Written by: Amy R. Remo for INQUIRER.net BrandRoom
Although his industry demands a lot of rigor, often favors standards and hardly leaves room for errors, Cesar L. Wee Jr. leads with a different approach.
He welcomes ‘crazy’ ideas, challenges with a ‘why not’ mindset, trusts and empowers people to lead projects, and runs the business with a strong sense of family. He values learning and mentoring and believes that being different isn’t that bad.
In fact, Wee himself dared to be different. He charted another path for himself outside of the family business and ended up successfully running Wee Community DeveloPERs Inc. (WeeComm) – a company carving a niche in the fierce Philippine real estate industry, and created ” beyond ordinary homes for all ”since its creation in 2008.
Learn the basics
Wee – son of Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Lee Hiong T. Wee and philanthropist Rosalind L. Wee – comes from the family behind the W Group, known for its office buildings in Bonifacio Global City.
According to him, he started working for the family business in 1998, and left in 2002 to learn the ropes of the real estate trade. He landed a job at Pro-Friends as a mentee to its CEO, Guillermo Choa, from whom he learned essential business skills.
“I worked with him for five years. Initially, the idea was that I was going to learn more about real estate. But I had a big pay cut and was everyone’s assistant, before I rose through the ranks to become a project manager, investor and consultant. At that time, I didn’t know why I was doing these things. I thought it wasn’t a good use of my skills and expertise, ”Wee recalls.
“But now, having my own business, I understood why Uncle Gerry did this to me. It was for me to have a better appreciation of people and the work they do. Breaking down what people need to do is easy, but doing it yourself is different. When you start your own business, it’s a big plus that you can tell everyone in your organization “I know how to do this”. I have a better understanding of where each one comes from, ”he added.
Make your own way
Although Wee returned to the family business after a five-year stint with Pro-Friends and successfully helped launch the W Tower in BGC, he decided to forge his own path. Wee took all the good things he learned from the family business, the W Group and Choa, and started his own business, Wee Community DeveloPERs.
“I bought a property in San Juan and built a seven story building, The First Baron Residences. To be honest, I didn’t think it would be more than that. I wanted to prove that I can do something on my own. I put this project back in 2010. I didn’t earn much money with it. But it was a project to tell myself that I can do it from start to finish. It was more of a disciplinary project than a financial reward project, ”he explained.
“After that, I planned to return to the family business. But things are happening. The property next to the property I developed was selling me and the address was 168, and for the Chinese, 168 is a lucky number, ”he explained.
As he decided to pursue this business, Wee recruited partners and tried to find creative ways to grow and grow the business.
“That’s when the mentorship program was created. Actually it’s a Gerry Choa and Pro-Friends program but we’ve refined it a bit. As part of this program, we invite friends to come and discover the company, and give them the opportunity to invest in projects. We also talk to family businesses that have properties they want to develop but don’t know how. So what we do is form a joint venture to develop the property. In turn, they bring in a family member who can learn more about the business from our company. It helped us grow the business, ”he explained.
Grow the business
Since then, WeeComm has delivered over 4,000 housing units from six fully sold projects in Metro Manila. It has ongoing projects such as Harbor Park Residences in Mandaluyong, Grand Mesa Residences in Quezon City, Emerald Estates in Iloilo City and The Diamond Heights in Davao City, while upcoming developments include Jacinta Enclaves in Cainta, The Flats Mandurriao in Iloilo, Intalio Estates in Cagayan de Oro, among others.
Sales have been strong over the years, reaching a high of 5 billion pesos in 2019. Even during the pandemic, sales have remained strong, with WeeComm registering 3.5 billion pesos. From 2015 to 2020, WeeComm’s sales reached a total of 17 billion pesos.
With such an impressive performance, WeeComm now sets itself a more ambitious goal: to reach 40 billion pesos in revenue by 2025. The goal is to generate 10 billion pesos in sales from each of the four key areas. where WeeComm is present, namely Metro Manila, Davao, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro. WeeComm is also expanding its footprint to more areas, including Rizal and Bacolod City, as well as diversifying its product offerings.
For this year alone, WeeComm plans to launch five residential projects located in Iloilo, Davao, Makati City, Cainta in Rizal and Mandaluyong City.
WeeComm’s success comes as no surprise.
After all, the company provides an environment that is fun, happy and productive, and where every employee is considered family. He has enabled many people to take on projects through his mentoring program, which ensures that projects are never cookie-cutter developments. As partners and employees get involved in the project, they will further ensure that the concept will work.
WeeComm has also made this its mantra and strategy to go beyond the ordinary in terms of lifestyle, convenience, exclusivity and quality of life.
“We don’t want to build projects where people just walk in and out of their homes. It’s not just a box, a place where you just go to sleep. We are still trying to imagine how they live. It should be something they will be proud of, ”he said.
This is also the reason why WeeComm is a company that asks why not; one that breaks with the old school mentality; and the one who welcomes “crazy ideas”.
“If someone gives us a crazy idea, we will never despise it. We will always explore this crazy idea. One example is what we call the Superblock, which is modeled after the elevator-free apartments in the United States. It’s something we’re bringing to market this year, and we’re selling it for around P2 million for a two-bedroom 50-55m² unit that will have floor-to-ceiling windows, ”Wee said.
“Our original mindset, we try to be different has helped us… If you ask me about our projects, I always remember the crazy ideas. Another was for our first project, in which we put the townhouse concept inside the condo. So you have two floors for each unit and at that point it was unheard of, but it sold really well because it was such a unique idea, ”he said.
All of these “crazy ideas” were rightly acknowledged when WeeComm scored nine major wins at the Philippines Property Awards 2020, including the award for Best Breakthrough Developer; Best Subdivision (Philippines) for The Diamond Heights; Best affordable condo development (Metro Manila) for Harbor Park residences; and Best Housing Development (Visayas) for Emerald Estates.
Indeed, WeeComm has come a long way over the past 13 years. But of course, all of these awesome accomplishments and accolades won’t stop WeeComm from doing what it does best – coming up with crazier ideas, thinking outside the box, and providing a home that Filipinos deserve.
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