In 1989, with only experience and an architecture degree to buoy him, a young and ambitious David Ong left his job as a sales agent for a roofing company to start his own business distributing various construction related materials. Then known as Dwight Trade and Services, the startup was a small, two-man operation—with just three tables between them.
But it didn’t stay small for long.
By 1994, the company became a full-fledged manufacturing and importation company and renamed itself to Dwight Trade and Development. It was a move initially born out of necessity. Then President Fidel V. Ramos had signed the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, under which imported goods were allowed to enter the Philippine market tariff-free. “Being a distributor was no longer viable since the industry was deregulated,” Ong explained. “I was left with the option to either downgrade to a dealer or upgrade to a manufacturer. I chose the latter in order to have an edge in the marketplace.”
The decision would prove to be fortuitous. Three years later, the company rebranded and became DwightSteel Building Systems, Inc. This time, the company focused on steel as its core material for manufacturing. From only two people and three tables, DwightSteel grew to a formidable player in the industry, with 12 satellite offices and 10 manufacturing plants nationwide.
To date, DwightSteel has its main office in San Juan City, Metro Manila, and operations in Cebu, Davao, Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Cavite, General Santos, Isabela, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tacloban and Taytay.
The company is gearing up for expansion as it plans to put up its own building which will serve as DwightSteel’s new headquarters. The new main office will be a bigger workspace to accommodate their growing manpower and make room for bigger and better training facilities.
They are also set to open in Iloilo this year and have plans to build a 16,000 sqm facility in Pangasinan, which will include leasing as well. The company is likewise venturing into other product lines, and will launch a light framing plant in Cebu this year.
With steel roofing, decking, ceiling and siding products and galvanized steel accessories in its portfolio, DwightSteel has been helping build high-quality homes for Filipinos for the past 30 years.
The company itself is home to hundreds of employees. “I am proud of the fact that we have been providing continuous employment and personal and professional growth to employees for the past 30 years,” Ong said. “We have employees who have been with us from the beginning. We are thankful for being given the opportunity to be of service to others and for making a difference in the lives of our employees.”
Thirty years in an industry that is ever evolving is no small feat. Ong and his team had to overcome the usual business pains when it transitioned into a manufacturing company-from sourcing of raw materials, machinery and efficient manpower to additional financing for importation and production. He was the new player: the David to a host of Goliaths. It wasn’t an easy climb to the top, but slowly and steadily, the company established its foothold in the industry.
“We have managed to flourish despite the countless adversities that we have encountered along the way,” Ong shared. “These adversities have taught us resilience, patience and how to face criticism. The challenges built us up, strengthened our resolve and compelled us to break boundaries.”
To make it to the top is one thing but to stay there is another. It requires a whole different set of discipline and commitment. Despite its ever growing size, Ong has maintained a streamlined structure within his organization. Management is heavily involved in day-today operations. Ong’s daughters, Sabrina and Colleen, have also joined the company as finance officer and operations officer, respectively.
“The management is very hands-on,” Ong explained. “Getting in touch with higher management is relatively quick and easy, which allows for prompt decision-making. Moreover, employees who start from the bottom yet show dedication and potential could potentially move up the company structure, allowing room for professional growth.”
Their approach to customer service is unparalleled: every customer—architect, developer, contractor, homeowner—whether he’s building a small family home or developing a set of high-rise buildings, gets the same level of commitment and first-class service. “We hold perseverance, integrity and fairness in high regard,” Ong added. “We own up to our mistakes and make the necessary amendments to resolve issues.”
But Ong also pointed out that he and management could not have done it alone. He is grateful for the many people who have been a part of the company’s 30-year journey. “We thank our employees, suppliers and banks for their unflinching support, invaluable trust and for helping us for the past 30 years,” Ong expressed. “We thank our customers for their loyalty and patronage of our products. Without these three cogs in the machine—employees, suppliers and partners, both banks and customers—we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
On top at 30
Thirty years later, David Ong refuses to rest on his laurels. If anything, he’s still the same determined and zealous David of 1989, eager and ready to take on the challenges of the next 30 years and more.
“It’s been 30 years, but we’re just starting,” he smiled. Perhaps even more telling of the company’s unbridled vigor is its new logo. “We wanted a new logo to really highlight DwightSteel’s commitment, resilience, relationship-driven customer service and high level of expertise,” Ong explained. “Behind the very hardline business of construction is a company that cares for honor and integrity.”
The marketplace is also just as dynamic and still constantly changing, with a lot of smaller manufacturers, some from mainland China, setting up shop and selling materials at much lower prices. Competition is tougher but DwightSteel remains undaunted, banking on its 30 years of strong-as-steel reputation. “We have to always change with the times and embrace the competition to stay relevant,” Ong would remind his team.
DwightSteel’s journey toward product innovation and integrity, research development, engineering effciency, logistic enhancement and nationwide reach continues. It’s still the same company with the highest set of standards for product excellence and customer service. But time and experience have only made DwightSteel stronger, more resolute and ready more than ever to take on the next challenges of this new chapter.
As David so aptly put it, “It’s not how far we’ve come, but how far we can go.”