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Radical CEO falls on the sword after an admirable try at the impossible

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The end of Scouting Reports?

Only four days after the launch of Scouting Reports by real estate brokerage Redfin which published Realtors’ performance data on their site, the company has announced that they are permanently ending the reports.

On their blog, Kelman wrote, “Redfin just took down Scouting Report 1.0 for good. Our latest problem was that the data we used for Scouting Report had problems at the source that weren’t easy for us to fix, mostly because agents work informally in teams, or sometimes don’t formally record when an out-of-town agent represented a buyer in a deal. So we took Scouting Report down.”

Kelman also said, “I still think the folks most violently opposed to Scouting Report didn’t hate it because it was wrong but because it was right. I know that consumers loved it and now they can’t get it anywhere else. And I still believe that brokers should be the ones to tell regular folks how agents have performed in different neighborhoods, because we’re the only ones with reliable data.”

Kelman says that in retrospect, the program would have worked better if it had been done through their partners. While each market is different, many local associations offer Realtor performance data through the MLS for public consumption so long as it is through an active broker and the broker is in compliance with all of the local association’s business rules.

Kelman falls on the sword

In a letter to employees, Kelman said, “We have to account for what happened over the past week as a failure, and try to understand how we can do better,” Kelman said. “Obviously, it’s my fault. I’ve thought a lot about how hard folks worked to pull this off. I wish you’d had a better leader in me. But the lesson we should draw is to be more thoughtful about making a risk pay, not more cautious in avoiding the risk altogether.”

Sword, meet Glenn Kelman.

Kelman is known for being a rebel, a pioneer and ultimately a geek, a combination of traits that form a leader that doesn’t make excuses and is hard on himself, a leader that takes credit for ideas whether they are good or bad. I personally haven’t always been kind to Kelman, but the way he fell on the sword over this topic is not only admirable, it is a lesson for all leaders to walk away with- no issues were skirted or repackaged as PR spin, coders weren’t blamed, marketing wasn’t thrown under the bus, MLSs weren’t supposed to take the fall for how data is reported, and members weren’t blamed for being complainers. Kelman didn’t have to fall on the sword, but his doing so sure takes the wind out of his critics’ sails.

An admirable try at the impossible

After trying a national performance data report for consumers, it proved to be too complicated and rather than let it limp along and use up company resources, the plug was pulled in under a week.

After Kelman took credit for the fallen project, he reiterated to employees (and consumers as well as the industry) that risk taking is in their DNA. “There are all sorts of projects that fail at any corporation for a different and less conspicuous reason, because the risk was measured out in teaspoons and the idea was compromised beyond recognition and nobody made decisions and the thing had absolutely no personality and nobody really cared in the end whether it was good or bad — or even knew that it existed. The reason most people give up on a great company like Redfin is because it stops making decisions and stops taking risks. They give up because the company loses its gonads and its heart and then its soul.

“To which I say nuts. That wasn’t the problem here, and The Great Pumpkin willing it never will be. One of our values is to be fearless: bet big, tinker constantly, fail fast, measure results. If you see people who worked on Scouting Report don’t BS ‘em and say the first release was a triumph — man oh man it wasn’t — but maybe thank them for their fearlessness all the same. In the end it’s that spirit that makes me sure we’ll win.”

Did the Scouting Reports hurt Redfin’s bottom line?

Because Redfin is a company, not a non-profit charity for the good of the industry, the real question is how did this impact business at Redfin? Did business fall flat? Did investors threaten to pull out? Did they lose clients or did they really just put the real estate industry into a tizzy?

In response to a GeekWire.com blog on the topic stating that “the series of blunders around Scouting Report appears to be taking a toll on the online brokerage service,” Kelman said, “I certainly don’t think the feature is, as you claim, “taking its toll” on Redfin’s overall business. Had you interviewed me about this, I’d have told you the feature has had no impact yet on our revenues or profits, and it has increased traffic. Consumers like it.”

Kelman alluded to the data inaccuracies having the potential to hurt Redfin’s credibility in the long run. We suspect that no traditional real estate brokerage has the time or ability to ensure accuracy and police a system like this without developing an entire division devoted to it. Does Redfin have the wherewithal to do this? Sure. Will they? The concept could be reformed and rise from the ashes like a phoenix, especially given that he refers to the pulled project as “Scouting Reports 1.0” with the quiet implication that there could be a 2.0 or a 3.0… we do not believe the reports are permanently gone from their ecosystem, especially in light of supporters urging Kelman to forge ahead.

Kelman’s not down and their wallets didn’t empty. The company took a chance at doing something on a national scale that had only been tried locally, but this isn’t their first rodeo at trying new things. They got a lot of press about the Scouting Reports and in some circles, any press is good press. We believe that Kelman has learned from their over-enthusiastic past that they will get further if they work with the industry rather than against it (which they did with the Scouting Reports), he learned from making boisterous claims in the past to tone things down just slightly while keeping them exciting for their like-minded consumers (which he did with his letter to employees that he made public), and ultimately, as a geek, Kelman is a risk taker and tinkerer… we don’t think this is the last we’ve heard of Scouting Reports.

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42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    October 5, 2011 at 6:24 am

    I know that consumers loved it and now they can’t get it anywhere else.

    • Joe Loomer

      October 5, 2011 at 6:26 am

      Meant to put that in quotes and say how the heck would they know after FOUR days? We all know consumers are happy to share their opinions about different merchants and products. Social Media has made that easier than ever to accomplish. I think they realized the service wasn't wanted or needed.

      Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Matt Fuller

    October 5, 2011 at 11:17 am

    While Redfin retools, associations have a chance to do this on their own. But will they…

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Opinion Editorials

Easy ways to help an unhappy customer

(EDITORIAL) We’ve all had to deal with an unhappy client or two, and maybe some situations didn’t play out too well. Here are some simple tips that will help.

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unhappy client

Who here hasn’t had a client get aggravated for what seems like no good reason?

(Raise your hand!)

Who here hasn’t had that awkward “I hear what you’re saying, but…” conversation?

(More hands!)

Whether you’re providing marketing work, strategic planning services, graphic design ideas, or basic business advice, you’re going to run into the occasional client who Just. Is. Not. Here. For. It. And it can be so hard to help that unhappy client get back to a place where you can all come together to get the job done.

(Hands! Hands! Hands!)

Especially in this day and age of angry emoji reaction clicks, dealing with confrontational feedback can require a new level of diplomacy and tact. You’ve got an unhappy client who doesn’t have the ability to communicate their “why” to you, so instead, they go nuclear and your inbox is suddenly filled with the kind of unhappy vitriol you’re more used to seeing in your Facebook feed.

How do you handle it?

Because… you can actually handle it.

First and foremost, understand where the negative reaction is coming from. They’ve asked you for help with their cherished project. Maybe they wouldn’t be happy with anyone’s work. Maybe they can’t quite communicate what they want. Regardless of where the sticking point is, understand that the sticking point is (a) not your fault and (b) not going to be acknowledged by them.

So then, the second step… remove yourself from the criticism. Even if they make it personal, remove yourself from the situation. Look at it in terms of the work. The client wants X. You feel you have given them X, but they see it as Y. Can you see it from their perspective? Because if you can, you are way more than halfway there. Where are they coming from?

If this is an external review, on Google or such, just ignore it and move on. It’s done. You can’t argue it. But if it’s feedback you’re getting from a current client and your project is still in play… seriously, take a deep breath and give it a harder look. It might feel personal. But is it?

The best assumption to make is that there is something else going on. If you can keep your cool and work with your unhappy client to determine what’s making them uncomfortable, in a non-confrontational way, and to get them to an acceptable delivery — you’ve won. Because you’re continuing to provide them the service they’ve come to you for.

So take a look at the situation, and figure out the best response.

1. Is the argument clear?
Don’t waste your time trying to establish whether you’re right or they’re wrong. Instead, look at framing it in terms of what the client is trying to accomplish. Ask them to give you specific examples of what they hope to achieve. Allow them to tell you what they feel isn’t good… in fact, encourage them to tell you why they’re unhappy with what you’ve given them. All of this will help frame what they’re looking for and what you need to give them in round two.

2. Is their feedback relevant?
Well, yeah. There are times when you know that your client knows nothing. But they feel the need to demonstrate that They Know What They Are Doing.

Let them.

Just let them tell you, and let it go.

And… keep searching for that nugget of truth in what they’re saying. Their feedback may seem ridiculous. But what’s at the heart of it? Look for that. Look at this negative reaction as a signpost for what they’re truly after.

3. IS IT WORTH DEBATING?
This fits right in with number 2. They feel passionately that you need two spaces after every period. Is this something you really need to argue? CHOOSE. YOUR. BATTLES.

If your client really wants to engage on an issue … two spaces, or the use of a particular phrase … then let them say their piece. Then say your piece. But giving them room for an out. And once again, think about it from their perspective.

Maybe it’s someone who didn’t spend all their time in their first post-college job debating the niceties of the Oxford comma. Does it ultimately matter to the overall success of the project? If it does… go to the mat. Show them, with respect, why it’s important. But if it’s just a point of pride for you, the provider? Can you let it go?

I can’t sometimes. So I get it if you can’t. But still, it’s a good point to keep in mind. A good question to ask yourself, as a provider of a service. Which sword do you fall on… and why?

Clearly, you shouldn’t just roll over because a client has turned nasty. But neither should you turn every unhappy client response into your personal cause du jour. When you encounter negative, hostile client reactions, take a moment. Try to see it from their point of view. At the very least, the shift in perspective will help you handle their concerns. And at best, you’ll re-frame the discussion in a way that gives you both a handle on how to move forward.

You might learn from the exchange. Or maybe you’re just right, dammit. But you still have to think about what’s worth getting worked up over.

Finally, don’t let it bring you down. If it’s serious enough that you have to part ways over their reaction, help them do so amicably. Point them in the direction of someone you think might be able to accommodate their ideas. Stay positive for them, and for yourself. Then chalk it up to experience, and take the lessons on to the next client.

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Opinion Editorials

This website is like Pinterest for WFH desk setups

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) If you’ve been working from home at the same, unchanged desk setup, it may be time for an upgrade. My Desk Tour has the inspiration you need.

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Man browsing desk setups on My Desk Tour

Whether you’re sitting, standing, or reclining your way through the pandemic, you’re most likely doing it from home these days. You’re also probably contending with an uninspired desk configuration hastily cobbled together in 2020, which—while understandable—might be bringing you down. Fortunately, there’s an easy, personable solution to spark your creativity: My Desk Tour.

My Desk Tour is a small website started by Jonathan Cai. On this site, you will find pictures of unique and highly customized desk setups; these desk configurations range from being optimized for gamers to coders to audiophiles, so there’s arguably something for everyone—even if you’re just swinging by to drool for a bit.

Cai also implements a feature in which site users can tag products seen in desk photos with direct links to Amazon so you don’t have to poke around the Internet for an hour in search of an obscure mouse pad. This is something Cai initially encountered on Reddit and, after receiving guidance from various subreddits on the issue of which mouse to purchase, he found the inspiration to create My Desk Tour.

The service itself is pretty light—the landing page consists of a few desk setup photos and a rotating carousel of featured configurations—but it has great potential to grow into a desk-focused social experience of sorts.

It’s also a great place to drop in on if you’re missing the extra level of adoration for your desk space that a truly great setup invokes. Since most people who have been working from home since the spring didn’t receive a ton of advance notice, it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of folks have resigned themselves to a boring or inefficient desk configuration. With a bit of inspiration from My Desk Tour, that can change overnight.

Of course, some of the desk options featured on the site are a bit over the top. One configuration boasts dual ultra-wide monitors stacked atop each other, and another shows off a monitor flanked by additional vertical monitors—presumably for the sake of coding. If you’re scrambling to stay employed, such a setup might be egregious.

If you’re just looking for a new way to orient your workspace for the next few months, though, My Desk Tour is worth a visit.

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Opinion Editorials

10 tips for anyone looking to up their professional work game

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s easy to get bogged down by the details, procrastinate, and feel unproductive. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and crush your professional goals.

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work productivity

Self-reflection is critical to a growth mindset, which you must have if you want to grow and improve. If you are ready to take your professional game to the next level, here are some stories and tips to help you remain focused on killing your work goals.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the quote goes. And, in the workplace it’s bound to make you second guess yourself and your abilities. This story explains when comparison can be useful, when to avoid it, and how to change your focus if it’s sucking the life out of you.

2. Burnout is real and the harder you work, the less productive you are. It’s an inverse relationship. But, there are ways to work smarter and have better life balance. Here are some tips to prioritize your workload and find more ease.

3. Stop procrastinating and start getting sh@t done. The reason we procrastinate may be less about not wanting to do something and more about the emotions underlying the task. Ready to get going and stop hemming and hawing, you got this and here’s the way to push through.

4. Perfection is impossible and if you seek this in your work and life, it’s likely you are very frustrated. Let that desire go and learn to be happy with excellence over perfection.

5. If you think you’re really awesome and seriously deserve more money, more responsibility, more of anything and are ready to drop the knowledge on your supervisor or boss, you may want to check this story out to see if your spinning in the right direction.

6. Technology makes it so easy to get answers so quickly, it’s hard to wait around for things to happen. We like instant gratification. Yet, that is another reason procrastination is a problem for some of us, but every person has a different way/reason for procrastinating. Learn what’s up with that.

7. Making choices can be a challenge for some of us (me included) who worry we are making the wrong choice. If you’ve ever struggled with decision making, you know it can be paralyzing and then you either make no decision or choose the safest option. What we have here is the Ambiguity Effect and it can be a real time suck. Kick ambiguity to the curb.

8. If you are having trouble interacting with colleagues or wondering why you don’t hear back from contacts it could be you are creeping folks out unintentionally (we hope). Here’s how to #belesscreepy.

9. In the social media era building your brand and marketing are critical, yet, if you’re posting to the usual suspects and seeing very little engagement, you’ve got a problem. Wharton Business School even did a study on how to fix the situation and be more shareable.

10. Every time you do a presentation that one co-worker butts in and calls you out. Dang. If you aren’t earning respect on the job, you will be limited in your ability to get to the next level. Respect is critical to any leadership position, as well as to making a difference in any role you may have within an organization, but actions can be misconstrued. There are ways to take what may be negative situations and use them to your advantage, building mutual respect.

You have the tools you need, now get out there, work hard, play hard, and make sh*t happen. Oh, and remember, growth requires continual reflection and action, but you got this.

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