FHAUS, “a new concept of Mediterranean residential property”, is the new business project that has recently been launched by Rubén Martínez and Carlos Infantes, two students on EAE Business School’s Executive MBA . This article is an account of our interview with the two entrepreneurs:
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DO AN EXECUTIVE MBA?
When we launched FHAUS, we thought that the best investment that we could make for our company was to train ourselves, get a much broader and more professional perspective of the business and consolidate all of the experience that we have accumulated to date into a set of tools.
WHY DID YOU PLACE YOUR TRUST IN EAE TO UNDERTAKE THIS TRAINING?
At the time, we conducted an analysis of various Business Schools in Barcelona and, eventually, we decided to go for EAE because it seemed to be the institution that was best suited to our profile as entrepreneurs with a project already under way, looking for the right tools to develop the project successfully. We hoped to find a dynamic environment and a pro-active team of professionals, and we certainly weren’t disappointed.
DURING YOUR TIME STUDYING ON THE MBA, WHAT HAS EAE CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIVES?
In our case, we are still taking the EMBA and we still have a lot to learn, but what we can say already is that the school has substantially broadened our business knowledge and has helped us to align the company’s values with our own personal values.
WHAT DID YOU DO PROFESSIONALLY BEFORE STARTING THE MASTER?
We were undergoing a period of complete transition in which, after having managed to raise a first round of seed capital, we were organizing the launch of FHAUS while, at the same time managing our own architecture firm, OPR. It was a situation with a great deal of pressure. OPR is a brand with over ten years of history and offices in Barcelona and Beijing, specializing in large-scale projects. It required a great deal of time and effort. However, it is also true that it has enabled us to self-finance a large part of FHAUS’s maturing period.
HOW DID THE ENTREPRENEURIAL IDEA FOR FHAUS COME ABOUT?
On the one hand, the idea for FHAUS emerged from the need to achieve the materialization of extremely special projects, unique residential properties in Africa for European clients who required a high degree of excellence and integration throughout the entire process. One the other, the idea originated from our passion for participating in the process of defining the residential property of our times, which is sure to be transformed significantly due to technological advances that are taking place at an exponential rate.
We knew that, after the crisis in Spain and in the real estate market in particular, we would have a window of opportunity to do things in a different way. We took the leap of imagining a new concept of residential properties for our time, that retrieves the essence of the good Mediterranean lifestyle while, at the same time, incorporating a more human style of technology within our domestic environment.
DO THE BRAND’S INITIALS HAVE SOME TYPE OF MEANING?
FHAUS is a play on words to capture the idea that the concept of a house (expressed by the Anglo-Saxon term ‘haus’) has evolved to a new state in keeping with the times. The concept is clear: “FHAUS, far more than a house”. In fact, we pronounce it in Spanish, as ‘faus’, with a silent ‘h’.
It does not involve a new construction system or new forms. The pioneering idea is not based on the material but rather on customized processes and the added value generated by the spaces that we inhabit. We operate in the information economy and our houses are a result of this philosophy.
LAUNCHING INTO THE WORD OF START-UPS IS NOT EASY. HOW DID YOU GET FINANCING?
Getting financing was relatively simple (it took us longer to crystallize the idea), but we had such passion and conviction for the project that it was contagious for the investors, all of whom knew us well and were confident we were capable.
Our plans at the time were more instinctive. We knew the industry of customized residential properties inside out from both ends of the spectrum: the initial design and subsequent maintenance. We managed to change our framework of thinking and we saw it all clearly: it was one of those ‘now or never’ opportunities and nothing would have stopped us.
We had fun during that phase, sitting down with large investors with our amateur business plan, explaining that building houses was just the first step. Our true objective was to change the way we live. We will never forget the look of bewilderment on their faces.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR TARGET MARKET?
FHAUS is for people who are passionate about doing much more than just a house as we conceive the concept today, which is still no more than a mere container. People who are willing to throw their passion into building a dream, but who have no desire to waste time or money.
Initially, our early adopters will probably be foreigners, by which we mean specifically somebody who wants to build a house somewhere different to their normal place of residence, without any interest in the construction industry, with medium-high purchasing power and a certain degree of sophistication. People who have a balanced appreciation of the virtues of traditional good living and the advantages of smart technology.
WHAT DOES YOUR BUSINESS MODEL CONSIST OF?
It is halfway between a residential property development agency and a homeowners’ club. We act as the client or owner’s agent when dealing with the industry. This is essential to us. At all times, we remain outside of the production chain, which enables us to avoid any conflicts of interest and accumulate experience in all directions to improve the process continuously.
In fact, we are turning the traditional model on its head. Our objective is to get rid of all of the financial incentives that are in conflict with the owners’ interests. We do not want to build a bigger house or use more expensive materials just because it is more profitable for the industry. We want to build a house better and faster with greater added value. This is our true objective and we are finding a lot of mechanisms that redress the current imbalance.
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF THIS PROJECT?
In the long term, we aim to become a leader in good Mediterranean living that is up-to-date and adapted, yet faithful to the original essence. More than just a brand of houses, we strive to be a brand of quality of life. We want to be to the residential property world what Mayo Clinic is to medicine. Our objective is to integrate the best specialists with a set of criteria and innovative operating processes, with the aim of providing much more effective and affordable services than the traditional model permits.
In the short term, our plans are to open up the market in Catalonia and then later in Andalusia, the Balearic Islands and Madrid. From that point onwards, we will consolidate the model and export it abroad in such a way as to generate synergies between the countries of origin and the destination countries.
In reality, we will measure our success by the capacity we have to influence our clients’ quality of life. Of course, we want to earn money, but our primary objective is not to make profit. What we want to do is achieve sufficient resources to be able to contribute decisively to the revolution in the residential property industry.
YOU ARE CURRENTLY SEARCHING FOR PROFESSIONALS TO FORM PART OF YOUR TEAM. WHAT WOULD THE PROFILE OF YOUR IDEAL COLLEAGUES BE?
At the moment, we are starting to develop a team that we hope will become the heart of the project and will eventually give it form. We are basically looking for people like us: crazy enough to strive to change the way we live, but also with differences between them, bringing their own personality to the mix and contributing towards enriching our community. The chemistry will be crucial. At FHAUS, chemistry is really important.
ARE YOU MORE APARTMENT OR TOWNHOUSE PEOPLE?
We are more into the concept of a home and building sensations of comfort and wellbeing: being content at home, being with your people, your family and friends, or on your own. We are not obsessed with the object of a residential property in itself, whether it be an apartment or a house, but rather the way in which it is experienced.
For us, the home is something that you build, the result of a process in which the people who really project themselves are the owners. Every idea, every gesture and detail, will have a huge significance when it comes to living there in the future. That is why we decided not to build houses, but rather to build dreams.
WHAT WOULD YOUR IDEAL HOUSE BE LIKE?
It would be a FHAUS, for sure. It would be different for each of us. However, at the same time, there would be lots of common ground, the same genetic makeup, like two trees of the same species that have grown on opposite hillsides.
TO FINISH OFF, WHAT INFLUENCE DO YOU THINK EAE WILL HAVE ON THIS PROJECT?
We have just started, but we have high expectations of the Master and we will do whatever we can to ensure that this contribution is mutual.
Thank you very much of sharing all of this with us. WE WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK!
Here are links to FHAUS’s social networks so that you can find out more about them!
"Blog FHAUS":http://www.fhaus.co/lab/ .
"Facebook FHAUS":https://www.facebook.com/pages/FHAUS/1455736044697481 .
"Twitter FHAUS":https://twitter.com/FHAUS_lab .
"Google+ FHAUS":https://plus.google.com/u/0/101152859005033029595/posts .
"Pinterest FHAUS":http://www.pinterest.com/fhaus_lab/ .
"Instagram FHAUS":http://instagram.com/fhaus_lab .