After spending two decades working in the hotel and real- estate industry, Sheila Lobien
decided in 2018 that it was time to open her own business. With the boom in the property sector, it was a no-brainer for the petite executive to establish the Lobien Realty Group (LRG).
“The market is good. And I think it was about time because I have been in the industry for a decade. If you add my experience in the hotel and tourism industry, it has been a wide exposure for me. Moreover, my clients have always been urging me to put my own company and that gave me the confidence that it is time to do so,” Lobien, the LRG chief executive officer, explained.
Prior to LRG, Lobien worked as a regional director and head of project leasing of a Fortune 500 property-consulting firm. She was also a general manager of Regus Manila, and was one of those who spearheaded Regus’s then-novel concept of shared and plug-and-play office space in the early 2000.
Aside from being ready and possessing strong confidence, Lobien wanted to capitalize on the strong growth of the economy for the past eight straight years—highlighted by a strong gross domestic product (GDP) performance. She also noted that the Philippines has attracted a lot of investors from all parts of the globe, specially the mainland Chinese in the recent years. Foreign companies are coming.
She recalled that when she felt it was time to take the big leap, Lobien wished that her friends and colleagues would join in her entrepreneurial endeavor. Lobien thinks one advantage going to their favor is the familiarity with the local market. “I have a good grasp of the local market, plus I have the international connection,” Lobien said.
Although she is still in her sophomore year in the property industry, Lobien feels they have been in the business for a long time. She said LRG was overwhelmed by the response of their clients. She credited her team for excellent work they have done in delivering the quality of service they deliver to their clients. “We know the demands of the tenants and investors, and where the demand will come from,” she said.
For the investors, LRG will advice companies to plan their business road map and direction. Lobien revealed that LRG can handle the demands of the business because she has a group that has accumulated a lot experience in the industry that handled multinational corporations and real-estate companies.
Moreover, LRG had an easier time to transact with the clients because Lobien had worked with them in the past. “Bringing the tenants was easy because we know them,” she said.
How it started
There is no doubt that being an entrepreneur involves a lot of risks. As far as she is concerned, Lobien pointed out that forming the company was feasible for her. Another notable element in the formation of LRG was that a woman is the leader of the company in an industry usually dominated by men.
“I am, somewhat, proud to say that I am the first woman to do the things that are traditionally done by men. I feel that I am one of the boys too, competing against them in bidding for the projects,” she said.
Interestingly, Lobien is also a strong advocate of gender equality and women empowerment. She currently chairs the Women in Business Committee of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), an avenue for mentoring, networking and other social activities geared to uplifting women professionals in the Philippines.
With the property market enjoying a good run for at least a decade, Lobien thought the sector is perfect for another player to serve the growing number of clients.
Unlike their counterparts, LRG is a “lean and mean organization.” Nevertheless, Lobien said, LRG thrives because they have developed strong ties with the clients and their people, as well. “We are primarily successful because of our connection with the market,” she said.
“It is all about relationship. People work with you because they trust you. As long as you are developing [and fulfilling] commitments, you will always be in business,” she pointed out.
In their first year of operation, Lobien disclosed that it exceeded their expectations as LRG received a lot of clients.
Since she leads the company, Lobien can make faster decisions, talk directly to the client and conduct meetings in a flexible manner.
Lobien admitted being an entrepreneur presents different challenges. Right now, she is responsible for the whole company. But it is a rewarding experience for the Univeristy of the Philippines tourism graduate. “It is very rewarding because of the fact [that] you are able to employ people and help them grow their career,” she said.
Lobien said it is fulfilling to run a company, run it yourself and help it to be profitable.
In handling the pressures, Lobien said her husband and two children are there to relieve her of the daily grind of work, especially on Sundays when they have the chance to bond together as a family.