Your company is not you. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the company and me are not the same things. I am a person, my company is a group effort. I’m not talking about work-life balance, but learning not to take what is happening to the business as something that is happening to you. Don’t take it personally, separate the waters.
I had the pleasure to interview Adrian Fisher. As Founder and CEO at PropertySimple, Adrian oversees the company’s strategy and growth. He is an expert in real estate marketing and a frequent contributor to several publications including Forbes, Inman, and REALTOR® Magazine. Adrian is also a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and the Technology Advisor at Magma Partners. Adrian has been part of technology teams since 1999, and founded his first successful tech company in 2005.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My entrepreneurial story started on a trip to learn Spanish. I was 23 and had just failed a Spanish class for the second time. A friend offered to show me around Argentina during summer break, and I took him up on the offer.
While the trip was amazing, I quickly ran low on money. Since I planned to be there only for the summer, I decided to create a few websites for friends back home for some extra spending money. During the process of creating my first real website, I fell in love. I immediately knew this was what I was supposed to be doing and that coding was the ultimate creative endeavor.
My temporary job snowballed into a company where I ended up learning to design, program, write, and be a business owner. I employed over 30 people and ended up staying in Argentina for about six years running this first company, and had a blast doing it.
After about five years of building products for others, the time was right to build our first product. We wanted to tackle the most significant problem we saw in our local market, which at the time was payment processing for residential and commercial leases.
After launching our payment system, we were quickly accepted into the first round of StartUpChile, a government program that funds high growth startups that are willing to move to Chile.
StartUpChile was an incredible experience that accelerated the company. In less than a year, we had partnered with one of the largest banks in the country and started processing significant payment volume. This payment system is now one of the largest in Chile and opened up opportunities in mortgage origination and discovery. After four years, we eventually became a mini Chilean Zillow.
While busy in Chile, my father announced he was changing careers, leaving government and banking to try something new in real estate.
Since I was running a property portal, I offered to help him get set up, build-out his growth & marketing strategy and set up his social media. During this process, it became clear that there was a huge unmet need for a platform that made real estate marketing for the social media generation easy.
Agents were wasting money on expensive magazine ads, flyers, and networking events that were unmeasurable and mostly did not work.
After exploring what agents actually used to promote themselves, we realized that most of the major players in the industry were totally unprepared for a social media first world.
We knew people would soon discover real estate on social media and that there was no one with a platform designed to make it easy for the realtor.
With that realization we were off, we pulled the trigger to move the company to the US, sell off the Chilean products, and go all in. I moved to LA and started PropertySimple.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
Communication & hiring.
During our move to the US market, we decided to keep our teams and offices in Chile while I focused on getting customers on a beta product in the United States. About a year in we raised money and decided to grow our team in Chile and the US to help us scale our product nationally.
This expansion created a communication meltdown. For the first time in my career, my new hires were not integrating well with the team. Egos were suddenly a thing we had to manage, and communication between the US team and Chile teams fell apart. This lead to a significant delay in our nationwide product launch, a drop in morale company-wide, and eventually layoffs all around the company to compensate.
After taking a hard look at our hiring processes, our team structure, and myself as a leader, we got to work.
We learned that managing a remote team is entirely different than being onsite.
The lack of facetime was creating a gap in understanding across teams and hiding problems with new hires.
The fix for us was to put systems in place to monitor team morale, like Tinypulse. We also promoted our best people to managers and decided to over-communicate everything. One thing that worked well was starting daily standup meetings and weekly breakdowns between all teams no matter location.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
The most significant factor leading lead to our success has been our focus on making sure our product was different from everyone else. We also invested extra time on product development, user experience, and making sure our marketing material was top notch. One other advantage was being quick to partner with online real estate groups on social media and thus going directly to the realtors and getting feedback early on.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. The amount of patience needed. Patience with your team, patience with your clients, patience with investors, and patience with yourself. Quality products and platforms take time to build, time to market, and time to scale. I have learned to start measuring significant milestones in years, not months. It today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to forget how long things take. Have patience.
2. You will need to manage the stress. A CEO is a buffer, an interpreter, a firefighter, and decision-maker. As your team and company grow, we tell ourselves that it will get easier. In reality, the job just gets harder. It seems only when you figure out how to detach and manage the stress of the job, does being CEO become fun again. For me, daily meditation has been my go-to.
3. You actually need to lead. When I first became the CEO I used to seek approval from employees, investors, friends, almost anyone who walked by my desk. While input is invaluable, you are the captain and need to trust yourself first. As a founder who becomes CEO, we sometimes forget this. Choice is our superpower. To use it wisely, you need to believe in yourself. You are the leader, lead.
4. Your company is not you. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the company and me are not the same things. I am a person, my company is a group effort. I’m not talking about work-life balance, but learning not to take what is happening to the business as something that is happening to you. Don’t take it personally, separate the waters.
5. Learn to love reading. As PropertySimple grew, I found myself in uncharted territory. I quickly noticed that I needed to become bigger as the company became bigger. I read books on how to train managers, on building remote teams, I read autobiographies of famous founders and CEOs. Check out the 5hr rule: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/317602
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Enjoy your life. As a CEO it’s hard to turn off your brain. We are thinking when we wake up, and often before we hit the bed at night. With all this thinking, it is easy to forget the fantastic opportunity it is to be alive. Make time for sleep, eat healthy, and don’t beat yourself up for every little thing that happens to the company. Remember: you are not the business. Personally, I think meditation and yoga are the magic bullet.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I was just starting out, I had my office in Mendoza, Argentina, a small town in the middle of the Andes. One day a man from California burst into our office and loudly asked for me. He told my staff that he had been looking for me and asked for a meeting.
Shockingly, this person turned out to be the founder of a company that I admired and the author of a book I had recently read. He became a friend, client, and advisor in many of my career moves.
One day, however, he changed my life. Out of nowhere, he sat me down, looked me straight in the face, and told me that in no uncertain terms, that I had the potential to be great. He explained that if I worked harder and invested in myself, I could become as good or better than anyone in San Francisco, and he meant it.
That moment lit a fire inside of me that made it possible to go for the big things in business and life.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
PropertySimple set out to be the largest marketing company for real estate agents in the world. We are growing fast, and for me, it’s an exciting time to be at the forefront of marketing technology in an industry that is going through so much change.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I’m not a huge legacy person, my personal opinion is that everything you do has an impact. I get a lot of joy in seeing team members do amazing work that they thought was impossible just a week before. Like a lot of people, I hope to leave the world a little bit better off.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
If I could start a movement… lol. My movement would probably be some kind of positivity movement. Yes, there are a lot of negative things happening in the world, but, there are also a ton of amazing things happening at the same time.
Deep down, I have a feeling that global connectivity, computers, science, air transportation, and more, have created an environment where almost anything is possible. A movement to get people to get excited about the future is totally needed at the moment.
How can our readers follow you on social media?