Guilherme Faria is the co-founder of Penbrothers – a leading offshore recruitment, payroll and office space provider with cool office spaces located around metropolitan Manila.
Human Asia spoke to Gui about this exciting venture.
What is Penbrothers and how did you come up with the idea?
Gui: We are a service provider for startups worldwide who creates intelligent employment which allows Filipinos to work for foreign and local startups. In other words, Penbrothers is a human resource and business solutions provider offering cost conscience local and international startups with payroll assistance, legal services and flexible office spaces in the Philippines.
We help our clients create and grow their teams with exceptional talent so that they can focus on their core business – or in short, a “We hire, You Manage!” model.
The business started from a need, as many do. I needed to hire a photo editor for my other business but found the costs in Europe, US and Japan were way too high. I then looked at India which proved to be the more cost effective option. Nicolas, my co-founder was living in the Philippines at the time and told me about the great quality of workers the Philippines had to offer, and that we could actually get English speaking talent at a fraction of the cost. Nicolas came up with the idea of the service, and we soon realized that other startups also needed the same service. We found our niche.
How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
Gui: We focus on offering a tailor made approach. Most startups have the same needs, but they all need tailor made services. We focus on a global community of startups that require more than just a co-working space – they need added value services to make their lives easier which we offer through our recruitment and administrative services.
We are a one stop shop. We hire, interview, evaluate, process payroll, assist with administrative task, and we sit them within our curated and creative office spaces. Within that space, we have built a network where people can share ideas, exchange skill sets, and so on.
What were the main stumbling blocks initially and how did you overcome them?
Gui: The second year was the most difficult year because we were a fast-growing startup without people and processes. By growing fast, we stepped into the unknown zone, and by the time we realized we were already committing some big mistakes – it was time to go back to the drawing board, so we hired the best people and focused on process.
The main challenge was to be able to hire and firefight daily at the same time. It took us almost two years to finally have the right people and things stabilized from then. Right now we have an exceptional team that have proven to be able to take Penbrothers to a completely new level.
The other problem we had, was speed of growth vs budget and funding. Our business is a cash intensive type, and our pockets were not deep enough. In simple words, we grew too fast and cash flow was tight – not a bad problem to have, but it was something that we still had to deal with.
What does the process entail both for job seeker and hiring company, and what are the current trends in recruiting?
Gui: Penbrothers recruitment process entails that job seekers go through in-depth screening, both on our side and on the client’s side. As for the hiring company, it is expected that they align with our recruitment team regarding their opening, specifically their top five non-negotiable skills and qualifications, so that we can ensure we get the top quality people they need.
The hiring company is also expected to allocate time for interviews and consultations with our recruiters. The current trend in recruitment is taking a 180 degrees turn toward candidate centered recruitment, also known as recruitment marketing, which Penbrothers has adopted.
What has proved to be the hardest part of running a co-working space? Has anything surprised you?
Gui: Most people think a co-working space is very easy to run. The hard part is getting it to operate smoothly. One of the main challenges we have is to keep everyone happy – in today’s world wherein we all like different things and have different opinions – how do we create something that is appreciated by the vast majority?
We get feedback daily about all types of issues, and we work constantly at making sure our facilities are in great shape, our internet works well, and that our staff are friendly and helpful.
What surprises me is that it is a constant learning process – we are always finding new ways on how to improve the quality of our service and offer something more interesting and fresh. Another challenge is to get the members in our space to feel like they are part of a thriving community. It is our responsibility to make sure our clients interact with other companies.
What are the next milestones for Penbrothers and where do you see the company in three years from now?
Gui: Penbrothers is already transforming the way startups recruit, by allowing them to get the best people at the best rates. Our goal is to become the top off-shoring service provider and collaborative home for startups all over the world.
We currently two stunning new offices opening in the next 45 days, which will bring us to over 1,000 seats in total, spread across 8 offices. Towards the end of the year we will most likely be raising a series A, to fund further growth for 2019-2020. Also, we are constantly looking to offer further added valuable services that will help startups and SMEs succeed.
Gui, please tell us a little about yourself and your background before founding Penbrothers.
Gui: Graduated in ISEG Lisbon School of Economics and Management with a B.S. in Economics, my last position before coming to Manila was as General Manager for UBM Novomania in Shanghai, China.
During the first decade of this millennium I was in Tokyo, Japan, where I had various positions: Overseas Manager for E-Four Corporation, Marketing Manager for Pirelli, and Commercial Diplomatic Affairs/Trade Manager for the Embassy of Portugal.
As an entrepreneur I started various businesses and I am presently the Co-Founder of Penbrothers International and a Managing Partner of Upteam Corporation (a 500 startups portfolio company).
How did you meet your co-founders? And what have you learned by being a co-founder?
Gui: I met Nicolas back in Japan in 2003. We have been best friends since then and by now understand each others personality quite well, which by the way, is very different.
The biggest learning as co-founder of Penbrothers is that your own point of view can only cover what you see in front of you. In order to succeed, it is imperative that you let other points of view come into the discussion, so that you get a more holistic view.
The other major lesson has been that your people are your best asset. I have been blessed working with some of the best young people in the Philippines, being able to teach them about what we want as a company, and how we want it to be done.
Would you rather be respected or feared?
Gui: Definitely respected! Respect is forever, fear eventually loses out!
Thinking of something you have done in the past, what would you have done differently?
Gui: As I like to say, playing lotteries on Mondays is easy! Knowing what I know today, I would definitely change a few things in the path to where we are now, but I also think it was very important for me as a founder and business leader, that I actually went through many struggles – because that is how you learn.
How do you make a decision when people disagree with you?
Gui: There are always people who disagree with you. For as much as that might be uncomfortable at the time of the discussion, it also forces you to think deeper about the reasoning behind such decision – and as I mentioned before, in most cases three or four people’s point of views combined are much better than your own.
Finally, what is your advice for the new age entrepreneurs rising today.
Gui: Get a business partner that is both your best friend and the opposite of you. Someone needs to challenge your views, and who better than your partner. You have heard about the term “opposites attract” – that is basically what I mean! Last, get ready for a stormy and long ride! You are not in for an afternoon of canoeing, you are crossing the Pacific, so start paddling!
You can visit Penbrothers at https://www.penbrothers.com/
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