By ANGELA CASCO
Going into business is not a common activity for a teen to take up. It’s far from a hobby. If anything, it’s a matter of the socalled “real world,” typically not for youngsters.
That’s not the case for Miguel Tan, though. Growing up in a family of business owners, venturing into this line of work is a natural choice for him.
As a kid, he frequents the office of his dad, Antonio Tan, in Banawe. “At eight years old, I was already being trained,” Miguel says. “I’m given tasks there, even those as simple as stapling and stamping papers.”
“At eight years old, I was already being trained,” Miguel says. “I’m given tasks there, even those as simple as stapling and stamping papers.”
His first official experience in business, however, is through the stock market at just 14 years old. “I started investing in stocks at a very early age,” he says. “I think that was the first time I got to understand how business worked.”
At 18, while finishing his senior year at Xavier School, he has already made his first million.
Now at 22, he is the chief executive officer of Fasclad Inc., a company that specializes in the fabrication and installation of glass and aluminum products, mainly used for building facades.
His journey to where he is now, though, is not without challenges.
As a college student at the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), when many would get moderate to plenty of free time for leisure, Miguel followed a schedule that can fit as many subjects as possible in a day. By the time lunch break came—which he did not get, by the way—he has already taken four classes. That’s on top of being a member of the student council, too.
“It was difficult as there was no rest for me,” he says. “I really had to sacrifice a lot of things like not having a social life or not going out on weekends. I sleep early, too, because staying up late can mean your productivity is really bad the next day.”
Eager to go deeper into the world he wants to be in, Miguel has also decided to invest in various businesses. “I started several ventures, particularly in tech, that failed,” he says. “What also failed are my investments in a number of restaurants.”
His first successful investment is a restaurant in Ortigas called Moonshine.
While the future is looking good for him, however, his dad’s own construction business of 20 years is showing a need for reinvention. “We saw the trends changing in 2014 and a lot of buildings, particularly in BGC, required more glass and less of aluminum, which is what my dad’s company provides,” he says. “I told my dad that the vision is this: We should enter into curtain wall business.”
With a labor issue also striking the company, closing the business has become the only choice for the family.
That’s when Miguel decided to open Fasclad, which primarily works on glass facades of buildings. He owns the majority of its shares at 70 percent, his dad at about 20 percent, and the remaining are with some of the company’s directors.
Having no track record like his dad’s company has proven to be challenging for Miguel and his new team.
“Being young in terms of age and experience, it takes time for people to trust you with money,” he says. “If I really want to make it, though, not only do I have to work hard, I also have to work smart.”
This is one of the reasons Miguel has initially chosen to partner with foreign companies for help.
You could influence fellow young people to be leaders instead of followers by becoming an entrepreneur.
Tan explains that these foreign companies, though already with a number of projects under their belt to speak for their work ethic and quality, lack the materials, the facility, and the manpower they need to execute projects locally. “That’s where we came in,” he says. “We became their local counterpart. The project may be awarded under their name, but production in the site as well as construction is on us.”
He likens this approach to cooking. “Give me all the ingredients,” he says. “I have the kitchen. I will cook it and deliver it to the client.”
Through these deals, Fascland has been able to do jobs for Zuellig, 8 Rockwell, Lawson, and even Ascott Hotel.
A problem cropped up again, however, when a bigger company acquired their partner. Along with the new company are new leaders and a new management style. Miguel says “everyone quit and the company pulled out of the Philippines.”
His growing company is suddenly without a partner. The young CEO, keen on working smart and on not giving up, has decided to hire the said foreign company’s past employees.
“From there, we started doing projects on our own,” he says. “Right now, we’ve finished several buildings already.”
Two towers worth P600 million are also in the works, while a partnership with the Ayala Group of Companies allowed them to do the glass facade of their buildings. “In five years, we’re thinking of going public, too,” Miguel says, which could mean further growth for the company.
Apart from being a young and successful businessman, however, Tan also makes time for one other endeavor—equipping young students with financial aid to make sure that they’ll finish their studies.
“I started a scholarship fund in UA&P. I just donated half a million to the school last May,” he says. “This is what I can do—give back.”
On the advantages of going into business at an early age, Miguel says there’s no better time than when one is young.
“The risks are low because there’s not much to lose,” he says. “You don’t have your own family yet, there are a lot of things you can venture in, you could influence fellow young people to be leaders instead of followers by becoming an entrepreneur.”