The beautiful, special thing about friendship is that it is a relationship with no strings attached. There are, of course, except the ones you choose to tie, one that’s just about being there, as best as you can. But, what predicts which ones will last through the maelstrom of life's ebb and flow? Dedication, communication, and a liberal dose of mutual understanding, apparently, as with the case of Will Hsu and Charmaine Palermo, co-founders of Centaur Marketing, a full-service marketing agency with offices in the Philippines and the United States.
Hanging out with a set of lifelong friends can sometimes be confusing, because the years of inside jokes and references often make their communication unintelligible to outsiders. But, it is this sort of shared language that makes the special bond between friends such as Will and Charms work, where a solid base of good old-fashioned friendship transitioned successfully into a deeply rewarding professional partnership.
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How did you two first meet?
Will: We met in Embassy almost 11 years ago (2007).
Charms: We met in Embassy club 11 years ago. My friend has a crush on Will, so I went up and talked to him.
W: I’d see Charms every weekend at the night club. She was obviously dressed well and was always hanging out with the cool kids at the VIP table.
C: I thought he was a really nice guy who liked to dance in the club all the time.
How did you cement the friendship?
W: We got along well from the start. Charms is easy to be friends with, as all who know her will tell you.
C: The moment we started dancing hip-hop, I knew we would be friends.
What are some things that the world does not know about the both of you?
W: She’s an awful driver, but on the flipside, is surprisingly good with directions, especially within the smaller barangay streets.
C: Will is a really funny guy. Most people think he’s so serious and a bit grumpy sometimes, but he makes me and everyone in the office laugh most of the time.
What is your favorite memory of each other?
W: There are a lot—painting our first office together: it was this small 20sq.m. closet-size room in Peninsula Court. We had no clients or money or money, so we stuck around the whole weekend fixing it up on our own.
C: My favorite memories of Will always involve one of us being sick. The first one was when I was in the ER of Makati Med. I was so sick and he brought me there. We’ve only known each other a few months back then, but he was there for me until I got better. I knew right there that our friendship is for keeps.
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What are your biggest similarities?
W: I think we’re both good at adapting in different settings, whether it be quiet drinks out with friends or a big party or event for one of our clients. We both also value family first and foremost.
C: I think we’re both low-key and chill, we value family relationships and I believe we’re genuinely nice people—I think—that’s why we get along.
How do you make your friendship work?
W: After 11+ years, we’ve established a nice work relationship. My strengths compliment Charms’ weaknesses and vice versa, which makes it easy to divide up the workload.
C: It’s built on loyalty and trust. Through the years, we know we can count on each other.
Inevitably, relationships evolve over time. How do these changes factor into your current business partnership?
W: Our close relationship allows us to be honest with one another. We always tell each other the truth, which has allowed us to grow as managers and as a company. We also joke around a lot, which helps to breakup the daily monotony of work.
C: We’ve established the trust and respect a long time ago despite of our differences and that has always been the foundation of our partnership.
What makes you unique from each other?
W: Where to start? (Laugh) Charms is a bit more lax when it comes to schedules, while I prefer a more structured work environment. I’m much better at money management. Charms likes to buy and buy and buy then rationalize to others after that it was a good purchase because it was on sale. I’m more organized; Charms prefers clutter. I like varying my outfits while Charms prefers to wear workout gear all-day, everyday!
C: Will is very organized and always has a system for everything - I’m very spontaneous with life in general. I also always think about food and he forgets to eat.
You both seem to make opposites work.
W: It’s hard to explain but after almost 10 years, it just works. That said, we are both lax or structured when the occasion calls for it.
C: It boils down to having similar values and working towards the same goals which makes working with each other easy and fun.
How are your roles in Centaur Marketing divvied up?
W: Charms often oversees relationships with the media and OLs and certain clients. Creatives when it comes to shoots and events is also her responsibility. I tend to oversee the backend tasks, i.e: proposals, budgeting and finance, hiring and operations, and general processes across the various departments. We both make it a point to meet with new clients as we continue to build out our sales team. And, when things get really busy, we both end up doing a bit of everything to help wherever we can.
C: Will is the business strategist of the company, he knows his numbers and puts system to our business. Because of my experience working as a stylist, I handle the production side of shoots and events, I take care of relationships with clients, media, and opinion leaders. Will is the head of the company and I’m the heart and soul of it.
What are your takes on resolving conflict?
W: We emphasize communication and honesty at our company. When we disagree, we make it a point to verbalize what’s bothering us. After a bit of time, we’ll realize that we’re both working towards the same goal and that’ll be the end of it. Charms and I surprisingly don’t get into many arguments.
C: We know each other so well after 11-plus years of partnership and friendship. It’s all about communication. We keep open minds and learned to really listen to what the other person has to say.
Any tips on maintaining open lines?
W: Technology has actually helped us stay more connected, especially when one of us is traveling for work or pleasure. Charms and I try to grab lunch together at least once a week to catch up. We also have monthly team building sessions called "First Fridays" where we’ll try a new activity with our staff.
C: We see each other in the office everyday, so we get to talk about work and other stuff.
What are your hopes and dreams for the other?
W: Happiness…. and for her to declutter because she has way too may clothes?
C: Good health and Happiness… For Will to start working out regularly and not work too much. He’s a workaholic which is good for the business but he should live a little more. To do more things that he enjoys.
What do you love most about the other?
W: Charms is kind and has a good heart. She’s always thinking of others and always puts the needs of others before her own.
C: I love that he’s so honest and straightforward with me. He tells me straight out if he thinks i’m doing something wrong or if I can do better. I value his opinion because I know he only want what’s best for me.
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Photographs courtesy of Will Hsu and Charmaine Palermo
Banner Image by Lui Jimenez