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Create Efficiencies to Turn Customers into Partners

Interview with Kirk Waldfogel, CEO of Model Match

Interview with Kirk Waldfogel, CEO of Model Match

Dan: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us. To start, I am sure our readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here? What is your background?

Kirk: In college, I was a management information systems (MIS) major, and I believed in computers and automation long before that was actually a thing. What we call the internet today barely existed then, but the question for me has always been, “How do I create efficiencies using technology?” Because I was so big on learning and figuring out how to create those efficiencies, it essentially became my career path.

Dan: Tell us about your business. What do you do and what is your startup’s origin story?

Kirk: Hammerhouse had already been incredibly successful in mortgage recruiting, handling branches across the country and billions of dollars in production. But I wondered how we could take their best practices and turn that into a software solution for recruiting — and not only for the mortgage industry. From a business standpoint, we’re solving a problem, but in a way that has a revenue model behind it.

Dan: What’s unique about your company? What are the key differentiators between you and other players?

Kirk: From a technology standpoint, I have always believed in letting your customers guide the product. Often, if you just let a technology team build the product, you end up with something that they think is useful but is not actually useful for the end-user. To mitigate that gap, we spend an enormous amount of time talking to our customers about our products. Our backlog of product development is driven by the customer’s needs, not by what I, or my team, might think is the next greatest technology feature of all time.

Dan: Take us through a day in your life. What does the typical day look like?

Most days start with my wife and I for our “us” time: coffee, conversation, etc. With four kids between 14 and 17, its always good to start the day out right. I try to let the days flow as they may, ensuring that I tackle the most difficult tasks first — don’t think about them, don’t prolong them, just get them done and out of the way. That frees your mind for the remainder of the day to do all of the other fun things that it takes to start up a company. Most days I’m the last one out the door because I spend the last couple of hours alone, quietly doing some planning, emails, contracts, or anything else that requires quiet concentration. But I try never to stay too late because I want to make sure that I maintain time for family and friends. Evenings are typically spent coaching one of the kids’ teams, hitting the gym with my son and enjoying dinner and family time. It took me a long time to realize that — no matter what it is — it will alway be there tomorrow.

Dan: What are some of the key steps you have taken to grow your business?

Kirk: Let’s say you’re doing very well as a small to mid-size business based on your specialized skill and passion, but you lack the efficiencies required to scale and grow. First, you need to define those inefficiencies, and most of the time, the best way to do that objectively is by bringing someone in from the outside with a skill set that can be applied to your business. It might be a software expert, a human resources specialist, or any number of people in between who can help you be the business — that is, take those crucial next steps from passion to profit.

When we talk about setting goals for business growth, there’s an old-school exercise called SMART to make sure those goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Whether you have quarterly goals, yearly goals or other short- and long-term goals, those goals should be relatively specific but also well-rounded enough that you’re improving yourself and the business at the same time — financially, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Either way, it’s important to make sure those goals are tangible so that, whether you succeed or fail, you’ll be able to take something away from the experience.

Dan: What has been the most challenging part of growing your company?

Kirk: Striking a balance between your area of expertise and that of the people you choose to bring in can be incredibly fulfilling, but it could also be your biggest challenge. You have to partner with and hire people who are the best at what they do in their respective positions, and then you have to trust them. That’s hard as a business owner because you want to put your fingers in everything, but it comes down to what’s working and what’s not. If things aren’t working, you address each challenge as it arrives and it becomes an open conversation. It’s really about measuring success, and that comes in different ways.

Dan: What are your best sales and marketing tips?

Kirk: Everything boils down to customer experience — and progressive technology platforms should only improve that experience and overall outcome. At this point, with some of the FinTech apps out there, buyers can literally get qualified for a mortgage while they’re standing in front of the house they want to buy. The customer is driving the need for mortgage companies to get with the times when it comes to implementing technology and improving efficiency, and in turn, so is the originator.

Dan: Do you have a book, podcast, or Youtube channel you would recommend to other Entrepreneurs?

Kirk: My Model Match co-founder Eric Levin’s podcast, The Walk, is an idea that came from years of conversations with individuals and organizations about strategic growth and expansion. You quickly learn in those talks that growth is a science that involves things like identifying and matching core competencies. But it’s also an art because the good stuff — the things that lead to breakthroughs and success — happens in the margins.

Dan: If you could go back in time to the day you founded your company, what advice would you give yourself?

Kirk: Putting the right people in the right places will help you sleep at night. That was a hard lesson for me to learn because I was unhealthy as a younger entrepreneur. I wasn’t working out or surfing or doing any of the other stuff that I usually love to do because I was so focused on making my company successful. And the reality is, the problem is always going to be there tomorrow. In any business, it’s the people that you put in the right place to empower them, and when you empower the right people, that’s when you see the most success. It’s the ability to be that guide and be that mentor and be that influence — and it doesn’t matter if it’s one project or five projects; put the right people in the right places and lead the charge.

To Learn More About Model Match Check Out Their Website and Social Media Pages Below!

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