In some ways, a recent board meeting at eXp World Holdings, Inc. was like many other board meetings I have “attended” with different companies over the years … first small talk among those early arrivers, including informal conversations between board members and management before the formal agenda follows with discussions of operations and strategy. But this meeting was being held in the cloud.
I sat at my laptop and lent my voice to the avatar I’d created to approximate my appearance … or a close facsimile thereof. My avatar sat in the executive boardroom on our virtual campus environment along with fellow board members ranging from Calgary to Boston to Austin. We actively worked with the avatars of our CEO in Seattle, our CFO in Reno, Nevada, our COO in Scottsdale, Arizona, and our CTO in Albany, New York. Our objective was sustainable growth for our publicly traded company.
Founded in 2009 by visionary CEO, Chairman and Founder Glenn Sanford, eXp Realty is a real estate company like no other. With virtually no brick and mortar, the company has attracted an amazing number of professionals who help people looking for the brick and mortar of their dreams. The growth of this industry upstart has been mind-blowing. Since its first year in operations as a public company in 2013 with $10.7M in revenue, eXp Realty actually has seen its growth rate accelerate—to $13.4M in 2014 (up 25% year-over-year), to $22.9M in 2015 (up 71% year-over-year), to $54.2M in 2016 (up 137% year-over-year), and to $156.1M in 2017 (up 188% year-over-year). Results to date in 2018 continue to be strong.
And, yes, this is a company that operates in the cloud with state-of-the-art avatar technology where individuals meet in virtual offices and hundreds gather together in the company’s auditorium to conduct company business.
I’ve always been drawn to companies pushing the envelope on how people can be more productive. In the 1990s, I was recruited by AT&T and served as President, Global Services. Harvard Business Review wrote about our innovative use of the virtual office design. In the 2000s, Ari Horowitz recruited me to serve as president at startup OPUS360, a company that enabled the project-based labor market with FreeAgent.
But neither of these companies can hold a candle to the new vision of work at eXp Realty.
“eXp Realty is transforming the real estate experience. Our virtual office environment compared to the traditional real estate office allows agents to collaborate and learn together—no matter where they might be located,” said Glenn Sanford, CEO, chairman and founder of eXp World Holdings. “Our agents can interact, share best practices and learn from industry experts and other top professionals at any time or any place—in real time.”
Specifically, at eXp Realty, I have seen the following commitments to excellence that raise the bar as we push ourselves by asking important questions:
- Diversify: We need people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives working together to deliver the most value. Can we be more diverse?
- Balance: Gender balance increases the chances that we will produce optimal decisions. How can we improve the balance in our organization?
- Recruit: How do we improve our process AND know when to hire and when to use project-based labor?
- Decentralize: Empowering teams that are closer to the issues to actually make decisions will increase our success. How can we be clearer about who can make what decisions in our organization?
- Engage: How do we build a better plan for our employees to buy into holacratic practices and accountabilities?
- Organize: Establishing clear objectives with adequate time for thoughtful input from all participants will produce the best results. Do all participants have time to give input?
- Educate: Making sure new employees and extended team members (customers, vendors, strategic partners) understand our expectations makes us more effective. Do we make it as easy as possible for newcomers to fit in?
- Communicate: Acknowledging that a transfer of knowledge requires active participation from both the speaker and the listeners. Does everyone both listen and speak in our organization?
- Accommodate: Group chats alone may inhibit great input from introverts. Do we get one-on-one input from introverted team members?
- Integrate: Assimilating different perspectives to find common ground can move a group forward in their work together. Are we skilled at integrating?
- Mediate: Recognizing when tensions arise and deal with them directly. Do tensions ever get ignored among our team members?
- Document: Capturing and distributing action items and agreements from meetings to ensure accuracy. How well do we capture and document our plans and intentions?
- Recognize: Bring attention to, and show appreciation for, individuals who go above and beyond in their support for and contribution to the team is critical. Who do we recognize, why do we recognize them, and how?
- Evaluate: Regularly assessing what we each do and how we do it is critical. How will we evaluate our employees?
I am proud to be part of this organization in my role as an independent board member working with Glenn and the rest of the team. I am excited about the future and believe we will continue to push the envelope in support of our people and sustainable growth by asking the right questions.