As a young girl growing up in an underprivileged family in Bacoor, Cavite during the 80s, Mary Christinne B. Leano, fondly called “Matin”, admits she knows exactly how to paint a complete picture of poverty. It would mean days of hunger, she says long days of hunger, in fact-that will eventually lead to sicknesses and, if she or her siblings are more unlucky, culminate in despair. But who would have thought that a mere high school graduate would in one day take the leadership in one of the fastest growing financial distribution companies in the world? While everyone remained clueless, Matin had a fairly clear answer.
Armed with a soldier’s heart and a powerfully-built support system that she draws from her family, Matin knew there would come one fateful day when everything would eventually fall into place. And true indeed, the day came. And it came in a package Matin least expected. “I’d usually go melodramatic everytime I remember my childhood days,” recalls Matin before finally shedding the first teardrop. “You know how hard that feeling when you see your childhood friends growing up well-fed, well-clothed, having fancy stuffs and it just makes you think life is unfair.” “Mind you, I know all the nooks and crannies of an impoverished life. It’s hard, simply hard,” she barks. “My father was a jeepney driver, my mother a plain housewife. Seeing the hard life, my mother one day decided to work in Kuwait, to the chagrin of my father. Mother went overseas anyway, and it was a hostile life since then. Our father did not care for us; the family broke. We had to do sacrifices. At 16, I felt the need to work after graduating high school. One year later, our father’s passing sent mother home, and we’re back to the hard life.”
So what then keeps Matin going in life, aside from the normal cheering she gets from close friends and relatives? Well, apart from the energy she receives from Malvin, who is the love of her life, she takes inspiration from her most favorite quote from Bill Gates: “If you are born poor, it’s not your mistake. But if you are born poor and do nothing about it, that’s your mistake.” Matin, of course, is the unrelenting kind and did not intend to die poor nor want to be held responsible for some kind of mistake she could have largely veered away from in the first place. Moreover, coming from a life that bit the dust, she never wanted to let her children experience the same hardships she went through on account of financial deficiency. Time was good, Matin and Malvin one day found themselves working as manufacturing operators in a leading semicon company in the Philippines, but due to the global financial crisis in 2009, the company had to move to Vietnam, forcing them to retire early. The company gave them a good retirement package which they used to pay off their housing loan and invested the rest in a special time deposit that gives 2.5 percent per annum. Insert some sense of frugality somewhere, and the young couple were left with some decent amount enough to start off a little internet café business later. But even as they had the reserves upon retirement, Matin shares how the middle class mindset swallowed them up whole while they worked. “We were literally living payday to payday. You find yourself squandering your money because you know there’s another payday coming. There are even times when you will end up in a deficit after payday, owing to your payables.”
The biggest blessing came in 2010 when they attended the “Marriage Encounter” in La Salette, Silang, Cavite where they met Bro Benj and Sis Fely Santiago, now their mentors, who first invited them to IMG’s financial literacy seminar in Dasmariñas. From managing finances to increasing income, and from getting out of debts to investing safely and correctly, the seminar gave them the knowledge on how to be more financially steady. So they signed up for IMG
International on March 10,2010 and everything they have in life today-the tangibles and the intangibles brought about by those tangibles-came springing as a result of that big moment that led them to their new found fortune. “We never had any reservation to join IMG because why would you turn down an offer that would help you learn how to handle your money and investments more wisely, right? I mean, that’s just absurd,” Matin quips. “Honestly, as partners, we knew how to set aside at least a little savings, but we didn’t know we could get this much more financial freedom until we entered the IMG family.” The first fruit of their labor came in December 2011 when they got promoted as marketing directors, officially receiving the award at the Hong Kong convention a month after. God is so good: her dream that time was to travel only to Baguio, but for some unexpected twist of events, the venue changed to Hong Kong. And then she went to Singapore. And then Macau. And then Taiwan. Finally, her greatest achievement at IMG was to travel in an all-expense paid trip to the US for nine days, together with other great leaders in the world. Having traveled to other parts of the globe enabled Matin to appreciate the bigness of the
“Better start early. Have the entrepreneurial spirit; nobody gets rich by being employed.” The 35-year-old self-confessed risk-taker then defines success as “achieving your dream of being truly rich, but also helping other people become rich themselves.”
IMG universe. Plus, sometime along those travels, they received their double promotion as senior marketing director and national marketing director and the couple couldn’t say a word except that God is amazing.
Fast forward to April 4, 2013, one day before the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary, and just when they thought they had all the good things in life already, little did they know the best was yet coming. Matin was elevated to the position of chief executive officer (CEO)-marketing director on that day, rising into that platform in a span of what-only three years. Yet Matin and Malvin willfully confess that they did not reach their positions alone
but with the help of what they call the “truly rich makers team”: Doc Jaime, Doc Dada, Raymund, Sir Noel, Sir Joen, especially Ma’am Shirley and many more unmentioned heroes. Now they have seven direct marketing directors, 52nd generation and 13th generation marketing directors.
In IMG, they learned to dream big dreams; from nobody, they became somebody and each of them really wants to be a servant and a humble leader. In a matter of three, short years, Matin’s income dramatically increased from four digits to six digits. She now earns an average of P100,000 a month, some five times higher than how much she used to earn while working. And not only is she grossing a six-digit income, she’s also able to keep faithful to her promise not to let her kids experience the same hard life like she had back in childhood.One may call it luck and others may call it once in a blue moon, but Matin names it passion. “My husband and I are very passionate to share the mission of IMG. We love what we do and if you love what you’re doing, everything else follows,” she enlightens. She then shares one particular experience when they had to travel seven hours to conduct a financial literacy seminar in Lopez, Quezon Province. They arrived at the venue feeling cold as wet chicks only to find out the seminar was canceled because of heavy rains. “We felt frustrated,” says Matin, “we sacrificed our money, effort and time that could’ve been more meaningfully spent with our kids, but because we love what we’re doing, then we continue to share our mission.” In another instance in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, everything had already been arranged for another seminar, yet only three guests came. Still, the seminar pushed through with no holds barred on their part.
“Honestly, as partners, we knew how to set aside at least a little savings, but we didn’t know we could get this much more financial freedom until we entered the IMG family.”
Aside from being passionate, Matin says it’s likewise imperative to maintain the attitude of perseverance, humility and “being coachable”. She says the more people you talk to and share the concept, the more chances it will be to meet the next superstar. All it takes, she assures, is not to quit. When you’re already on top, you should keep your feet on the ground. And most of all, she believes learning shouldn’t end at promotion. “We are students of life, of the system and of the business; we need a mentor to follow while there’s so much to learn.” After going through months and years with IMG, Matin and Malvin have learned a lot of new things. They run the system, enjoy the system and focus on the mission to serve more people. “Before you become a teacher, you must be a good student,” Matin says. “Attend meetings. The most important meeting is the meeting you missed. Also attend big events; we are the product of conventions and we did not miss any IMG convention.” “We do monitor our business. We set a goal and act on it, check our daily, weekly and monthly activities. The most important thing is we don’t compare ourselves with others. Work as a team and fight to win- teamwork gives you more strength and courage to win. When the team wins, you also win. You need to open up and work with others because an isolated team will be suffocated with boredom and have no momentum,” Matin explains.
Matin goes to say that IMG is the sort of business that has no excuses-whether there’s a guest or not, whether the appointment materializes or gets canceled, they need to report to the office. Asked what kind of management style she employs, she responds “consultative”, saying in every decision they make, they check with the team, ask for suggestions and discuss them with the members. “I talk to them directly when I feel they have concerns and issues,” she speaks about dealing with conflicts within her staff, “but I always make sure that the conversation remains friendly and casual, not intimidating.” But more than just constantly communicating with the team, Matin motivates her people to focus on the mission and face their fears. She reminds them to stay optimistic and persistent in achieving their target. They go to the meeting at least two times a week and make sure that they hit their 4S-schedule, system, structure and strategy. And what if there was an emergency and Matin had to be away from the company for, say 30 days, do they have strong leaders who could guide the ship in her absence? “Definitely,” she says, “that’s what we also do-train our people to be leaders.”
Today, IMG Makati occupies about one-third of the third floor of Kings Court Building 1 while an expansion on the drawing board will fully materialize this month as they now move and take up the ninth floor of the same building. Matin also takes pride in saying that additional big companies in financial services industry are joining the IMG league very soon. In her capacity as a CEO, Matin eyes to coach and produce hundreds of marketing directors in the Philippines and the world over.
“Some people will like you, some won’t. Always remember that you do it for love and with purpose,” she says. She asserts she couldn’t have reached the position without the help of her supportive husband, attributing him as her best partner at IMG and sharing her success with him because they have the same goal, the same mindset. Malvin’s perseverance is in itself a key strength, his “never give up” attitude fires up the entire team. She also thanks God for the opportunity to be part of IMG and her mentors, Bro Benj and Sis Fely, for their guidance in her journey towards being a CEO.
For a woman who only wished her future family wouldn’t experience the same fate as her, Matin has indeed walked a thousand miles. And to all those who want to follow in her footsteps, she has one thing to say: “Better start early. Have the entrepreneurial spirit; nobody gets rich by being employed.” The 35-year-old self-confessed risk-taker then defines success as “achieving your dream of being truly rich, but also helping other people become rich themselves.” And should you fail? No worries, she has a pick-up line as a saving grace: “Don’t quit!” [“Bakit?”] “Mahulog na silang lahat, ‘wag lang ikaw ang mahuhulog.”