For most entrepreneurs launch of a startup three months before the global pandemic it would just be a failure. But not so for Realm founder Liz Young, whose real estate platform helps homeowners maximize the value of their home by helping them make decisions like how much to spend on kitchen renovations or when to refinance. During the pandemic, as millions of Americans began working remotely from their homes, Realm began receiving hundreds of requests per week from homeowners are looking for advice…
“We had a really passionate audience of people tackling their biggest asset and not spending on travel and other additional expenses,” Young says. “They say, ‘Help me figure out how to interact with my home in a new way.’ “
Young, 33, first became interested in real estate at the age of 6, when her parents bought their first home. Since then, on every trip to the grocery store, she took all the real estate magazines. Prior to founding Realm, she worked as Development Manager at Reonomy, a commercial real estate data and technology company it helps investors make more informed decisions.
“All the time I was there, I was thinking, how can I get this into the hands of an ordinary person?” Young says.
New York-based Realm recently attracted a $ 12 million Series A round led by Airbnb investor GGV Capital, but Young isn’t letting flashy fundraising get her head open. She is determined to make Realm a household name and has focused on attracting key employees.
When it comes to big dreams and fast growth, few real estate founders have more experience than Compass CEO Robert Reffkin… Over the past eight years, he has transformed this New York-based company into the largest independent brokerage firm in the country. In April, The compass went public, raising $ 450 million in an IPO.
Today, when 42-year-old Reffkin is out of business, one of his biggest hobbies is mentoring other entrepreneurs. “In fact, you get more from mentoring than you give,” he says. In 2009, he founded America Needs You (formerly New York Needs You) mentoring nonprofit organization that helps first-generation college students graduate and find work after graduation.
A former White House treasury official who later spent six years at Goldman Sachs, Reffkin believes that much of his success is finding advisors. Having a mentor can be critical, he said, to help with things like moving up the career ladder: “This is one of the quickest ways to know where you should go and how to get there.”
Reffkin brings his experiences of both sides of mentoring to his recently published first book: No one will succeed alone: learn everything you can from everyone you can… In Young, he has a like-minded fellow who is eager to learn and has a vision of transforming Realm into a large publicly traded company, but who first needs to hire a management team and reinforce his brand identity.
“Weeks and months are fine. It’s a daytime roller coaster. ” – Liz Young
Young: I’ve been building this business for 18 months and it’s an emotional roller coaster. I constantly switch from one to the other. I read that you don’t believe in multitasking. How do you stay true to this when you run a company?
Reffkin: I try to focus on results rather than activities. Results are what determines a company’s financial performance or customer value. Most of all, I focus on clients and really know what they value and how I can deliver that value to them. So the question is, how can you – throughout the day – organize a company to give the customer more and more with maximum scalability?
Young: Tell me how your role has evolved. Were there certain phases in which you think you really succeeded? Are you the best CEO you’ve ever been right now?
Reffkin: In the beginning, I rented apartments as a licensed agent and did almost any job. Over time, you hire people to do the job. As the company grows, you always push yourself away from your last job. You must know your strengths and not try to turn your weaknesses into strengths. Hire people who can take care of these weaknesses. It will be very difficult to build a truly world-class company out of nothing if you don’t do what you do best.
Young: We have all this really interesting data, and sometimes a large company asks to license it. My answer is that our client is a homeowner, and if we start focusing on someone else, it will change everything we do day in and day out.
Reffkin: It amazes me how easy it is for people to lose concentration. You have so many stakeholders trying to divert your attention, whether they be competitors, investors, or other potential partners. We have many people who want to establish strategic partnerships with us. They are all distracting. Why do we need to enter into a strategic partnership that our agents are not asking for? I believe that they know what they want, and the more we build for this, the better.
Young: I read that you said, “A clear, compelling vision will give everyone the courage to leave comfort and jump into the unknown.” I think I’m getting better and better at promoting Realm to potential employees, but you have to be very good when trying to convince someone to leave the big company and join your small startup. Our vision is really big and exciting, but we are a 13-person company and it all breaks down, so how do you balance it?
Reffkin: There are people who get energy from creating non-existent things, and there are people who get energy from scaling existing ones. At the beginning, I focused on people who I knew really wanted to be builders and who wanted to create something out of nothing. He is not trying to convince people that this is something wrong. He tries to find people who are inspired by what it is.
Young: Without asking names, who did you hire best in the early days?
“You want to over-invest in HR because your main client is your employees. They can best support the client. “– Robert Reffkin
Reffkin: Our head of marketing has truly contributed to the Compass culture. It really does matter early on in hiring people who can help build the cultural and brand identity. I also think that most founders don’t understand how much HR they need. You want to over-invest in HR because you want to make your employees happy and help them work faster. In a sense, your main customer is your employees. They can best support the client.
Young: What is an example of what you would like to know before?
Reffkin: One is to hire an executive coach who focuses on founders. In fact, I think that the lack of a mentor for leaders is almost irresponsible. They have pattern recognition from other people who have done what you are doing and are basically sharing their thoughts on how to solve your problem. They also listen to you over and over again, which is quite difficult for you to do with yourself. They might say something like, “I don’t think this person will succeed and you should find someone else.” You may say that you think this person is great, but the coach may say, “Well, you complained about this person every time I met you last year.” And you haven’t heard that before.
Young: Many founders talk about the ups and downs in running a startup, like having a bad week or a bad month. In my personal experience, weeks and months are wonderful. This is a daytime roller coaster. How do you deal with this, both personally and professionally?
Reffkin: One of the most important things for a founder is to maintain their positive energy. On average, there can be so many ups and downs in a day. You must be able to leave the past behind, be present in the present and move forward. Dreams fill me with positive energy. I like to dream a lot and think about what we can do and how to get better. When something difficult happens, if after that I’m at another meeting where I’ll talk about creating new products for the 22,000 agents we have now and the 100,000+ agents we will have in the future, it gives me energy. I say goodbye to all the negativity of the last meeting and move on.
From the September issue of the magazine 2021 Inc. Magazine