Pamela Ayuso, Author of Heptagram: The 7-Pillar Business Design System for the 21st Century, on creating innovative spaces and solutions
Describe your business in a few words?
Celaque is a real estate development company specializing in office and residential buildings. We also manage a portfolio of properties. I am also the author of Heptagram: The 7-Pillar Business Design System for the 21st Century – click here to check it out!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I was a partner at my previous firm, and during my time there, I developed a vision of what I would like to do if I started a firm. When we saw the opportunity, I felt ready and excited to take the leap. It was the next step in our growth, and my partner (my husband) and I co-founded Celaque in 2015.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always knew I wanted to run a business. Everyone in my family is an entrepreneur: my mom, dad, grandparents were all entrepreneurs. Given my history, starting a company seemed the natural thing to do.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Because Celaque is a successor of our prior firm, we continued using the networks we had already built. We relied primarily on real estate agents and traditional marketing. For a few years now, we have used digital marketing strategies as well. Marketing is something we continue to learn about and to improve every day.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The first time I hired someone for our team, we did not go through a hiring process. A colleague referred a candidate; we met him and hired him on the spot. The results were not the ones we expected, and that is when I threw myself into learning about hiring. I knew we needed to get good at hiring people if we wanted to grow. I read books and articles and designed a formal process, which we continue to improve as we gain experience and knowledge.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Building a company. It is not an easy thing to do, and I have made plenty of mistakes. Yet, I am very proud of the team we have formed and the company’s structure. I love seeing what we can do now as a team because I can clearly remember what it was like before when we did not have the same capacity. For example, I was talking to one of our engineers the other day, who is responsible for making sure our buildings are 100% ready with all the details in place by the date we say it will be finished. I marveled at how efficient she was at getting it all done on time. Before, we had many last-minute details that cropped up, and it was never a smooth process at the end of construction.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
What did you learn in the last six months? How did you teach it to yourself?
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We build and manage office space, a sector of the industry that the pandemic has impacted. Other segments, on the other hand, like residential, have been doing much better than expected. We have adapted to this reality and focused on creating more of what the market wants. We have also grown significantly – we have doubled the size of our development team. We were fortunate enough to be able to hire some great people.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We will keep improving to make our business products as close to what our clients want as possible. And, hopefully, we will keep doing what we love doing best, which is creating innovative spaces.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
To take care of myself. I knew this at a superficial level, but it was such a demanding time that I had to discover how to live it during the pandemic. I learned to create a routine that was built to include spaces for me. If I am not ok, I will not be able to do any of my jobs well. This also included realizing that there is only so much that is within my control.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I could have given myself my book, Heptagram, as a guide to build my company. This is the main reason I wrote the book – it is the book I wish I had when I started.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
By writing, drinking hot tea, meditating, taking walks, and cooking and baking. I have made it a point to take these times for myself. As my coach told me, the level of performance required during the pandemic is akin to that of an athlete in the Olympics, and during the Olympics, you need top levels of training. I was very disciplined about following my routines.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I think it is important to balance the different aspects of our lives. Sometimes it feels like I am juggling, and I am close to dropping a ball. But more often than not, I am clear about my priorities and make sure I am giving enough time and attention to each one. The best tip is to plan time in your schedule for all of your priorities, especially personal ones, which is not something we tend to do. If you give the necessary time to the things that matter the most, you will be able to achieve that balance. It will not be easy, and sometimes that means you have to let go of something you do not want to remove from your schedule.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I had not baked anything in over 20 years. Along with many others, the pandemic prompted me to rediscover this wonderful hobby. I gained a few pounds during that time, but it was also a great bonding experience with my daughters, and I now love baking for my family.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Create spaces of time during which you do what you want to do.
- Create routines you follow automatically.
- Avoid distractions: remove notifications from your phone, leave time for focused work and make calls only during certain times.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
I’m excited to share my story with other entrepreneurs and to connect with like-minded people.