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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Major Homes’ Quinto Oreta, Part 1

A DEFINING moment for Jose Francisco “Quinto” Oreta, 37, president of Major Homes Inc., came when an executive coach bluntly told a gathering of young businessmen and professionals:

“It’s not about the success or the privilege that you have.  These were brought about by your parents who sacrificed and worked hard so you could go to the best schools and be successful entrepreneurs.  It’s about them.”

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In short, it’s not all about you.

“The coach had a doctorate from Harvard University,” says Quinto.  “He was an ex-Marine, he lost one hand in the war. We, the young, brash people, grew quiet.  His words made an impact.”

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Many family businesses suffer from a generation gap. Young people want to chart their own paths—nothing wrong with that—but in the process, they tend to disregard or downplay what their elders had achieved. They disparage the latter as being old-fashioned or close-minded, especially since the elders usually do not possess the academic credentials that the young ones have.

Elders tout their breadth and depth of experience, and despair that the young ones do not heed their counsel, making costly mistakes and worsening conflict. They pounce on every error, leading to a vicious cycle of mutual resentment and distrust. No wonder many family businesses do not survive past a couple of generations.

Many family businesses fail not solely because successors are incompetent. They fail because family members do not relate well to each other, trapped in emotions they find hard to manage.

“If you come from an affluent family, with premier university degrees, and if you have achieved some early success,” says Quinto, “you’re probably going to be a Type A.  You spend much time and effort trying to be a better father, husband, and leader, so you work on yourself, go back to school, join business groups. You want to share, improve, and inspire people, so you work very hard, then you become successful at work.

“But then you start to think that the world revolves around you.”

Like father, like son

Quinto’s father, lawyer Mario Oreta, 70, grew up in Malabon.  The older Oreta studied in Ateneo de Manila, from kindergarten to law school, and soon became admired for his acumen in real estate development. Up to now, he is still at the helm of another company (not family-owned).

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Quinto says, “My dad and I have strong personalities, so years back, we decided that since he is working in another firm, I will lead our family-owned business, Major Homes.  I feel guilty about this now, but because of my ego, perhaps, there were times I would involve him only selectively and strategically.  Like many young people, I felt I could manage things on my own.  I’ve been running the company for several years, and increased our net asset value.  I thought I was king of the world.”

Like his father, Quinto is also a Blue Eagle, graduating with a degree in Management Information Systems.  He took further studies in the US, and worked there for a while.  When he returned to the Philippines, he took over the family business, and did very well.  By whatever standard, can’t he indeed be deemed king of his world?

“Honestly, it was luck,” says Quinto.  In 2007, the property boom occurred.  The company decided to focus on building affordable homes, particularly for overseas Filipino workers.  “Whatever we built, we sold.”

Most entrepreneurs attribute their success to diligence or intelligence.

“Maraming magaling.  Maraming masipag.  Mas masipag ang mga driver natin sa atin. (There are a lot of good ones out there, there are a lot of hardworking ones too. Our drivers are more diligent than us.)  Look at the hours they work!  You need a base level of intellectual aptitude.  But you don’t have to be super-smart.  You have to be willing to put in the hours, not just five days a week, but six or seven days.”

But you also have to be lucky, Quinto insists. And it helps not to have an inflated sense of entitlement.

“In good times, we take our parents for granted,” Quinto says.  “In bad, we turn back to them.”

Once, when a problem arose, Quinto instinctively turned to his father, who “bailed me out—unconditionally.”

Did his dad chide him for the mistake?

“Only once, and even then, I pushed the blame back onto him.  I said, ‘You should have told me.’  I was devoid of foresight then. I apologized, just one time, and my father never mentioned it again.”

Atty. Oreta, in his wisdom and love, knew better than to keep on reprimanding his son.  A mistake was made, it was rectified, the son learned from it, and it was time to move on. If only other parents were as patient, or as wise.

“How can parents deny their kids? But we need to raise them wisely.”

(To be concluded next week)

Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the board of directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center.  Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press (e-mail [email protected]).  E-mail the author at [email protected]

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TAGS: Business, family business, Major Homes Inc., Oreta, Quinto Oreta
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