As a CEO navigating the business of convenience, there is a distilled defiance, quiet confidence, and pervading sense of calm in Ben Wintle that essays his method to the industry madness.
“I am disciplined. I am focused. I am healthy.” Confidently written in a journal entry one Thursday morning last March, these self-affirmations were much-needed pick-me-ups for a then troubled Ben Wintle. And why wouldn’t he need all the positive reinforcement he can muster during that time–his wife, Iza, was about to be admitted into a hospital; his phone was buzzing with messages of concern from friends and family; his company, Booky, was carefully navigating around the shifting food and beverage industry. But amid the emerging trials and tribulations from all aspects of his life, Ben manages to achieve a state of mental clarity all throughout.
Honestly speaking, it’s rather surprising for a man like Ben to be able to keep a headspace free from the constant internal oohs and ahhs. Being primarily solution-oriented in actions, one would expect his thoughts and imagination to be flaring up with situationers and what-ifs. But this notion could not be further from the truth. “My mind is generally relaxed and free-flowing. I think a relaxed mind is actually a prerequisite for the best creative ideas,” explains Ben Wintle. I shouldn’t be surprised–his effortlessly dashing appeal, not to mention his suave tone, makes this very apparent.
However, in a stroke of irony, Ben’s most successful business venture was conceived from unrest. In fact, it is difficult to recall the frustrations of locating and dining in restaurants seven years ago, not because of the present-day limitations, but because of the technological convenience Booky ushered in. The homegrown app earned its spot in every Filipino’s phones as a digital sourcebook and reservation tool at a time when knowing where to eat and what a restaurant’s menu was had you constantly on the phone–not in your hands but by your ear. Now, Booky comfortably sits at the upper echelon of the food and lifestyle app industry by widening its scope to include beauty, fitness, and other retail services.
But more than this success being a result of the fostered innovation, dedication, and collaboration within the company, this outcome took effect by letting Ben’s mind work for him–forming a habit that energizes positive spirits within, founded on discipline and rigor.
A foundation of discipline
With a systematic approach in business, there’s no wonder Ben’s mind operates like clockwork. That’s automaticity: the notion of acting without thinking that has become a central driver of habits. For Ben, the best habits begin the moment he wakes up in the morning, basking in gratitude and realigning perspectives.
In this state of tranquility, Ben Wintle is at his best. When a great idea reveals itself, he is not one to make hasty decisions or act on mere instinct alone. Unsurprisingly, his approach to putting new ideas into action involves systems and data: “I follow quite a scientific framework of validating [new ideas] over a few steps. The first step may be to consult a domain expert to see if it’s already been done before. The next step is to build a minimum viable product that often can be just a sketch design, which we show to actual users to get feedback.”
This tendency for tenacity Ben Wintle sustains in his expertise was accomplished over a decade of immersing himself in the industry of entrepreneurship, strengthened after experiencing lost opportunities along the way. “When I started out in tech many years ago, I got too excited about an idea and did less customer validation in this way, which led to me wasting a lot of time on concepts that didn’t get traction,” Ben explains. Haste can lead to waste, and these struggles during his early days in conducting start-ups allowed him to begin anew, but this time, more intelligently. His game plan: if you can’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Discipline begins with a mastery of the mind, as Ben humbly discloses: “Growing a tech business requires a combination of structured thinking and creativity, which I think I’ve cultivated relatively well over the past ten years or so.”
The courage to continue
It was evident that in just a handful of years after the launch Booky, Filipinos had less candy swiping, subway surfing, and zombie jumping on their phones, with more deals and discovery platforms residing in their app drawers. Without a doubt, Ben has led this charge for digital innovation in the country’s food and beverage industry. As the adage goes, “Starve your distractions. Feed your focus.”
But in the constantly evolving technopreneurship industry, not everything has been smooth-sailing. “The tech landscape by number of people starting companies has certainly increased over the past ten years, but sadly, the local funding environment has not kept pace,” Ben Wintle shares in a moment of release. Support, whether physical, moral, or financial, will always be a key factor in the success of a budding business. It gives validation and reassurance that the idea is worthwhile. It builds a bridge of camaraderie, linking mutual aspirations. It lends a helping hand to those whose palms begin sweating.
But despite the polarizing voices or the crossed arms, it is vital to not let naysayers stunt your progress. You will never reach your destination if you stop and toss a bone to every barking dog. “When you start on [a project or business], you often won’t know the risks until you test elements of it and get learnings… until you’ve made a start on it,” explains Ben Wintle. “I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial in that I never really conformed well in academics and I always had my own ideas I wanted to try. Thankfully, my upbringing made me relatively self-confident,” he adds. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and even if your foot seems to fall on unstable ground, your desire for success will always overcome your fear of failure.
Sound mind, sound body
Inhale–think of the things you are grateful for. Exhale–set your goals for the day. Along with the self-affirmations opening this story, these categories are the two other inclusions in Ben’s daily morning journal. It’s routinary, which means he has been jotting down thoughts for quite some time now. But as he explains in a self-published article, he has been dabbling into different mindfulness techniques for years now–from a zero-phone policy upon waking up in the morning (which, given the nature of his work, sounds rather counter-intuitive, but is actually essential in keeping mental health in check), to meditative guides that boost focus.
In fact, setting health aside can influence how he manages his team, and in turn, affects his customers. That’s probably why you’ll catch him on the court swinging his tennis racket under the basking heat, or reinvigorating spirits by soaking up nature through short walks or swims. This sense of self-competition and adventure carries into the work environment, as Ben unveils: “Most of the values at Booky [centered on] teamwork and leadership are borrowed from high performance sports teams. Any business is really built on its people, so we’ve always tried to develop a culture where we champion each other and our ideas.”
Strive for progress
Collaboration breeds innovation. Directing a platform that is rooted in establishing partnerships entails trust–not only in the handshake (or elbow-bump) agreements, but also in the venture about to unfold. And with trust comes risk, but when the going gets tough, there will always be a calm and collected Ben Wintle ready to take action. “The new norm is still hard for anyone to define but the roles of the [food, beverage, entertainment, and health] sectors will remain the same. It’s the business models within these sectors that are evolving to effectively meet the changing behaviors of customers. This is creating a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs and the ones that can effectively execute will build great companies,” he explains. This is most evident in the latest innovation that they built, a digital ordering and payment system for F&B businesses, which is their lead product in response to the new reality we are redefining on the daily. Helping their industry partners find their footing in this context, this leg up in the digital transformation is a necessary resuscitation, and with its roll out, Booky can definitely say, they did that.
It’s business unusual for companies reliant on face-to-face operations. But for the unrelenting spirit of Ben, this is just another experience to learn from–to re-evaluate directions and refocus strategies. He has done it before, and he can surely do it again. But when the murmurs of the business start to become audible, and phone buzzes go from minutes to mere seconds in intervals, he can lay back for a moment, take a breather, order his go-to comfort meal from his phone, and carefully plan his next move.