Leechiu Property Consultants CEO and president David Leechiu.
How to succeed in the ‘new normal’
WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo (The Philippine Star) - June 23, 2020 - 12:00am

David Leechiu, CEO and president of Leechiu Property Consultants, is considered the leading commercial real estate broker in the Philippines. The Leechiu Property Consultants name is prominently seen in almost every property for lease and/or sale in Metro Manila. In just a few years, he has put his company of four years on the real estate map.

He started in 2003 as the co-founder and CEO of Leechiu & Associates. In 2008, he became the country head and the only Filipino international director of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), where he led the company’s growth that exceeded the combined revenues of their competitors. It was during his tenure as head that JLL Philippines became the second most profitable office of JLL in Southeast Asia.

Well respected in the business community for more than two decades now, David is a visionary when it comes to real estate and people who work and have worked for him continue to share how he has inspired them by his leadership in becoming outstanding individuals. David is very positive with his business forecasts in the country despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“BPO (business process outsourcing) will resurge sometime year end because by then, both the Philippines and the US should have adapted to a new normal, the global recession will compel the west to offshore more jobs to Bangalore, Manila, Cebu and Clark. Domestic tourism will flourish because we have been locked down for so long since foreign tourism will take a while. Japan will rediscover the Philippines and this will push them to have the Philippines in a longer term strategy: retirement, customer care operations, health care. Back to normal will bounce back once the vaccine is off shelf — if Bill Gates is right, then the vaccine should be here February to May 2021. In 2002 during SARS, there were very few R&D (research and development) facilities globally — US, Germany and Switzerland. Today the R&D labs in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel, Taiwan, India, Australia, South Korea, etc. are as effective if not better,” David shares.

Read on as David gives us his eight pointers in living life under the new normal.

1. Be optimistic. This is the first and maybe most important advice I can give. You have heard it said that in every crisis there is opportunity, that we have to be brave when others are fearful, that we have to be contrarians. Well, you can only see opportunity and have courage when you are optimistic, only then can you see what others don’t see. For example, in the early ‘80s Mr. (Henry) Sy put up SM North EDSA when others were short of laughing at him for being so “foolish;” Mr. (John) Gokongwei completed Robinsons Galleria in the early ‘90s just when we were having so many coup d’etats and blackouts; Mr. Andrew Tan put up Eastwood City at the height of the Asian financial crisis. Bad news is infectious and makes people blind to real opportunity, they can never look past the bad news.

Yet today, there’s so much to be grateful for: interest rates are all time lows and will keep falling and corporate income taxes are going to 25 percent within the year (assuming Congress and Senate do their job) and heading towards 20 percent within seven years, which is in addition to the reduction in personal income taxes for millions of Filipinos (these tax cuts are the greatest bonanzas we have had as a people) and 11 infra projects to be completed within the next 18 months; reducing traffic by as much as 50 percent and increasing productivity for 30 million people; Philippine debt levels one of the lowest in the world, which will allow us to borrow more for infra-BBB and BPO industry keeps growing through this crisis when EVERY office market in the world has contracted; many institutions still look at the Philippines as one of the fastest growing countries in the world in the next 30 years.

So yes, these are bad times and many local businesses and countrymen are getting hurt, but we are in the best position in all of our history to take this crisis on. Optimism will keep the fire of the human spirit alive, to make us keep going through difficulty, to survive and prosper.

2. Cash is king, build your nest egg; keep debt low. This crisis is a reminder to go back to basics. A nest egg is a cash pot equivalent to one year’s worth of expenses that you keep in a safe, boring investment. This is the emergency fund that you only dip into precisely for times like these. Keep debt to max of 50 percent of your net worth.

3. Invest in goodwill. Honesty, sincerity, and transparency is the best policy. Work with your landlords, suppliers, creditors and tell them the situation as it is; avoiding them and hiding from them out of weakness or embarrassment will only eat up into goodwill. When you don’t have cash, don’t have revenues, don’t have the ability to pay, then the only thing you will have is goodwill. Suppliers, creditors or partners are willing to lend money or inventory on the back of goodwill. Your honor and good name is the start and end of business as well as in life. Mr. Frederick Go, head of Robinsons Land Corp., once told me, “A handshake with a good partner is worth more than many contracts with a bad partner.”

4. Personal humility and professional will. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about these two traits of great leaders. The discipline to look in the mirror when things go bad and say, “What did I do wrong? What could I have done better?”; to be brutally honest with oneself instead of wanting to fan one’s vanity; and to not blame others and point fingers.

5. Customers first, employees second, shareholders third. It’s self -explanatory. Need to stay close to customers, align everyone in the organization towards the customer.

6. Be aware of your surroundings. The period from release of lockdown to vaccine availability is the period of the “new normal.” Keep seeking information about trends and changes in the economies. Kill social media. The app “Screen Time” is fantastic. It summarizes your time spent on your phone and shows you your productivity level. “Did you watch the charts today? Or did you spend more time watching what people ate today?”

7. The good spreads itself. Keep giving back. One’s success is a product of goodwill and breaks given by others. So stay grounded and give others a break.

8. Look long term. The Philippines is one of the least invested countries in the world, and one of the least visited. We need to open up the country to foreign investment and foreign investors. We cannot win the high end of the market right away, we have to start from the bottom and work very hard on our way up. The late ‘60s and early ‘70s Hong Kong was known to produce poor quality; in the mid-’60s many left Singapore when it broke from Malaysia. Look at them now. Even with all of Hong Kong’s woes, its economy is holding ground and its fighting spirit is undefeated. Now let’s ask ourselves: how much trade do we do with Asia? Very, very little for now. We need to change that because today, the Asian economy is larger than the rest of the world combined.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at monsrt@gmail.com. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

DAVID LEECHIU
Philstar
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