At the center of everything Derrick Tan does is his faith in God and his love for his wife, Sabrina, and their two sons, Jacob and Noah.
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Magna Prime CEO to employees: 'Family first, work second'
( - November 4, 2019 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Derrick Tan is far from what you would expect of a chemical company CEO. Being the founder and main lead of Magna Prime Chemical Technologies Inc., he is young, vibrant, and no, he does not wear a lab coat to work.

Under the company are trusted brands such as Buildrite Construction Chemicals and SinClair Paints. Magna Prime’s products might be unheard of for some, but these are essential in building long-lasting residential structures and infrastructure projects.

An 'entrepreneuring' base

Growing up in a Chinese family, Tan points out that he was expected to start a business at a very young age. “During my time, we didn’t have Steve Jobs or Bill Gates to look up to. We had Gokongwei and Lucio Tan, it was the Industrial Age and I wanted to make my own factory,” he says.

Taking up Manufacturing Engineering and Management in De La Salle University, Tan’s classmates were all gifted with cars by their parents. This was when Tan saw an opportunity to earn money on the side.

He recalls, “My classmates all had cars so I thought of selling car insurance.” He even expanded his offerings to his classmates by selling wheels, batteries and other car accessories.

After graduation, he started in Petron and was one of the first distributors of car lubricants for Metro Manila. With a booming dealership segment, he was also offered a stint at Unilab, which also worked out well. “If you do excellent work, sunud-sunod ang blessings mo.”

Despite being content with his success during his early 30s, Tan still yearned for something he can truly call his own.

Derrick Tan believes in being inspired by the needs of one's customers and make it one's mission to provide them a solution—Serve God by serving others.
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Concocting Magna Prime

With both of his dealerships related to chemicals, it only seemed right to pursue the same route for his own company. Chemicals had a great profit margin and with construction projects being 60% to 70% made of chemicals, it was a huge opportunity for Tan.

However, the young CEO quickly came to terms that this was not the best way to grow his company. “Why copy them when I can make my own?” he shares.

Magna Prime is a total solutions provider for any type of structure, from residential projects to mega infrastructures. Their product line include paints, adhesives, coatings, and pretty much anything you need to complete a construction job. Over 100 products are crafted, with some specialized per project if requested. All are formulated by in-house Filipino chemists.

From cement works to paint jobs, Magna Prime can deliver and go beyond any construction job order.

“What we want to do is to truly help our customers and our customers welcome us warmly because they know that we prioritize and customize solutions for them.”

“Other companies will be focused on profits but for us, we want to make the lives of architects and engineers easier. You’re not giving value to them if you just sell them products,” Tan shares on his sales philosophy. "I always tell my employees, if you’re not helping, you’re not selling.”

Secret formula

As a 30-something boss back in the 2000s, Tan admits that he was not the best leader. “All my key employees resigned, they all quit on me,” he says, remembering an incident in 2009, around the same time Magna Prime was newly venturing into construction chemicals.

He cites this moment as a pivotal point in his career and leadership style. His wife, Sab, guided him towards a better direction that also did the company wonders. “It’s true that behind every successful man is a woman,” Tan, a devout Christian shares.

“I realized that the business was never about me, it was always about serving God. And as CEO, it was my job to take care of my people. If I take care of my people, they will take care of the business," he says.

It was also this time when Tan’s purpose was clarified to him as a leader. “As a leader, my job is to inspire and empower my people. If they feel empowered and they know that I trust them, they’ll do good work.”

For Tan, his purpose as a leader is to serve others, which also includes his MPCTI Technical Team.
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Company culture

Just like the chemicals the company produces, it takes the right bonds and relationships to create long-lasting and effective teams. According to Tan, who has a hands-on leadership approach, there has to be a collaboration between the chemists and marketers of Magna Prime.

But no matter how much of a family they might be as a company, Tan knows that nothing is more important than their own families.

“The priority of my employees in the company is God, family, then work.” Tan himself complies with this strictly, citing that breakfast and lunches are open to meeting clients and alignment meetings but dinners are reserved for his wife and kids.

The CEO shares that having this general mindset is a game-changer for Magna Prime’s culture and his employees’ wellbeing. “If their household is happy, they will come to work and deliver good work," he notes.

This is one of the reasons why he holds worship services during Saturdays for those who wish to attend. “Plus, there’s free merienda! No one says no to that,” he jokes.

As such, he sees himself as a steward leader. He hates having a barrier between him and his employees because it affects morale. “They can approach me like a friend. It’s no issue at all for me,” Tan points out. “I want them to see me as kakampi nila, I’m on their side.”

The endgame

At its early stages, Magna Prime started in a 100-sqm office. As the company grew, they have moved to a 600-sqm space to a 16,000-sqm office area. Two months from this writing, the company will be transferring to Sta. Maria, Bulacan in a 3-hectare lot.

Be it a formulation for a product or a marketing strategy, Tan is all about visualizing the big picture first. He makes his teams draw the outcome and paint a picture of what they want to achieve because, without a concrete destination in mind, it’s pointless. “If you know where you’re going, you can make shortcuts along the way,” Tan says.

When asked on what he visualizes for Magna Prime, he answers, “I want to see Magna Prime to innovate and improve the construction industry. I want quality structures in the Philippines that are at par with Western countries.”

This means cost-effective solutions, safety for workers and users, sustainable product formulations for Magna Prime’s success.

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