Most of us have probably drawn buildings at some point in our childhoods. They are usually portrayed as tall, grey blocks that line the skyline, meant to fill the negative space in the background but never the center of attention. Perhaps real-life buildings did look like that before, but here in the Philippines, they are starting to become works of art in themselves, with their unique shapes, towering heights, and glass panels that reflect the waning sunlight. It’s clear that a lot of work is put into the exterior of the building in order to make it as eye-catching as possible, and that’s what Fasclad specializes in.
Fasclad is a generational company that designs, engineers, and clads the glass and aluminum facades of high rise buildings. It began by making doors and windows for residential areas, then evolved into aluminum-cladding for buildings, and has since transitioned to glass-cladding to catch up with the seamless and futuristic aesthetic. Fasclad is currently helmed by the 25-year-old CEO Miguel V. Tan.
Being a third generation Chinoy and the eldest of three siblings, there was already an underlying expectation for him to take over the family business one day, but according to Tan, his parents never forced him to be involved in the business and instead allowed him to explore his own interests. Tan actually wanted to be a professional golfer while he was growing up and would dedicate most of his time to competing in junior tournaments. He eventually realized that golfing wasn’t exactly a sustainable career path, so he turned towards business and began investing in stocks, although he admits that his family business didn’t seem appealing at first.
“The construction industry during that time is, I would say, a very old fashioned industry. It’s very manual and physical, so there’s not really much innovation in terms of construction. It was quite difficult too because you’re managing several people, managing resources, and you live off the projects. Your business is not a quick recurring type of business where you sell commodities daily. You have to get projects and turn them over on time to keep your clients satisfied because reputation is everything in construction which allows you to acquire more projects to keep afloat, and you have to be very efficient when it comes to your operations or the overhead will consume you, so it was something very difficult to understand when I was young,” Tan says.
But there was room for innovation. Around 2012, sales of aluminum-cladding slowed down at the emergence of the trend of seamless glass facade buildings in Bonifacio Global City, and Tan’s company had to quickly transition to glass-cladding in order to keep up with the changing times. This was where Tan started getting more involved in the business. Even though he was still studying in Xavier High School, he would fly in and out from China, Singapore, and Hong Kong with his father and his technical team to learn the methodologies of glass-cladding.
“It was quite a long learning curve because we weren’t the ones who possessed the technology when we started. We had to do a lot of Research and trial and error because it was quite complicated. We thought it would be a walk in the park because we were already in the Aluminium business ever since, but it turns out to be a whole new science to it. And we were able to adapt slowly by learning, and by partnering with foreign companies, “Tan reveals.
This was also when the company rebranded itself to Fasclad. Fas which doubles as a shortcut for “fast” and “façade”, and cladding, which stands for building-cladding.
Becoming the CEO
Tan became the CEO of Fasclad Inc. fresh after graduating from the University of Asia and the Pacific in 2018. He had already learned the ropes from his father Mr. Antonio Lee Tan, who now presides as Chairman of the Board. The young Tan was deemed fit by the management team to lead the group and is now ready to take on the role. Still, he felt the inherent pressure that comes with taking over the family business.
“Eventually, when I’m looking at how business is done, especially in the construction industry, it was very difficult because there were a lot of things that needed to be changed this was exciting because this left a lot of room for innovation, which is why the company has invested in upgrading the factory infrastructure and machines to make production and manufacturing more efficient, The company also ventured into a new product line of Solar Powered Glass Facades for buildings. but one thing that really inspired me was the sense of pride you feel when you are able to finish a project. You are able to tell your predecessors or even your children in the future that this is something that we’ve done, and until now it’s still standing,” Tan shares.
“And although I have a small group of business investments on the side, of course it’s a personal responsibility to take up the legacy and to continue what started and to also improve what has been done, and what can be further groomed,” Tan adds.
However, being ready to take on something doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be an absence of challenge. Tan was a relatively fresh face in the industry, and on top of that, he was also a businessman working with a group of architects and engineers who were more well-versed in the field compared to him, so it felt like he was learning from the ground up despite being the CEO. When faced with a situation like this, Tan emphasizes the importance of being humble and showing a hint of vulnerability.
“I basically admitted to my team on day one that I am not an engineer or an architect. I have deep respect that you are all the experts in the industry because you have the years of experience being an engineer, being an architect. I’m basically just a manager, and my main responsibility is to manage your talents well and to align them towards the vision and goals of the company.
“I believe it’s important to be humble. You have to admit to your own people: ‘I don’t know everything, and you have to educate me on how to do things better, because of course I cannot pretend that I know it all, so I have to express a little bit of my weakness, this was very important in earning the trust of my people because we now have this mutual respect for one another that we work as a team and without our collective efforts the goals of the company will not be fulfilled,” Tan says.
On Burnout and Failure
These days, many people want to have a lengthy list of achievements at a young age, which could easily result in burnout and breakdowns at the slightest hint of failure. Tan had his fair share of failures, and he offers some sage advice on how to overcome it.
“There’s a lot of times where you keep failing because you’re new and it takes time to gain the trust of your clients and even your own people, so there are times when you’re so tired. You’ve worked so hard on this project and you’re so close, but you don’t get it. But I would say this is a rite of passage. Everyone has to go through this because success is a poor teacher. My father would always tell me that you have to take your time, be patient, learn the ropes fairly because nothing worth achieving comes easy. People who want to be successful at a young age, but if they don’t put in the time, will never get anywhere,” Tan points out and even delves into the particularities of never giving up.
“For me, it’s a cliche to say if you fail, never give up. Yes, I believe in that, but sometimes you have a business endeavor, and it’s really not doing well. You tried everything, and you have to accept sometimes that maybe this isn’t going and won’t continue to do well, and you have to accept failure and move on, but stand up and look for the next. In that aspect, you don’t give up, but for that certain type of sinking ship. You have to admit defeat sometimes and do not be ashamed of it. In fact, accepting defeat, admitting that you are wrong is not bad because of all the experiences you learned throughout that failure is valuable in your next venture. Moreover, people gain more respect when you know when it’s time to move on to the next idea.“
Tan himself is an example of this. He’s had some business ventures that didn’t do well in the past, and he was able to accept that failure and move on to the next project. He is now the CEO of the MVT Group of Companies which holds investments in diverse industries like Anytime Fitness Philippines, Studio 300 Bowling, and retail F&B outlets.
Given Tan’s responsibilities and lifestyle, it’s easy to fall into the trap of hustle culture. Tan describes himself as a regimented person. He follows a strict schedule every day to keep himself disciplined. He sleeps early, rises early, and tries to get as much done as possible, but he also has his fair warnings about hustle culture.
“I think the hustle culture is not wrong as long as you’re really working on the right things. More often than not being busy is unproductive, I believe in that. So, if you put a lot of time into doing something with low impact, you’re making yourself busy but for the wrong things, that is unproductive. Let’s say, you’re doing all these things that take up 80% of your day but only affects 20% of your revenue, so it’s also a crime, I’d say, to be ‘busy’ on the wrong things.”
“It’s not wrong to be busy, it’s also not wrong to not have a perfectly balanced life. And I do my best to try to keep things balanced, and of course, you can’t have that equilibrium all the time. There’s always something that outweighs another, and that’s the reality of life. But we have to make time and essentially go out of our way to spend time with our family and our friends because if you’re 100% work, you’re going to lose your sanity, and that’s not something that we want especially at an early age,” Tan advises.
“If you’re in a leadership position that impacts the whole organization, sometimes you can’t help but want to make as many decisions as you can in a day, but at the end what’s most important is not the quantity but the quality of your decisions. If you don’t get to take care of your mind and body, you don’t get to relax, you don’t get to sleep well at night, you don’t get to unwind, it affects your performance as a leader. You make more poor decisions every day,” Tan says.
His weekdays are usually packed, but he always makes time to free up his weekends to spend time with his family and friends. He also likes to spend his downtime reading, particularly biographies of successful people to learn from their life experiences. In addition, since buildings nowadays are eye-catching enough to be considered works of art, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Tan himself is an avid art collector.
Tan doesn’t have a creative background, but he’s always been fond of collecting things as a child. What started out as collecting coins and stamps eventually translated to art collecting when he saw art pieces hanging on the wall of his mentor’s office.
“Art keeps me distracted. It keeps me happy especially when there’s a lot of things going on. You have to have something that you look forward to every day, and sometimes looking at a painting is a form of escape,” Tan shares and also offers some words of advice for those who want to start collecting as well.
“The joy of collecting is not about the price. You don’t have to buy anything expensive to appreciate art, you just have to buy something that you like and relates to you.”