There are numerous business advantages to vertical integration in multifamily, like increased control over the supply chain, improved efficiency and enhanced customer experience. 

However, it also poses unexpected challenges, like preserving company culture. As companies expand vertically, and their workforce becomes dispersed across various locations, maintaining a unified and cohesive culture becomes a nuanced task.

Consider the following questions:

  • How do you maintain a cohesive culture when your corporate team is largely office-based and the rest of your workforce operates in the field? 
  • How do you ensure that cultural values are upheld across diverse habitats and locations?

In a recent episode of the "Multifamily Excellence" podcast, WithMe Founder and CEO Jonathan Treble interviews Matt Fiascone, president of The Habitat Company, digging into the intricacies of preserving culture in vertically integrated companies.

Habitat, based in Chicago, is a full-service real estate company managing a diverse portfolio of property types, from affordable housing communities to luxury high-rise towers. With over 16,000 units, they operate across the United States.

As a vertically integrated company, Habitat employs over 700 people. Roughly 90 of them are corporate employees, primarily based in the Chicago office, with a few in the regional office in Detroit. The vast majority, approximately 90% of the company, is situated in the field, across various sites.

So, how do you preserve a unified culture across such diverse work environments?

Defining Vertical Integration in Multifamily

Before we delve into the intricacies of preserving culture, let's define vertical integration in the context of real estate. Vertical integration refers to the ownership and operation of various stages of the real estate investment and development process within a single company. 

This includes activities such as property management, development, construction and investment. By controlling multiple aspects of the real estate process, vertically integrated companies aim to streamline operations, reduce costs and enhance overall efficiency.

Strategies for Cultivating Unity

Both Matt and Jonathan emphasize the significance of intentional effort in building and sustaining a cohesive culture. While challenges may arise in preserving culture across diverse habitats, strategic solutions can foster unity. Let’s delve into these strategies.

Advice #1: Overcoming Physical Barriers

Maintaining cultural aspects in field environments, where digital interactions may not always be feasible, poses a unique challenge. Acknowledging these limitations is the first step toward innovative solutions that bridge the cultural gap. 

While certain cultural traditions may seem impractical in the field, this challenge presents an opportunity for innovation. Explore alternative ways to celebrate holidays, incorporate dress codes or address hot-button cultural issues. By adapting traditions to suit the unique dynamics of field environments, a more inclusive and unified culture can be fostered.

Advice #2: Seamless Communication Channels

Establishing effective communication channels between corporate and field teams is crucial for maintaining cultural alignment. Implement platforms and tools that facilitate transparent and frequent communication, allowing both sides to stay connected and informed about company values, updates and initiatives.

Advice #3: Inclusive Decision-Making Processes

Foster a sense of belonging by involving field teams in decision-making processes. Solicit their input on matters that impact them directly, creating a culture of inclusivity where everyone feels their voice is heard and valued.

Concluding Thoughts

In vertically integrated multifamily companies, preserving culture is both a challenge and an opportunity. By acknowledging the nuances of diverse work environments and implementing strategic solutions, organizations can foster unity and success.

Want to learn more about preserving culture in vertically integrated companies? Listen to the full episode of Multifamily Excellence on your preferred platform. Don't forget to leave a review and subscribe to stay updated on future episodes!