All in the Family
At Cebu Landmasters Inc., family is more than just sharing a last name. The genuine concern and mastery at addressing their catered market’s needs has turned Jose Soberano III’s homegrown company into a real estate developer that is building communities throughout the Visayas and Mindanao region.
With its modern glass façade and a strategic location on one of Cebu IT Park’s main avenues, Park Centrale is a building that unsurprisingly merits a few second looks. The sleek structure is home to several businesses, including BPOs and homegrown companies—including that of Cebu Landmasters Inc.
As the company behind Park Centrale and many other developments in Cebu, Cebu Landmasters Inc. occupies what is arguably the building’s prime space—the topmost floor that include an outdoor deck, large windows throughout the offices, and access to the rooftop that enjoys views all the way down to the Mactan Channel on one side and the hills of Busay on the other.
The company’s location now seems to be a proper representation of the company’s growth—in the past 12 years, Cebu Landmasters has grown from its first office in Labangon with a team of two people, to its current roster of 170 full-time employees housed in one of the premiere office addresses in the city.
At the heart of it, though, is Jose Soberano III, who had started the company after working with the Ayala Group for 23 years and seeing an opportunity to create his own development in Cebu’s countryside. The President and CEO wanted to cater to the housing needs of the middle-income bracket, particularly in areas close to his hometown of Pinamungajan on the Western side of Cebu, which led to the company’s first development, the San Josemaria Village in Balamban. “There was an opportunity to provide affordable, quality homes to the very hardworking employees in the shipbuilding industry in Balamban,” he shares. “This was a niche market, as we were one of the first to bring gated subdivision living to this part of Cebu.”
The humble beginnings have led to considerable success with over 25 developments to date, and at the heart of it all remains Joe and the passion that drove him to the business when he started. These days, though, he shares it with his wife Marose, the company’s Executive Vice-President of Finance, and children Franco and Joanna, who have each contributed to what the company is today.
“We had to talk them into it. Thankfully we succeeded,” Joe says lightheartedly when asked how he had gotten Franco and Joanna to join the team. “My children were well-placed in their previous careers, and it was something they could have easily built themselves and be on their own. However as a dad and CEO, I did my share by giving them a good option and making it an interesting business for them to be part of.”
“Since we were young, we were always exposed to our family business, but not particularly groomed or required to work for the company. My parents would always say it should come from us, it was up to us when or if we wanted to, or were ready,” shares Joanna Soberano, the company’s Vice-President and Marketing Director. With that in mind, she took up a bachelor’s degree—and later graduate studies—in Marketing Communications at the University of Asia & the Pacific. She then pursued a corporate career, taking on marketing and brand management roles in Nestle for seven years. “I was part of a Nestle international program in marketing as the delegate of Nestle Philippines, where I had expatriations in the headquarters in Switzerland and Thailand.”
On his part, the oldest child Franco Soberano had originally wanted to be a lawyer after his studies at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he had taken up Management with a major in Legal Management and minor in Finance. “Eventually I became very fascinated with the world of business, so the new dream was to climb up the corporate ladder and become an executive of a multi-national corporation,” Franco recalls, sharing that at the time, Cebu Landmasters had still been a young venture.
Their parents’ drive and the company’s eventual growth, though, inspired Franco to eventually join their ranks. “As I saw how my parents worked hard to grow the business, how well they took care of the employees and professionalize the business, it became an easier decision to join the family business,” he says, now serving as Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer.
For Joe’s part, Franco and Joanna came onboard at an optimum time. “This is a critical stage of the company’s push for growth and expansion, and we need all the help we can get. My plans for them are clear—they are the next to lead this company, and I have no doubt they will be excellent leaders as they already are.”
“We listen very carefully to the beat of the market, and we always internalize what is valuable to our customers.”
In fact, both Joanna and Franco plays vital roles in the company’s operations—for his part, Franco directs and manages day to day operations that include business development, project management, marketing and sales, documentation and property management. “Park Centrale will always be my ‘baby’ project,” Franco admits, although he has been involved in all of Cebu Landmasters’ projects since. “After my studies in New York,” where he’d studied Real Estate Development in Columbia University, “I was given this special project as I had recently learned about office design and development in Manhattan. Every little detail in the project, even the smallest piece of tile we ordered for the project, I can still remember—and in real estate, it helps a lot to be very meticulous and hands-on.”
Joanna had been in the company for less than a year, but she’s already spearheaded many improvements in the company’s marketing, establishing a competent team and developing strategies for branding and promotions. The company’s new slogan, “We Build With You in Mind,” is her brainchild.
“The best part about working in the family business is first the industry we are in. We are in the business of building homes, uplifting lives and communities,” Joanna shares, revealing a little bit of the mindset behind the slogan. “Homes are people’s hopes and dreams, a major decision point and life milestone. To make it happen for them the way they envision it, to make their hard-earned money count, guiding them through every step, that is our job.”
It’s understandable then, that Joanna feels the project’s new brand Casa Mira best represents what Cebu Landmasters wants to do for the Filipino family. “It’s a brand that we will be expanding this year as our economic flagship brand,” Joanna shares. “This is particularly meaningful to me because of how it delivers a Mira-cle to home-seekers, one that is in a beautiful community with amenities, well-located and priced only at P5000 a month. It gives opportunities for many people to have a home they have always wished for.”
As one of Cebu Landmasters’ highlight projects for 2017, Casa Mira features a development of townhouses, and has launched in Naga and Linao in Southern Cebu. The next year will see the brand expanding to Guadalupe in Cebu, and to the neighboring provinces of Iloilo, Bacolod and Dumaguete. “It’s about giving ‘more for the Filipino family,’” Joanna adds.
Casa Mira isn’t the only thing Cebu Landmasters has in store for the year—2017 is set to be the company’s biggest yet, with expansion in four new cities in the Visayas and Mindanao region (Davao, along with the locations for Casa Mira) and ten new projects on the way. This is already following an already major departure from their original purely residential projects, with Park Centrale being their first venture into commercial and office spaces. “It was part of our strategy to diversify our product lines, and support the growing demand for Grade A BPO and corporate offices,” says Joe. “When we completed the building in 2015, our spaces were all filled up in less than three months. This really is a testament to Cebu as being a favorite business or BPO destination for its world-class talent pool.”
Cebu Landmasters to continue on the thread of diverse products, their other projects of the year including the Baseline Center, a mixed-use lifestyle destination that brings together office spaces and residential condominium The Citadines by Ascott to a landmark Cebu destination; and the Latitude Corporate Center in Cebu Business Park, which is “Masterfully Crafted for Great Businesses.” Their newest projects pre-selling this month are the New York-inspired 38 Park Avenue in IT Park, which is set to open for pre-selling this month; and their very first venture in Davao City—the Mesa Tierra Garden Residences that will feature tranquil and green living spaces.
The experience in the real estate industry has brought about a development process that centers always on the customer—their projects’ future residents. “As a very first step, we pursue the best location. Whether it’s for a high-end project or an economic one, we will strive to offer a location that will give our buyers the best possible experience and value appreciation for the long-term,” Joe explains. “And we listen very carefully to the beat of the market, and we always internalize what is valuable to our customers.”
The forward-thinking approach means Cebu Landmasters is not just in the construction of residential or commercial structures. “Even after a project is completed, we are still very much part of the developments and see to it that projects are nurtured for the long-term,” Joe continues. “Our customer service will begin from the time you meet a CLI employee, and will continue well after you moved into your home.”
The company feels this is a strength that comes with being a homegrown company—one that is already the biggest local housing developer in Metro Cebu, with an 11% market share second only to real estate giant Ayala Land at 17%, and followed by Filinvest at 8%, based on the 2016 CBRE study. “Truly knowing the market—the needs, wants, real demand which comes with being closer to the people—we are able to render service that is hands-on and personalized, execute with speed, and deliver projects of good value,” Joe says.
“As a family business, we will always endeavor to grow across generations–the vision is always long-term.”
– Franco Soberano
That knowledge of the market comes in handy, especially in the face of a growing industry that now includes many developers coming in. “Competition is always welcome as all players will try to raise the bar, and our buyers will benefit from the improved standards,” Joe shares. “For homegrown real estate companies, it will always be a special responsibility to look after our fellow Cebuanos, so we will adapt to new competition, but at the same time we will drive new innovations as we will continue to know Cebu best.”
Cebu Landmasters’ success might be something attributed to this almost intimate association to their market, but it’s not all that surprising when you consider the group behind it shares a familial connection. “As a family business, we will always endeavor to grow across generations—the vision is always long-term,” Franco says. “The best part about it is that I’m able to journey with those dearest to me. We are also able to grow an extended family, as our executives and employees become very much part of the family.”
“We push and learn from each other everyday,” Joanna adds. “The challenge for a family business is to always strike a good balance between work and family. But I am lucky to have a family who puts us first, and one that keeps a professional, trusting and encouraging environment in the office.”
“The best part about working in the family business is, first, the industry we are in. We are in the business of building homes, uplifting lives and communities.” -Joanna Soberano
This environment is one that has carried Cebu Landmasters Inc. through its 12 years of success—the genuine concern and desire to improve their customer’s lives has become a backbone to a business that’s only going to reach new heights.
photography Dan Douglas Ong stylist Blaq Mafia makeup Arnauld hair Jesse Egos