gokongwei saw opportunities and pursued them despite of obstacles

Sun Cellular was very late in the telecommunications industry. But it didn’t stop him from establishing the third player in the industry and thereby introducing several promos such as unlimited texts and calls for a flat rate. He literally changed the marketplace and provided value to millions of Filipinos. He provided more choices to subscribers and changed the face of the telecommunications industry.

He also did that with Cebu Pacific. Filipinos used to travel by sea or land (which have much longer travel periods) because travel by plane was not cheap. Now, average Filipinos can now afford to travel by plane and reach far away destinations. He started offering the basics without other things that drive up the cost. He again changed the marketplace and helped more Filipinos to see more of the country and the world.