In 1978, Mattamy Homes built and sold a single home. Fast-forward to today and you will find a company that has grown into the largest privately owned home builder in North America. It is a company that has been built on caring — not simply for the business but for its employees and trade partners, the local and broader communities it serves, and the 7,000 individuals and families each year that choose Mattamy for the most important purchase of their lives.
“Right from the start it was about being passionate about projects and the creative process but also doing the very best for the people around us at the time,” explains Peter Gilgan, CEO and founder. “Now that Mattamy has morphed into an organization with almost 2,000 employees, the emphasis is on hiring people who share that passion and the perspective that what we do is noble and life-changing, and can be better or worse, depending on us.”
Gilgan’s fascination with construction began as a child and has continued throughout his life. “In my 20s I would stop at every site along a route to watch and talk to people, much to the chagrin of my young family,” he says. “I came to see a housing development like an orchestra, with all the different components coming together to create a beautiful thing. So, I studied like crazy and jumped in.”
His early career as a chartered accountant brought Gilgan some useful contacts. Some became valuable mentors as he pursued his passion. “These were generous people who taught me the technical, marketing and land-acquisition aspects of the business. I am eternally grateful, as I couldn’t have done any of it without them,” he says.
In studying every facet of home-building, Gilgan set out to offer more personal home and community design based on the way people really lived. He saw an opportunity to create something unique in what had become a world of uniformity. After all, no two homeowners are the same. Personalization enables families, across all stages of life, to make their spaces their own.
Long before breaking ground on any new community, Mattamy listens to and learns from its customers to deliver exactly what they want and need. The company’s mission is to provide the best homeowner experience. This commitment permeates its operations and behaviours, helps guide interactions with customers every day, and defines Mattamy’s culture.
That same approach in providing the best experience is carried over to employees, because each team member has an important role to play in making homeowner dreams come true. “Many of the things that made the company special so many years ago remain and continue to make it special today. That is the magic of Mattamy,” says Mary Federau, executive vice-president and chief human resources officer. “There is very much a family atmosphere here and we focus on being entrepreneurial rather than bureaucratic. It is an environment where everyone can, and does, contribute to decision-making.”
Maintaining that culture starts with hiring the right people, notes Federau.
“We look for people who relate to what we are trying to build. People who are smart, hard workers and have the right skill set, yes, but more than that: people who will do whatever it takes to get the job done right, have strength of character, respect for others and the caring element that has been so instrumental to our success,” she says. “There are a lot of really talented people out there. Finding those who are also a great fit for Mattamy is hard, yet paramount. Once on board, it is up to each individual to ensure that the way they do things — not just what they do — is in sync with the special culture that we continue to build.”
The teamwork, drive, commitment and innovation that employees bring to work every day, in every location, helps Mattamy to continue to pursue its vision and live by its mission and values. In return, the company does its best to retain, honour, appreciate and accelerate the careers of those employees. “We look to employees to self-identify and navigate their own careers. We give them many opportunities to do that while emphasizing action learning, where they can fully stretch themselves on the job,” says Federau. “If people have ambition, want to grow and learn, and perform well, the possibilities here are endless.”
The past five years have delivered exponential growth at Mattamy, with expansion to additional markets in Canada, a new division focused on brownfield development in urban centres, and the acquisition of Monarch Corporation, which allowed fast entry into Toronto’s high-rise development sector — a new line of business for the organization.
Integral to that growth was the addition of a professional board of directors and management team six years ago. Gilgan determined it was a smart move to bring in experts to ensure that the privately owned business was not just about him. “The point was to create a structural environment where the business is not reliant on its founder,” he says. “I owe it to our employees and trade partners to ensure that the fortunes of the company are not tied solely to me. We have some wonderful folks who are able to take over the reins as I take a less active role in the future.”
Gilgan’s foresight in embracing the evolution from a single-market, single-owner company to a multi-market, professionally led organization is truly outstanding, adds Brad Carr, who joined the company five years ago as president of Canadian operations. “Bringing in new people and new ideas as a mechanism for growth is often eschewed by other entrepreneurs to the detriment of the organization. It has proven to be a winning formula for Mattamy.”
The next five years will see the fulfillment of a new and ambitious growth strategy, says Carr. “We will continue to look for growth in Canada and in maintaining our top position in the sector, while in the U.S. expansion will be significant,” he says. “Our vision is to build 6,000 homes per year in each country. To put that into perspective, that means building an additional 1,000 homes in Canada and doubling the business in the U.S. with an additional 3,000 homes.”
It is Mattamy’s people who will help achieve that vision. “Growth and change have always been part of our culture. We have an incredible corporate drive to innovate and deliver a great homeowner experience. It gives us a bar to strive for and creates opportunities for our people, which is exciting and satisfying,” says Carr. “And when you care about everyone you work with and come in contact with, the results turn out pretty good.”
An extraordinary level of caring is writ large at Mattamy: Caring about employees and their families, success and careers; caring about customers and ensuring they have the absolute best experience; caring about the quality of the homes the company builds; caring about how trade partners and vendors are treated; caring about impacts on the environment and the world; and caring about the communities it creates.
It’s also about caring more than the other guy. “The gap between how much we care, and how much they care, should be stunningly significant,” says Gilgan.
Caring is also demonstrated in a commitment to philanthropy by both the company founder and its employees. “Peter’s philanthropy inspires everyone in the organization to continually raise the bar and drive the company forward,” notes Carr. “People see a very successful company and an inspiring owner using proceeds to build great things, including hospital wings and research centres. Employees are driven in knowing they play a part in making those things happen. It points back to our culture and what we do differently to create a place where people are highly motivated to do great things.”
More great things come from the Mattamy’s Community Is Our Home program and the Peter Gilgan Foundation, which support local charitable organizations. Employees volunteer hundreds of hours to projects on company time each year and funding helps build long-term community facilities that create vibrant, healthy populations and enrich lives. The company’s Community Volunteer Grant program supports dozens of additional organizations through grants and matched donations each year.
That culture and drive to do the right thing fills Gilgan with pride. “When you get that kind of energy going, you can really build on it,” he says.
As for earning a place among Canada’s Top 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures for 2017 (Enterprise), Gilgan says: “It is a credit to the huge spectrum of folks at Mattamy. I am only one of many who foster the kind of culture that has allowed us to be considered for this. I am extremely proud of everyone involved.”
Each member of the Mattamy Homes team has an important role to play in making homeowner dreams come true. Mattamy
employees are with customers every step of the way on their journey to home ownership. This includes a guided tour of the home under construction known as the “frame walk.”
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Mattamy Homes