ONE fine mid-Friday morning, a handful of men and women in impeccable suits and corporate dresses arrived in batches at the equally impressive lobby of Picadilly in Bonifacio Global City, one of the busiest business centers in the metro.
On the surface, they looked like the “all-work-and-no-play” archetype of the competitive corporate world, but a second look—as well as a listen in on their bantering—revealed that beneath their very businesslike façade are young, optimistic and fun-loving young professionals.
The Sunday Times Magazine refreshingly met a total of 15 intelligent and youthful individuals who all belong to the cutthroat business of real estate, specifically the elite Jones Lang LaSalle
Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated or JLL is a professional services and investment management company specializing in real estate. It was established in 1999 after the merger of British firm Jones Lang Wooton and American company LaSalle Partners. JLL’s headquarters is currently operating in Chicago, USA.
In the Philippines, JLL is said to be the number one firm in office leasing, thanks to the
“very lean and mean” Project Leasing team headed by National Director Sheila Lobien.
Her department primarily handles the lease of buildings that are complete with property and facilities management, tenant representation, and capital markets and research evaluation in its lineup of services.
Right after their photo shoot for this exclusive, Sheila and three other top members of her team–Senior Managers Andy Gomez and Jericho Linao, and Manager Anton Engwa–sat down with The Sunday Times Magazine to talk about their experience in working for a global company such as JLL, yet with a relatively small close-knit staff. The executives also shared their insights on being right at the forefront of a thriving real estate market today.
First things, first
Logically, Lobien began this free flowing interview by defining “project leasing” in layman’s terms.
“Unlike other companies, we don’t have any products to sell, but we offer services to our clients, namely the building owners and occupiers in the market. The goal is for us give our clients the best deal we can possibly find them in the location of their choice. So we’re like match makers and dealmakers,” she began.
“We are in charge of leasing up an entire building and also marketing the property to industry brokers as well as our clients. We are much like extensions of the landlords where we handle all the paper work and the headache of leasing out a property,” Engwa added.
Lobien carried on to say that currently, the requirements of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry tops this “match making service,” comprising 90 percent of the demands of this branch of real estate. And because BPOs are thriving, they also have positive affected the demand for retail spaces and residential condominiums.
Proof as to how “in-demand” real estate is today, Lobien further noted the booming central business districts (CBD) in the country.
“All the CBDs are booming, and vacancy rate is now at four percent, meaning all the buildings that you see that are finished are fully leased. This year, we’ve reached the highest mark in office take up. We’ve seen almost 800,000 square meters of office space absorbed in the market, and that’s 50 percent higher compared to 2014’s take up.
“So it’s another record year for the Philippines,” she assessed, “but we believe next year, it’s going to be even higher.”
According to Lobien, real estate sees a bigger surge of foreign companies setting up shop in the country in the near future, moving from Metro Manila to just outside the CBDs in nearby provinces.
To provide a clearer picture of this boom, Lobien revealed that JLL’s Project Leasing team averages leasing 20 buildings a year.
Proudly, Senior Manager Andy Gomez stepped in and enumerated, “Ayala is one of our biggest clients, as well as The Net Group. We’ve also worked with SM and Robinsons. And then we also have first time developers who come from immense success in their core businesses that they also ventured into real estate, such as Wilcon, Security Bank, Focus Global, Panorama, Tyson Corporation, and Morning Star Milling Corp.
“We have mining companies also–City Nickel and CTP Mining. And then we have people who are into construction, like the Kingston Group. Ecotech Land, and W Group.
“We’ve worked outside Manila too and have clients in Clark, Cavite, Pampanga, and as far down south as Davao.”
At this stage of the roundtable, Lobien made it a point to credit her “very young, energetic and talented team” for responding to their sizeable client base’s requirements and more importantly delivering to them.
Apparent even from the interview is a very solid sense of teamwork at JLL’s Property Leasing department.
“We are very collaborative. We also have a mentoring system–it starts with Sheila and then it runs downs to me and Jericho, then Anton, and ultimately, we share out our knowledge to the rest of our team members,” Gomez explained. “When someone goes astray, we always coach—we do not reprimand. If we do need to reprimand, we do so in private but make it a point that we praise someone for good work when everyone else is there.”
“We split the load equally too,” Linao added. “Andy and I are the seniors in the group but we don’t just let all the younger guys to do all the ground work.”
As if for a finishing touch Engawa related, “And we do everything with a smile—always.”
Engawa furthered, “We are actually like doctors because we are always on-call. We have to answer calls and emails even on weekends and holidays just to make sure that we take care of our buildings and we respond to inquiries.”
“We are disciplined but we are all fanatic about our job. We live, breathe, and speak this industry everyday—and yes including weekends. We even dream about it! And I also think we get our strength form having the perfect backdrop of the Philippine market that is booming right now,” Engwa enthused.
While such a devotion to work may seem a bit too much for a young professional, especially for the likes of Gomez who is starting to build his own family, this group of passionate individuals is taking everything in stride.
“I’ve discovered that in this business, there’s no such thing as work-life balance, but there’s what you call work life harmony where you can co-mingle the two.”
Asked what kind of fulfillment they gain from giving work their all, Gomez replied, “JLL values relationship a lot. And for me, relationships are actually more important than monetary gain because when you’re happy with what you do, the rest follows. In other words, my fulfillment is knowing that I made a client happy, and that they had no complaints.”
With the know-how for the real estate, and more importantly, the passion and the right attitude for this demanding and competitive business, Lobien sees a very exciting future for her team.
“Everyone’s talking about the Philippines now—in the US, in Europe and Asia. This is not just a trend because all companies would like to be efficient, and when they think about efficiency, they think about the Philippines today. And I believe—we all believe—that this growth is sustainable for many, many years to come. We are very positive about the economy and the country as a whole,” she concluded.