VALUES and virtues are like lighthouses; they will always be there to guide us, they don’t move even in stormy weather.
In doing business, there are many kinds of challenges ahead. Some are profit- related, employee-related, and once in a while some clients will challenge the principles and virtues that you believe in. A few years ago, I returned $1 million in architect’s fees because I believe that cutting 365 mature trees will cause ecological imbalance.
What I always tell my colleagues and my students, whatever happens, do not give up your values, virtues, principles and integrity— as these are the core of your brand and your business. Your principles are your identity.
I learned so much from the education, experience, and expertise of world-renowned architects, developers, and authors as my professors and lecturers, like:
• Good leadership traits follow good followership traits;
• Design Excellence, not Design Good Enough;
• Flexibility – change from within;
• Architecture is not just art, science, or technology but also a profession and a business;
• Try always to be the best, excel, go global, international;
• Get out of your comfort zone;
• Be an architectural activist – practice democratic and patriotic architecture;
• Be agents of change;
• Every opportunity to do good do it now, you may not be around to do it tomorrow; and
• Many other lessons learned from best practices and mistakes made in architecture, urban planning and design, real estate development, urban renewal, good governance, green architecture and sustainability.
The core of business
Profit is often the topic of conversation of many businessmen and aspiring entrepreneurs. During coffee sessions and “salo-salo,” there is a notion that businessmen are on the lookout for tips regarding market edge, market shares, top talents, better logistics, and such. But learning from the school of hard knocks by rallying in Mendiola during my youth, and then to working for the Sheik of Dubai and studying at Harvard after the 9/11 bombing, the most important aspects of business are many times taken for granted. The core of business is people, principles, values, and virtues.
Good business means providing authentic solutions and service to the needs and wants of people. But being authentic means, assessing and understanding the root cause of problems, and being honest about the strengths, limitations and value of the service rendered. On the other hand, the need of the target market is understood in the context of society as a whole. How does your business impact the entire society?
Principles, values and virtues are what guide the operations of business. It is the culture that the employees of the company embrace, and it is translated into the output of the work. These are reminders of the company on how to deliver masterful craftsmanship, honest work, and positive impact to society. Without it, the business is susceptible to cheating, haphazard quality of work, sub-standard designs, and corruption.
Without people at the core of business, there will be no service rendered. Without virtues and values, it is like short-changing the people with half-hearted work. As the Dharma Master of Tzu Chi shared, one must have both the heart and the skills.
If I may share with you the principles I try my best to apply myself and adopted by my colleagues at Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group, we are guided by our core values of Professionalism and Excellence, Honesty, Integrity, Innovativeness, Agility, and Versatility. For instance, tardiness is lack of integrity. You promise to be there on time. If you do not keep that promise, then you wasted the time of those who came on time.
Our previous and present slogans have also served as guideposts in achieving our purpose and goal. We started with recognizing that, “We are professionals serving other professionals.” Our pursuit to surpass previously held benchmarks inspired us to aim for “Architecture, Planning, Design, and Engineering towards global excellence.”
Profit, profit, profit, should not be the goal of business. It should be the consequence of good work, values, and virtues. If you do your work well then clients will appreciate it. They will look at your company as a partner for their mission. As many successful businessmen have shared, 80 percent of your business comes from loyal clients and customers, and 20 percent from new markets. They said that it is more expensive to find new markets than to retain loyal customers. And clients will only come back if they find the company trustworthy, consistent, and have the skills and the heart.
As architects, planners, engineers and designers or professionals in the built environment, I believe that we borrow today’s resources from the generations of tomorrow. We owe it to the next generation to sustainably practice our professions. In our practice, we have adopted the triple E model which stands for Social Equity, Environment, and Economy. It could also be referred to as triple P—People, Planet, and Profit. Where applicable, we also include spirituality, then heritage, culture, and the humanities. Our plans and designs embody the care for the environment, promote social growth and development, and take into consideration the impact to community, city and humanity.