CEO Anthony Giuffre reflects on Avenue Living's remarkable rise – and where it is heading next
“I wish, frankly, I could say that it all came down to my foresight,” Anthony Giuffre says when asked if Avenue Living’s successful strategy was planned right from the company’s inception. “It’s more like one of those business books where things really start around Chapter Twenty rather than Chapter One or the Prologue …”
Suffice to say, this doesn’t take the shine off Avenue Living’s remarkable journey as an organization – nor Giuffre’s leadership as Founder and CEO over the past 16 years.
Based in Calgary, Alberta, Avenue Living is Western Canada’s fastest growing private apartment building owner and operator. From investing in 24 doors in southern Alberta in 2006, it has since grown to manage more than 12,500 rental apartments in over 450 buildings across the mid-west provinces and the United States.
Quite the evolution – so how did it get here?
“We asked ourselves: how do we compete in the marketplace?” Giuffre reflects. “We didn't have equal capital, equal deal flow nor the benefit of time to achieve reputation. What we recognized is that we needed to go where nobody else wanted to play.”
The destination in question? A certain under-serviced demographic in the multi-family sector, with a focus on low-density B and C class assets.
“Our customer base is something that we've developed that's very well-defined,” Giuffre explains. “It’s workforce housing, for people who are gainfully employed and essentially make between 15 and 50 dollars an hour. We focused on that customer – that asset type within the multi-family – and honed a vertically integrated management model whereby we handle the entire acquisition and operation process.”
“Our own legal, asset management and property management teams manage the customer experience from end to end, from the first call all the way straight through to lease renewals.”
“We've experienced some things that have forced us to be tenacious. We understand our customers with clarity – and we've gone from an acquisition model to a customer service and customer delivery model, whereby we try to become the best in class and put our best foot forward.”
“We focus on the customer, but we also focus on ensuring consistent delivery of what we deem as important to our core values. We do that through things like electronic leasing and electronic renewals. We ensure a commitment to our customer, letting them know that ‘we’ll address your problem within 72 hours.’ We’re in it together with our customers.”
“There's certainly a metric that we follow for each acquisition. We have to be able to stress-test it. If it doesn't fit, we don't make the acquisition. Everything is within an operating metric based on yield, and on potential. We ensure that there's longevity to the asset, so we’re thinking: what does this look like in 10 years’ time? As an acquisition and growth organization, we're trying to aggregate good quality assets that continue to increase sustainable yield over the long haul.”
Naturally, this road to success hasn’t been a solo effort – and Giuffre is quick to sing his praises of the Avenue Living team.
“A team of incredible individuals have helped to build this business,” he enthuses. “They reflect our core values – providing empathy and compassion when needed, but also providing consistent quality of service. They're entrepreneurial by nature and they're transparent.
“There's no greater pride as a leader than to watch such an incredible team drive the organization effectively. Obviously, we want to look at our space as providing housing solutions for Canadians, but we want to be better than our peers. We want to be the best we can be.”
So, what’s next for Avenue Living and the multi-family sector in general?
“It's going to be a case of really using disruptive technology to ensure a higher level of service to the customer,” Giuffre says. “That is certainly where we're positioning our organization. We're working with an incredible number of young entrepreneurs who are coming to us with disruptive technologies.”
“What we're doing is testing these technologies in beta to provide better quality customer service through and through. By doing that, and by being excited about the opportunity to continuously improve efficiency, customer service and customer quality, we’re focusing on KPIs differently than we have before.”
“From our perspective, it's exciting because that technology can allow us to become greener and focus more on the renewal aspect of business, diversity and inclusion, as well as how we improve our service offerings. We want to ensure we're working in a positive environment that is socially and environmentally responsible.”
“I get really excited about the future because we have a massive footprint and there are so many possibilities on the horizon. Everyone in our organization is thinking about how we can do things differently.”
This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at www.avenuelivingam.com for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.