As a part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Grier Allen.
Grier is the CEO and Co-Founder of BoomTown, a real estate software company designed to empower agents and teams with the tools they need to succeed. With a degree in Computer Science, and a mission to make real estate agents successful, he partnered with Cooper Bane to found BoomTown in 2006. With over 10 years of experience focused solely on finding innovative solutions for real estate agents and teams, he’s been named to the Swanepoel Power 200 List for 7 years in a row, was the recipient of HousingWire’s “Rising Star” Award, and has become a trusted expert in the industry and a known champion of the agent. Grier leads the BoomTown team consisting of 300+ engineers, success consultants, digital marketers and customer-focused teams who are dedicated to driving their clients’ success. Grier and his team’s relentless focus on creating amazing experiences for their customers and providing the tools to help them build better businesses is why the best of the best trust BoomTown, and 40% of the Real Trends Top 250 Real Estate teams are powered by the platform.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My family has been in real estate for years, and when I started working on the marketing side of the business, I became very aware that the industry wasn’t leveraging technology to reach their prospects and deliver value. Consumers at this time were beginning to move their search online, and most real estate businesses were not equipped to provide the search experience and valuable content their customers were seeking. These businesses were losing opportunities. My cofounder, Cooper Bane, and I launched BoomTown as a way to help the real estate industry move online to meet their prospects where they were, and leverage technology to streamline their processes and make data-driven decisions.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Some definitely considered this a mistake, and our confidence certainly faltered a bit at times, but we launched our software solution on the backs of the 2008 financial meltdown. We began building our company in February of 2006 while the real estate industry was going gangbusters. As the news began to drop that we were heading into a deep recession there were many moments that we asked ourselves if we should cut our losses. Despite the distractions, Cooper and I took out second mortgages on our homes to push forward and bet it all on building this business. As is often the case in uncertain times, innovating and leaning in while others retract and scale back can pay off tenfold, and indeed we were able to successfully launch and help so many clients find opportunities and success (and even save their businesses) in a time where many of their colleagues were shuttering.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
“Law of Success” by Napoleon Hill. This book taught me the fundamental “laws” of success and gave me the self-confidence to pursue building my own business.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Our purpose has always been simple: We exist to make real estate agents successful. We fought to succeed in our own business and our own desire to succeed helped us form this mission that is the heart and soul of our business to this day. If our clients aren’t successful, we aren’t successful, and our team of 350 Boomers is relentlessly committed to their success.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Early in our company, when we had about 50 employees, we went through an extensive exercise of defining our Core Values. There are nine of them in total, and they are what we always fall on when it comes to decision-making (they guide everything from major business decisions to hiring new employees). If I had to pick one of these values as our number one principle, it would be “create amazing experiences.” This is something that comes up a lot from client event planning to how we respond to the smallest of issues. It’s not enough for us to solve a pain point for our clients or even resolve an issue. We want to deliver more on top of that. We want to give it that “BoomTown effect” and go above and beyond to delight our customers.
Thank you for all that. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We’ve all been attempting to find our new normal, and working from home has certainly raised some challenges over the last few months. I have two very active young sons, who are also trying to find their new normal at home. Navigating work schedules and homeschooling all under one roof has been a constant challenge and we also just welcomed a new puppy into the mix! Creating some semblance of a routine, but also staying flexible and remembering what the priorities are has been very helpful to keep things in perspective.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you have done to address those challenges?
We’ve had remote teams and employees in the past, but moving 350+ people, very quickly, to a remote working set up is no easy feat. Our teams are incredibly social and collaborative too. Once we made sure everyone had what they needed to do their jobs from their homes, the focus shifted to ways we could facilitate interaction and keep that part of our culture intact.
One way we have been able to keep our BoomTown employee community connected is through a Friday recap video I have been filming to share happenings across the business. It has been a fun way to update teams on the wins we’ve been seeing, celebrate performance, and keep everyone “in the loop.” It’s also something that we hope to continue when we do get back in the office. My kids and new puppy even make surprise appearances from time to time too — we are all adjusting to remote life!
Our Talent Team also created a Remote Hub website where we share everything from funny team videos and virtual happy hours to fun activities to do with your children. Our BoomTown team is more than just our co-workers. They are our family, and keeping connected and making sure we are there for them, keeping them connected, and supporting them in any way we can is paramount. We recognize that work is only one aspect of their lives, so we also focus on sharing resources that may be helpful for those with children and families, cooking ideas, movies, books, whatever! No matter what the situation is at home, everyone is facing a challenge of some kind during this time and we want to support and encourage them as best we can.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Don’t have unrealistic expectations for yourself! We are all balancing much more than normal during this time and we need to set expectations accordingly. Make sure to carve out the time to check in on family and friends, but be sure you are taking time for yourself too. You can’t be there for everyone else if you are not taking care of yourself and dedicating time to stay sane and focused. For me, I know exercise is critical. I make sure I get time to run because I enjoy it and it helps me get my mind right to be better for my family and my work.
Obviously, we can’t know or certain what the post-COVID economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the post-COVID economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the post-COVID growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the post COVID-19 economy?
The bottom of the housing market is right now. This means there will be a great amount of pent-up housing demand unleashed on the market in the coming months.
Those that see this opportunity are preparing to take more of the market as their peers retract. Prospects and contacts are the lifeblood of any business, and now is the time to dedicate the time in building the pipelines that will undoubtedly flood into the market when a new normal is reached.
Our goal is to equip our clients with the tools and know-how to take advantage of this opportunity to fuel their businesses and help the consumer. That means digital advertising and communication tools to help them meet their prospects where they are, and allow them to highlight and show properties in a more virtual capacity. COVID has made us all look at situations with a new lens — and hopefully some of these will be for the better post COVID economy.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Even when restrictions are removed and things become more normal, I think businesses will still be combatting fear. The focus will need to be on offering services and solutions that still help people feel safe and secure. For us that includes innovative ideas and new solutions for our clients who are trying to run their real estate businesses — many virtually. Our clients need more virtual tools and digital approaches to help the end consumer feel confident to move forward with buying or selling a home.
This will apply to our own team’s re-entry back into the office. It will be a thoughtful process, and a great deal of effort will be put forth to make sure that we can continue to be both safe and productive.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the post-COVID economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the post-COVID economy?
We want to give our clients the tools they need to keep running their business and sharpening their skills, right now, and we also want to equip them with the things we think are critical to seizing opportunities in the post-COVID economy.
This is the time to innovate. When everything is in flux, some of the disruptive ideas can pay off tenfold. We’re empowering our teams with this mentality and fast-tracking beta programs for new services and hybrid offerings to meet the demands of changing consumer expectations in the home buying and selling process.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
In times like these, we win together. You are above all else, please take care of yourselves, your loved ones, teams, and the communities you serve. We are fortunate to work with some of the best and brightest real estate entrepreneurs in the country. With a focus on strategy and a bias to action we will persevere and emerge stronger than ever.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill
May sound a little cliché, but this is the guiding principle that has given me the confidence to take on risks and achieve the results that I wanted to achieve throughout my life.