Fifty-three years ago, Zaren Vassallo was taught never to put all his eggs in one basket. All his working life, he has put this advice into practice. The successful entrepreneur has steered the Vassallo Group through thick and thin, devoting every ounce of enthusiasm and energy to the business.
“For your organisation to be successful, you can never stop reinventing yourself. If you don’t move forward, you begin to move backward.” This has been the chairman’s mantra ever since he started out.
The group’s foundation day – June 4 – means a lot to Zaren, mostly because it takes him back to his roots in the construction industry in a flash. “It is also significant because all the group’s milestones are marked on this special day.”
The group’s 75th anniversary celebrations this year were spread over two days. The chairman, accompanied by his family, various shareholders, directors and top management officials, presented long-service awards for loyalty to employees at CareMalta and HILA facililities, Vassallo Business Park, Learning Works, CaterEssence, Campus Hub, Vassallo Builders Ltd, Vassallo Group Realty and Vassallo Builders Group Ltd.
A number of anniversaries were also marked. The Cake Box turned seven, the Learning Works training hub turned two, while CareMalta elderly homes Casa San Paolo and Roseville turned six and 11 respectively.
The chairman also inaugurated the Vassallo Business Park’s administrative block and the new foyer at the group’s head office in Mosta, and unveiled a beautiful artwork by Rupert Cefai that captures the group’s past, present and future.
“Our group has grown bigger and we have a lot to be grateful for,” Zaren said as he unveiled a commemorative marble plaque by artist Jeffrey Galea on the façade of Villa Amodeo, his office in Mosta – yet another June 4 celebration. Both works of art form part of the Zaren Vassallo Art (ZVART) initiative launched by the group in 2020.
Starting out from humble beginnings, Zaren says Malta’s commercial landscape in the 60s was very different. “There was nothing in those days, except for the odd shop in the village.”
But, with a tone of nostalgia, he says he feels privileged to have lived to see all the major changes which took place in Malta over the years.
In a bid to be innovative and explore new niches, Zaren is ever ready to take on a new challenge.
“With private elderly care 30 years ago, we introduced a new culture in Malta. Our group was the first to offer specialised facilities (dementia care, disability, ALS and other degenerative diseases, and mental health). We also introduced the first public-private partnership agreement in 1994 (Żejtun Home), a concept that has grown.”
The chairman says the group implemented an admirable approach to target safety at the start of the pandemic, a time when we knew little or nothing at all about the virus. “We were ahead of everyone, particularly when we took the bold decision to set CareMalta’s 10-week lockdown in motion. We looked at lives first, before summing up costs.”
The group also took a number of stringent measures on all its construction sites. “This wasn’t a straightforward exercise, since it’s difficult for our workers not to mingle on site but, looking back, our internal measures, in tandem with the group’s vaccine strategy, worked out well.”
The Covid-19 crisis has changed the Vassallo Group’s attitude to risk managment. “We never dreamt we would be faced with such a huge pandemic. In my days, people spoke of the war. For our children and their children, this world catastrophe will be part of their history,” Zaren says.
“The pandemic has made us more conscious and cautious in all our decisions. But the group remains optimistic and we will continue to invest in new projects. Proof of this is Campus Hub, a 500-plus-room student resident complex we are building just outside the Main University Msida Campus, the Mediterranean College of Sport, our newest project with St Aloysius College, and Vassallo Business Park in Burmarrad, a joint venture with J&D Properties, which offers tailor-made commercial space and storage.
Despite fears that negative effects on businesses will linger throughout 2021, especially in sectors like tourism and property, the chairman looks forward to embracing a more positive 2022.
“The outcome of 2020 was better than we expected, despite the fact that our catering and hotel businesses were hard hit by the pandemic. The group’s diversification of services is surely a feather in our cap.”
Confident that there is always room for development, Zaren says the Vassallo Group will continue to strengthen and diversify itself through further opportunities and investments in sectors such as clean energy.
“The group already generates as much solar energy as is needed for 1,200 households. Renewable energy is definitely on our radar.”
Do you see the group’s future to be that of a family business or a corporation?
The chairman flashes a big smile, saying he is extremely happy that his five children have followed in his footsteps and are totally involved and part of the success of Vassallo Group. However, he says he looks forward to handing over the reigns of the family business in the near future… whenever that might be!