8z Real Estate: Purpose, alignment and trust
Colorado real estate company grows thanks to strong company culture
(Editor's note: This is the third of a five-part series intended to give business leaders, founders and executives greater insight into building a great workplace.)
Lane Hornung, founder and CEO of 8z Real Estate, brought an outsider perspective to building a top Colorado real estate company. 8z has received significant acknowledgement for its culture and business growth.
Hornung's life experience provides the foundation for the beliefs upon which 8z is formed.
After finishing his bachelor’s degree at Stanford, Lane joined the United States Marine Corps. That experience provided him two lessons that are deeply engrained in his business today.
If you spend 40 to 60 hours/week invested in something, you might as well do it for more than a paycheck.
- The cardinal sin of the Marines is if you don’t care about your fellow Marine, you hang them out to dry.
8z Agents are organized in teams that collaborate to provide the best service to their clients. They are encouraged to share ideas and cover one another for vacations or emergencies to ensure the customer is well taken care of. The company is structured into several small teams, creating intimacy.
After the Marines, Hornung joined the research team with Jim Collins, renowned author of several leadership and business books, including, Good to Great and Built to Last. The two takeaways incorporated into 8z are:
- Leadership really does make a difference, especially when the organization is more important than the leader, and the servant leader is indebted to the organization.
- If an organization is truly aligned under a single mission, it is not going to be a great place for everyone. There are choices and tradeoffs.
Hornung's introduction to the real estate industry came later while working with a real-estate startup in California. From his humble perspective, he perceived the sector as broken, and understood the power of the web for information and transparency, seeing a hole in the market.
Returning to Colorado, Hornung became a real estate agent and launched COhomefinder.com, one of the most popular real-estate site the state. 8z is the solution he created with a team of friends and colleagues.
"The idea that real estate is broken really comes down to trust," Hornung says. "At a high level this industry is perceived as one where agents can’t be trusted to have the customer’s best interest in mind. This is what we mean when we say it is broken. Ironically, when you ask almost anyone about their individual real estate agent, they usually have good things to say."
Purpose, alignment and trust are built into the foundation of 8z and the organization strives to put customers first.
8z agents complete a lot of transactions – 20-plus per realtor, versus the industry average of three, which means greater expertise. It also makes it easier to really serve the customer’s interests. If a customer changes their mind and decides not to sell, 8z agents are happy for their customer.
The firm was also one of the first to publish data online.
The 8z Academy on-boards new team members once a quarter covering the company's values, purpose and aspirations.
The firm focuses on developing people and helping them grow as agents with technical training, cultural training and personal growth from company experts and outside providers. An in-house coach hosts one-on-one sessions and team leaders do coaching and mentoring. Based on the firm's experience, he art of being a real estate agent is in the relationship.
8z works to deliver on the promises they make. With that in mind, the marketing, brand, consistency and company promises aim to promote trust. Each agent is their own brand, and yet they are not siloed, instead all working off the same system. The whole team shares expertise and agents either plug-in and thrive within the system, or they leave. It's all about alignment.
8z isn't in the mergers and acquisitions business, noting that would change the company's culture. That doesn't mean they're stagnant, rather new offices spring up when team members relocate and leadership promotes from within.
Customer surveys further verify that customers experience 8z's values and that the company fulfills its promises.
If you read the last article in the series, it is clear that even within a single industry, there are different, equally effective approaches to creating a great work environment and successful, blossoming company.