BUSINESSMAN OF THE YEAR Workin’ Joe: An unlikely beginning

Posted on Feb 08 1999

If he is not sweeping the floor, he is cooking french fries.

As owner of McDonald’s fast food chain, Joe Ayuyu always want to make sure that everything in his store is done right — from cleaning to cooking.

“He is strict when it comes to following procedures because we are in the food business. He does not like people who are always absent and late in coming to work,” said food attendant Sammy who has been with the store for six years now.

Hard work and discipline are the two values which his father instilled in him, thus, it is no wonder if Ayuyu expects that from his employees.

Opening his own business was a dream that Ayuyu has held since he was young. When he established McDonald’s in March 1993, everything did not come easy for Joe since it was a product of years of hard work.

It was not an easy climb to success for Ayuyu who worked as a baggage boy and butcher for Joeten Supermarket at a young age earning only 35 cents an hour. During summer, he would work in the court earning a dollar an hour to help augment the family income.

In government, Ayuyu held the post as Secretary of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor and Immigration. In the private sector, he began as loan officer, then operations manager before he was later on appointed as general manager of Bank of Guam where he stayed for five years. During the boom years in tourism in the CNMI, he was with Hakubotan DFS for five years as general manager and vice president.

Aside from hard work, Ayuyu said he wants his children to learn the meaning of work ethics. Whenever he finds time, he brings his kids to the store so that they can see how their father works.

With his background in government service and private sector, Ayuyu was voted chamber president in 1998. Since then, he has become the voice of the business sector. He was voted 1998 Businessman of the Year by his peers in the Chamber.

Amid criticisms by the federal government on the influx of foreign workers in the Northern Marianas, Ayuyu has maintained that businesses on the island will not survive without them due to the local labor pool.

Aside from this, he believes that the local residents still have to undergo training before they can be left own. He is not one who is ashamed to admit that as long as the locals will not change their attitude towards work, the CNMI will always be dependent on foreign workers.

“The problem here will not be solved by limiting the stay of foreign workers. The problem is making sure that the local workers wills stay on the job when they are hired,” he said.

For someone who spent $70,000 of his own money to train locals when he was starting McDonald’s, Ayuyu knows where he speaks of. Of the 14 locals he sent to Guam for training, only one stayed behind.

“There is no reason why companies would not hire them if they are willing to stay long. I will give you my time to train you if you promise to stay with me. Otherwise, how can I recoup my investment in training,” he said.

To those who are starting to look for jobs, Ayuyu has one piece of advice: Learn to appreciate the positions available even if it means working as a janitor.

As his three children as growing up, Ayuyu’s main concern is for them to learn the value of hard work and money. “I want them to see that they have to work for something because nothing is free in this world. You have to work for it,” said Ayuyu.

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