Leading a company is a challenge at any age, but at just 27 years old, James Deleon Guerrero ’16 has taken on the role of Vice President at JM Holdings. He’s using what he learned at Chaminade and previous work experiences to grow the family business all while giving back to the local community.
A home away from home
For Saipan native Deleon Guerrero, Hawai‘i has been like a second home. While growing up, he accompanied his parents on their frequent business and leisure trips to O‘ahu each year including spending summers here. He became very comfortable being in Hawai‘i, with its culture and climate similar to Saipan’s, and pictured himself attending college in the Hawaiian Islands following graduation from high school.
He looked at the various college options on O‘ahu and was attracted to Chaminade University because of the great things he had heard about the private Marianist university from a college recruiter as well as from friends who had attended the school.
Testing the waters
In 2012, Deleon Guerrero arrived at Chaminade to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Like many Freshmen, he was away from home for the first time, on his own and also living off-campus. He readily admits his schoolwork suffered during his first semester and was humbled by his mistakes. Getting back on track, he joined a Marianas club and quickly found his ‘ohana, making new friends from all over including Guam.
Eager and ambitious, Deleon Guerrero pushed himself so that in his senior year, he only had two or three classes left to graduate. He is especially grateful for the close-knit environment at Chaminade that allowed him to easily make connections with his peers and professors. He credits his Chaminade professors for “preparing me for the real world.”
Graduating in 2016 with his business administration degree in hand, his first stint was as a bank teller. This was followed by a position in construction management as a project engineer/coordinator at Unlimited Construction. After two years, he moved into a project management role at Island Sun Solar, now known as Pacific Energy Partners, where he assisted with design, sales and training. James was working as assistant to the chief engineer at Howard Hughes Corporation where he oversaw building maintenance when he was called home to Saipan to help with the family business.
As the only child, he always knew he was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps by one day taking over the company. However, he also felt it was important to gain work experience on the outside first before joining the family business. “I felt I was on a successful career track in Honolulu and didn’t plan on returning to Saipan so soon,” he admits, “but my parents needed me now.”
At 27, Deleon Guerrero was recently named Vice President of JM Holdings LLC, a diverse, multi-faceted company, involved in real estate, land sales, long-term leases, agriculture and farming, building and ground maintenance, house rentals, travel, and more. J.M. are the first and middle initials of his father, Jesus Manuel.
Working closely with his father, who oversees operations, and his mother, accounting, he is dedicated to learning everything about the 30-year-old business as well as upholding its values and ethics. Overseeing 15 employees, he enjoys the flexibility and the variety of tasks that the role offers, including new business meetings and drafting bid proposals.
Forging his own path
For Deleon Guerrero, it’s been an adjustment joining the business at this time, and while there is pride, he also is aware of the big responsibility in carrying on the business’ legacy and sustainability. He’s confident he “brings skills I’ve developed through my Chaminade education and previous work experience to the company.” Valuable skills such as public speaking and interviewing from professors and sales and reviewing blueprints and drawings from previous employers are all assets. Deleon Guerrero also is studying to a become a certified real estate appraiser and will become the first local on Saipan.
With deep respect for his father, Deleon Guerrero says he knows he has big shoes to fill. His father taught him business sense and gave him a firm foundation, and he’s looking forward to carrying on his father’s vision for business expansion both locally and in Hawai’i. As a young professional, one of the immediate additions James is making to enhance work processes is through the use of social media and a digital platform for clients to easily reach the company. Deleon Guerrero has also joined the Saipan Chamber of Commerce to network with other business leaders.
His dad, who founded the Marianas Visitors Authority, is casually nicknamed the “father of tourism” because of the partnerships that he created with airlines and new events that were launched such as Taste of the Marianas, which was inspired by Taste of Honolulu. Deleon Guerrero understands the importance of caring for the community and hopes to become a next generation leader by giving back to his local community.
His advice for Chaminade students, recent graduates and young professionals is to pursue your dreams and goals; if it doesn’t work out right away, don’t give up. “Do what you have to do until you’re happy with the end result,” James says.
The sky is truly the limit for this Chaminade alumnus.