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August 2019

Jose Miguel B. De Guzman

OPEMAN Final Paper

It is understandable that Ritz-Carlton, a luxury brand, to invest big in excellent customer service.
To begin with, it is in the hospitality business and within the business, they are catering to the
discerning affluent market. Their market base is relatively small compared to other hotel brands.
Hence, repeat customers and brand loyalty are important.

Real-Estate has a wide scope in terms of products and services but I am going to focus on Ayala
Land’s Malls business where I am currently engaged in.

There are also different market segments in the Malls business. The biggest malls like Glorietta
and Trinoma cater to the general market but some malls focus on the masses (e.g. Market!
Market! and Metropoint) and some were developed primarily for the affluent (e.g. Greenbelt).

But just like Ritz-Carlton, we focus on customer experience in our malls regardless of the target
income class and we see this as our core offering.1

Familiarity to the business is one common trait of the employees of both Ritz-Carlton and Ayala
Malls. In Ayala Malls, security guards, maintenance staff, and especially the concierge staff are
trained to be familiar with nature and locations of all stores in the mall. These employees need to
pass an exam about the merchants of the mall. If an employee fails the exam, he or she will
immediately be replaced by the agency.

After completing training, the employees are expected to have solid knowledge of the basic
operating guidelines and merchant information of the mall. This is very impactful for clients.
Personally, if I visit a department store and ask a sales lady for tips or directions, I would just
end up frustrated because I almost always do not get information that helps. In department stores,
the staff hardly ever assists customers. In my case, I almost always have to find my way around.

But in Ayala Malls, even the security guards and maintenance staff know at least the location of
the stores. The concierge will even be able to assist you in other matters like calling a cab,
booking movie tickets, contacting stores, etc. The staff may not be able to walk you to the store
you are looking for but at least you will be given enough information and tips that help. Because
of the much bigger foot traffic in malls, the staff would not be able to personally attend the
smallest needs of the customers unlike in Ritz-Carlton.

In addition to the concierge, family lounges where customers may access premium restrooms,
wifi, and concierge services are available in Ayala Malls. Studies showed that these lounges add
value and do impact customers. Customers, especially the regulars, usually look for an Ayala
Mall’s family lounge.

1
Our biggest competitor, SM, has retail as its core offering being the biggest retailer in the country. Ayala Land, on
the other hand, is the biggest and most diverse developer in the country explaining the relatively more significant
attention it pays to customer experience.
Additional services and upgrades are continuously being studied to upgrade customer
experience. Right now, all new studies revolve around digitalization which we believe is the
future of not only retail but the entire real-estate development. Subject for study as of today
would be parking, information gathering and dissemination, purchases, ticketing,
booking/reservations, and even merchant mix.

Personally, as a manager, my priority, aside from delivering the results expected from my
projects and acquisitions, has always been the development of my people. My philosophy is I
would not be able to advance professionally if my people do not. Hence, I train and develop my
people with the objective of them being able to replace me in the future. The sooner, the better.

As much as possible I attend meetings with at least one associate with me so he could observe
and learn on the spot. I delegate as much work as possible especially the tasks that are significant
and value-adding. I distribute administrative and clerical work so everyone would have more
time working on tasks that are strategic. I focus on strategy, setting directions for the team, and
managing work of other people. I always ask “how” and “why” questions to my associates to
make sure they remain curious and critical.

I apply the “teaching hospital” approach I got from the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy” in
managing people. Whenever I revisit this idea, I get more convinced that I am managing in the
right direction. How can I advance from my current post if no one else is ready to be my
replacement?

Fresh out of college I never really got to rest before starting a career unlike a lot of my friends
and classmates. My family was very strict when it came to carrying your own weight. They
expected everyone to be able to provide, at least, for themselves. They actually started
withdrawing financial support even before I graduated from college to make sure that I will feel
the urgency of getting a job as soon as I graduate. I was living off my savings when I was
looking for a job.

They even gave me a deadline: if I didn’t get a job within 3 months from graduation, they would
have kicked me out of the house.

I knew I had to be competent because I could not count on anyone other than myself. And ever
since childhood, I have been repeatedly reminded by my parents that I cannot count on
inheritance and I should not be expecting to receive anything. This must have been the reason
why I invested the small amount of money I was earning in self-improvement. While paying for
my mandatory contributions at home, I also spent my cash on the CFA Program, countless
books, exposure trips, even seminars for topics I found intriguing.

And on the job I really gave it my all with long working hours, sleepless nights, doing, learning,
everything I could. I was curious and passionate but most importantly, motivated. Most of my
technical skills today I learned on my own. Probably the most important skill I have even up to
this day is I know how to teach myself.
And then MBA happened. However, I immediately realized that most of the topics covered by
the MBA was just a repetition of what I have studied on my own the past years. I got bored and I
did not get motivated to give it my all. I have this kind of attitude that I have been trying to fix.
This attitude that if I am not being challenged, involved enough, or placed under intense
pressure, I find it hard to commit myself. Maybe I am a typical millennial after all.

And then OPEMAN happened, my last course before I finally take STRAMA. I was not really
looking for anything. My mind was focused on finishing the MBA so I could finally start
learning Mandarin or play a musical instrument. My mind is already set on the next thing I will
do after finishing MBA.

But soon I realized that this was a different class. It popped in my mind what has been missing in
my MBA all this time and why I never really felt invested in it. I never really needed to be
trained for technical skills anymore. I worked hard to provide that for myself. But the stories and
experiences from someone who has gone through so much gave so much meaning to what I have
gone through and what is still waiting for me in the years to come.

To be honest, what I greatly appreciated and learned from the OPEMAN course were the
practical, real-life lessons that the professor shared to the class. How to manage day-to-day
operations, people, and the rest of the business would be something I can learn and improve on-
the-job. But the stories that influenced and cleansed my outlook in life and faith put meaning to
me not only as a professional but as a human being.

Every year that I spend in my career the more I realize that the soft and intangible skills become
more relevant than the technicals. Though the technical aspect of the job is important as it is the
discipline, it is really just the beginning. But in the long-run, how I treat and act towards other
people, how I interact with the community, with myself, with God, adds the most value to
anything that I do everywhere I go.

And for that, I am very grateful for the course. What a satisfying conclusion to my journey to
STRAMA. Suddenly, every course that I have gone through became worth the time.

Right now, I am looking forward to finishing my MBA so I can start pursuing other things in
life. I am eager to learn Mandarin, play a musical instrument, take further studies in Philosophy
and Psychology, read more on History and Politics, and the list goes on.