I recently had the opportunity to go on a trip with Overland King’s Chief Adventure Officer, Joel Pedro, to their Overland Kings Camp Out event. Here, I got to sit down and talk to him about how the event started.
The OK Campout, as they call it, was a culmination of the group’s desire to share the experience of overland glamping. And sharing the experience really was key to not just the start of this event, but the company as a whole.
You see, Joel and his family started traveling the Philippines way before all this gear was available. Banaue, Sagada—all kinds of road trips. And this love for land travel plus great gear was what triggered their imagination, and eventually led to overland glamping.
And the OK Campout was made to be ground zero for anyone else who wanted to start a similar journey, showcase all their gear, and have fun in this shared lifestyle. A chance to hang out with good friends, and good family, and share good vibes with everybody. And a lot of the guys we saw in this event were actually leaders and businessmen in their own right.
That was the beauty of overland camping, that you could be at the top of your field, but when it comes to this type of event, everybody’s unbuckled, but still open to networking and sharing value.
This eventually got us talking about leadership.
Now, Joel isn’t just the COA of Overland Kings—someone who often goes on these kinds of trips with his family and his employees—but also the COO of Lamoiyan, a big corporation with some pretty familiar names under their belt, like Hapee Toothpaste and Dazz. So you can imagine how many people he’s got to manage on a day-to-day basis.
So I asked. I said, “How do you lead and manage these people in a way that they see that, oh, this guy is a big boss and yet I get to go out with him, set up his tent, help other people set up theirs. How do you lead?”
And Joel replied that leadership, in general, is a very hard question to answer. But he did have some rules that he followed.
Number one was sticking to hiring people that know what they’re doing. At the very least, if they weren’t 100% sure about how to do things, then their attitude should at least be correct.
Why? Because the worst kind of person you could have on your team is someone whose character you can’t vouch for. With this kind of person, you might end up doubting them all the time.
In his opinion, it was better to deal with employees that you know are, 100%, not going to try and get one over you, despite them being a little less competent than the other candidate. With them, at least, you can still train them and bring them up to the competency you’re looking for.
And you simply cannot teach someone to have good morals or character.
But, how do you do a thorough background check on your people to know their character?
The answer, for Joel, was simple—and was his second rule. His people didn’t have to earn his trust. They all would start with 100% of it. And it was up to them whether their actions could maintain that level of trust, or it would be reduced over time (and poor decisions).
So if one of his people reached a point where he couldn’t trust them anymore, it was time to part ways. And he tells this rule to everyone he hires, on day one.
This is because it is very hard to hire people and let them try to win you over every time. And it also brings up the question of, how much they need to do, for them to win you over—for you to give your trust in the first place.
And in the first place, why would he hire someone who couldn’t do the basic things expected of the position he hired them for? So really, the question in his mind is how good these people were in fulfilling their roles, while also safeguarding the trust he put into them.
The third rule was positive reinforcement. He shared, candidly, that he had people on his team that he didn’t think he deserved—just based on how far they were willing to go for the team’s sake.
Just days before this event, in fact, he had been panicking over the planning and logistics of it all. And one of his people called him up and said, hey, just show up, we’ve got you covered.
And sure enough, when he showed up, everything about the event was done well. And isn’t the best outcome you want to have with your team?
But to be able to get to that level with your team, you have to empower them.
A lot of leaders make the mistake of suffocating their people by micromanaging when they don’t need to be. Now, this doesn’t mean you go all the way to not managing at all. Instead, learn how to watch the situation while it unfolds, and when the best time for you to step in would be.
If someone makes a mistake, this might be a sign that you need to shorten the rope, so to speak. Otherwise, you need to positively reinforce them and gradually give them more fulfilling, more empowering work as they grow under you.
The next thing is knowing how to give them a vision. This means communicating that, while they might be in this certain position now, you have a plan for them to grow in different ways while they’re with you, and that they also have several options that you can help them with if they have a career path in mind.
That, he said, takes time. You can’t get that kind of relationship with someone on day one.
But that’s what events like these were for. It allowed his team to see him in his element, and vice versa. Events like these were a great way to see their character and their personalities outside of the office.
That’s not to say that you need to judge them during these times, but rather, give them an opportunity to relax and show different sides of themselves. And the more you know about your people, the easier it is to work for them and understand what it is they want in their work life. If you know their backgrounds, and what’s happening in their lives too, then you know where they’re coming from.
And as I said, this goes both ways. Your team also has a chance to see what’s going on with you. They see your family, they see who you are here in a relaxed environment.
So it’s a win-win situation if you’re able to bring them out of their shells, which is why he prefers this style of leadership.
What about the company? How does one decide the vision for their business? For him and Overland Kings, it was simple: becoming the best overland shop in the Philippines.
And that meant putting a lot of effort into providing top-notch service. While it’s normal for products like their overlanding gear to be faulty at times, or to break down. But when it does happen, they need to give the best after-sales service possible, no matter what.
Because once you compare your shop with competitors, the customer service is where you can truly see which ones are good, and which ones are bad.
Good shops can make mistakes, but they know exactly how to provide stellar customer service, and how to take care of the customers.
The bad shops, on the other hand, are those that focus purely on the transactional part of the business. They give you that feeling that, once you buy from them, your relationship with them is over. That all they want is profit. That’s the worst feeling you could ever give a customer.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting profit, it’s more about focusing on creating the kind of value your customers expect from the quote-unquote, best overlanding shop in the Philippines. That their transaction with you, and the experience they receive, provide value to them. And once you do, these customers will continue giving you their business, because they can rely on you to deliver that value.
Deliver the value. People will pay for it.
That’s what a lot of entrepreneurs really need to get into their heads, once they deliver the value, their business will grow.
Last, I asked about his outlook for the year. And he said that we should be optimistically cautious because interest rates are going up. Don’t overspend—if you’re looking at the price tag of something and think, “I can’t afford this,” then don’t invest in it. But, you still have to invest in marketing.
But, the businesses who are thriving now, know what they’re worth to their customers. So if they’re able to deliver that, then your business will do fine—despite the looming US recession.