The Housing Collective: Collaboration and Focus: Crucial Elements of the CEO Toolkit

6 mins
Tom Neely

By Tom Neely

The fourth episode of the Housing Collective podcast, delivered in partnership with crowdfunding platform Beam, sees Neemar Search founder Tom Neely meeting with David McQuade, CEO of Flagship Housing Group, which collectively manages around 32,000 homes, serving the East of England, including Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. 

Our second review of David and Tom’s podcast interview looks closely at how collaborating with other housing organisations can empower Chief Executive Officers to make a real difference within the industry and their businesses before we analyse how Flagship’s focus over the course of the next financial year can offer us some impactful leadership lessons.

The Power of Collaborating with Other Organisations

As mentioned in our last blog post on our podcast interview with David, Flagship was in the midst of the merger and acquisition process just as the cost of living crisis—and the Russia-Ukraine conflict—began. Following increasing costs for both businesses leading to the decision that the merger would not be financially prudent, at least at that time, David reflected on the experience as a positive one, despite the setback. 

This shows us the power of collaborating with other organisations as a CEO. It’s not guaranteed that your merger plans may materialise when conversations begin, but you still learn and benefit from those experiences. The next time that Flagship looks to merge with or acquire an organisation within the housing industry, its experience will benefit from the learning experience of David, the board, and his executive team. 

Other opportunities will arise, and as we explored in our section on the future of the UK housing industry, housing associations are bound to want to collaborate, sharing the risks and rewards that the coming years will bring to the sector, ultimately allowing them to create new models to deal with the future of the industry. 

"Try to work with people... with shared objectives. One of the interesting challenges for executives is, at times like that, to focus on what some of the advantages that a new combined entity might really bring against the backdrop of the challenges that we face... Very often people get locked into their way of doing things."

As David notes, his advice to would-be and current CEOs eyeing up the merger and acquisition process remains the same now as it was before Flagship’s attempt to join bpha and Futures: establish a financial plan as soon as possible. The M&A process is long and complex, but it’s crucial to build confidence with all of the boards and executives involved in the organisations that will be merging, which a robust financial plan can streamline. 

At the same time, it allows you to renegotiate legacy debts and ascertain any new funding your combined organisations may need, giving you the opportunity to take fresh steps as a merged organisation with financial security. 

What We Can Learn from Flagship’s Focus for the Financial Year

As we closed out our interview, we asked David what he, the board, and the executive team had planned for Flagship’s remaining financial year. Indeed, their plans highlight the importance of preparing for an uncertain decade within the housing industry, ensuring resilience and the ability to continue serving the needs of customers and tenants long into the future.

Flagship’s board has agreed to four priorities for the coming year, the first of which is centred around the sales programme on the property development side of their business. With £60m in sales turnover, this year alone split between outright sales and shared ownership, the organisation is focusing closely on the housing market's performance to ensure that they’re continuing to solve the housing crisis within the UK. 

At the same time, their asset plan is closely aligned with upgrading their properties, ensuring that the project of upgrading their entire portfolio of homes—all 32,000—is sustainable and energy efficient in preparation for the future, including a programme to fit air source heat pumps to a range of buildings. 

This focus on maintaining and upgrading their existing stock comes alongside an effort to update internal systems, making certain that asset information is passed seamlessly between the different organisations that make up Flagship Group. Through these updates, David is confident that colleagues with the company will be able to communicate more strongly and effectively with one another, minimising the risk of roadblocks to their other priorities. 

Their final objective for the year will be focused on consumer regulations, with Flagship piloting methods to measure tenant satisfaction. This is being carried out within the context of the Social Housing Regulation Act 2023, which received Royal Assent in July of this year. With Flagship focused on providing safe, secure, and healthy homes for its tenants and communities, they’ve embraced the wide-ranging changes the act is bringing to the housing sector, and continued emphasis on the needs of these individuals and families has been a crucial part of the recipe to Flagship—and David’s—success:

"I'm not being flippant here, but I think the day job is working... to create a better future for our customers. Meeting housing needs—to me, that's the day job."

Specialist Housing Executive Search Firm

Whether you’re a candidate making a career change or you’re a business leader searching for a seasoned expert within the housing industry, Neemar Search is here to support you.

If you’re interested in learning more about the challenges facing the housing sector or you’re searching for more leadership lessons, join the Housing Collective Newsletter for the latest expert insights.

We’re dedicated to partnering with leading not-for-profit housing associations, local authorities, arms-length management organisations (ALMOS), and for-profit enterprises to drive change within the industry through executive staffing solutions. Whether you require recruitment expertise within corporate or customer services, asset management, development, or finance, we can help you make an impact. 

Contact us to learn more about our specialist hiring services within the housing industry.

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