Key takeaways from COVID-19
By finding silver linings, making the most out of the pandemic, putting emphasis on innovations and by having empathy and compassion, some of the country’s leading real estate companies are getting through the massive challenges dealt so far by the COVID-19 pandemic.
More industry veterans and young bloods in Philippine real estate are sharing their experiences, insights and learnings from this unprecedented crisis, revealing how their strategies and mindsets have allowed them to deal with, navigate through, and thrive amid this outbreak and pandemic-induced recession. Here are their thoughts.
Compassion and silver linings
Valerie Lopez Soliven
EVP and chief revenue officer
Rockwell Land Corp.
This pandemic, for me, was a test on resilience and agility. Being a digital migrant, I had to quickly adjust to doing business virtually. As everyone says, this crisis is quite unprecedented so there is really no playbook. The strong relationships we have built with our people and stakeholders over the years allowed for mutual trust. This allowed us to communicate with transparency and make adjustments in operations and business models quickly.
Personally though, I welcomed working from home more, as it allowed me to spend more time throughout the day with my family.
I also learned that having compassion, having a positive mindset, and always trying to look for silver linings despite frustrations and uncertainties go a long way.
Making the most out of the pandemic
Cleofe C. Albiso
Group general manager
Despite the drop in occupancy and closure of some of our hotels, this experience paved the way for things that may never have been achieved if we did not have to go through this crisis.
The downtime allowed our hotels to do major preventive maintenance projects, upgrade systems and introduce our digital facility, the e-Concierge, which allows online check-in and check-out, food and beverage (F&B) service orders, cashless payments, among others.
Training programs took place and operational standards were improved to augment service. Looking back at the eight months of a normal we never expected to take place, I personally think that we have made the most of what we can do. It may not have been easy and finances may have been affected but the takeaways and accomplishments definitely made it all worth it.
Prior to the pandemic, we had 10 hotels operating individually. The COVID-19 crisis bonded us and created a synergy that we needed to survive these trying times. I am proud to share that our general managers created solid ties to support each other’s properties—proactively cross selling the hotels, sharing talents through task force, openly discussing the unique challenges of each hotel, and pitching an idea or two to help. Indeed, there is strength in numbers, with Megaworld Hotels being the Philippines’ biggest hotel chain.
Hard work, commitment and resilience, while putting our faith in God at the center of all our efforts, are among the things that we want to keep with us in a post-pandemic era. We will choose to demonstrate His presence even in this secular world of business and with that, we have more confidence to face the future.
Emphasis on innovation
Leonardo T. Po
EVP and treasurer
One key thing to ride out a cycle (like the COVID-19 pandemic) is really being conservative and prudent in the way we manage the company, the way we manage our finances, the way we set up our projects. This conservatism and prudence will give us lasting value in the long run. Another key thing is the attention to detail and the focus on quality, which has always been present in everything that we do. But put that together with our drive towards sustainability, wellness and innovation, we believe that we have a bright future ahead.
Personally, I’m quite bullish (of a recovery for the real estate industry), because we’ve seen that the affordable housing market has recovered quite nicely after the lockdown restrictions have been [eased] and the luxury and high end markets have held up quite well.
The changes that have come about in the last 10 months are creating new trends. We keep our ears to the ground and we adjust quite quickly because we’re a young and nimble company so we’re able to make these changes right away. In fact, our platform for sustainability puts emphasis on innovation and that’s what we like to focus on moving forward. We believe that our focus on sustainability, health, wellness and innovation will take us through to the next cycle.
Having empathy and compassion
Chief operating officer
Cebu Landmasters Inc.
It’s one of the most unexpected crisis of our time. Nobody saw it coming. Probably, 99 percent of companies did not have a pandemic strategy. For us, what we did first was to secure our people, our communities, our projects around March and April.
At the height of the pandemic, however, we realized that people were really looking for homes so we strategized with the team on how we could cater to the 15 cities in Visayas and Mindanao where we have projects. In certain areas in VisMin, the cases were low and our offices there were able to continue operating.
The key to managing this pandemic for us was our decision making. We moved very quickly. We know that the status quo won’t work.
But one of the greatest learnings (amid this pandemic) is really empathy and compassion. The Soberano family came from humble beginnings. We’re a family that took care of others, a family ready to serve and ready to contribute.
The value of showing empathy is very attached to the real estate industry because if we have empathy, we will put ourselves in the shoes of our homeowners. I would imagine myself living in those homes, raising a family in those homes and with that, we want to do it well. We want to make sure (our projects) are finished properly. So pandemic or not, we make sure to build a safe, secure home that people will really hold on to.