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Our guest is COO Alliance Member Tom Parmentier, COO at Express Homebuyers.
Only a passionate person will truly understand the value of commitment. More than anything, it will manifest in the choices made when all odds are against one’s favor. Getting fired by CEO thirty days in, Tom Parmentier amazingly turned that fiasco into a big break by honestly showing how he is genuinely committed to the company. Such passion gave him an opportunity to become the COO of Express Homebuyers – a fast-growing and technologically-advanced real estate investment company that specializes in purchasing, renovating, and reselling homes. With fervor, he accepted the challenge to work with three CEOs and shares how he coped up with the shift. On top of that, Tom dives into the early systems that helped them scale, the secret to their success in turning the industry upside down, and the biggest mistake they made so far.
Express Homebuyers COO Tom Parmentier
Tom Parmentier is the COO of Express Homebuyers and has been with the company for many years. As the COO, his responsibilities include management of acquisitions, sales, marketing and IT development with a daily focus on continuously improving the company’s systems to make the selling experience easier and less stressful for their customers. Express Homebuyers is a fast growing and technology-advanced real estate investment company that specializes in purchasing, renovating and reselling homes.
At Express Homebuyers, they believe that perseverance and continuous improvement, fairness, confidence and work-life balance are the roots of any successful business. They continuously strive to uphold these core values while having a relaxed, fun and professional work setting. They believe that these core values are the driving force behind their success. The company has purchased more than 2,200 homes since 2003 and held an A-plus rating with the Better Business Accreditation. I’m also excited to say that Tom is one of the founding members of the COO Alliance and I’ve also been coaching Tom and his CEO. Tom, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Cameron. It’s a pleasure to be here. I appreciate it.
I’m looking forward to getting the rest of the story. I’ve been working and coaching you and the two founders, having a lot of time to be able to spend with you at the COO Alliance and doing some of our morning runs and golfing together while you’re there as well. We spent a fair bit of time together and I know some of the insides and outs of your business. Also of your role, more than a lot of our guests on the show. That’s why I’m excited to have you share your story. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your journey even before 2003? What gave you the experience to get started with Express Homebuyers? Tell us a little bit about your journey and also give us maybe a quick helicopter tour of what the brand does.
I’ve been in the DC metro area most of my life. I went to George Mason University with a Bachelor’s Degree in finance. When I was at George Mason, I was working at a golf course because I loved to play golf and that was the only way that I was able to play golf. One day, one of my friends said, “Tom, I got this job selling windows and I made $1,000 this week.” I said, “What? You made $1,000 in one week?” I was making $6 to $7 an hour, so I wasn’t making anything but I was playing a lot of golf. He said, “Tom, they hire anyone.” I was like, “You’re kidding. I can make $1,000 a week and they’ll hire anyone.” Little did I know about that industry. Not knowing, I said, “Can you share that information?” I went to go work for this home improvement company and that was my first taste of being in a sales environment. What I was doing is I had the lead set for me. I would go meet with homeowners where I would run appointments and I would take some measurements of their homes. I would do this in-home presentation to sell people windows, siding or roofing. I loved it. I did so well that schooling took a back seat. I became driven by money. I was able to maintain well.
I remember I would do classes in the morning back-to-back and then I would go run on appointments in the evening. My first full year after I got onboarded, I made $70,000. I was nineteen years old, living with my parents, living a good life and I was hooked. I loved the sales experience. I was never the salesperson who could have the best conversation. I don’t have a silver tongue. I’m not going to manipulate you. Honesty and integrity are things that I hold close to my heart in terms of what values I look for in other people. I always did well because I listened. I was good at not raising any objections and I’ve always had this hustler mentality growing up as a kid. My uncle had this business called The Water Weenie in Michigan. It was a floating pontoon boat. I was ten years old and I was the cashier. He had this business so they could have fun and party. It was the way to fund that lifestyle.
Then here I was, this salesperson per se, trying to make tips. I got paid nothing. I remember collecting cans and turning them in. You could get $0.10 in Michigan for the deposit. I had this hustler mentality to do stuff. I’ve also always had this try to figure stuff out. Not from a very detailed engineering blueprint plans but down to very precise measurements. I remember my dad worked in the computer space. In the ‘90s, he would bring home these computers as they were about to throw them away. I remember taking them apart and switching out hard drives. Nothing extremely technical, but at least trying to understand how all the pieces went together, the big picture. I had this experience growing up as hustling sales, but also understanding how can I get the most of them done in the least amount of time. A highlight of that is when I graduated from George Mason. I didn’t know if I was going to graduate because it took 120 credits to graduate. I had 117 plus my corporate finance class.
Going into it, I had a D and I knew there was going to be a curve, but you never know what the curve is going to be. This was a class where you’re having to do Black-Scholes model and I knew there was no way I was going to figure out Black-Scholes. I just skipped the question on the exam. Somehow, I ended up getting a B+ in the class because of it. Ever since then, that was my entry point into Express Homebuyers. I got burnt out of the home improvement space. There wasn’t an opportunity to learn and grow beyond sales. It’s not a great industry in terms of the people that work in that. If you’ve ever seen the movie Tin Man, it’s like that. I had this interest in real estate and this finance background and then I went to Express Homebuyers. I saw a job posting on Monster looking for a salesperson when I graduated college and then I got into that space.
You’ve been around it and been observing it for a long time. In starting off in Express Homebuyers, you have two co-CEOs or co-founders. What do you think it was that they saw in you that had them put you in the COO role because they’re giving you a ton of responsibility?
It’s definitely been a journey. It’s not something that they gave to me. It’s something that I got by putting in hard work and demonstrating my ability. I started in Express Homebuyers in 2006. I would say for probably five years, it was nothing but sales. Maybe it was more of a team lead and the head of sales. We weren’t a big company back then because of the market downturn. We had to be agile and we had to shift strategy. One of the co-founders, Jud, fired me 30 days in because business wasn’t going well. I said to Jud, “It sucks. I like working here.” That struck a chord with Jud. I liked Brad and Jud. They are amazing people and great friends. We always had this good rapport. At that age, I didn’t know enough.
Looking back, there was something there where we liked each other. We got along. It’s a good fit in terms of balancing each other. It’s been a progression for me as we’ve changed a very entrepreneurial mom and pop, scrappy, trying a lot of different things, chasing shiny objects and making a ton of mistakes, but always very driven. Brad and Jud are very driven. Their story is incredible, how they got into the business, but they were always very driven to change in industry. I always appealed to them and we all got along well. I remember one thing that always sticks with me is the first day I went there, they say, “If we ever have a problem with each other, we don’t sweep it under the rug. We talk about it.” That’s the thing with Brad and Jud that has allowed this journey to get to where we are is we talk about everything. If we’re pissed at each other, if we’re unhappy with each other, whatever’s going on, we communicate.
We’ve noticed that even in some of our coaching calls where you’d bring up a situation. I’m like, “This is dicey,” and they’re like, “I talked to him about it this morning.” You do go head-on into these things without any fear and worry. That’s what Patrick Lencioni was talking about when he wrote Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s getting that fear of conflict and the absence of trust and getting past both of those areas. You have done an amazing job with that. That is a core underlying reason your company has scaled so much. I didn’t realize that you’d been fired 30 days in.
My first real career job was with College Pro Painters. I’ve been a franchisee for three years, then I went on to work at the head office and on my week or so, I got fired. One of the VPs had been demoted to a general manager and so my job didn’t exist anymore. I went in and I was like, “There’s no way. I can’t quit. I’ve been wanting this role forever.” I said, “I’ll do any job. I’ll work temp. I’ll do backup. I’ll work for minimum wage, just let me do any job in the company until my position opens up again.” I worked for $11 an hour in my first career job. I ended up being with that company for four years and I’m glad I did. That’s something that I showed and you showed was we were passionate about the company and we weren’t leaving. You can fire me, but I’m still staying.
That’s one thing that’s passionate to me. Being in the DC area, a lot of my friends are government contractor and they work on Capitol Hill. They do this 9 to 5 grind and they hate their job. I’m always like, “Why work there?” Find something that you like and that you’re passionate about. If you’re passionate about it, when going gets tough, you’re still interested. You’re not going to give up. You’re not going to quit. You become more committed. That’s something that’s important to me. I see it all the time given the area that I live in.
One of the things I love is learning how a COO gets on the same page as the CEO. I wrote that book, Vivid Vision. I’ve covered it in a couple of my other books, that Vivid Vision concepts, but how do you get on the same page with two CEOs? How do you make sure that you’re clear on the vision they have for the organization and where they want things to go? How do you get them clear on what your plans are to make their visions come true?
Technically, I have three now. We brought a new CEO on in April and Brad and Jud are more on founder roles. It’s communicating and we’ve followed the EOS process. We’ve read through all of your stuff. I think all the tools are great. We’ve got to find what tool works for the personalities of the people. It’s taking that time to get clear on what are we trying to do? Why are we doing this? For us, it’s been a lot of communication and asking. I’ll be honest, I’m a newer COO. This isn’t something that I’ve been doing for a decade or twenty years. COO Alliance has been phenomenal for me. With my peer groups in this area, I don’t have a lot of friends that are in the type of role that I’m in. I have entrepreneurs that are friends of mine, but that’s a little bit different because they’re seeing it from a different perspective.
The things that I have learned was to understand that I’m in a relationship with them just as I’m in a relationship with my wife and my children. We have to have this communication of what are our goals, what are our values and talking about it. Me being the operator, I’m going to ask a lot of questions about their vision to understand it. I think it helps them too because all three of them are extraordinary visionaries that they want to grow and do a lot of things. Just understanding what is their why and helping them figure that out. If I can help them figure what is important to them and then I can figure out how do I reverse engineer that, then they’re going to give me the autonomy and the trust to make decisions of “We need to allocate resources here or we need to implement this process.” It’s developed, that trust. The Five Dysfunctions is the very first book that we require every employee to read at our organization.
I want you to tell me about this transition. You went through a transition that most executives never will. You had two co-founders that you reported to. You are the COO. You’ve been there for thirteen years. You’ve been building and scaling up the company. You have had tons of responsibility. Then they come to you and say that they want to hire a new CEO, so they can move into more of a founder role and they want someone to help you accelerate the growth of the company. The three of you go out and recruit and interview and hire a CEO to come effectively in between the two of you. They’re in a founder role. You’ve got a new CEO in the company. How did you grapple with that? How did you get past any of the insecurities, any of the worries or any of the frustrations? Walk us through what you were thinking and feeling when it was first happening and maybe how you got through that. There are some big lessons there about hiring A players.
The initial reaction is, “I’m good, I can be CEO or I can do this or you guys just need to listen and see.” I have that initial reaction, which is very emotional. Then I sat and I processed it and I thought about where we are and where we want to go. A limiting factor that I have that I realized, that one of my founders told me is, “Tom, you’re awesome. You’re in the Top 1% in this space. However, that’s your biggest weakness because you’ve only been in this space.” There are many times our strength is our weakness as well. I reflected on that. It became clear to me that definitely it’s right. If I’m going to continue to grow, we’re going to need help. I’m not the founder of the company. It’s Brad and Jud. They started it. Ultimately, I decided that servant leadership is something that’s important to me and a value of mine. At the end of the day, they’re the ones that if this stuff doesn’t work, that they’re going to have a difficult time. For me, I’m younger, I have great experience and I’m more employable. I can find other work and I can do other things.
It came down to me recognizing the fact that I was not the one who started this business. Because of them, I have this opportunity and being a servant to that fact, then stepping out of the way. I decided they wanted me to do this, let them take the lead on it. Typically, my initial instinct would be, “Let me get super involved, let me talk to this guy.” I stayed out of it until we got to the very end and it was time to say, “Is this going to happen.” We signed a deal and the final review. I let them go with it. When they made the decision, do I know if I completely agreed or not? I’m not sure. Ultimately, I agreed that it’s their company and it was their decision, so I had to support that. They’re the ones who provided for me and my family to do the things that have been important to me. I couldn’t dream up of any other job than the one that I have. I truly love what I do. It’s a joy for me every day. I love going to work. It’s so hard for me to put work away because I love it so much. It’s not something that I put in a box and I have work on the left and I had home at the right. They all interchange. I don’t know if that is clear or not.
Walk us through then how the transition happened for you. You’ve got this new CEO comes into the business. Walk us through the first couple of weeks. What did you go through? What was your rollercoaster like? I’m sure you went through a bit of a roller coaster.
It’s been about a few months now. When Mark came in, he pushed me. He pushed me hard. Looking at it, it was the right thing to do. He had to see what was I made of. He didn’t have a relationship with me, and Mark’s been extremely successful. He’s built and sold five businesses that he’s founded. He has the resume and he’s done it. He’s one of those guys where it’s his name and what he’s done speaks for himself and you don’t have to question it. I took that fact, I recognized that and I accepted it. It went pretty well in the beginning and then it hit a point where I was texting you and I was like, “Cameron, I don’t know what to do. I’m frustrated.” You gave me some good advice. The thing for me, it seems like the answer is always right in front of you. It’s never that far away. You need to take that time to step away. I believe what you said to me was, “You need to have a conversation of when you do this, you make me feel this way.” When you say XYZ, you make me feel unimportant or that I don’t know what I’m doing and it makes me upset.
I have no apprehension of saying I’m an emotional guy because I’m so passionate. Things definitely can impact me at the core. I need to pick up the phone or we need to meet and talk and I talk. The things that I read into was misread and it was cool. I feel like the rest is history. He was here and we had an awesome time. We spent some time outside of the office, which was important to get to know him as a person. I asked him a lot of questions and find out. He was asking me all the questions. I was giving him all the answers, but we never got the time to find out what are his values. I then come to find out that we don’t have all the same values, but in terms of our mission and caring for our people and our employees and our integrity, we are in the same lane.
It goes back to The Five Dysfunctions. If I summarize what I said, if you have conflict or you have an issue, you’ve got to talk about it. You can’t just let it go no matter how big or small, because think how much time we waste thinking, “This guy, he’s out to get me. He’s going to bring in his COO,” you get all these crazy thoughts. I finished reading Extreme Ownership. It’s the Navy SEAL guy. The one thing they talk about in the SEAL is that they gave this story of how when they’re in Ramadi, they were getting all of these questions from their superiors like what’s going on? Why are they asking all these questions? They were trying to understand. Good CEOs are going to ask a lot of questions and try to understand. That’s all it was. I guess I wasn’t used to that because I had been running 95% of the decision-making for the last couple of years. It was definitely a shift and something that I had to reflect.
You mentioned the COO Alliance and we decided to put this on as a network globally. We’re opening up in 30 cities over the few years. You’re part of the national program, which is the one that meets every couple months in Scottsdale, Arizona. Tell us what the big couple of lessons or a-has that you’ve gained out of that, that you brought back into your role as a COO.
There’s so much value in the COO Alliance. When I first went in as an operator, I thought I’m going to go to the COO Alliance and I’m going to come back with three or four things I’m going to implement in my business that are going to help us grow. I’m going to get some a-ha that I’m going to implement and it wasn’t that at all. It was “Tom, you need to work on your relationship with your CEO.” It was Brad at that time. It’s like, “You’re not doing a good job of managing that relationship and understanding the CEO mind and the brilliance that’s beyond the chaos that we typically focused on.” Understanding, as we had conversations of this CEO/COO relationship, was huge. It was giving Brad the ability to share his ideas and thoughts and understanding that as CEO, they can only hold so many thoughts and they need to get them out. How can I facilitate a process where Brad can get all of his thoughts out and we can document them?
I don’t have to do anything with it. I need to listen to him and let him have an opportunity to say what’s on his mind, then we can come back to it at a later date. When we come back to it at a later date, he may be “Nine of these ten. I don’t know what I was thinking about. Let’s focus on this one,” and then give them that opportunity to be able to talk about stuff. The CEO/COO relationship was huge for me. It was the first time of how to manage that. Second is the connections. As I mentioned, I don’t have connections in my area because of what goes on in the DC area. Being able to connect with other people that are dealing with the same thing was like a huge a-ha. I’m not the only one, “Your CEO does that?” It gave me so much gratitude for my founders because some of the stories that I heard, “I got a pretty good, don’t I?”
Tell me about how you keep yourself focused. You’ve got an awful lot on your plate. You guys have got some big growth that you’re going through. You’re now operating in multiple cities as well. How do you keep yourself organized and focused in your role?
It’s all about being detailed with my notes and my calendar and using technology to facilitate what I need to do. A couple things is that I use on a daily basis that I could not live without. I use Spark Mail and it allows me to have my calendar and my to-do’s all in one place. I review them relentlessly. I would probably review them three or four times a day. When I leave the office, I’m reviewing and getting my mind, thinking about what do I need to work on tomorrow. When I get in, I review it. It’s always the first and last thing that I do, to review my priorities. Every day as a group with my manager, we set our daily goals. Our daily goals have to be attached to what our quarterly priorities are.
We’re trying to grow the amount of transactions that we do. We’re trying to do that locally. All of our goals are surrounded around that. Setting two to three priorities every day. I use different technology stuff. One that I use that helps me a lot is Airtable. It allows me to create on-the-fly CRM systems to manage applicant process, manage goals like marketing plans. It’s very versatile. I don’t have to have a bunch of spreadsheets or Word documents. I love that one a lot. It’s keeping myself super organized and then going and executing on those two or three things that are the most important.
Airtable would be similar to Asana and Trello. It allows you to see projects in different views.
It’s fully customizable and it integrates with a lot of other applications. I liken it to Excel with pivot tables without having to know how to do pivot tables and being a very nice visual representation. It’s all in the cloud, you can set access to who you want to set access to.
Tell me about how you guys say no to projects. How do you decide what to green light and what to red light or what the yellow in terms of projects across the organization?
It’s talking about it and having a conversation. We’ve gone through an EOS implementation. We set quarterly rocks and then we break those rocks down into goals. We follow that process a lot. When a new idea comes up, we’ll discuss it in our meetings. We stick to what is in the plan. That’s an area that we’re working to get better at. The thing that I’m most looking forward to with Mark coming on board is he’s good at coming up with a good strategic plan. That’s an area that we had some weakness in. It’s taking those things and looking at the pros and cons. Does this project that we want to do get us to where we want? For what it is right now, we’re in a sublease and it ends in next month. We could go through all this planning to have this great space and do all this stuff. We have a pretty decent space. It’s revenue over aesthetics. We need revenue right now and that’s what the business needs so we’re going to focus on it. I’m sure in twelve to eighteen months when we’re continuing to grow, then that’s going to be more important. Now, it’s focusing on revenue generating activities for us.
Tell me about some of the early stage successes that you had then with Express Homebuyers. What were some of the early decisions that you made or some of the early systems that have helped you scale?
One thing that I tell people a lot is having great visionaries that called the name of our company Express Homebuyers. What we do when we buy homes directly from sellers is a lot of our competitors have company names like Tom Buys Houses or Cameron Will Buy Your House. These very mom and pop things don’t scale. They came up with a good name and we have this little jingle. We did TV advertising and we’re still doing a little bit of work. It’s like, “We’ll buy your house in seven days,” and people will hear that. My founders have phenomenal insight from coming up with a good name and a good hook to position ourselves in the marketplace. It’s funny when people will sing the jingle to me and make jokes when I’m recruiting.
They’re like, “Are you going to be able to hire me in seven days?” and stuff like that. It’s definitely has shown it. The one thing in being more of like a sales and marketing organization is having a good foundation of having a CRM where you’re tracking leads. Like the jargon of, “No lead left behind.” Just following up with leads and focusing on your leads and tracking everything and measuring what’s working and staying in touch with people. We have people that sell their house to us where they’d been in our system for three, four or five years. Without a good system to have that in place, you would never be able to keep track of that. That’s something that’s important for us.
You guys have tipped the industry upside down and you are doing something very different. Can you tell us the specifics of what exactly does Express Homebuyers do? Talk to us a little bit about what you’ve done to turn the industry upside down so quickly.
There are no trade secrets. It’s just hard work and effort. For most of our existence, up until about a few years ago, we did what Cameron said in the intro. We do direct response advertising through internet, TV, direct mail to generate demand or leads to people who want to sell their home fast for cash. We would make offers to buy homes where we would pay cash. We close whenever the seller wanted, many times in a couple of days, sometimes in a couple of weeks or sometimes in a couple of months, where we buy your home as is or you don’t have to make any repairs. You don’t have to have agents coming through. There is no contingency. Working with sellers that were in some financial distress or situation where the home was a burden and they needed to get out of it. That’s who we work with.
We buy the homes and we would fix them up and then resell them and hopefully make a profit. If you’ve ever seen the HGTV shows of Flip This House or Flip That Flop, that’s us. We happened to be doing it at scale in our market. I did that for a while. I would never say that we were the best fixer uppers. We’re not that good at that. We’ve always been good marketers and salespeople and being able to generate business. Just through a series of events, as we tried to scale, we came to a point where we had about 80 properties under various stages of construction. I wouldn’t quite call it a house of cards, but we were in a bad relationship with a bad contractor. It put us in a tough spot. We’re talking a lot of debt to finance these properties. A lot of risks and we survived the downturn. We’ve paid every penny of the over $300 million that we’ve ever borrowed. We’d never not pay it 100% of our money back to our investors. We’ve taken losses but our investors never had.
Through that, we had this experience where we needed to generate cash. Something that happens in our industry and something that we did a little bit but not a whole lot, is what’s called wholesaling. What wholesaling is when we get that property under contract to buy, I sell my contract to another investor who does the same thing that we were doing. This investor is likely going to be smaller or maybe it’s a real estate agent who flips a house or two a year. Maybe it’s a small operation that does one a month or a couple of months. All of these people, they have a hard time finding deals. If we look at what’s going on in the US housing market, there are no inventory. We were able to find inventory. We shifted to where we’re playing the middleman or matchmaker, where we get a property under contract and we sell it to another investor and they pay us a fee for putting the deal together. What’s awesome about that is now we’re wholly focused on our strengths. It’s all sales and marketing, customer service, processes to generate more demanding and more leads to help more people and it is highly scalable too.
I could go into California and I don’t have to know a whole lot about construction or codes or have a bunch of general contractors. I just got to find good salespeople and have good processes on the backend and set clear expectations with homeowners of what we’re doing, and demonstrate that by us putting this business together, we’re able to help a lot more people. Our industry has that used car mentality. It’s like, “I know I’m not going to get a good deal. What’s going on?” We want to change that. That’s always been our BHAG is creating this platform of where motivated sellers and investor buyers come together. That’s where we’ve shifted and that’s what has led us to be coached by you and maybe in the COO Alliance. How do we like scale this? How do we grow? There’s a huge opportunity. Real estate’s one of the industries that hasn’t been that impacted by technology and it’s a massive industry. It’s going to happen and we want to be a part of it.
You’re making a lot of very grounded decisions, core values-based decisions. Have you ever had your core values tested, where maybe profit was pulling you in one direction, but your core values pulled you in the opposite?
I think so just in terms of chasing stuff or doing deals that you shouldn’t do. I wouldn’t say so much in terms of us, in terms of the cost benefit to the seller because there is no twisting someone’s arm and trying to convince them that “Sell your house to us and you’re getting more money.” It’s not that at all. It’s, “Sell your house to us and you can have that certainty.” I definitely had my other core values tested. Learn and improve are some of ours and I had to let someone go because that particular person was being disrespectful to another colleague and we had a conversation about it. We had a plan and it got worse. It didn’t get better. I wasn’t going to tolerate someone disrespecting someone on my team who’s like, “She’s a superstar. She’s phenomenal.” I’ve probably had more of those types of values tested in terms of people and the people’s core values or having a salesperson who’s dishonest. That doesn’t work for me. You’ve got be honest and you’ve got to have integrity. Those are the things that I’ve been tested with.
It’s awesome watching you guys operate and build the business. Tell us about some mistakes. What mistakes have you made along the way?
We’ve made so many. Some of the biggest ones were growing too fast with construction without a real plan in place of how we’re going to manage it and not doing enough due diligence on deals that we’re buying. There was one where we did a development deal where we thought that the lot could be subdivided. This was in Arlington. This was back in the day. We had all the engineering, all the approvals and everything off the property. After we bought the property, they’re like, “Sorry, we made a mistake. You can’t subdivide it.” That was a massive loser, but we bought the bullet. That was awful. A lot of mistakes with people over the years, we spend a lot of time and effort now in having a good interviewing and onboarding experience and making sure that we get the right people. We made decisions of hiring someone because we need help and then they’re not a fit and not acting fast. We truly follow the hire slow and fire fast. It’s a big disservice if you have someone on your team who’s not performing and you know it’s not going to work out to keep them around. You’re doing them a disservice. You should be helping them find their next opportunity instead of taking advantage of their time when ultimately you know it’s not going to work out.
It’s interesting how we often put some of those decisions to the side and cruise forward. What about your skill set? Our roles as COO, we’re always trying to grow. As Ray Kroc who grew McDonald’s has said, “When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you’re dead.” What skills are you working on now?
For me, I’m trying to focus on being better, making sure that the two to three things that I’m working on are the most important things because there are a million things I could do every day. I’m working on that. Secondly, the thing that I’m working on now, I was listening to one of your earlier podcasts. I liked what the COO of Shopify said, where your role as a COO is going to change all the time. I see right now that the thing that’s going to make Express Homebuyers successful is having the right people on the sales side of our business. I’ve turned the org chart upside down. I’ve moved responsibilities, shifted stuff around, moved the pieces around and I’m working to get back to basics to help my people and find out what is it that they need. It’s more of the skill. To summarize that is finding out what are the holes that are preventing my people from being successful. I feel like we do a good job on recruiting and I want to set people up for success. I’m trying to eliminate those areas that don’t set them up for success.
I’ve always believed that our role as leaders is to grow people. If our role is to grow people, what are you doing now specifically to grow your team?
Keeping it simple and meeting with everyone weekly and saying, “Cameron, what’s going well? What’s not going well? Where do you need help?” Then coaching them in those areas. Then starting to study the people that are having good success within our organization. Finding out what is it that they do that the other four or five people don’t do. Trying to come up with a plan to help people learn to do the things that the top performers do. Help them imitate what is needed to be successful. One thing that I do as well too, is I have all my reports do weekly personal goals, financial goals and business goals. I want to know what’s going on at home and what are they trying to work on? Are they trying to lose ten pounds? If they’re going to try to lose ten pounds or I look at, as an aggregate, but let’s say over 50% of the people on my team are concerned about their health. Let me put a focus on health and make sure that we don’t have crap food in the office and stuff like that. I encourage people to say, “What can I do to help you with that?” I encourage them and say, “How’s it going? Did you work out this week? I got two days. Let’s go work out one day a week,” or something. Help them hit their goals so that they’re mentally prepared to do a good job for us.
You’ve got to always be working on that. What about your meeting rhythms? What one have you guys done? We covered a lot in the book Meetings Suck, but what are you doing internally with Express Homebuyers to keep the right meeting rhythms and to run efficient meetings? Because we can’t get away from them.
We’ve loved your book Meetings Suck. You gave the analogy. We expect people know how to participate in meetings and we’re always as a leader are like, “I want feedback from people. I want you to talk and open up,” but we haven’t really taught people how to do that. To be doing that, it’s allowing people to opt-out and constantly looking at and being relentless about what are the meetings that we’re having and do these even makes sense to be having anymore? The cost of having all of your people together, it’s a lot when you add it up. It’s constantly iterating and making sure that only the people that need to be there are there and allowing people to opt-out. The thing about meetings though, they start on time and they end on time. It’s a huge disrespect for people to show up late. We’ve implemented a push-up policy where five push-ups for every minute you’re late. I’ll tell you once we did that, Cameron, it was amazing. I don’t think people are ever more than a minute or two late, no more of that five to ten minutes late or I forgot. There’s no exception. We’ve got to respect everyone’s time.
The only way that we can start on time is to be finishing five minutes early. That’s the rule that we put in place. If you finish every phone call and every meeting five minutes earlier, then you can show up on time. What have you guys done with cell phones in meetings, anything?
No cell phones in meetings. No way. No cell phones. No iWatches. None of that.
You have pulled them away then?
We’ve been doing that for a while. You’re only allowed to have a computer if you’re presenting on something.
We tried doing it at the COO Alliance. We’ve done it successfully. There are a number of meetings where when you walk in the door, you have to check your cell phone at the door and then you get to participate. The reality is if you’re too busy to be in the meeting without your cell phone, then you shouldn’t be there in the first place.
I totally agree with you.
If you were to give one parting word of advice to any of the leaders reading this blog, what would you give them that you’ve learned along the way that you’d want them to internalize and grow from?
The biggest thing is to understand your CEO. As a COO, that’s our job. Our job is to make their vision come to reality. The only way that we can do that is to understand them and find out what’s important to them and what’s not important to them. If you can execute on their vision, hopefully you’re at an organization where you already have similar values and you like each other and there’s mutual respect. Assuming all that stuff is in place, it’s understanding your CEO, what they’re about, what makes them tick and what’s important to them. That is going to eliminate a ton of stress in your life and in your day-to-day, if you can get down to what makes them drive and what makes them tick.
You’ve done a good job with understanding people, not only your two co-founders, now your new CEO, yourself and your team. That’s certainly become one of your strengths along the way. Tom, thank you so much for sharing all the ideas and the insights with us. I know we didn’t dig into the actual business itself, but you showed us why you guys have scaled and how you’ve scaled and I appreciate you sharing all of that.
Thanks, Cameron. I appreciate the kind words and it’s a pleasure to talk with you.
- Express Homebuyers
- COO Alliance
- Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- Vivid Vision
- Extreme Ownership
- Spark Mail
- Meetings Suck
About Tom Parmentier
Tom started working with Express Homebuyers in 2006 as a Homebuying Specialist, analyzing thousands upon thousands of properties. Every day, he looks for ways to improve the company’s systems to make the selling experience easier and less stressful for home sellers. Bringing ethics, standards, and professionalism to an industry that has a lot of unscrupulous investors is a driving force for him.
Having lived in the Northern Virginia area since he was in kindergarten, Tom considers himself a native Virginian. He received a B.S. in Finance from George Mason University. Before joining Express Homebuyers, he worked in outside sales for home improvement companies. When he’s not working, Tom is likely spending time with his wife Nicole and their two children, Mason and Makayla. He also enjoys cooking, running, hockey and golf as well as leading a couples Bible study at Mclean Bible Church with his wife. Get in touch with Tom at Tom@ExpressHomebuyers.com or at (877) 804-5252.