Memphis, Tennessee-based multifamily investment and property management company Fogelman Properties is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. With 60 years of business comes 60 years of insight into what makes a long-lasting company tick.
Founded in 1963 by Avron Fogelman, Fogelman Properties has risen from a small family business with humble beginnings to one of the nation’s largest privately owned multifamily investment and property management companies. Today, the company is run by Rick and Mark Fogelman, Avron’s sons, who spent their high school summers working at the properties and in the corporate office.
MFE sat down with Rick and Mark to hear about six essential lessons they’ve learned from the company’s six decades.
On embracing challenges
Rick: “I think one of the continued challenges is to stay disciplined and stick to what we know. And it's very tempting—especially in the upward market—for companies to get over their skis. Something that served us extremely well is knowing you have to take risk if you're going to be in real estate, but to try to be very disciplined. And I think looking back at our 60 years, continuing to be very focused and disciplined in what we do and what we don't do has also been a challenge on one hand, but also something that has led to our staying power for 60-plus years.”
Mark: “A lot of it is playing the long game. You’re not just thinking five or 10 years into the future, and, while you may not be the headline-grabbing company every second, it’s a flash in the pan. We feel a big responsibility to our associates and their families to keep sustaining the business, and it’s been 60 years of doing that. As Rick always reminds me, it’s a cyclical business. We’ve had 11 straight years of growth, and we’re finally heading toward challenges with the market. But we always get balance—balance moving forward but also being responsible with having the proper amount of risk in the business.”
On remaining steadfast and consistent
Rick: “It doesn't matter the location, it doesn't matter the age of the property, or anything else. The most important consistency is our people and our culture. And that's something that we certainly hope as owners of the company that we can consistently apply to all properties regardless to where they are in the portfolio. In something as a family-owned company for 60-plus years, competing against big institutional competitors, we truly believe that our culture of our people as being extended family, and a third-generation family business is something that does really set us apart. That, to us, is as much of our brand as anything—our culture. And I do believe if you were to poll our people, regardless of which state they're in, that is one of the consistencies. They know the roots of the company. They know the culture of the company. And that's kind of the glue that holds everything together from a consistency standpoint.”
On growth and focusing on quality over quantity
Mark: “Part of [our success] is not growing too fast. … We’ve had slow, steady growth. And we’ve passed on opportunities where we don’t think we could perform at that size. We’ve focused on retention of our current residents and employees, and then our clients, and we’ve grown with them. I think part of the success and consistency has not been getting ahead of ourselves. We’re [approximately] a 32,000-unit company with over 100 locations in 27 cities. Every day it’s fighting and clawing to make sure that the quality is there, and I know other people can move themselves over 100, 200, or 300,000 units. But for us, we feel like we’re going to deliver a better product at our current size.”
On giving back
Rick: “We have something called Fogelman Cares, which is our philanthropic foundation for our associates. It is an employee-led philanthropic arm of our company, where employees take part in giving back to their communities—not just raising money, which we do for various charities, but more importantly giving up their time. So, we do encourage company paid time off for our employees as groups to go out and volunteer in the in the community. For our 60-year anniversary, we added to that something called 60 Acts of Kindness. I think we're now up to 82 acts of kindness. But in 2023 leading up to our 60th year, we wanted to have 60 different ways for our employees to give back regardless of what city or state they're in. And that could be anything from going to the Humane Society, to delivering meals for the elderly, to Habitat for Humanity—anything that they do, but we want them to do as a group and again encourage them with company paid time off to be able to do that. Philanthropy is something that has been very important to our family and again has been something that has been a core part of our company culture over the years as well. Fogelman Cares is kind of our brand, if you will.”
On looking toward the future
Rick: “Our goal is really to continue the legacy that was set out 60 years ago, and to be able to grow in a very disciplined and focused way. And sticking to what we know best, which is multifamily housing. We don't veer into other property types; we stick to multifamily housing. Of course, we’re hoping to continue to deliver great returns for our investors and provide a great living experience for our residents. But we don't have any earth-shattering goals like we're trying to triple the size of the company in five years. We just want to be able to continue the steady growth that we've had and be able to do it in a way that everybody who works for us can take a lot of pride in what the company stands for—not only the growth and the numbers, but the type of company that they're part of. That, to us, is our measuring stick.”
On personal lessons in leadership
Mark: “I've worked all positions in the company, and I recognize that from the front of the line, from the groundskeeper to the sales consultant to the maintenance tech on-site, if everyone's not part of the solution and doing their part, you can't execute. It doesn't happen. So, I think it's just recognizing that we may be in a corporate office somewhere—but really the work that goes on on-site with our front-line employees is probably the most vital piece of our business there is. And we can’t think about things like expanding, growing, raising more capital, or buying more properties if we aren't doing that blocking and tackling. Once I learned that, I never took that for granted for over 30 years.”
Rick: “I learned at a very early age in my career 30 years ago and something that we have continued to really make a high priority is our relationships. That's not just relationships within our company, in our associates—but with our investment partners, our lenders, the finance brokers that we work with, the vendors that we work with. We try to solidify those relationships. So, when the market is down, the strength of those relationships has been one of the things that we have relied on, especially when the markets are going through some challenging times. … And I think because we don't have any huge aspiration to double our size or anything else, we can focus on how business is conducted and the type of relationships of the people that we work with. So I think the consistency of the relationships in all aspects of our business over multiple decades has been a real key to our success.”