Gone are the days when writing an article about Crestyl automatically meant setting up an interview with its CEO Omar Koleilat. The company’s activities are now so complex and wide-ranging that for most specific topics, there’s a person that’s more than qualified enough to discuss it. But that was exactly one of the topics I’d wanted to discuss with Koleilat in our first meeting since the pandemic. Because I was no longer clear where he began and his colleagues like COO Simon Johnson ended.
Koleilat revealed that there has in fact been a shift, prompted in part by his mentor, who acts as something like a chairman for the two families that own Crestyl. “He said, Omar you’re good at developing projects, but you’re going to have to transition to developing a company that develops projects,” recalls Koleilat. “There’s a big difference.”
This prompted him to take a step back, both literally and figuratively, to give him the space to begin defining not just what Crestyl’s DNA is, but how a company’s DNA is created.
He asked himself “Is a company the sum of the individuals in it? Or does it attract certain kinds of people? That’s been my journey and it’s why I feel we’ve been successful in establishing something which is called a brand. We have our own brand, which we have built from the bottom up.”
Of course, such questions can only come up once a company achieves a certain size. But Koleilat says that it’s also dependent on people as much as on process. “As we grew, various individuals joined the company who helped build the DNA. One of them was Simon Johnson.”
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And so, while he’s been at the company for several years, Johnson’s role has increasingly become taking the concepts and words Crestyl uses to describe its brand and to flesh out what they actually mean in practice. “He’s basically defined it or broken it down into elements,” says Koleilat. “So, if we say we do this, it means the apartment should look like this. It means the door to the living room is wider, or it means we spend more on greenery in these spaces. He was able to take it to the next level.”
Another important arrival is sales and marketing officer Viktor Peška. “The things that bother me or that I like, they bother him more and he likes them even more. Whether it’s architecture, design, a sense of detail or the human scale of projects. So that combination, the team of Simon and Viktor, has really taken over. The company now has a DNA, we know what we do, we know what we don’t do. We know what we like to do and what we’re not ready to do.”
The result, for example, is that Crestyl is comfortable turning down lower-end, cost-driven projects that look like profitable ventures on paper. Not out of pride, says Koleilat, but because it’s not the company’s strong suit. “I’m not sure we know how to make money on low-cost matters,” he admits. “We sell more expensive, but we build more expensive. We design more expensive, our architects are more expensive.”
Which brings us to Crestyl’s PLN 1.5 billion acquisition this May of the Polish residential developer Budimex Nieruchomości (now called Spravia). While Crestyl’s relatively small size allowed it to behave almost like a boutique investor, Spravia is a development machine built to make a mark on the enormous Polish market.
Koleilat acknowledges that as a strong middle-market developer, Spravia doesn’t have same sort of profile that Crestyl does. “But when you go in and start going around their projects you understand that we have a lot in common,” he says, including the way their detailed design work and how they work on the detail of the façades. “Their public spaces are amazing.”
In other words, he asserts that while Spravia’s reputation in Poland is as a middle market developer, its product places it above Czech middle market standards. “We believe they can price it higher and that they give much more value than their peer competitors.”
And that (along with being a well-managed, profitable firm) is what appears to have made Spravia an attractive investment for Crestyl. “They can help us potentially in the Czech Republic in competing within that segment which is a bit lower than what we do. We could have been boxed in. They open an opportunity for us. If they were completely cost-driven, we wouldn’t even look at them. But they’re not so far from us.”
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