As the American workplace continues to undergo swift metamorphosis, organizations all too often take one of two approaches to keeping pace. They select a quick-fix strategy that soon needs to be reconsidered and likely scrapped. Or they fail to adapt at all. The world of commercial real estate is replete with organizations firmly in the latter camp, content to embrace the status quo.
Chicago-based real estate firm The Habitat Company
, which has been a force on the Windy City’s real estate scene since 1971, was among those firms some observers viewed as owning a formal, buttoned-up work environment. At least it did when Matt Fiascone
assumed the role of company president. Sensing the firm’s corporate culture required a vibrant updating, Fiascone hit the ground running. He established a five-year plan for the company that rested heavily on input from staff members more than ready to shake up a staid corporate mindset.
“Habitat is a great company with an amazing team and culture,” Fiascone says. “But [it] was in need of a little ‘dusting off’ to stay relevant in today’s workplace environment. After all, virtually every business has been disrupted by changing technology, demographics and consumer desires.
“With enthusiastic input and engagement from team leaders, we began to tackle everything from employee training and tech initiatives to acquisition strategy and the operations manual. In the process of developing our five-year plan, we left no stone unturned, as we evaluated what we wanted to polish, throw out or change entirely."
With literally everything on the table and no element seen as sacrosanct, team leaders began the long process of considering what pieces to fine tune, revamp or discard.
Over the ensuing two and a half years, The Habitat Company created and introduced a new website with a more inviting appearance while at the same time launching a fresh new corporate lifestyle video. The firm updated job descriptions and instituted its introductory “Dress for Your Day” dress code at its regional offices. It imported consultants to assist with the generation and implementation of a new employee training platform. It rebuilt its operations manual with an eye to helping team members gain new efficiencies.
With the dearth of affordable housing a serious and growing national crisis, The Habitat Company sought to begin addressing the need by assembling new investment strategies focusing on the affordable market. Finally, intent on offering the optimal residential experience to all who call The Habitat Company properties home, management business lines from market rate to condo management and affordable teamed to create new IT strategies.
Feeling the difference
In short, by all accounts, it’s been 30 months very productively spent at Habitat.
The result of all the activity has been to turn The Habitat Company into one of the largest and fastest-growing multifamily property developers and managers in the United States. The firm now has 800 employees and a portfolio of more than 22,000 units.
"As we reach the mid-point in our five-year plan, we can see many changes taking place and we can feel the difference,” Fiascone said. “We are proud of our progress, especially when it comes to broader team member engagement and development efforts. We brought in outside leadership consultants to work with our regional managers to ensure we are supporting their growth. Additionally, we’ve dedicated efforts to confirm our vision is dynamic, both in execution and measurement . . . this is a critical component of our ability to measure our progress.”