Passion and love for your work can help you overcome any obstacle – this is the feeling and lesson I learned from Benedict Co, an industrial engineer from University of Santo Tomas turned successful construction entrepreneur.
Benedict is not your typical construction professional, as he had to learn things on the job. He is one of the co-founders and the chief finance and marketing officer of Buensuceso Sondia Construction (BSC) which is making inroads as an SME into the already blooming construction industry of the Philippines. Benedict’s path was as winding as a river through the mountains.
As a child, Benedict liked to draw and design but missed the entrance exam to study as an architect– and so he ended up in industrial engineering. His jobs after graduation – a business and systems analyst of Smart Communications, Jollibee and a salesman for health supplements and life insurance had nothing to do with construction. It was during his time at a multilevel marketing company where he learned the value and skill of sales and marketing which he uses today. It was also during this job that he met his business partner who was a prospective client that turned down his sales offer, but instead shared with him an opportunity to become a partner of the construction firm.
“My current business partner was already a contractor when I met him,” Benedict shared. The meeting went well and his soon to be partner saw the skill with which Benedict presented and so talked to him about collaborating. Benedict’s arrival into the company created immediate impact, as he was able to utilize his experience in systems, sales and marketing (learned from previous jobs) to complement the technical construction skill of his partners. He was able to help establish systems for documentation and improve procurement, a critical function in any construction firm.
At first, Benedict didn’t know anything about the materials he was buying, but he was determined to maximize this opportunity that would lead him to his dream career. Little by little he learned about what each item was for within the buildings they built. His hobby of reading up on magazines that could support his new career – browsing through Entrepreneur Magazine and Condo Living Magazine to get ideas and inspiration, helped give him the knowledge he needed to do his current work.
“I did not become an architect but who would have thought that I would get to work with the best architects around.”, Benedict recalls. Today, he talks to clients and gives input on design, working with architects and engineers to bring ideas to life while maintaining proper architectural and engineering standards.
“The universe was preparing me for this. All my past experiences were connected,” Benedict shares thoughtfully.
His statement reminded of similar advice that iconic tech entrepreneur Steve Jobs gave in his speech to the graduates of Stanford, “You can’t connect the dots moving forward. You can only connect them looking back.” Sometimes we need to trust in the steps we take, even if they don’t make sense. That requires courage and that’s what entrepreneurs need.
Serendipity and The Law of Attraction:
“I’ve always wanted to have a company with the initials of my father on them – BSC.” When Benedict was offered partner in Buensuceso Sondia Construction, he could not believe his luck, as the company had the exact same initials as his dad.
“It’s the Law of Attraction,” Benedict explains. One needs to dream and send that intention out into the world, then reinforce it with hard work and dedication. In this case, the dream came true because he had the right mindset – breaking big dreams into small steps.
He is now confident that his next dream – owning a building with the BSC name, will come into fruition soon enough.
Strategies in Building a Legacy:
Benedict cited that there were 3 things that he did well that were critical to getting him to where he is today.
First is being able to learn fast. In every job, Benedict learned something new. In his first job it was how to become systematic and document processes. In the next it was about selling and marketing products – communicating the value and connecting with customers. In his current construction work, he learned the more technical side of things – what are each material used for? How can you tell which item has the quality you need?
A combination of enthusiasm to learn fast and determination to succeed helped complement the skills which have served him well.
Next is the power of innovative marketing. Benedict joined a competition sponsored by PLDT SME Nation through Facebook and was chosen among the 15 out of 350 entrepreneurs that allowed him to take an Entrepreneurship Development program with Asian Institute of Management – one of the best international business schools in Asia. This experience helped him come up with his market strategies today which include social media and effective networking.
Benedict has managed to turn his construction company’s brand into something relatable to others, as evidenced by the thousands of followers they have on Facebook. “A large majority of our clients come from social media.” Using promoted posts and a psychological understanding of his market, BSC is able to connect with people online.
He combines this with effective networking – visiting events of other industries to meet different people whom he can learn from, and work with as future clients. He believes in learning the best practices of the different industries and applies it to construction.
Finally, he does relationship building – whether it’s with his own business partners or customers, relationships are something that Benedict takes very seriously.
He recalls when he had to do a project that was too big for his company, and so he had to work with others to make the project a success. Then there was another instance when his customer liked their service and their work, and so with the trust built, the client kept coming back to them for projects year after year.
“We grew because of partnership. We intend to grow through the same process – more partnership”
Building your brand as someone competent and trustworthy is critical in managing and securing clients. All these elements have helped him double their company’s size in less than 2 years.
Views on the Construction Industry
“The infra program of the government is just the backbone for further growth. It will open more projects in the future,” Benedict believes. When one takes a look at the investment plans in infrastructure in the country, these next few years are shaping up to be another golden age for construction. Projects like Clark Green City can potentially grow into a 2nd Metro Manila by 2025.
With all the mega projects underway, the biggest contracting companies have moved up to work with government. This leaves room for the medium and large projects – opportunity for startups like BSC. The pie is so big that there’s room for everyone.
Along with the numerous projects Benedict also noticed how we are losing a lot of our architects and engineers to work abroad because of better pay despite their company gives above industry average pay. “Industry salary is small in the Philippines.”
Advice for Construction First Timers
Benedict was very generous with his advice. “Its okay to dream big but don’t be in a hurry. Follow the process. We weren’t here directly after graduation. It took us 7 years….it was not forceful.” We are so often caught up with becoming successful because of so many success stories around us that we forget that everyone who ever achieved something had to go through a process of growth and pains.
He also encourages others to gain experience and to build a foundation – gain network, learn and build confidence. When these elements are put together, you become braver and more optimistic. This is something that customers, partners and investors can feel.
The biggest challenge that Benedict faced, and continues to face is the situation of not knowing enough information or not having enough resources. He believes in being prepared. When he started, he didn’t know which material was better than the other. His team also didn’t have enough resources to match to certain projects, and so he really had to partner with others and study, to address these concerns.
“Doing things repetitively helps,” Benedict says, as it builds confidence and provides opportunities to learn and improve.
Along with the challenges comes the best and most fulfilling part – being able to help clients build their legacies or helping them make their dreams come true. Benedict shared how one client gave them amazing feedback on a project they worked so hard to build. He spent countless days being available to the client 24/7. When it was finally over and the client was happy with the project, Benedict and his whole team felt great.
Sticking to their mantra of Service, Integrity, Trust and Efficient or SITE, paid off.
When we got to the topic of sustainability, Benedict was thoughtful. As resources become scarce, things will become more expensive, which means construction costs will rise. He believes that in the long run, we need to identify construction materials that are renewable. The world has a concern over availability of materials, signaling the opportunity to create and grow a supply of construction items. “Wood is nice and a new trend. However, it can have harmful effects to the environment”, referring to the shortage and unsustainable lumber practices around the world.
He believes that using prefabricated items can help, as they generally require fewer materials and have less wastage. Another solution is proper planning and forecasting, as it ensures that there is little or no wastage. Finally, Benedict, who also has a lot of influence over the design of the buildings he builds, suggests designing in ways that use less energy and resources.
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