Zacgary Lundgren was born in 1985 in Seattle, Washington, and moved throughout the US as a child. He graduated high school in the US Virgin Islands and shortly after was invited to Panama to visit his father there. Fresh out of high school, he was unsure of what career he wanted to pursue. He hadn’t considered remaining in Panama at first, but he quickly fell in love with the country and accepted his father’s offer to stay and help grow the family real estate portfolio. Together, they laid the foundations for success in Panama City and have grown the company over the last fifteen years.
Today, he is focused on investments and managing the company portfolio. With an open-door policy, he has helped to build his company’s reputation in Panama City. He works closely with his father, brother, and wife in Panama, while his older sister manages the US side of the business in Seattle.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. I’ve always wanted to be a team lead, and make decisions. My father had always taught us to run our own businesses from a young age. At age thirteen, I started my first landscaping business up in the states. He had always shown us how to escalate within our own business, starting at the very bottom. When I first arrived in Panama, I was working with his construction crews before I could work my way up, learn Spanish, and start giving the orders myself and work my way up the business ladder.
So, that’s what has always motivated me to own and operate a business, and to be the center of something growing.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
Every day is different in real estate. You have a schedule, but when you own real estate and have over a thousand tenants directly below your office that you personally attend to along with your team, something different happens every day. We learn things every day.
I knew that I never wanted a job where I’m just looking at a computer and punching in the same information day after day. I like to meet people, I like to learn stories, and real estate checks all the boxes for me. There’s something new every single day.
What does a typical day consist of for you?
There’s always a team meeting with the staff. We’ve got goals to try to close real estate deals, whether it’s sales or rentals. Right now we’re focused on purchasing, and managing our portfolio with rentals of our properties. We call clients to follow up and find the way to close these deals, and we show our properties as much as possible.
I attend to the large multinational clients such as banks, embassies, pharmaceutical companies, and other large companies. Many of these large companies use Panama as their central hub, and I enjoy getting to attend to the large tenants and their special needs for property rentals.. I know our portfolio inside and out, and I understand the flexibility these clients need when they arrive in Panama and they don’t know anybody. I relate with them quite well, and I enjoy making people happy with the properties that they’re looking for.
What keeps you motivated?
Motivation is quite easy. My wife and I have two wonderful kids and I have the privilege to have a wife who not only supports me 100% in everything we do, but who is also very active with me in the business as well. It’s about family – not only my family, but my father’s, my brother’s and even our staff members families as well. It’s what motivates us every single day. We’re not only working for each other, but for the entire family portfolio.
It’s not an easy thing, working with family, but at least the motivation of doing well by your family is always there and it’s always a plus.
On top of that, we have a staff of over a hundred people. With a family business and a family real estate portfolio, for me it’s less of a ¨job¨ and more of a lifestyle. And being a lifestyle, the concept of family for me does spill out into the team. Knowing that we’re providing for so many local families certainly helps with the motivation as well.
How do you motivate others?
I motivate others by letting them show us their skills. If I’m able to see certain skills within people, I enjoy letting them use those skills within our company. I enjoy watching people enter the company at an entry-level position and, with their skills, provide new things within the company to help it grow. I provide a lot of flexibility for them to integrate those skills into the company, and for both the company and them to grow together. Our current office manager started as a receptionist several years ago and she now manages our main office operations. It’s really about finding those skills and giving the employee the opportunity to use them. That’s how I motivate others – by allowing them to move up the company ladder as far as they possibly can. Or if we can’t provide the positions that they’re looking for, we’ll happily point them toward other opportunities where they can continue to grow.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
It has grown along with the growth Panama has experienced in the fifteen years that we’ve been here. With the reputation that we’ve developed, we’ve been able to maintain a very high occupancy rate on our real estate, even through the challenges of the last year during the pandemic. With the referral rate that we have, we have found that we’re almost in an “If you build it, they will come” position. We invest in a property, and before long, we’re able to fill it. So, I think part of it is the growth that Panama City has experienced, but at the same time, part of it is our added service and reputation.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from my father. Throughout my entire life, I’ve watched him be very successful in a fair way. He’s always taught us very important lessons in life. It’s his humble way of dealing with everything in his business that really inspires me to follow in those footsteps and implement and improve on his ideas as best I can.
As a family business, the idea will always be to let it continue for generations to come. That’s what inspires me – he has created this empire for the entire family to work for, through new generations.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
That’s a tough question. It comes back to the family business being more of a lifestyle. I don’t necessarily check in or check out of the office – I have the business in mind 24/7. But we do have plenty of family time and family activities on the weekends to look forward to. My wife is very good at keeping the kids’ agenda full of school and after-school activities, so we do get to enjoy watching the kids develop their skills through their after-school activities and competitions.
We also enjoy our weekend getaways. Living in the city and working all week in it, the first thing we want to do on a Friday afternoon is leave the city. Every weekend, we find a place within the country to go to, whether it be the beach or the mountains. It’s another reason I love this country – it’s so full of diverse activities. You can be at the beach in the morning, then go up into the mountains in the evening. There are plenty of local activities to keep us busy as a family, and help us keep that healthy work life balance.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
I would say that I’m a good people-seeker. I can read people very well, and I think the conversation skills that come from that are what help me. I’m able to speak their different languages as well as listen to them, which is always important. I’m good at putting myself in their shoes, to help them find what they’re looking for. In real estate, that’s really important. If the client just feels like you’re trying to make a commission or you’re just trying to get their name on that rental agreement, that’s not good. I like to provide information and make sure that the person will be happy where they’re staying. That’s what really helps me to connect with our clients when they come in. They get that feeling of being in good hands, and I make it clear right away that our mission is to make them as comfortable and happy as they can be in their home or office, whether that’s with us or with another company.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
My suggestion for those who are starting out is to connect with people with experience, and listen to what they have to say and the advice they can provide. Find people with experience that you can learn from, because they’re the best teachers. These people have gone through exactly what you’re going through as a beginner, and you need to listen to them because the recommendations they’re giving to you are all based on experience. If you’re starting at any business, not just ours, my recommendation is to connect with people way higher up in the ladder and find some good mentors. Find good sources of information, listen as much as you can, and ask as many questions as you can. Never stop asking questions. Even when you think you know it all, keep asking questions, because there’s always something new to be learned. When you learn it, you can apply it to your business, and the sooner you do that, the more successful you’ll be.