By Maureen N. Maratita
The most successful executives in the Pacific region have a clear vision of what they aim to achieve.
Norman Takai Tenorio, 63, is in no doubt of what his responsibilities are, and has had the same strength of purpose throughout his life.
His convictions come from an upbringing that was focused on preparing for his part in the family business.
“I remember as a high school student about to venture into college, I wanted to enrich myself so I could play a role in the growth of Joeten,” he says.
Tenorio graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., with a 1974 bachelor’s in business administration, later adding to his qualifications by becoming a member of the National College of Appraisal and Property Management in 1992 and a certified heavy truck specialist in 1997.
He learned early the personal satisfaction of a job well done.
“As a child, literally raised on the second floor of our mom-and-pop store in Chalan Kanoa, I was expected to do just about everything. Every day I’d help sweep the floor, stock merchandise, run the register … you name it, I did it.
“But the first job I fondly remember was pumping gas and repairing flat tires at our humble service station.
“It was the first time I had worked independently of my parents [the late Jose C. Tenorio and the late Soledad T. Tenorio] without anyone looking over my shoulder. And although it does not seem like a big deal now, it truly was the first time I truly felt empowered, and that stuck with me,” he says.
That empowerment led Tenorio to take on numerous responsibilities for the group and its affiliates, but he also credits his drive to those early humble jobs, which included the title of janitor.
“That kind of work really gives you a sense of ambition,” he says.
Tenorio holds the title of managing director of Joeten Enterprises Inc., which incorporates Joeten Motor Co.; J.C. Tenorio Enterprises, the supermarket and department store arm of Joeten that also holds real estate investments; Joeten Ace Hardware; Joeten Development Inc., which does business as Joeten Superstore, a wholesale club store; Marianas Management Corp., which does business as commercial real estate complexes; Construction Material & Supply Inc.; Joeten Wholesale; and various retail franchises, such as The Athlete’s Foot and Napa Auto Parts.
Tenorio is also CEO and president of Pacifica Insurance Underwriters Inc., the general insurance agency that is the general agent of Tokio Marine Pacific Insurance Ltd., general agent of Century Insurance Group, Aetna Life and Casualty, and Pacific Guardian Life Insurance.
Atty. Edward S. Terlaje has known Tenorio since he was a young man. Terlaje says, “In recognition of his business acumen and contributions to the growth of the insurance company and to Joeten Enterprises Inc., Norman was elected president of Pacifica Insurance decades ago and has consistently won the support and approval of the board to continue to serve uninterrupted in that position until the present time.
“Norman later joined Nanbo Guam Ltd. … as a member of the board of directors and was elected president of the firm for several terms. I was privileged to serve as a member of the board under Norman’s administration. During his presidency, the corporation experienced significant growth and profitability as a result of his leadership and devotion to the company. With his knowledge of insurance and his consistent performance, Norman gained the trust of each board member and fully engaged the professionalism of the Nanbo employees towards record success. Both Pacifica Insurance and Nanbo Guam Ltd. are now leaders in the insurance business.
Norman, like Joeten, gained the respect and confidence of Japan insurance and other [members of that] global industry and we have seen firsthand the benefit to Guam and the Northern Marianas of his expertise, his attention to custom and detail, and his entrepreneurial courage and tenacity.”
Peter P. “Sonny” Ada, president of Ada’s Trust & Investment Inc., says he learned about the Joeten and Ada family relationship in his teens. “It was and is a trusted business relationship and a genuine friendship. I am fortunate to continue this relationship primarily through Norman. I have served on the Nanbo Guam Ltd. and Pacifica Insurance board of directors with Norman for 15 years. I have come to know him as an astute businessman and a gentleman.
“He runs a successful business and is an active and contributing board member. One thing I really admire about him is he cares for company employees just as much as he cares for company profits and shareholder interests.”
Shirley T. Sablan is the executive vice president and general manager of Pacifica. She says, “Having worked alongside Norman, I can attest he’s well-grounded, well-rounded and different from other business executives.
“Norman takes that extra leap of faith if he believes in a business venture. He’s a rare breed of businessman. Norman is a professional who leads by example,” she says.
Through the years, Tenorio has consistently added to his workload.
He has been president of Tropical Instant Press Inc. since 1990, a member of the board of Nanbo Guam Ltd., which does business as Nanbo Insurance Underwriters since 1995, president of Saipan Stevedore since 2009, and secretary/treasurer of Saipan Shipping Co. since 2009.
Most recently he joined the board of Guahan Insurance Services in 2013 and that year also became president of Advance Carrier, which is the dealer for Carrier and Toshiba brand air conditioners.
Life at the top of the business world, Tenorio says, is tremendously challenging. “If we believe that success comes to those who take calculated risks, we also cannot be afraid to fail either, but every failure should come with a lesson that should never be repeated.”
Doing business in the Northern Mariana Islands in recent years has indeed had its challenges with the end of the garment industry, the withdrawal of Japan Airlines in 2005 and a shrinking of population among the blows that affected the group, as the NMI entered economic downturn.
But through these years, the Joeten businesses not only kept their doors open when many closed, but took the calculated risk to continue to upgrade and expand. Joeten’s Kagman store opened on May 15, 2009, and Ace Hardware opened in Tinian on Nov. 13, 2013.
He says of his children, “No job is beneath them. Regardless of their education level, I’ve found it so important that they learn about the company from the bottom up.”
His sense of purpose encompasses ensuring that the companies and group executives lead the way in good corporate citizenship.
“When you are successful, never forget who put you there. At the end of the day, it will be your employees and customers who drive your company, so treat them well and be fair,” he says.
That sense of gratitude has not only kept Joeten employees with the group for decades, but has ensured that the NMI benefit from Joeten’s continued success and prominence. Tenorio says, “My father once told me that business success would not be possible without the support of our community; therefore, do not forget to acknowledge their support by giving back. Those words remain near and dear to me.
“Today, companies that I hold leadership roles in place high importance on goodwill. Companies I led and continue to lead have contributed to various charitable efforts throughout the many years of our existence. Some of these include fundraising efforts that would benefit sports, music, arts, health, research and development and religious faiths.”
Tenorio is a trustee of the Joeten DaiDai Foundation, which has donated more than $1 million each to the Joeten Kiyu Library and the Joeten Dai Dai Social Hall, as well as supporting such major sponsorships as those of the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, the American Red Cross, the Saipan Fishing Association, the Commonwealth Cancer Association, the Next Top Chef, the Tournament of Champions, the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association, the Tagaman Marathon, the Basketball Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Hyatt Golf Classic and Empty Vessel, the Docomo Golf Classic, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce Steven Brownstein Golf Tournament.
Outside of the foundation, he says the companies entertain hundreds of solicitations for financial assistance every year.
“No other company in the CNMI is as generous as ours. Even during the most difficult economic times, we would always find ways to give back in whatever capacity we could.”
Tenorio takes satisfaction from being able to help, he says.
“There were many contributions, especially during the early stages of business I played leadership roles in that were never publicized,” he says. “I did not yearn for publicity. The impact I made on people and the smiles on their faces satisfied my every act of kindness.”
Tenorio has also held a number of community titles, among them serving as a senator in the Northern Mariana Islands Legislature, member of the Governor’s Economic Development Task Force, member of the Northern Marianas Insurance Association, founding member and chairman of the Commonwealth Telecommunication Commission, treasurer of the Marianas Public Lands Trust, member of the Rotary Club of Saipan, member of the board of the Marianas islands Housing Authority, representative to the International Game Fish Association, member of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council and president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and vice president of the Saipan Sports Fishermen’s Association.
Terlaje says, “Norman served on various boards and commissions in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and, through his leadership, the Northern Marianas experienced growth and economic momentum. I am confident that Norman’s love for Saipan and the Marianas, his broad interests and his charisma were admired by the others who worked with him on government boards and those who he served.
“In addition to his duties and obligations in business, Norman is an active member of the Republican Party of the CNMI. He was instrumental in the enactment of tort reform legislation in the Northern Marianas. He has led his companies to be leading contributors to the community and shares his father’s desire for higher education of the students in the Northern Marianas. In that spirit he co-founded the Joeten DaiDai Foundation Annual Golf Tournament held in Saipan to raise funds for scholarships to deserving students,” Terlaje says.
“Norman exemplifies the savvy, courage and compassion of a Marianas businessman.”
While he is a dedicated businessman and community supporter, Tenorio also has two other loves — his family and sport.
“I have learned throughout the years that we need to balance our personal and professional lives,” he says. “If I can accomplish a satisfactory amount of time in the business and still please my family — that is all that matters.”
His immediate family is comprised of his wife, Keli Aiken Tenorio, and his children, Norman Peter A. Tenorio, Soledad A. Tenorio, Jose A. Tenorio, Ana A. Tenorio and Elizabeth A. Tenorio, and he has five grandchildren.
Tenorio also carves out time to enjoy the offerings of the islands and the Pacific environment. He is an avid golfer and boater.
Terlaje says, “Norman is an avid sportsman. His best sport is golf, and I truly enjoyed his entertaining companionship, his liveliness, his humor and his shared insights while playing at golf courses in Saipan, Guam and Japan. Norman is also an avid fisherman and a strong supporter of fishermen’s cooperatives serving local fishermen and boosting local industry and participates in fishing derbies in Guam and Saipan.”
“I have been out in the ocean many times and have navigated the waters of the Pacific,” Tenorio says, and indeed has traveled the Pacific Ocean to the Northern reaches of the NMI.
Tenorio says, “The outdoors is the best playground for humankind. If I could spend my days outdoors every day, life would be grand. With limited time on my hands, however, I try to dedicate at least four hours each week to enjoy two of my favorite sports: golf and deep sea fishing.”