Upon receiving congratulations and well-wishes on Marlin Spring being named Canada’s Top Growing Company in 2020, CEO Benjamin Bakst has been appreciative, gracious – and quick to attribute the firm’s success to its people – their expertise, commitment and entrepreneurship, and their embodiment of Marlin Spring’s values: collaboration, agility, respect, excellence and sincerity, or as they know it, Marlin Spring CARES.
Pride and joy are visible on Bakst’s face when he says, “Here, we rely on and intensely collaborate with one another. There’s real trust, and this is a key differentiator of ours.”
A Different Approach to Real Estate
Along with its people and culture, Marlin Spring’s approach to the real estate it builds and acquires sets it apart within the industry. “Our ultimate goal is to provide exceptional value to all our stakeholders, which includes our team, partners, financers, consumers, suppliers and communities – with an uncompromised adherence to our core values,” shares Bakst.
Jeremiah Shamess, a Vice President with Colliers International’s Private Capital Group who has completed over $55 million of transactions with Marlin Spring, has the same outlook and aim. Shamess speaks highly of Bakst and believes their shared perspective and values is the reason why they have formed a long-standing relationship. “I always want to provide the best service possible to my clients, and it’s always a pleasure working with Ben and his team. I hope to do more work with them in the future,” he says. Regarding Bakst’s business perspective, Shamess notes, “Ben’s approach to business is always refreshing and original. I believe it’s why Marlin Spring has had such incredible growth and success.”
True to its mandate and objective, Marlin Spring develops residential properties that are located in burgeoning neighbourhoods requiring more residential options, are within transit hubs, are close to essential amenities and offer access to considerable green space – In doing so, the company delivers premier, accessible living spaces, while preserving the distinct character of the communities in which it builds.
With regards to its multifamily division, Marlin Spring strategically invests in multi-residential properties located in metropolitan areas across North America, with a view to identify and realize the potential of undervalued assets. With this strategy, the company strives to provide cash flow accompanied by a value-add approach, a great example of value creation for the residents, providing a more enjoyable living experience, as well as the investors – a classic win-win approach Bakst speaks of often.
According to Bakst, a key contributor to succeeding in the industry is "looking to where you think trends will continue and knowing different markets, asset classes and build forms; doing so provides the unique tools to then be able to identify where the value is and where it’s headed.”
The desirability of and clamour for Marlin Spring’s condominiums and homes and the growth of its multifamily investments undoubtedly spell success for the firm – and translate to concrete value for all of the firm’s various stakeholders.
Providing Enduring Value
The value Marlin Spring delivers is poised to endure amidst challenging circumstances. With the scope and span of development projects measured in years, Bakst says while the current pandemic may impact projects for a few months due to closures, a pause in immigration and a slowdown in demand due to university closures and other factors, “the overall fundamentals and need will be there when the situation stabilizes.”
As such, according to Bakst, while the multifamily sector is “seeing less activity with less movement in the world today and people hunkering down and staying in their homes,” the situation is far from permanent.
An asset class within the residential sector that has been negatively impacted by the global crisis is senior homes, with potential occupants delaying making the decision to move in, impacting vacancies across this asset class, according to Bakst. However, similar to his view on overall development, Bakst expects the demand for senior living space to rebound.
As is the case for the downtown core. Says Bakst: “Right now, there is certainly less activity downtown. There is less drive to head there and people are staying in or heading to the suburbs – for the time being. I am confident that post-pandemic, that very same draw of city life, which was so attractive prior to the current situation, will once again bring people back and the vibrancy of the downtown core will be restored.”
Building and Sustaining Strong Teams in a Shifting Environment
Bakst recognizes the critical role another asset class will play, a role that he does not see as having been diffused in light of the global “work-from-home experiment.” On the contrary, the abrupt shift to remote working very well could have highlighted the importance of this sector.
“I see there being opportunities with-in the office space,” he says. “While there are companies that are getting out of their leases or announcing that they are permanently adopting a work-from-home structure, there are those that are retaining their office space, based on their recognition of the advantages of physically working in an office, both from a collaboration and culture standpoint.”
Indeed, one of Bakst’s biggest learnings from this pandemic has been that there is no replacement for in-person collaboration. “I’ve learned that we can survive remote-working through a crisis. But I’ve also seen that it’s a greater challenge to promote culture and bond without being physically together in the workplace. While people have said we can be equally efficient working from home, it’s not only efficiency that makes a company great; rather, it’s the ability to ‘be there’ and connect with people. If the point of work is to simply ‘get stuff done,’ we can do that. But truly, the greatest achievements, discoveries have been made possible through human interaction and collaboration.”
Naturally, Bakst ties back his perspective to Marlin Spring’s commitment to providing enduring value, pondering, “How can we create exceptional value for all of our stakeholders if we’re not around bouncing ideas off each other in real-time, without having to schedule a Zoom call?”
Bakst is quick to state that the safety and security of his team is paramount, and while working remotely is necessary during these critical times, he looks forward to safer times ahead. Bakst also is a proponent of flexibility in work arrangements, now and in the future. He understands and supports people’s concerns and needs with regards to physically being in the office, offering that they “will always have a home to come to” in the Marlin Spring offices. But just like any relationship, “While long distance relationships can work, it’s better when we’re all together,” he says.
After all, Bakst seeks to build a culture where life and work coincide and are integrated – And he has. It is evident in how Marlin Spring employees collaborate, form relationships and spend time together, both at and outside of work, enjoying genuine camaraderie that makes the work they do enjoyable.
Culture as a Foundation for Growth and Success
Marlin Spring’s distinct culture certainly factors into the company’s future plans – and greatest challenge. Asked about the biggest challenge he faces in his work, Bakst says, “It’s being able to build the team and grow the company while maintaining our unique culture.”
And looking to what’s next for the company, Bakst says, “It’s not so much about what’s next but about continuing what we have been doing and building on what we have accomplished. We will continue to grow in a sustained, responsible way, maintaining our culture and relying on the core values of our company to get us there.”
And “there” is Marlin Spring’s vision to be recognized as one of the most trusted commercial real estate firms globally.
Based on the performance of its projects, the expertise and dedication of its people, and the accolades it continually receives, Marlin Spring can confidently say, Vision Accomplished.