Silicon Valley: home to tech behemoths like Google, Facebook, and Apple, as well as a hotbed of startups and small companies hoping to fill a vital niche and grow into the Next Big Thing. This growth is a goal they share with innovative real estate brokerages everywhere.
Why look to these tech firms for ideas? Silicon Valley companies have shown that it’s possible to scale up quickly — growing revenue and employees — without losing the focus that made them a success in the first place.
Though this is much easier to pay lip-service to than to actually do, companies like Facebook and Google don’t take their dominance for granted and invest heavily in innovation. They realize that without constant improvement, they will go the way of MySpace and AltaVista.
How do these tech giants keep themselves on the cutting edge?
First, they hire fresh talent. This doesn’t mean just focusing on younger people, but looking for employees with diverse backgrounds with different ways of thinking, operating, and solving problems.
Second, they plan regular events where employees are encouraged to present new ideas. The benefits of creating a safe space to innovate are plentiful: many great ideas come from unexpected places and from cross-pollination between individuals and teams.
When William Hewlett and David Packard founded their company, they created a set of business principles called the “HP Way.” This set of principles highlighted the company’s core values — such as respect for the individual, the importance of integrity, and the need for adaptability — and is often credited with driving HP’s early success.
But over time, many employees began to equate the HP Way with particular traditions, which in turn became inviolable privileges. This misinterpretation of core values as immutable traditions eventually led to turf wars between product divisions. Developing innovative products became difficult because of lack of cooperation between parts of the company that were interdependent—like hardware and software.
After a long period of decline, HP has now gotten back on track with a newfound focus. However, this was only possible after significant restructuring, layoffs, and a considerable commitment to restoring the original values.
Creating a company culture around core values is a deep, soul-searching exercise that pays immense dividends. However, problems arise when these values are compromised – any practice, no matter how steeped in tradition, is fair game for critical examination.
Another lesson from HP: for decades, the company was seen as a talent factory and cranked out dozens of executives who went on to run other major companies. But as the business grew more complex, HP didn’t do enough to keep a stable of executives capable of becoming their next CEO.
When HP’s CEO was asked to step down in the late 90s, HP had to go outside the company to find a suitable top executive. This led to a string of outsider CEOs who were unable to return HP to its former glory days. Since then, HP has returned to finding top leadership from within. The current CEO, Dion Weisler, came up through their Asian printing division and has lead HP to profitability again.
Grooming from within not only ensures that you’ll have continuity in leadership when it’s time for you to step down, but as you give more autonomy to your future executives, their talent will help you grow the business.
The above quote can be attributed to Netscape co-founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. Put another way, software is disrupting and reshaping the competitive landscape of nearly every industry on earth.
If you don’t have people in your brokerage who are technically savvy, understand code, and know how to use technology to drive your business, you will be at a huge disadvantage.
Competition on the technology front is already heated among brokerages, and it’s only going to get hotter as more startups from outside real estate look for ways to transform the traditional home buying model.
As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Nobody is forced to do business with you. People may like your agents personally, but when it comes down to choosing who to work with, they will go with the brokerage they think will make it easiest, simplest, and most comfortable for them.
If clients are used to doing their major financial transactions on their smartphone, then you need to meet those expectations as you guide them through the process. It doesn’t matter how you intend to serve your clients. Their actual experience is what you’ll be judged on.