“We always have this motto of a First-world Philippines. We try to do our best to contribute to that effort by designing and engineering sustainable building Facades that would change the Philippine’s skyline while lasting a lifetime.” That is the vision of Fasclad Inc., according to the young CEO Miguel V. Tan.
Fasclad is a company that specializes in cladding and glazing the facades of buildings. It began with the business of supplying and installing aluminum-cladding, but when the volume of the cladding projects slowly stagnated, Fasclad was quickly able to pivot and expand to the business of engineering Glass-Curtain Wall Facade for high rise buildings to adapt to a more modern and seamless aesthetic. Tan was entrusted to take over the reins as the CEO of the company soon after he graduated from college, since he had been working under the company’s operations over his college years with his father Antonio L. Tan Jr., who now presides as Chairman of the Board. Under Tan’s leadership, Fasclad was able to reach new heights through modernizing the company’s operations through equipment intensive methodologies and digitalization of many of the group’s business processes. This slowly gained the trust of new developers to take on larger projects. The group was also able to secure more clients while taking on different unique projects. For this reason, Tan has been recognized as one of the top 8 Modern Tao Kes of 2021.
Despite these achievements, Fasclad, given the nature of construction through physical labor and on site activities the group, was directly affected by the problems brought about by the pandemic, but part of being a Modern Tao Ke is the ability to adapt to changes and meet challenges head-on, and Tan provides some valuable insights on how his company was able to cope with the pandemic.
“We definitely took a big hit. As you know, Fasclad is in the business of construction, so everything is completely intense in terms of manpower and deployment. It’s all based on equipment and physical activities on site, which is a big challenge because during the lockdown, all of our operations were on hold. It was really terrible because we could not accomplish our work, and in the construction industry, we basically bill and collect through our site accomplishments.”
“For the first six months, we didn’t have any operations, so we were just living off from what we made the previous year, and it really got me worried because we didn’t have the cash flow to support operations if this would continue to move on, Nevertheless I’m glad to say that we did not lay off any employees,” Tan shares. He goes on to talk about the struggles of being the first of his generation to experience such a situation.
“This is the unthinkable, there’s no playbook; there [are] no rules. I’m already in the third generation of the family business, this never happened even during the time of my predecessors or even of my competitors. It’s something that’s very new and unexpected, so when all of this was happening, we all had to make a decision. There were only two choices because our backs were completely against the wall: it’s either we maintain the old ways and eventually die a natural death, which was the worst case scenario, or [we] work harder to put ourselves out there, keep meeting new clients, be aggressive in presenting our methodologies, our way of doing business, and completely streamlining all company operations to maximize efficiency to save on costs. Thankfully we were able to gain a lot of new clients through that, whom a lot of them have given us that big break and I will always be grateful to them.”
“All of this [was an eye-opener]. It doesn’t mean that we’ve been doing this for the longest period of time, that there’s no more room for innovation. Actually, there’s a lot of room for innovation, and I think on the plus side, the pandemic taught us how to look back and how to re-evaluate how we do business and it really improved and helped us to stay relevant today, since digitalization was already a key aspect of needed change. Before the pandemic, this was already ongoing in our group, but the pandemic further accelerated this, and because of that, we have learned a lot and continued to improve our business operations,” Tan says.
One of the many changes that Tan implemented to help Fasclad stay relevant was to invest in online systems and platforms. Although it’s almost impossible to carry out construction operations online, there are still certain things that can be done to speed up the business process, such as utilizing mobile banking to pay suppliers and compensate workers without the risk of exposure. The efficiency of online platforms is the reason why Tan thinks it’s important for more Modern Tao Kes to embrace digitalization, even without a pandemic.
“If you stick to the conventional things, you’re already on the losing end because it takes [a long time]. That’s already part of being inefficient in your business operations, so it’s very important to look into better ways on how to streamline everything through the use of online software and online platforms because at this time of age, speed is everything, and when you’re able to cut down a few hours of inefficiencies can really have a big impact at the end of the day,” Tan points out.
However, things were a little more tricky when it came to the job site. Construction is a hands-on endeavor, and given the risk of contracting COVID while traveling, the workers just had to live on the site.
“We had to supply them with all the basic necessities so that they may be able to perform well, not just physically but mentally because being locked down is already something that is difficult for all of us at home, but more so on the job site. It’s something that we all had to experiment [with] and everything was trial and error. That was one of the things that I believe was very important: staying resilient, so despite all these challenges happening at the same time, we just have to push forward, remain calm, and think of the best solutions to make the business work,” Tan says.
Remaining calm is also a quality that Tan believes every Modern Tao Ke should have. “Amidst all the chaos happening in and out of the office amidst the pandemic, it’s very important to remain calm and think, because if we all have a disorganized mind that panics a lot, it’s not going to help. Problems will always be there, especially in construction. Every day, I admit there’s nothing perfect, and there are times when we are delayed, which is always an inevitable part of our business due to a multitude of uncalculated events, but the main objective is, how do we get back on course, and how do we finish the project on time and with the best quality possible to provide our clients with the satisfaction they deserve.
Given his experience and the challenges of the pandemic thrown into the mix, Tan has a lot of advice to share with fellow Modern Tao Kes.
“There are always a lot of things that we do not see [at the management level], so it’s always important to ask feedback from your people, from your employees. And even at the job site level, I go to all my sites every week and make it a point to ask even the workers at the front to see how we can improve things. There are a lot of things that we are insulated from, and information is very important, so keep finding new ways to improve the business.”
“I also believe that it’s important to build the right team, because without your team, you are nothing. There’s no such thing as a successful company without a competent team. Everything has to be two-sided. Even though you’re leading the team, you have to understand that they are also like you, and you need to understand their needs, what motivates them, and how they are able to collectively solve a problem. Also, learn to accept that you need to be accountable for everything. When you’re the leader, and something goes wrong, even though it’s not directly under your watch, you have to be held accountable for it. This is something that every business owner, every leader must know,” Tan asserts.