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On the House is a series of casual interviews with Philippine real estate leaders about the stories behind their personas. Lamudi’s very own CEO, Bhavna Suresh hosts the dialogues over a drink or two. Today’s guest is Marco Antonio, President & CEO of Century Properties Group, Inc.

With technology becoming an integral part of globalization and having a massive impact on society, Marco shares how our devices have made the world more connected and have eventually changed perspectives, emphasizing that it is important to learn about other people and cultures in today’s day and age.

“I want to be the best steward of the company I can be.” This is how Marco humbly envisions himself as he took on the highest leadership role in the property giant Century Properties Group. His journey was the perfect story of growing big from starting small. He was with the real estate firm for 22 years, filled in a lot of roles, starting from project director, moving to co-Chief Operating Officer, and now President and CEO.

Asked how he prepared for such a big responsibility, he implied that his being with the company for years gives him an edge. “You try to absorb as much over the years. You have successes. You have failures. You have learnings. Collectively, through years of exposure, you really get the hang of things.”

He added the fact that wearing many hats puts him in several vantage points that allowed him to see the company holistically. 

He noted, “I have several roles when it comes to the company. One is as a professional manager. Two, being also a shareholder of the company, having initially been a private enterprise for many years, in public only in less than the past decade. And also, as an employee in the company. I view the company from different angles, but bottomline, I cared a lot about the company. 

Achieving Long-Term, Short-Term Success

For Marco, success in the real estate industry means not being short-sighted. He shares, “We didn’t just focus on short-term but really trying to build value over time because the company you build, the brand you build, is really what you can parlay into future successes. [It’s] also a testament to how you’ve made the customers happy. And if you do that, you’re hoping for repeat business and hopefully, enlarge the company over time.”

In achieving long-term goals, Marco says, “You have to have your vision set, strategies around that vision, and of course implementation of such business plans to support the strategies. He noted that real estate has longer project gestation periods, in that monitoring short-term key performance indicators, key results areas, and milestones are critical as a springboard for making long-term success a reality. 

Maximizing Diversity in the Team

The key to making success happen, Marco understands, is to have an empowered team who catches and embraces the vision well. For this, Century Properties meshes competent old and young talents. They welcome new blood, the up-and-coming workforce, millennials and Gen Z, as well as seasoned professionals who have been in the industry for years.

He noted, “The dynamism of a young workforce and new blood is the perfect complement to the wisdom older and more experienced managers bring to the table.”

“We’re trying to promote a culture of meritocracy wherein it’s not all about the number of years that you are in the company, but what you can really contribute to the company,” Marco added.

Navigating Through Mistakes

Harping on the idea of growing excellence and wisdom in the field, Marco recognizes the reality of mistakes along the way. He candidly shares, “What is life if not a journey with ups and downs? To expect life to be without mistakes, I think, is a very jaded and ignorant perspective.”

He reiterates what experts often say, “The biggest successes come with the larger failures, which brings out the best in all of us.”

“How you bounce back, how resilient you are, whether professional or personal life, will spell the difference in the long-term.”

With that, Marco welcomes making mistakes in the context of employee management, striking a balance between giving room for second chances and ensuring that errors aren’t a recurring issue.

Asked if parenting has changed the way he approached mistakes in the workplace, he firmly agreed. In a nutshell, it allowed him to break things into simpler matters. “I think, when faced with decisions that are complex in nature or faced with a challenge, I try to center myself first. I try to distill the situation and make a simple decision. If you’re guided by a purpose, by an objective, then at least you can start to break down an issue in what’s more important and what’s less important.”

Exploring Other Industries

If not real estate, where would you be? Marco says due to his father’s influence, with his childhood marked by trips to open houses when spending time with his dad, he’s always been into real estate. But exploring other industries isn’t something completely off the table. He reveals he thinks about it, but still in the context of business. 

“Real estate right now is cross-pollinating with other industries,” he said. “I always go back and see how my interest in other fields could potentially be imported into your business and how we could make things better.” And indeed, they’re able to produce award-winning products for consumers with their commitment to this kind of innovation.

Show Notes with Time Stamps

  • [0:32] On the question Marco’s sick and tired of talking about: “The question I’m most asked about frequently, but I’m not tired of answering, is how I’m really approaching my new role and responsibility as President and CEO of Century Properties Group.”
  • [1:43] Preparing for a huge responsibility, having big shoes to fill
  • [3:09] Taking different roles in the company
  • [3:36] Building a good brand and providing value to consumers
  • [4:21] Accomplishing long-term goals by ticking off short-term milestones
  • [5:29] Maximizing the power of the young and old in the workforce
  • [6:13] Using qualitative and quantitative approach in trying to get the younger talents
  • [6:54] On accepting the reality of mistakes: “What is life if not a journey with ups and downs?”
  • [7:48] On dealing with the mistakes of employees: “How we approach mistakes is how we approach risks.”
  • [8:15] On committing mistakes that are unavoidable: “Maybe you could give that person a second chance, but of course, you won’t accept this when it’s a recurring issue.”
  • [8:55] On approaching mistakes as a father: “It’s harder to parent than it is to lead a company.”
  • [9:13] On parenting two kids: “What would have been a big mistake with the first one, with the second one, you’re a little bit more relaxed with everything. I try not to be a type A parent.”
  • [9:35] On pointing out mistakes of kids: “I try to do parenting through conversation […] You give [children] a time out, try to be clear beforehand what the rules are, what incentives when you give when there are rewards, but also punishments when they do certain things.”
  • [11:03] Parenting teaching a thing or two about decision-making
  • [11:50] Considering other industries outside real estate
  • [13:39] On traveling habits: “Travel is always inspiring […] Whenever I do travel outside of work, even if it’s for a personal trip, I try to squeeze in visiting a landmark or a new project in the city, because it is my interest. Not necessarily because it’s my job.”
  • [13:53] On traveling as a learning experience:  “I’m lucky that my job is also my personal passion. And so whether or not seeing cities that are older or are newer, you can always take a learning from that and it’s always enjoyable.”
  • [14:31] On traveling as an agent for opening up perspectives: “Travel removes one way of thinking because we’re all born into different cities, into different religions. There’s no right or wrong, just different.”
  • [16:28] On technology’s positive and negative effects: “For our children, they have exposure to technology through school, but at home, we try to limit their use of it.”
  • [17:16] On technology’s role in the workplace: “At the end of the day, technology will probably provide a level-playing field for others so it’s up to the company to build the best product physically and provide the best service.”
  • [18:00] On technology seeping into the real estate industry: “Maybe at different paces, but I think, over the years and so much more, it’s going to continue to permeate our industry […] Ultimately, beyond technology, there will still be the ultimate product, which is the final real estate you can hold.”
  • [18:41] On describing the dream home: “Ultimately, what everybody looks for, it’s really overused but they’re looking for a lot of value.”
  • [20:01] On younger buyers buying a piece of real estate to pass on to generations: “While they’re going to use it, they still want to make a smart investment.”
  • [21:40] On changing design: “For the Philippines, which is very sensitive to buyers’ affordability, there have been changes that have caused real estate to get smaller and smaller […] Developers try to find a sweet spot where we can deliver the most value for affordability.”
  • [23:00] On Marco’s one-word description of himself: “Happy.”

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