On a recent trip to New York, I had the opportunity to visit Updater’s new office space in Union Square. I visited their space for two reasons. First, as the chief technology officer of Redefy, I’m interested in the technology behind Updater, a company that helps more than 45 million home buyers move each year by transferring mail, utilities, and accounts. Their interface is smooth and intuitive, a huge added value for customers; we should be making real estate buying and selling that easy.
Second, I’ll admit it, I heard the space is super cool, with a bright, colorful, open office concept that creates a fun work environment. Updater’s fancy new digs got me thinking about how technology companies work day-to-day and how that could relate to real estate. Here’s what I learned.
1. Make Time For Fun
We found that playing H-O-R-S-E with our mini b-ball hoop, reinventing corn hole, and taking aim at each other with Nerf guns creates camaraderie at the Redefy office. You get to know people in the office so much better when you’re goofing around than when you’re sitting around a conference table. As a technology company and a process-oriented real estate brokerage, incorporating some fun in our day or week is essential.
Traditional brokerages can also get in on the action, creating ways for agents to gather and collaborate. It’s a competitive business, I get that. But creating a fun community might foster better mentoring, a unity of purpose, and loyalty to the brand.
2. Culture Starts From The Top
Updater’s leadership is accessible, and you’ll find them playing foosball with everyone else. In our office, I’m probably the number one Nerf target because everyone’s comfortable engaging with me (and maybe because I’m an easy target at 6 feet, 8 inches). Whether you’re working at the corporate level or at a local brokerage, leadership sets the tone. Are you accessible? Are you approachable? Have you made your office a place where people can be creative and grow?
3. ‘Wow’ Is a Result of Hard Work
Until you have a big budget for office “wow,” you’re probably going to limit the spending to a nice entry, a good gathering and learning spot, and free coffee. And that’s OK, because you can create in any space if you’re motivated and passionate. Tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google started in a garage; it took a lot of hard work to become the wow they are today.
In the meantime, focus your office wow on what you do, how you bring value to your clients, and create solutions no one has thought of before. Choose to work hard to become the best, and then you can think about the shiny office.
4. Design Spaces For Who You Are
Updater’s open office concept keeps their people collaborating while enjoying the New York City views. Open office spaces are popular with tech and marketing companies because it works for what they do and it attracts great talent. A few local real estate brokerages are trying it, but I think it’s more of a publicity move than a function that works for our industry.
That being said, we should have spaces that encourage ideas and market knowledge. Updater has whiteboards everywhere for impromptu brainstorming. We write on the windows in our conference rooms (lovingly called the Shark Tank and Fish Bowl). If you want creative ideas for marketing and tech development, all you need is a gathering space—fancy is optional.
5. Start With a Really Great Product
Tech companies find a need or target undiscovered territory, then create a unique solution. Updater set the standard for updating address information when a person moves. They saw a need in the industry and created a great product, making it easy for home buyers and sellers to use this free service; Updater partners with brokerages so agents like ours can invite clients to use the service. It’s a great added value, and clients love that they don’t have to call the cable company or get a ton of junk mail generated by USPS forwarding forms.
In real estate, the basic process of the transaction is pretty similar across the industry. But each company that can find its niche through technology and service has a real chance to stand out. We set out to create a great product for our clients and we get excited about the things that set us apart, from our technology platform to our Alexa home valuation skill. What are you doing well? Share your breakthroughs and your enthusiasm for what you do to build excitement for your team.
Brick-and-mortar office space is going away for many brokerages and some corporate offices. With our technology, we could go virtual. But getting together in one space—bonding as we watch the crazy drivers on the interstate from our windows or gluing our coworker’s computer mouse to his desk—fosters a fun office atmosphere that lends itself to great collaboration.