Girl power rules in this male-dominated sector
It’s a breath of fresh air to see a woman at the helm of a company in a male-dominated industry.
Fatima Olivares-Vital had boldly brushed gender and age issues aside when she took on the challenge of heading her family’s real estate company, Ovialand Inc., which was put up about three years ago.
The business unit head of Ovialand was banking then on the expertise she had gained over the years when she was still helping her father run the business—the Malate Construction and Development Corp. (MCDC), which had close to three decades of experience in housing development.
MCDC is the parent firm of Ovialand.
“I worked for MCDC for almost nine years. From the day I graduated, I immediately started working for my dad and that was the time when sales were going slow as many competitors were rising. My dad asked me to do everything that I could to start boosting our sales,” Olivares-Vital recalls.
She admitted it was a daunting task for her then, a 22-year-old fresh graduate and a female at that.
“Aside from construction being what they say is a man’s job, my age was also a deterrent then. But I didn’t let stereotypes and misconceptions affect what I did. I needed to be mature enough. I didn’t need to spend energy or time thinking about what others thought or worse, believing in what they said. The greatest reward would have to be bringing in my successful work to the table,” she says.
To turn around MCDC’s sales, the young Olivares-Vital decided to recruit new sellers and agents, teaching them how to sell the products properly and effectively. At that time, she was basically a one-person team, but Olivares-Vital was determined.
“It was a difficult task because our industry is very complex. Real estate is one of the biggest investments one can make in a lifetime. It is a personal decision to purchase a house. As a developer, we take that reality very seriously. Personally, I get upset when I hear that a client experiences inconveniences while transacting with us,” she says.
Apart from understanding the business, Olivares-Vital, together with her newly formed team, had to undergo a highly rigorous training to further professionalize the company and make it even more competitive and at par with the rest of the industry.
“I’m sure all businesses have their own troubles and challenges … but as a leader, I’ve learned that I just need to overcome my pride so that my vision and objectives remain clear and true. That was probably one of the biggest adjustments that I had to make and it’s a very personal one, because you get to a point when you realize that what is standing between yourself and your dreams are one’s personal weaknesses,” she says.
She also learned not to focus on short-term solutions, but rather look at how problems can be minimized.
“I have come to accept that in business, even if you spend a lot of time planning, there will be variables that the world will throw at you that you could never prepare for. And with that reality, it is imperative that a good leader is ready to face the unknown,” she says.
“In short, prepare as much as you can, but at the same time, don’t be shocked when you come across things that you couldn’t prepare for. Don’t waste time asking, ‘Why?’ Just think of intelligent solutions to address them right away,” she says.
Olivares-Vital is inspired to further grow the 3-year-old Ovialand by the many people she works with and the clients she had promised to serve.
“I think of all the sacrifices our clients make to be able to afford this home. I meet clients who are only with their families two weeks in a year because they have to work for a living elsewhere, and I remind myself that no matter how tough a day gets, at least I have my family close by. That perspective always keeps me appreciative and grateful for what I do,” she says.
Asked what measures she has put in place to enable the company to better address the needs of buyers, she only had this to say: “Our plan is simple: Keep our word. If we say this is what we will do then this is what you should expect from us–that is the kind of developer we want to be.”
Such a philosophy stems from the reason why her father created MCDC, which was to make homes available for the hardworking Filipino.
Their business, Olivares-Vital claimed, was founded on sincere love and hard work, enabling her family to to live a life filled with so much opportunity.
“I grew up in a home that was simple, yet happy and filled with love, and we have the sincere desire to give this chance to many other Filipinos as well. In a world where technology and advancement is shifting relationships, we believe that now is the time to make families bond even more, and one way of doing that is giving them the option to buy a house, which they can build lives on and make a home. It sounds cheesy, but at the end of the day, that is what we want our clients to remember us for,” she says.
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