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Hugo Pérez Ovalles: The mastermind behind Therrestra

The history of our country is full of admirable names, all of them whom left their mark on this earth. We study the lives and work of these men at school the moment we learn to read, and we make of them the role models to follow and emulate, as aspiring good citizens. However, history nowadays continues to write itself; there is another class of men and women, that though they’ve not been called to arms to defend their Fatherland, as was back then, today, they are an example for their hard work, their success, their dignity and honesty.

The town of Moca, home to great Dominicans since its inception, is the homeland of Hugo Pérez Ovalles, a pioneering forward-thinking man, whom championed his own battles with effort, and hard work, becoming who he is today. The mastermind behind “Therrestra”, a leading construction company, at the service of tourist, residential and commercial development projects, specialized in project design, construction and oversight in the Dominican Republic and in the Caribbean.

Therrestra is currently present in the Dominican Republic and in Jamaica, currently generating 2,000 jobs.

Also, the company is registered in Aruba, St. Maarten, Saint Lucia, Cuba and the U.S.

Through this interview, today we will learn a little more about the way of life of someone that came from nothing and has no intention of stopping.


1- Did you ever dream or believe you’d become a construction entrepreneur?

When I was a boy, I dreamt of becoming a cabinetmaker or a baker. There was a bakery right in front of the house. Dream of becoming an engineer? Never. Renowned entrepreneur? Never

After I graduated, and like any engineer, I dreamt of having a 3M3 Tipper Truck, a Mixing Cone, a Vibratory Compactor and maybe build two houses per year.


2- Moving between two worlds, as are construction and business, would you say this is your calling? How did you learn this?

Professionally speaking, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living, because you will never see it separate from business. The two go by the hand. Developing a good construction, is doing good business, for present times and the future.

I think my calling, though I must confess I am terrible at self-marketing, I am somewhat crass in that sense, is that I am tireless, I’m limitless. I strive responsibly for what I believe is right.


3- You’ve been responsible for important developments, hence achieving recognition in a very competitive field. What is your secret?

In anything you do, there must always be something extra, that special touch that sets you aside from the rest. Our secret is: Good pricing, good execution, good project management, trimming, accountability and timely delivery, before the deadline. Bottom line, the key is the details, it’s all in the details.


4- What do you believe your company is yet to achieve?   

Not settling is part of human nature. We always want more. We want to continue working to become a standard and example all throughout the Caribbean, of what Dominicans can achieve. We’ve got the skills, the technique and the drive for it.


5- What would you like to accomplish that could be considered your greatest contribution to society?

For instance, the day that Freddy Beras-Goico died, every citizen, the State, all of us in unison, mourned his passing. My belief is that when our time comes, the country, your province, your town or slum, name a street, a park, build a bust or anything in your honor, then your time on this Earth will not have been in vain. We want to be the standard and ambassadors of hard work, of the Dominican Republic.


The 2 de Mayo Rotary Club of Moca, distinguishes Grupo Therrestra

The 2 de Mayo Rotary Club issued a recognition to Grupo Therrestra, for its extraordinary contributions towards the entity, helping towards a better governance for the 2017-2018 term.

Edward Paulino, Rotary Club chair, stressed the great work Therrestra and its CEO, Hugo Pérez Ocalles, have done and continue to do towards the wellbeing of the Moca community. “This is proof that when people whom share a vision come together, great results are only the beginning; this is our goal at the Rotary Club, and it is also Therrestra’s goal”, Paulino explained.

The 2 de Mayo Rotary Club is an organization which gathers people whom are committed towards acting and making a difference through social labor in the community.

The event took place in the Don Bosco Theatre, in the Moca municipality, where several members of the Rotary Club, community leaders of Moca and team members of Therrestra were among the attendees.


“We are paving the way towards a secure future” Hugo Pérez Ovalles

Early into the conversation, one of the first words to come out of our interviewee’s mouth is “excellent”. That’s how he defines the professional windfall he is currently experiencing.

“Upon graduating, I prayed that as an Engineer, I could build two houses a year, and own my own truck, mixing cone and compactor. Today, we have an entire fleet, and we develop two hotels a year. Life has multiplied my wishes more than tenfold”.

“I manage several positions under my own position as CEO; from meetings to budgets, quotes, accounting, insurance, human capital, social responsibility, publicity, etc. It is a very interesting job, and I’m never bored. Each day brings about a new adventure; a new opportunity; a new beginning”.

Hugo Pérez Ovalles showcases a critical and knowledgeable understanding of his field, hence making him a firsthand observer of the current urban state of Santo Domingo. Reason why he never hesitates when he says “As a developer, I feel proud of the numerous modern buildings that are currently developing in Santo Domingo. Our city is on the path towards becoming more modern and avant-garde when pointing out the recent architectural designs”. “We are paving the path towards a secure future. Yes, I am worried about transit with regards to the increase in housing facilities”.

There is an infrastructure scarcity to attend to the real needs. I don’t see an urban development plan that supports this increasing transit flow”, Pérez added. Hugo then referred to a renowned filmmaker, when we asked him how he faces forward every new challenge.

“Billy Wilder said it best in one of his characters: “This earthly life is a battle, my friend” To me, life is a battle, each day is a battle, and I go from one battle to the next, and by this I mean, on the day-to-day, I can lose a battle but never the war. Step by step, day by day, every minute…. His personal definition of a perfect day is the following: “A perfect day is when you leave your house with a full-day agenda of meetings, activities and appointments, and at the end of the day, you come back having met the entire agenda. Everyone welcomes you, nothing was postponed, and you didn’t even get a flat tire”.

Are you a beach or mountain lover?
My day-to-day is spent under the sun, facing the sea. On my free time, I’d never think of going to the beach. I’m a mountain man, I love the cold, and freshwater.


How are you when it comes to food? Do you cook?
I haven’t yet run into something I wouldn’t eat. I don’t have a favorite dish, I can eat anything and everything. I’m not a picky eater, so, I eat to live, but I don’t live to eat.  Yes, I’m learning how to fix sandwiches.


What does traveling mean to you? Any destinations you visit more than once? What’s on your travel bucket list?

One day, I told myself “enough!” “I’m tired of seeing the world on a TV screen, magazines, books and the web. I’m always in Miami, Cuba, and NYC. I visit Aspen every year, and I never tire of it. But I still need to see the world: Australia, Thailand, Australia, Russia, etc.


How do you feel about the other streams of art? Architecture, Painting, etc?
I’m very lousy at drawing; once, I tried to draw a horse for my daughters, and it turned out looking like a very ugly dog; at least we thought it looked like a dog. From the arts, I like music and dancing.


What do you wish to leave behind, as your legacy?
I’ve always thought, that when my time comes, even if a Street, a park or a building bear my name, it would be enough for me to feel fulfilled. I don’t want my time in the world to end, leave it behind as just another passerby. I would like to change several things about my country, but it’s beyond my control. I hope to change some lives and influence others with my way of thinking and acting. That would be my legacy.


Hugo Pérez Ovalles “You’re born with a drive for business”

Ever since he was 9, Hugo Pérez Ovalles understood the value of hard decent work. He began at a woodwork shop, where he was paid RD$1.00 a week, and when Saturday came, which was payday, he felt the happiest kid in the world. He remembers his childhood days in his beloved hometown of Moca, with love and affection, just as he remembers the camaraderie of his then-fellow townspeople.

Thanks to his drive to become better, he excelled in his studies, and was able to apply for a student loan at the Educational Credit for Academic Excellence, hence becoming the first member in his family to go to college. In 1995, at just barely 21, he graduated with honors in Civil Engineering from the PUCMM University in Santiago. His thirst for knowledge, his effective performance and notable passion for construction and business led him to assume several positions, from resident on-site engineer, all the way to Project Manager.

After working in several hotel developments and studying the current business models, he developed a new niche in the development and management of tourist projects, which led him in 2004, to go freelance, and assume the execution of small hotel developments, which the large construction companies set aside. Upon seeing the potential of the tourist cluster business model, he went all out, and that same year, he founded Therrestra, a company specialized in the design, construction and oversight of projects of this nature.

What business models served as grounds for you to put yourself out there and launch your business?

“The opportunity to work for myself came on its own, I didn’t set out for it, I just seized it.

But of course, with 10years of know-how I knew what to do and what not to do. I think I merged a little from every experience I had, took the best lessons and best practices learned from each experience, to set up a solid business platform”. Hugo is one of those entrepreneurs that came from a low-income family, and whom set out to better himself by striving to make their dreams come true.


What were the greatest challenges you faced, when you decided to establish your own company?

My case isn’t the exception to the rule, for there are thousands of stories like mine that I can relate to. My biggest challenge was of course, money. The only asset I had back then was a truck. I went to the bank, got a loan for RD$350,000.00 and put my truck as collateral. With that money and my car, I went to work in Bávaro. That was my entire capital and financial assets.


Why Therrestra? Did you envision foresee a promise that this was a niche you could develop and grow?

Therrestra comes from terrestrial, because we all are terrestrial. I didn’t know if it would work, I had no certainty thereof, but there was something I was sure of: There was a lot of work out there, I wanted to work and was willing to try.


What sets Therrestra apart from the rest? What’s your forte?

There are so many construction companies… We all do the same, but since the beginning, we’ve done the same thing, just faster. Our turnover times are very short. That’s our strong suit right there. In 2016, the companu achieved a significant milestone, by being commissioned with 50% of the hotel developments taking place in Jamaica, some 11 years after making out debut in the neighbor island.


How is the expansion across the Caribbean going on?

We are registered in Jamaica, Aruba and Saint Maarten. We are developing proposals in Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda. We firmly believe there is a lot of hotel development potential to explore in the Caribbean.

Where do you believe the in-country constructions in the hospitality industry are headed?  Do you believe the Government’s goal is to reach 10million tourists per year by 2022, using that goal as incentive to boost the sector and develop more keys?

I believe that the construction industry is well on its way, the country is well positioned in the hotel development field, and this continues to grow. We are all swimming downstream and this way, we can achieve the government’s goal of 10 million tourists per year and make it possible. I have no doubt we can achieve this; that’s what we are working for. Several initiatives tend to disappear shortly after or need to reinvent themselves to survive.

What would you do so that “fail rate” decreases?

There’s a song that goes: “What once was, will never be”. That’s the ugly truth; what works today, won’t work tomorrow, and being reluctant to change is in our nature. But it’s been proven, that without change, we cease to exist. We must allow the market to dictate the trends and products to develop. We must listen and stop thinking that we are the center of everything.


You are still quite young, and at 44, you’ve still got a long way to go in life. Do you have other business ventures you’d like to push forward?

“Of course, I’ve got other business venture ideas, and they’re already being developed, slowly……; but we’re well on the right track”. Despite his youth, his extraordinary background positions him at such a level, where he can serve as guide and mentor to those whom wish to set out and as entrepreneurs and develop their initiatives.


What would you say to them?

“There’s no hocus-pocus, nor a specific action that leads to success. There are too many variables involved for success to happen. But, if I had to use one word, it would be “attitude”. Knowledge can be gained, experience is gained ……, but attitude is something you’re born with.


When Hugo Pérez Ovalles isn’t thinking about Therrestra- or when the Billions season ends-, how do you spend your leisure time?

Woof! I love adventures, assisted skydiving, and kitesurfing, rafting, trekking, I love skiing and traveling…. I got tired of seeing the world through books, movies, magazines….. I want to see it and experience it with my own eyes.


What is a place in Dominican Republic you always like to return to, and would advise any foreign visitor to discover when they visit?

A place in the D.R. I always like to revisit and would certainly recommend…..

The Manabao marshes; that’s my getaway, my retreat, my peaceful spot. Phones don’t work there, the rivers are clean and cool; there’s mountain cabins, or you can sleep on a “sleeping bag”, in a tent; there’s a little mom-and-pop shop that sells cool beer, and a lot, well, a whole bunch of good people there.