Active Rain June 4, 2009

Transparency: The Holy Grail of Business

I had a choice Tuesday night after wrapping up my last co op showing in Kew Gardens, Queens. I could go home and help put my children to bed, or I could attend the tail end of a small get together in Manhattan. I was invited by Michael Daly, who is my main contact at Redfin, and it was in Greenwich Village, so why not. 

I’m glad I showed up. One fellow late arrival was Glen Kelman, CEO of Redfin. Even though not everyone present was in real estate, the group was fascinated by what he had to say. I was very interested to hear his thoughts as well, because I am a referral agent for them here in Westchester County. 

The thing that impressed me the most was his commitment to transparency. He truly belives that the best way to conduct business is with as much disclosure as possible, with little to nothing concealed from the consumer. There were many components, but one example was that they survey everyone who deals with one of their agents and they publish the results publicly. 

Would you feel comfortable with that? 

What a lightning rod idea. Even people from other industries were open mouthed at the idea. What about hard to please, unrealistic clients? Irate malcontents? We all have stories of people for whom we bent over backwards for, went above and beyond on behalf of, who still complained? 

Well, the upshot is that thus far, it works. The agents they hire directly are vetted carefully, and they survey their past year of business, and all business they do going forward is surveyed. I had to submit to the same as a referral agent. Most of the bad surveys, I am told, say more about the complainer than the agent (I agree). It is scary to have that kind of disclosure. I had over 45 transactions last year. Some were rough, and even though I was not responsible for crummy lawyers, failed banks, fickle buyers and asbestos, I bore the brunt sometimes. 

Interestingly, the statistics are that only 20% of those surveyed typically respond. Mine came back 5/5 on all that came back, and for that I am grateful, but I have to wonder how some of our esteemed colleagues and competitors would perform if they knew that the world was watching. In the information age, they will be, and it will be a higher standard than the past. 

Adapt or go extinct!