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  1. I'm planning an exploratory pre-retirement to Cebu and am exploring the possibility of hiring a tour guide to guide me through the process of checking out rental buildings and neighborhoods and to generally learn about living and getting by in Cebu. I suppose that, early in my trip, it would also be beneficial to get help with the transit systems of the region. The guide could be for a few hours, a day, or several days, should I choose to have a guide accompany me to a series of cities and/or islands. I'm posting to get recommendations for how best to approach the process of choosing and hiring a guide of this type. If recommendations for specific guides aren't possible on this board, perhaps people could direct me to web sites where I could search for myself. Thanks in advance.
  2. So here is the deal. I have read many posts here about starting a business. I can tell many are just spreading things they have heard and at best own a sari-sari. There has been some good advice but it gets lost sometimes in the crowd. I have decided to write this starters guide to mainly deal with the big problem issues. The information contained below is based on my own substantial experience here which I am sure is different then others. I hope it is beneficial, now lets get started. The first thing we need to talk about is corruption. It is very real and the higher you go on the food chain the more you will have to deal with it. That does not mean you have to play the game. Corruption takes many forms from a few pesos to “speed up the process” to a guy sitting in your office in Makati telling you since you are a foreigner you would be easy to investigate and get into trouble if you don’t pay the 6 million pesos he wants. Yeah, when you play in the big leagues you get that. However if your planning to open a small business my experience is mostly it is appreciated. It is appreciated so much they will copy you which is the next issue. My advice on corruption is do not pay. Most do it simply to ease the process but once you start it will be ongoing and after a while you will accept it has to be done that way. You know that’s how it is done in the Philippines. Don’t. The second issue is the copy cat. You have found a idea for a small business, like an internet cafe since they don’t have one near where you live or a sarisari because the closest one is 5 km away, and are excited and ready to go. That’s great but know this, if you are going to start a “easy entry business” meaning something anyone can do, the moment you start making money some Filipino is going to copy you probably right next door. My advice is to forget this kind of business and either bring in a new product, create something that is needed but not easy to copy or find some other kind of niche. If you want something to get the wife out of the house so you can look at p*orn all day then okay go for the sari-sari. The third issue is incorporation. Unless you are doing that sari-sari you should incorporate for a whole host of reasons the main being the same as anywhere-to cover your butt. There have been some who have posted how hard it is to do this. That is not true. A lawyer and about PHP 20,000 can get you incorporated. As a foreigner you can only own 40% of the company. If you do not have a wife or partner you trust for the rest then in my opinion there is no reason to set up a business here. The fourth is employees. Nothing will get you into more trouble then this. First, in the Philippines it is very hard to fire someone and labor laws are against you. Second, all employees will need constant management. It is not like in the US when you can hand a task to someone and generally they will do it without much supervision. Your people here are going to tell you they understand when they don’t, promise to do more next time which they won’t and in a general way be pretty non-productive. Yes there are exceptions to this rule but honestly not that much. The best advice I can give is keep an eye on them all the time and if your doing something with the public demand outstanding customer service from day one. The second advice is try and follow all the rules established by DOLE (Department of Labor and Industry) which is not easy. To wrap this beginners guide up there is much to do and learn. It is in many ways no different then opening a business anywhere else once you deal with the things above. The key is to take it seriously and not treat it as a hobby. Business has too many headaches to be a hobby and you are probably going to get in trouble more then losing your money. The positive side is the economy here is doing well, the labor force is cheap and while “you can get anything” in the Philippines the vast majority of business here have terrible customer service and this creates opportunity. So watch the four things above and good luck!
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