Culture is often thought of as intangible. I do believe you can measure culture with attributes that make up how we work and communicate together. I interviewed John Mazur, CEO at Homesnap. His company was #43 on the 2018 Inc 5000 list. John shares with me how to measure culture and why it matters. Discover the key factors to measure culture for your company.
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John Mazur: The Transcript
Target Audience: John is Homesnap’s, Chief Executive Officer. He brings with him decades of experience starting and scaling businesses in the technology space. John previously was the Chief Executive Officer of ReachLocal Europe where he grew the business from one to over 500 employees generating $100 million in revenue.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
John Mazur: [00:00]
What’s the biggest challenge for us is clearly growing the org on the people side, finding great people and maintaining a culture of engagement and performance that’s not having that slip away from us. And as you scale, that gets more and more challenging. It’s not impossible to do, but you’ve got to put the effort into it and you’ve got to put the time into it and gotta make the investment.
Gene Hammett: [00:24]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: [00:41]
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank. Really excited about sharing this with you and before you run, I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks. I have such an exciting time to share with you that those interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast-growth companies. So all you have to do to get that, it’s going to genehammett.com/Worksheet so you can get the 12 principles and I’ve been able to go in there and find which episodes will align to each individual episodes. When you subscribed to Growth Think Tank, you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward and many of them haven’t been published yet depending on when you’re hearing this, you can tune in to the date that means the most to you.
Gene Hammett: [01:23]
Welcome to the podcast. This is the Growth Think Tank and I’m really excited to talk to you about culture today. Now, this is going to be a little bit differently than what most people talk about culture. We’re going to share one specific thing that you can do as a leader that will help you tune into the culture and engagement going on inside your organization. I’m going to add to that some details and things around that that are really, I think you could benefit from as a company that wants to grow fast. If you’re already growing fast, then you know how important culture is. And so you can learn from today’s interview. We have John Mazur with Homesnap. He’s a CEO of home snap, the number 43 on the INC list. They are growing at an astronomical rate over 6000% in the last three years and their revenues are through the roof and they’re continuing to grow at over 200% a year. They are in the real estate industry. They create software that makes real estate agents as productive as possible. They have over a million agents on their platform and John’s team has been developing and iterating on that technology to make this really useful and productive for them. We share a lot about, you know, the importance of culture. My favorite thing with some of the details about how he’s ensuring that the culture stays at the forefront of the company as it continues to grow. So here’s the interview with John Mazur, CEO of Homesnap.
Gene Hammett: [03:42]
Hi John, how are you?
John Mazur: [03:44]
I’m great. How are you, Gene?
Gene Hammett: [03:45]
I’m fantastic. Excited to have you represent homesnap here today on the podcast Growth Think Tank.
John Mazur: [03:53]
My pleasure. Glad to be here.
Gene Hammett: [03:56]
Well, we want to talk about your growing company. We want to talk about the culture and the importance of that, but I really want you to, you know, tune our audience into, you know, who are you as a leader and who do you serve through your work Homesnap?
John Mazur: [04:10]
So I’ve been the CEO of Homesnap for about two and a half years now. And previously, I was a co-founder of another business that grew quite large to over 3000 employees. And I kind of look at myself is the glorified cheerleader of the group. The employee base here at homesnap is, is extremely intelligent and that’s one of our cornerstones of strategy, which is to hire people smarter than you. And I look at the job of the CEO to really facilitate with what is an amazing opportunity that is fraught with a lot of challenges. Like it is for any high growth company that’s trying to make the magic happen every day.
Gene Hammett: [04:55]
Well, when I talk about growth in your company, what’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in the last couple of years? As the company’s growth, you’re hiring a lot of employees, you’ve got to, you’re in a disruptive market with real estate. There’s a lot of kind of pressure coming in from different areas. But what is the biggest challenge you faced?
John Mazur: [05:14]
Well, I think, you know, one of the ways, so I like to look at, let me put it this way. A lot of entrepreneurs look at their business and if you, if you break it down, there are really three things that you’re trying to grow. One, you have a product, right? You’ve got to get the product right and that that requires a lot of dedicated work thinking, strategy and execution in addition to the product. You’ve got the business itself. And so even if you have a great product, you have to have a business model that supports that product and grows. And that really in many ways is separate and distinct. Sometimes it’s kind of a mental exercise in organizational exercise. And then the third piece is the culture and of the things that I’ve learned the hard way is culture seems to be kind of this throw in that we’ve got to have a great culture.
John Mazur: [06:03]
You know, we’re tripling the size of our company, but it really is its own distinct business, if you will. Uh, and it needs to have equal weight and kind of those three things, product, business and culture have been really good segmentation for me to kind of think about things. That being said, what’s the biggest challenge for us is clearly growing the org on the people side, finding great people and maintaining a culture of engagement and performance that not having that slip away from us. And as you scale, that gets more and more challenging. It’s not impossible to do. But you got to put the effort into it and you’ve got to put the time into it and gotta make the investment.
Gene Hammett: [06:46]
You talked a little bit about the importance of culture, but why is it so important as a company’s growing at the pace you’re going?
John Mazur: [06:55]
So for me, culture, you know, it’s the number one metric in any business in my opinion. And um, cause you can have a great product and you can have great people and, and if it’s gonna work, you gotta have a great product with great people. You can have great execution. But if you don’t have a culture that creates a context where performance can happen, you’re going to fail because speed is so important and engagement is so important. And that takes employees that are switched on and pumped to do the job that has to be done. And if you’re doing it in a high growth environment like a startup, you are not a Goliath. You’re David. And so you need people that are going to go the extra mile and culture does that. And the other thing is I am by no means are much smarter people that can pontificate about culture. I just, I have ahead of gray hair that with my experiences and I can tell you that on one end it’s very simple. You know, I call it the Shiny Eyes Syndrome. I can, you know, interact with any employee on the office any day and I can see in five minutes if they’re switched on or they’re switched out and checked out and if your employees are checked out and not engaged, you are not going to create the results that, you know, you need to create. It’s that simple one on a more formal side. I think if you’re really serious about culture, you’ve got to walk your talk and there need to be dedicated programs, dollars, and investment that is put towards creating the type of culture that you want to create.
Gene Hammett: [08:35]
When you read the sherm studies where they talk about know culture, you know, engagement is like 30% and that there’s probably more like 60% of people who are not engaged or are really toxic to the workplace. What is your thoughts when you, cause it’s mostly I think, bigger businesses that have that, that problem, but you probably don’t have that, that level of disengagement?
John Mazur: [09:00]
We don’t know but is the employee, you know, like my last company, we grew from 10 people to over 3000 people. And you’re right, it’s you as you go up, usually, every couple of hundred people you have a kind of have to reset. So what I would say about that, and again, this is just my opinion, is that if you’re really honest about it, everyone comes into an office. We were just talking before the interview started. Today’s Monday, you know, I don’t wake up every morning like, oh, I can’t wait to get to the office and do work and deal with challenges. You need to create a culture. And I call it a context that kind of pulls you in from the moment you walk in the door. It drives you to want to, you know, really be engaged and that’s everyone that comes down to the CEO. And so what I tell our leaders is that culture is determined every single day in the first 15 minutes of your day. And it’s not as much what you’re doing. It’s who you’re being. So I don’t care if you had a shitty morning and I don’t care. You know what happened when you walk through those doors, especially through leadership in the business, you’re, you’re on stage and you know who you were. Being as a leader in the business is going to have the biggest impact on how people do that day. It’s the same thing with, you know, a coach and player, but it’s difficult challenging.
I want to stop right there. John Mentioned Mondays. I don’t know how you feel about Mondays, but every entrepreneur I know loves Mondays. I love Mondays. And you probably love Mondays too. If you’re listening to this and you’re running a company that you’re really proud of and you’re really excited about what you’re doing, you know, Monday is a signal for you to move forward on those goals and make an impact and make a dent in the universe. Nope. Are All your employees tuned into Mondays? The way you are? Likely not. They’re probably looking great forward to Hump Day or they’re a TGIF and all of these things. I know I love the weekends and I love my vacations. I love my downtime, but I also love the work I’m doing that you want your employees to really see the work that they do day in and day out as something that really is growing them as an individual and that makes them want to come to work, that makes them want to do the work that makes them love Mondays. My big mission is to see offices where people love Mondays. And I can’t wait for you to get a hold of that to now back to the interview with John.
Gene Hammett: [11:34]
One of the things that we talked about before John is, is the importance of measuring things in business. I’m an engineer by background. I love numbers. I’d love to measure things, but how do you measure something that’s so kind of esoteric as a culture?
John Mazur: [11:51]
So again, for me, I’m an engineer, but I can tell you it at the simplest level. I really do believe in this shiny I concept that, you know, spend time with your people and you can really tell if people are engaged. And by the way, if you don’t spend time with your people, there’ll be no background of trust or relationship. So even if even if they’re not engaged, they might try to pull the wool over your ops. So there’s no circumventing, honest investment in people. So they feel safe to let you know when they’re tuned in and turned on and when they’re checked out or having an issue on a more formal basis. We do a couple of things and I’m not necessarily attached to it like, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that, but you do have to do things because employees can tell, wow, culture is being made a priority.
John Mazur: [12:41]
So for us, we do a pretty lengthy assessment, once a year of the culture in general, asking employees questions about everything. Like, what are we doing great, what are we doing wrong? What do you want to see more of? What do you want to see less of? and how engaged are you? And it’s anonymous. And we do it and we get a lot of feedback from it. That’s really good. We also have a culture crew. So we have it’s a volunteer. Any employee can join it and they meet, how often do they meet? Once a month they meet. And it’s phenomenal and nothing’s off-limits. They’re mandated is to drive a culture that represents our core values. And two, and then, you know, finally we all, we also have core values. And you hear a lot of talk about core values. The key thing I’ve learned with core values especially when you have an organization of smart people, don’t sit in a room with a bunch of executives and create your core values cause she’ll get them wrong. Let the company create core values. And so, you know, that was a really organic process because they’ve got to be real and they’ve gotta be something that, you know, inspires employees and then practice that. So, you know, just those little things. I mean, tomorrow we’re going out as a company to clean up a park and have a barbecue three hours in the afternoon, you know, and there’s a part of me that is CEO that’s like, oh my God, three hours out of the office. That’s crazy. Do you know what the ROI on that stuff is? Huge. It’s huge and so important.
Now hold on a second. He just mentioned about company core values. The core values of your company are so important that you don’t want to just do it yourself or have you and your leadership team holed up at some retreat and spend two weekends, you know, hashing it out and getting it down to the right words. That is the wrong approach. I do agree with what John has been talking about. I work with companies where I facilitate the experience to help them with their core values. That really helps them really make a difference and tune into exactly what the people want to create. Because if the people are involved with the process, they’re much more involved with the fine-tuning of that over time. And they’re much more engaged with actually making it a place that is this because they own it. That’s the real key. If you create it, you own it and you want to make it change, but you want your people to really define what the core values are so that they can do it. I call this an ownership culture and really is about getting humans to take more ownership and you can’t do it if you just hand them the core values and say, follow these rules or these guidelines. So if you have any questions about that, make sure you reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to talk to you about it.
Gene Hammett: [15:31]
Now you mentioned that I lost the word in there. You call it, that that group of people inside the organization that are volunteers the culture, what?
John Mazur: [15:39]
The culture crew.
Gene Hammett: [15:40]
Okay. And I totally, totally agree with the fact that your core values are not done at the executive level only, but really integrated throughout all employees. And if you can, you’re at this site where you can actually get everyone involved, they’ll take more ownership. And you’ve seen the value of that, right?
John Mazur: [16:04]
Totally. And so yes. And in fact, I would let the employees spearhead it because they know that’s where the culture exists. And you’re going to see what is important to them. The other thing to is that it’s gotta be authentic. So I am, you know, I’ve suffered from this early in my career and I was just talking to a good friend of mine that is trying to put his core values together for his mid-level company. And he’s like, you know, he’s trying to make it sound like it should sound, and that’s the wrong approach. I mean, we have some core values that I wouldn’t even repeat here. But it’s gotta work for the company. It’s gotta work for the company. It’s what moves the company. And every company’s different in the environment’s different. You know, is it a founder centric company? Is there been a lot of change in the company? And the final thing is to revisit those damn core values. They’re not sacred, but they really do work. It’s not bullshit. It’s not like, you know, the poster you see when you go into a rental car, you know, agency, we love our customers. I mean it’s, it really can kind of set the tone for how you operate. And when we interview we interview for core values. Like does this person possess the values that we as a company know is what they’re gonna face when they show up here?
Gene Hammett: [17:25]
Well, we’ve talked about that and so many interviews here at the podcast, um, that I won’t go too deep into that, but I appreciate your passion for the importance because I agree and most companies do think it’s a project that happens once and then they kind of move on with sales and marketing cause that’s what they’re supposed to do. Right. John, what’s a mistake that you’ve made, the journey that you would be willing enough to share with us and what kind of transformation did you have to make within your leadership to overcome it?
John Mazur: [8:00]
So I’ve made a lot of mistakes. You know, one of the big ones in the growth of our last business was that, you know, it as you grow so fast, there’s this, it’s very enticing to think about, well, you know, we’re really on a different level now, so we need to kind of change the trajectory of the people that we hire. So let’s bring in a lot of, you know, external folks that have, you know, worked for big companies and really have the experience curve. And I’m not saying there’s no value in that, there’s huge value in that, but the key there is when you’re bringing in external talent to complement what a bunch of people has given their lives to kind of get off the ground they better align with the culture that you have. And if you don’t, you’re screwed. And I’ve made those mistakes. And bringing in folks that look incredible on paper, but we’re just not geared towards the environment that we had. And you know, one bad actor in the business, especially in an executive level, can completely destroy an entire business model like hands down. I’ve seen it. And so what does that mean for me? What that means for me is that I am very committed and this has paid off really well for me at homesnap as well to look internal first scale your own people, build strong middle management. So important. People that you know, have the accurate and they’re smart, they’re driven, they know the business. Don’t underestimate how far they can grow and how hard they’re willing to work to learn the skills they need to, to be able to be that person versus going to be outside. And again, I’m not saying you don’t hire incredible people from the outside, but when you do so you’ve really got to make sure, even if there’s a skill fit, that there is a fit on who they are and how they’re going to be in the business because it can, it can totally derail the business. And you know that I’ve heard story after story after story after story of that, you know, one external hire that was coming into a kind of take us to the next level, take us to a lower level quickly.
Gene Hammett: [20:29]
Yeah. You know, I there’s so much excitement around that key hire, right, that the expert from maybe a competitor or something like that or maybe just some other big organization and then they just don’t get it and they don’t take the time to connect the way you’re doing. I kind kinda want to go back something too with this because I think this is a pretty valuable thing that a lot of people aren’t willing to take the time. One of my cousins and I won’t mention his name, cause he’s extremely successful. He’s taken multiple companies, through, you know, different raising money and gone public and whatnot. But he had said, I don’t have a desk and I don’t get it. I don’t understand. He goes, I don’t need a desk. I walk around, I talk to my engineers, I talk to my people, you know, we’re more than half the day. I’ll just find a place to work wherever I need to work in a conference room or something he has, I don’t even need an office.
John Mazur: [21:22]
Gene Hammett: [21:23]
What do you think about, you know, the extremes of not even having a desk?
John Mazur: [21:28]
I mean, I, you know, whatever works for someone. What I like about what you said is that he’s engaged in, in and with the people. I mean, one of the things I know as a CEO, and I’ve talked to other, you know, exacts in leadership in our business. Like people have this moment where they’re like, okay, oh my God, like, you know, I don’t have enough to do. Right. And in some ways, it’s the biggest blessing in disguise because if you hire really good people and you set them up to succeed and they’re executing and it’s working, you’re not going to have a ton of fires to put out. And it frees you up to, you know, spend the time connecting with your people and driving the business, which is again, through your people. I mean, Jack Welch was one of my, I know I’m dating myself, but I really have a lot of respect for him, especially the generation you grew up in because he got that in the way he set up his businesses at G.E Was like, you know, hire great people and let them go do their thing.
John Mazur: [22:25]
And so a lot of CEOs and a lot of senior execs need to get out of the way. And you know, I think that’s important. Yeah. I like him not having a desk and roaming around. I think my employees would probably tell me, I probably bugged the hell out of them, but, you know, getting out of the way it’s important. The other thing I was going to tell you on making big mistakes are, and you know, we’re coming to this inflection point too at Homesnap, I can feel it is not losing the plot. If you’re a high growth company, you’re going to have problems and opportunities that just keep getting bigger, better and better. And there’ll be those moments where you just feel it in your gut. It’s like, wait, we need to step back who are you? What’s this business here to do? And really kind of refocusing on what matters. Because what I’ve seen creep in is all this little ancillary stuff that starts its death by a thousand cuts that starts to derail the kind of radical focus in the business. And it’s so important that a business stays focus because that’s one of the things that also drives a great culture that everybody knows. Here’s where we’re going.
Gene Hammett: [23:38]
Yeah, I totally agree. Well, John, thank you so much for being here and what you’ve done with Homesnap in a few short years is really impressive and I appreciate your sharing some of these insights with the audience here. Uh, so thanks for being on the podcast.
John Mazur: [23:53]
You Bet. And I do have to say it hasn’t been me. I mean that’s one of the key things. I’m not saying that because it’s cool to say that, but one of the greatest things for me to be able to have these opportunities to leap businesses, that it’s about bringing in people much smarter than me that make the magic happen and just really support them. And I think it’s a great model for building successful businesses.
Gene Hammett: [24:16]
Well, that’s where you started with having intelligent employees and that’s where we finished. So that’s two bookends on doing that and it’s something I’ve seen work really magically. But you have to create the kind of culture that they’re able to attract and retain that top talent. So that’s the reason why you tune into this podcast. So thanks for being here, John. I appreciate it.
John Mazur: [24:38]
Awesome. Love the podcast. Thank you.
Gene Hammett: [24:40]
Another great interview here at Growth Think Tank. John really brought some detail around measuring culture that I think is really valuable. Us leaders have to hold ourselves to a higher standard when it comes to our people. We’ve got to be able to articulate how to move into the vision. How do I invite them and motivate them? And, and really give them the confidence and courage to move forward as individuals inside this work structure. I really love what I do. I love being able to help leaders and connect with them. I love sharing these interviews with you. If there’s anything I can do to help you be a better leader, create the kind of culture you want in your business, or maybe it just activates the kind of growth that you want to make sure you reach out. As always, lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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