When their children graduate from college, parents who have a family business usually ask their children to join the business.
However, Bryant William Cuison took a different route. The 34-year old business management graduate of De La Salle University opted to work in the corporate world to hone his background in business. He also has a Master’s in Entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management.
Cuison, general manager of Wilkonstruct Corp, worked first with SM Malls for the first three years of his corporate life. He then joined Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) until 2014. “I gained valuable exposure working with these two property heavyweights,” says Cuison.
“In SM, I was exposed to the development of condominiums. Meanwhile, I learned valuable knowledge on property development in ALI,” adds Cuison.
In 2014, Cuison learned from his father that he was needed to join the business because he was told that it was time for him to slow down. “My father asked me to take over the business because he wanted to retire. Together with my brother, we took over the business,” says Cuison.
The Cuison patriarch worked as an architect in several countries until 1990. His return to Pangasinan led him to the establish Cuison Builders. “My father saw vast reconstruction opportunities in the Northern Luzon right after the 1990 tremor,” notes Cuison. Cuison Builders was later incorporated into Wilkonstruct.
Wilkonstruct, built on a strong, customer-oriented foundation, is into general construction services like design and build and project management. Its team of construction professionals has helped the family-owned enterprise grow into a reliable, fast and cost-efficient company.
Cuison says the corporate experience helped him manage the company as the working years in the project management department of ALI helped a lot when their company worked on condominium development.
Some of their projects are a residential condominium in Ayala Hillside, a business process outsourcing office in Ortigas and a pre-school in Mandaluyong City. Other projects include the Splash Corp. office, HBC Direct Sales office, California Pizza Kitchen, Cafe Benê (SM Clark) and CD-R King (Puregold, Pasig).
His younger brother, also a graduate of DLSU, helps him manage the business.
Cuison says his father asks him to give updates on the business during Sundays over lunch. “He always keeps on repeating the tips he has given me when I took over the company,” says Cuison.
“My father always puts emphasis on professionalism which makes sense to ensure the sustainability of our business,” adds Cuison.
The first years of running the business was difficult because Cuison didn’t have a technical background. Gradually, he learned the important aspects of the business such as costing. “I was required to have a faster learning curve because it was necessary,” says Cuison.
His routine officially starts at 9 a.m. by reporting to the office. After checking the office operations, he goes to the field by visiting at least three sites. “It is important to get the situation on the ground to ensure the projects are on the right track,” says Cuison.
“I also entrust competent people to supervise the construction,” adds Cuison.
A believer in the importance of having a sound body and a sound mind, he goes to the gym to have workout for one hour before going to work.
Upon taking over the helm of the business, Cuison introduced a new design of the office and computerized the operations.
It was a different route Cuison took before joining a family business. Working for other companies gave him the experience and the knowledge which he later found useful in running the family-owned Wilkonstruct.
Working in a family business requires having a high degree of professionalism to ensure it will be there for the long haul. Furthermore, it is also important for a family to practice meritocracy because it motivates people to work harder to earn their keep.
Alfred Xerez-Burgos III, the current president and chief executive officer of Landco Pacific Corp., was a product of the family business’s strong belief in professionalism and meritocracy. The meritocracy policy of Landco has paid dividends as the children of the Burgos patriarch are doing fine in the business. His second eldest son, Jose Antonio is vice president for technical while the youngest son is involved in running Forest Lake Development Inc. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The training of the Xerez-Burgos children especially Alfred III helped the company pull out of the crisis.
Alfred III, the eldest among the four siblings of Alfred Xerez-Burgos Jr., had to rise from the bottom to the top before his father turned over the leadership to him.
He started to work in the family business as a clerk 22 years ago. This exposure made him aware what it’s like to work from the lower ranks.
“The early years were terrible for me. Whenever I would get my pay slip, I would cry because my allowance was bigger than my salary,” says Xerez-Burgos recalling his early years in the company.
Instead of dealing with negative aspect of his work, the industrial engineering graduate of De La University took this as a challenge because he wanted to prove to his supervisor that he deserves more than his present position.
After a five-year stint in Landco, he took a one-year leave to pursue masters in management degree at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in 1998. “It was an exciting time for me to enter graduate school as it was the beginning of the Asian financial crisis,” recalls Xerez-Burgos.
Later, he rejoined the company and got promoted. The timing, according to Xerez-Burgos, was exciting because “the industry was in a mess.”
While he was still enjoying the moments of rejoining Landco, he was given a challenge by the management committee to develop a plan for a 116-hectare land. Golf courses were not an option because the Asian economic turmoil.
Xerez-Burgos thought of developing the land into a leisure farm. After getting the approval of the board, he was also tasked to look for funds for the project because Landco did not have adequate resources to finance it.
He says his solid educational background helped him a lot in solving the problem. “I believe my training in engineering was a big help because it helped me sharpen my analytical ability,” says Xerez-Burgos.
“Meanwhile, my AIM background enhanced my managerial skills,” adds Xerez-Burgos.
He invited investors in the project to jumpstart it. He was able to raise P20-million fund for the project. Further, he brought in farming experts to develop demonstration farms that would serve as model farms for the clients to see.
In 18 months, the project was sold. It generated P1.2 billion in sales for a project that was developed for P350 million.”As a result of this successful project, we were able to make the company debt free,” he points out.
He credits his father and the company’s philosophy of preparing the people for higher tasks.
“I’d like to think we were professionally trained and we had to go to school and eventually had to take our masters degree to ensure we have a deeper background in management,” says Xerez-Burgos.
“We trained alongside professionals.. We did not report to our father directly. I had to report to someone on top of me who trained me,” adds Xerez-Burgos.
He says a family business must always keep an open mind to positively respond to the changes.
Based on Landco’s experience, a business must be dynamic and open to reinvent itself to stay relevant otherwise it will fade into the horizon.
“I got more motivated when there is blood on the streets so to speak. I see opportunities there.”