This is Generation T: Career Candids, a recurring article series wherein we talk with some of our Gen T 2017 Top 50 listers to find out more about their roads to success. In this exclusive interview, read all about their backgrounds, careers, struggles, high points, inisghts into the industry, and get some some excellent advice too!
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This is Howard Sy:
He is the grandson and scion of the heavy hitting SM Group tycoon, Henry Sy, Snr. However, branching away from the family business, Howard started an SM enterprise of his own, supplying to a demand that is steadily growing. He founded Storage Mart in 2016, a self -storage company where Filipinos can easily keep and protect their belongings. This locker facility is one of the first of its kind in the country, making moving, packing and renovating much easier for everyone. Spaces can be rented for short or long-term durations and are accessible to renters 24/7 under high security surveillance. It is quite the departure from his previous job as an investment analyst, but he is certainly showing initiative, drive and forward thinking.
Read this one on one, exlcusive interview to learn from, and about Howard:
How and why did you decide to open StorageMart? Where did the idea come from?
It is actually kind of silly. My dad always told me about how when he was 18, he started his own business and from early on it has always served as motivation for me. I also saaw it as a challenge for me to start my own business as well.
Initially, I worked in Macquarie as a financial analyst. This set a great foundation for me as working alongside highly talented individuals taught me strong work ethics. I was also able to earn my seed capital from the job. As much as I enjoyed learning from working in a corporate job, I knew that I would find more fulfillment running my own business.
I spent a good year or two thinking through many business ideas finding the right one. I wanted a business that was different and new in the Philippine market, whilst being scalable. Finally, one faithful afternoon, I was watching the show “Storage Wars” on tv with my family and it hit me right then and there, “is there a market for self-storage in the Philippines?” After a bit of research, I saw that there was a need. That’s when StorageMart was born. The name of the business is a tribute to my grandfather, since without him, I wouldn’t be here today!
Why do you think StorageMart is something the Filipino people need?
Everyone will need storage space at some point! StorageMart aims to satisfy this need. As the Philippines continues to grow as a country, Filipinos’ purchasing power will also grow. This will lead to more items being bought and thus more storage space needed. It also helps knowing that Filipinos are sentimental hoarders, including myself, wherein we find it difficult to let go of many things that have sentimental value. People normally just leave all their extra things cluttering up their homes, or rent an apartment, a house or land to store these extra items. What we offer is a facility designed to take care of your belongings. We can ensure that your items will be safe, protected, and monitored.
What do you see for StorageMart in the coming years?
I’m looking to expand StorageMart as soon as possible. Currently, I’m looking for more properties to rent or buy. Hopefully in the coming years, everyone will start to see more facilities around Metro Manila. The dream is for everyone to start recognizing StorageMart as THE Philippine self-storage company to go to, due to our product quality and customer service. I firmly believe we should be able to locally offer Filipinos the same quality of product and service that others experience overseas.
I’m opening my second branch by the end of September or first week of October. It is located on 2851 Danlig Street or 3112 Eran Street in Pinagkaisahan Makati. It will have climate controlled units for more precious items. It is definitely more accessible for BGC customers!
What do you like about running your own business?
It’s a great learning experience. It’s true that you really do get to set your own schedule and manage your own time. I think my favourite thing about running my own business is the amount of things I am learning from all these new and different experiences. I wouldn’t normally get this education at corporate job. Also knowing that your decisions can affect the future of your business and your employees is extremely fulfilling, but at the same time intimidating.
I’ve really learnt that being hands-on goes a very long way. Knowing every single part of your business will allow you to ensure everything is running exactly the way you want it. It’s definitely something I strive for because how else will you teach your others, if you, yourself, don’t know how to do it?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced when running my own business is the fact that no one is there anymore to tell you what to do and if it is wrong or right, unlike when I was working in a corporate job. Knowing that every single decision you make will impact the future of the business and your employees, will force you to be responsible for your actions. It’s really up to you to know your business inside and out, and make the most informed decision based on the data given. (And pray that what you decided on was the right thing to do haha)
What advice do you have for other budding entrepreneurs?
- Live with your parents until they kick you out or circumstances force you out. Having to not worry about paying rent and other utilities means more time and money to invest into the business.
- Always ask yourself, “if this is such a great idea, why hasn’t anyone else ever thought of it or done it?”.
- Be extremely hands-on. Know every part of your business. There is no excuse to not understand or be on top of any part of your business when it is just starting up.
- Know your numbers. Don’t go into a business without a business plan and a set of realistic projections.
When you’re just starting out in a business, this can actually happen quite often. For example, I’m currently looking for more property to expand StorageMart around Metro Manila, but this search hasn’t yielded much result and the constant rejection I face is very emotionally taxing. I just tell myself to keep at it and sooner or later things will fall into place.
Most of the time, I find the best thing to do when you’re feeling down is to just keep your head down and focus on your own business or task at hand. I don’t bother looking around trying to find excuses to make me feel better. I just work at the issue till I feel better about it.
How do you stay motivated to push forward?
There are many days in the office when I feel extremely unproductive, so I totally believe it’s always good to get out of your usual environment (office) and clear your head. Working 7 days a week can be physically and emotionally draining. Ensure you take breaks and vacation in order to come back fully recharged and motivated.
I would say, learn from others and constantly look to improve yourself -- you should never stop learning.
How do you inspire others, those who work for you?
I’m not too sure haha it’s only been 9 months. I hope I inspire the people who work for me. I keep an open-door policy with my employees. They can easily approach me and talk to me about whatever. I learn everything they do, so that I can also give some constructive input on how to improve what they’re doing. I find that being hands-on and doing the ground works earns a lot of respect from my staff. Lastly, I talk to my staff and explain their importance to the company and to its growth that without them, my company wouldn’t even exist.
How do you handle stress or fear with regards to your career? (ex. when making big decisions or risky moves)
On normal days, I just try to make sure I don’t get overwhelmed by all the things that need to be tackled. I would usually make a list and try to focus at one item at a time. I also look to prioritize the more important and immediate concerns.
With regards to big decisions, I often consult my family. I’m actually very slow in making decisions, so I tend to have the tendency to get a lot of opinions and data before I make my final decision. I also go through and analyze all the details over and over to ensure I am not missing out on anything. You will never be 100% sure of anything, but by ensuring you have consulted with other experts and combed through all the details given, you will be able to make a well-informed decision.
I’m comfortable only if I am well prepared. Asides from that, I’m a nervous wreck haha. My main tip for being a good public speaker is really just to prepare well. Read the speech over and over again to yourself until it becomes fluid and you become confident. If it is an impromptu speech, then quickly list out the topics you want to go through or things you want to say in your mind and work around that structure.
StorageMart is currently located at 7452 Yakal Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City, Metro Manila 1203