From being someone that calls the shots to becoming a Vice President, what are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve realized so far? How has the transition been?
One of the nicest things that happened was that Isaac built up trust with his partners. The trust was, in a sense, a deep understanding of one another. That both of them were on the same page, particularly in their commitment to reach and attain their goals.
Isaac also realized how important communication is. Messages must be clear. Everyone needs to make sure that they’re on the same page. There’s also the significance of having time to just discuss and see what options are available and hear the opinions of the others.
Isaac, as a first-time founder-turned-Vice President, treats all of this as a learning experience. He enjoys the journey, but he also keeps himself grounded. Most of the things around him are moving too fast, and sometimes, he needs to stop and take in everything meticulously just to keep up.
Another lesson that Isaac learned was that people have to accept that there is a lot of pain. Having this kind of mindset will allow people to be responsive to these changes and adapt and eventually make the right decisions moving forward.
All of this was happening while even more were happening in the background. Isaac Sabas has recently been married, is going to be a father soon, and is in the process of moving to a new home. He is also investing in several new startups as well.
Can you share a few leadership lessons that you learned along the way?
Isaac also shared a point in decision-making. For you to not regret a decision or make others feel bad about it, is that you should always allow logic to win the argument. You also want your management team to be vocal and be able to share their insights and thoughts.
Having that environment where logic and data win allows two things. First, it makes your team better at thinking; and second, your team will trust you more.
Another lesson that Isaac learned was that being a CEO doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the top guy. He would always head into the office and ask what problems he can solve daily.
Through servant-leadership, Isaac prioritizes serving his employees to help them grow which directly leads to the whole company grow.
How are you able to juggle all of these things together?
For the first question, the number one point that Isaac mentioned is to make sure that you marry the right person. Bear in mind that one of the biggest decisions that you have to make is whether or not you will choose to marry someone. For Isaac, his wife is his biggest blessing. When you’re sure that you and your significant other see eye-to-eye on the important things, then you’ll know that you’ve got yourself a keeper. It’s also one of the reasons why Isaac was able to juggle everything that was happening in his life.
In a survey talking about the similarities of the top millionaires in the world, the 4th point is having a supportive spouse. Much like me, Isaac is someone who loves to brainstorm ideas and innovation, and much like my wife, his wife is the one who keeps Isaac grounded. There may be healthy conflicts now and again, but at the end of the day, everything balances out. It’s our spouses that bring the best out of us and always keep us aligned with our goals.
Was the merger sort of a lopsided decision where you had too many pros and too little cons or was it a 50-50 chance?
As Isaac weighed the pros and cons of the merger, he believes that all of his planning and theorizing led to a 60-40 spread, leaning towards the merger. The 40% was mainly because the nature of the merger was high risk and high return. It’s a big part of the pros, and also one of the main cons.
This is because it requires Isaac to be willing to spend another five years of his life burning cash and setting up a new office. But the larger aspect was that it might strain Isaac’s recent marriage—since going through with the merger means being away from his wife for long periods of time.
He also had to factor in things from a business perspective and a family perspective. Things are very different when you have a family that you have to think about.
Isaac said that things would be different if he was single. He would have embraced the high-risk, high reward nature of it immediately.
Another deciding factor for the decision was time. They understood that time is a resource that they can’t get back. With the merger, everything accelerated. Though his return wouldn’t be as big as he first thought it would be, it would be achieved faster.
The merger also signifies the achievement of their first goal, which was to prove that Filipino talent is globally competitive.
Lastly, with the quickened return of investment and shift of responsibility, Isaac could focus on different ventures in which he can once again, prove their goal!
You personally thought of the safety and security of your family when faced with the decision of going through with the merger or not. What did the rest of your board think of this decision?
He was lucky that the board agreed with his idea. As technology companies, it’s always going to be one or zero. When given the chance, they would rather play it safe, especially when you consider that it was already five years down the line. The great thing that they all thought of was that they only had to see what their results would be after 2 years and see what the returns are.
Right now, around a year after the merger, Isaac and his team are in a pretty good space.
After the signing of the merger, what has happened to your team?
Most of my team stayed. The best part was that they slowly turned into the leaders of their respective departments. They had their fair share of mistakes, but that’s only natural especially for young leaders in a very unfamiliar environment. Bear in mind that the jump they made was huge. From a small 30-man business to a 450-man company.
Isaac believes that as leaders, they need to develop more leaders—just like what he did to his original team.
The ones that decided to leave were mostly forced to because of the change in offices. Isaac and his team had to transfer from Ortigas to BGC because the place is a commercial metropolis. When they invite foreign clients into their office, they’ll see that the Philippines is a very progressive nation—not just a tropical paradise with coconuts.
What are some of the things that you know you’ve done to raise leaders?
From the beginning, Isaac has been gearing up his team for something like this. He had the vision that his team would reach new heights and was already preparing them for such a feat. He would mention that his team needs to be able to lead people once they become a large company.
To support this, Isaac hired a lot of interns. He wanted his team to train these interns so that they would learn how to coach. The interns would learn as much as they can, as the team teaches them and grows into better coaches.
One of the best traits of leaders is their ability to train people. Isaac gave his team this opportunity, while also discussing with them other pieces of wisdom such as dealing with different personality types.
Isaac treats his team as his children. He wanted them to be successful in and out of the company. Even when one of his team members were to leave, they would always have a piece of Pandora Labs with them. He wants to be a positive force.