Starting a business is a test of grit, cunning, and faith. Starting a business during a pandemic is borderline masochism. In an economic landscape fraught with instability and unknowns, startups and small businesses are facing uniquely challenging circumstances that require innovation, focus, and flexibility in order to survive. These visionaries and risk-takers must problem-solve their way to success, and during a pandemic, there is no shortage of problems.
Roy Dekel, CEO of SetSchedule, is a leader and trailblazer in the technology and real estate sector. In 2014, Dekel and co-founder Udi Dorner created a way to disrupt two industries by building a software that eclipsed the competition and continues to innovate in both industries.
Today, SetSchedule has handled over $1 billion in real estate transactions and has improved the home buying process for thousands of real estate agents and buyers. With over 100 employees, the company is still actively growing, innovating, and helping the community amidst economic volatility.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created new problems and opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs. Learn from Dekel as he shares his perspective on today’s challenges for business owners and offers insight as to what he would do if he were starting up during the shutdown.
What are three things you would recommend entrepreneurs and startups do during the pandemic?
The uncertain circumstances we find ourselves in should push new and starting businesses to be as dynamic as possible. This has always been a key identifier of any successful business. The three things that businesses need to do to stay relevant are: adjust, use the tech, and get creative. Adjustment means identifying which parts of your business have been affected by the shift. When you know what the problems are, you need to use the tech that is available to overcome those obstacles. Lastly, it is necessary to get creative because the correct solutions to implement may not come down to swapping in one piece of tech to overcome the challenges you are facing. Try to get many different perspectives and plan a growth strategy instead of knee-jerking when situations change.
If you and Dorner were starting SetSchedule during a pandemic, what do you think you would do differently from a non-pandemic landscape?
The focus on starting up a business is establishing your marketable idea and building a team to implement it. Thankfully for us, the SetSchedule team is like a family which is what you need when you are a startup. I think if SetSchedule was started in a pandemic, we would need to have a focus on remote management and engagement. The office and team has always been close knit with a strong company culture. Without that closeness, it is very hard for a business to thrive. We’ve pushed to maintain the family atmosphere as much as we can, and if we were starting in the current situation, we’d focus on growing that feeling across the remote teams.
Do you have any go-to tools or resources that would help startups innovate and thrive?
Honestly, it would have to be my digital assistant. I love using voice commands and being able to get the answer to any question I have almost instantly. I firmly believe that, with the access to information we have now, your motivation level and ambition are the only barriers to shake up an industry. I personally like to learn through podcasts, but there are so many useful materials for all business owners to take advantage of online. Finding the right questions to ask are the core of innovation and growth. This can be a bit trickier. Your go-to resource as a startup should be your team when you need direction. Get their perspectives and combine that with your business knowledge to create the most simple and elegant solutions.
What are some leadership tactics or activities that founders, or managers should implement to promote connectedness and teambuilding during the shift to remote work?
The work hard, play hard mentality is incredibly important. Because of that, you need to have regular communication and exchange of information with your team. Regular one on one check ins and remote team building events need to be scheduled regularly. Most importantly, you should have some face to face contact on a regular basis, even if just through video call. So much of communication is non-verbal, and if your team cannot see each other when discussing ideas, a lot of ideas and details can be lost.
What were some of the biggest challenges you and Dorner faced when starting SetSchedule? How do you think you would address those challenges in today’s economic climate?
The biggest challenge Udi and I faced when starting SetSchedule was managing the connection between the agents and consumers. We would get a consumer’s expression of interest and get it to an agent in the right area, but we weren’t seeing successful engagements at the rate we were expecting. So, we began to check in with the agents directly, and we found that not all agents are trained equally. Some brokerages and mentors impart agent skills, but we found that SetSchedule should focus on agent development as well. This is what inspired us to establish the Agent Consultant team, to coach and strategize with agents. If we were to start over in today’s economic climate, we would have a stronger emphasis on coaching accountability and organizational skills right away instead of assuming the agent is fully equipped to have the most success possible.
What is something you wish you did when first starting your business?
Udi and I both have business backgrounds so SetSchedule was built from a professional’s perspective to grow their business. We knew we could not neglect the home shopper, so we established the SetValue tool and Facebook partnerships. As we continued to develop and perfect the professional engagement with SetSchedule, we realized that there is more we can do for home shoppers. This inspired the development of the SetHello audio video conferencing software and concierge team. Looking back now, it may have been worthwhile to try and perfect both the agent and shopper engagement from the start. But, I think it was the right move to start with the agent aspect first-by nailing down the process of getting the leads out to the agents, we now have the space and resources to build on the consumer experience.
You have a track record of being philanthropic and supportive of your community. What is SetSchedule doing now to help startups and small businesses?
SetSchedule has established many local programs to assist small business owners and friends who have been harshly impacted by the current situation. Potentially even more useful than that, we have continued to focus on content production regarding everything business oriented. The MindSet and Meet the Agent episodes we produce regularly emphasize getting perspective and advice from successful entrepreneurs across many industries. SetSchedule’s focus is keeping the conversation open so startups and beginning businesses have the ability to explore and learn different successful strategies, usually straight from the horse’s mouth.