Rivers Pearce, CEO at W8LESS - Avoiding Shelfware - How to Make Sure Your New Software Platforms Are Adopted And How to Get Much More Out of Your Existing Ones

Brian Charlesworth
October 8, 2020

[00:00:00] All right, we're live.

[00:00:01] We're back with Rivers Rivers Pierce Rivers has been in the industry for a long, long time, back from the early days of Boomtown, and is currently the CEO and founder of Lists, which is a technology company really focusing on delivering anything you guys need as team and broker owners. And so, Rivers, why don't we start by just sharing a little bit more about how you came up with this weight loss concept because you've been in the industry so long, you saw a big need. Let's talk about what is the gap there?

[00:00:39] Yeah, I mean, it came from for many of you who maybe have seen me over the last decade or so, you know, I spent a lot of time traveling the country when I was with Boomtown, talking about technology and digital marketing and things over the last 10 years. And as far as things had, the technology world, I guess, had matured in the last 10 years. And you've got companies like Amazon and Uber and Google and things like that, that you begin to see that these experiences that those companies are and have been creating, in my opinion, feel weightless. And so I started kind of using that term in my presentations that, you know, in real estate, a lot of the technology has lagged behind a little bit. And as such, the adoption of technology has lagged behind to where you get kind of a disconnect with consumers expectations with the world they live in. And then you're kind of a mess. I think we've talked about this, asking them to travel back in time to do their real estate transaction. Right. And so I've been just saying your technology should be so integrated into your business that it should feel weightless not only for consumers, but also to your agents. Right. And your internal team members, transaction coordinators, ISA's, et cetera. So that's really where it came from. And we just want to help teams and brokerages and agents in general navigate this world of of this new world that we live in, especially that has been kind of enhanced or exacerbated or expedited by the pandemic in the last six months. And Sisu fits squarely in the middle of a lot of these things in tying technology together and your kind of data integrity, data hygiene, we like to say a lot in our world. And so that's really where it came from. And we just want to help make people's processes better, make it smoother, integrate, automate all of those things and ultimately create an infrastructure for people's business that allows them to be more confident in the decision making and create better experiences for their clients and for their team members.

[00:02:41] So I remember the first time I met you, I think we were in San Francisco at an end when I was like, Rivers', we got to meet you at Boomtown.

[00:02:51] Or maybe I met you actually before. That could have been a very different event. But in any case, you were a boomtown.

[00:03:01] And we were just excited about getting an integration done with Boomtown, which we now have.

[00:03:07] So but at the time, I don't think.

[00:03:13] Let me let me move forward. You came you came to us about a year and a half later, and as you were talking about what you were doing, I think discovered that Sisu was really a different animal than what you thought, because when we first met, I think it was just visualization, gamification, basically.

[00:03:32] That's right. Right. And then it like, no, we're actually an end to end back end infrastructure database.

[00:03:40] Data handling transaction management is like a suite, you know, so so in talking about what Waitlist is doing, I know for a fact that you've done you've worked with a customer to to really improve their systems that we were a part of.

[00:04:00] Maybe you could talk to everybody about that customer, what you guys did there, where they were, where they are now.

[00:04:05] Sure. The people can get a feel for I mean, what does that mean to make us weightless? I mean, everyone is certainly challenged by by rolling out technologies and having them used at a high level and even rolling them out at a high level.

[00:04:20] I mean, even you alone, you have you have we have Sisu customers that are using this much of what we do. And then they'll go to this much and then they'll go know. And finally they're like, oh, we can do all of this. So, yeah. How do you guys play a role in that?

[00:04:36] Yeah. So what we found, we like to we do a lot of just general technology consulting and a lot of that is just strategy, but a lot of it then becomes hands on. It's like, well, here's your strategy, doc, here's what you should be doing. They're like, OK, can you do that for us? And that was one case with the client we worked on over the past few months. That was a massive migration into Sisu and we looked at a lot of different. Forms for them because they were using Microsoft SharePoint and for those of you who don't know what that is, it's a very legacy product that persay, but it's certainly not built for real estate. And what were they using it for? I mean, they were using it for all of the back office, management, task management, transaction management. They weren't using it for like the e-signature piece. But basically everything around the back office and transaction management process was funneling through SharePoint. So it was kicking off all kinds of alerts and notifications, everything from your checklist for what to do with the buyer listing agreement and getting a house on the market, but also like lockboxes, signs, vendor communication, title, mortgage, all those kinds of things. It was really the backbone of their system. So they have their website.

[00:05:51] Right, and then they have the SharePoint. And the problem was it was a decade old product that they've been using. And the agents were like, this just isn't working for us. They didn't like using. It was not mobile friendly. And they had looked at some of the other back office or transaction management solutions. And what we found and what they kind of brought to us and we realized was that they didn't need they didn't want a product that was like kind of off the shelf that was like, yeah, it's a great back office solution or a great transaction management solution, but you've got to do it our way because that's the way that product was built. They needed something that would to be modified to fit their way of doing things right. That's where you and I got back into a discussion about I was like, oh, my gosh, Sisu can do this because it's built to be customized like that. That was the color of the checkbox for them and said, yes, let's move forward with this. And so the fact that we were able to customize Sisu in a way that fit their existing processes, because you know as well as I do, agents are notoriously difficult to get to adopt anything new, for one. And so if you're not only changing the product, which is difficult enough, but the process as well, that can be very, very, very challenging.

[00:07:07] And so what we found is that we could just modify, we could get them to use a different product right off of SharePoint into Sisu, but we didn't have to change their processes. So we met everything they were doing into giant workflows, brought all of that into Sisu, connected all their past data, all of those elements. They're plugged in the front end website. I think they use Cierra and then we train them on it and gave them the keys. And literally everything is going on in the back in there from, like you said, even their lockbox management is going on inside of Sisu now. So it was it was a pretty big effort for sure. But I think it speaks volumes to the product that you guys have. And now everything's in one place. The agents like using it. They can see all their data on the front end as well. So it's not just the operational pieces or those kind of unsexy things. I like to call it like this, make the world go round. But now they can also see their their accountability data and transaction flows and things like that. So all in all, it's been great for the client.

[00:08:12] We we love to hear that. So I think the operational stuff you were talking about, that's the stuff that a lot of people aren't aware that Sisu actually does. And you weren't aware of it until you called me up and said, hey, this is what we're trying to accomplish. And and I said, you know, you could really do all of that and Sisu. So let's talk about SharePoint, though. How long did that take them to develop that customized platform over from like twenty seven to two thousand ten or something?

[00:08:45] It was a very long iterative process. And then it it got into place and it was working and it never really matured from that.

[00:08:56] So it was a three year, three year project for them to get SharePoint up and running.

[00:09:03] How long was it or how much how long was the process with Sisu for you guys to do that?

[00:09:09] To get them fully from not using it all to using it to replace every system they had and that it took us about.

[00:09:18] Two months, probably, which sounds like a long time in our world now, but when you keep in mind that most of that was discovery on there and getting all of that SharePoint information, understanding all of those forms, understanding those workflows once again mapped out, then it took us a couple of weeks to get it into Sisu and then a couple more weeks to train them on how to use it.

[00:09:40] Yeah. OK, so do you have any idea how much they spend on SharePoint? I do not. OK, don't.

[00:09:50] Considerably less than what they're spending now. You got to think about operationally, you have agents that actually use it and like using it. Right. So the adoption rates go up. And it's it's not just that like the way that Sisu is automating a lot of things. Their operational efficiency absolutely has gone up and will continue to go up.

[00:10:10] Yeah. And, you know, it's interesting, in the real estate space, a CRM is different than you would think of a CRM outside of real estate.

[00:10:18] And the CRM I'm really focused on here is now why am I losing Salesforce Villas-Boas dot com? So Salesforce Salesforce basically manages all of your data, right? Very different from a CRM and real estate who's focused on having an index site. Right. And focused on lead follow up. Right.

[00:10:45] And so I personally have met three other businesses in real estate who use Salesforce, very similar to how they were using this system that they built. They're using Salesforce to do that. And I know in each of these three cases, all three of these business owners have told me they spent over a million dollars doing that.

[00:11:08] And that's it either.

[00:11:10] Yeah, and they're one of them was over two million. And they're currently. Currently spending over one hundred thousand dollars a year just paying somebody to manage that sales force, that's just an ongoing employee that's required there. And then one of them that I just met with is the brokerage that actually paid two million big brokerage out of super famous brokerage out of L.A. And at the same time, now they're saying, we've spent this money on Salesforce and we would still like to use Sisu for commission management because. Because that's not in their salesforce.

[00:11:47] Yeah, yeah. And I've done some I've been in the tech space a long time. Obviously, I've been out of Boomtown a couple of years now and done non real estate technology work, several massive Salesforce integrations as well.

[00:12:00] It's not easy to do and it's not built for real estate. And it's a good I mean, it's a great product, but it's the thing you can do whatever you want with it for sure. And that's what people forget about. It's like, but wait, I've got to have somebody on staff to manage this thing now. And I really Sisu really is a Salesforce product for the real estate space. You know, it's it's customizable in that way. And that is very, very attractive to a lot of people. I was just having a conversation about this earlier that when you're again, it comes back to when you can map the existing processes into the software, the adoption and the the you know, the usage of it is absolutely going to be much more smooth than trying to shoehorn somebody into a product. Right. So I like to lead with the process and the workflows and the things that are already in place. Then we'll find the product to work with those things. You guys come in very, very beautifully.

[00:12:55] Yeah, well said.

[00:12:59] Another way to get adoption, which I've seen with some of our larger, especially at the brokerage level, if you want to get adoption at a real estate brokerage, it's much more difficult than a team at a team.

[00:13:10] Do you want to keep getting leads? You're going to use these processes. Yeah. And grow a little more difficult. Yeah, absolutely. The the way I've seen conversion or usage.

[00:13:23] Happen there is of our platform anyway, is they've they've basically said when you get when you get somebody under contract, instead of filling out this Google form, you're going to fill out this form contract, a closed form.

[00:13:40] Everything's in there. That's how you get paid.

[00:13:44] You you took the words out of my mouth. You to adoption. Tie it to the check. Yeah, it's real simple. And again, with a team, obviously, you've got like a job where it's like, no, this is how you do it or you don't work here. Well, that doesn't apply for us in real estate. Really. That next one is the team. Right? Teams like, look, you want to be on the team, you want to get the benefits of the team. You've got to do the process. But when you're in that brokerage model, it's very difficult, like you said. And what we have seen is that, look, if the process starts all the way over here, if you want to get paid, you've got to do that. It has to go into this thing to get to the end end result. And the client, we actually did the SharePoint thing that we were discussing. You know, they have it so airtight that it's almost same day payment. Right. But it has to go through the process in order for that to work. So absolutely tie it to to payment. But I was thinking about this in prepping for this this session here. If you can't do that, at least it is something that has tangible results with it. Right. And that could be the could potentially be just having your Sisu visual dashboards of things that like I'm doing something, I'm seeing progress. Right. I'm seeing some kind of results from it that are tangible in the sense that at least I've got something in front of me that's not just like the CRM tell me that I think these people are engaged or these things are kind of happening. It's like something that gets them into the system that eventually gets them. The more they use it, the more efficient they are, the more results they will see down the road. Right. So that kind of leading lag indicators and things like that. So if you can't tie it to the check, you tie it to something that shows the results. And their salespeople, they they're competitors. Right.

[00:15:28] So a leader boards are good for that because the boards allow you to see, oh, I'm at the bottom, I'm really number three. I need to put my stuff in.

[00:15:37] So I show that exactly this I know this is wrong. It's like, well, then you've got, you know, the system. Yeah, it blows my mind. But again, I've been in the space and you have for a long time. It's a it's a chronic problem in the industry.

[00:15:52] Yeah. For sure. I think another way to tie that in is really assigning agents tasks. Sure. If you assign them a task now, they have to take action on it.

[00:16:04] That's a very good point. I'm going to leave my mind recommendations as well.

[00:16:09] So moving off of Sisu, though, like what other and maybe staying on Carolina Realty Group like. Did you did you pull other platforms into that?

[00:16:20] How does how does everything communicate together? Because I know what you guys are waitlists are focused on, hey, we just want to make sure No. One, everything's easy for you to get set up. We'll do that for you. And number two, we want to make sure that we get all of your agents adopting it quickly.

[00:16:37] Yeah, we did do much more integration for them. There was more migration. So there weren't a lot of other tools in the mix for them. They did change their website and moved to Sierra. So we did help them get that set up on the front end with Sisu. But other than that, there wasn't they wanted a very, very simple, streamlined solution. That's basically what they're using for some other clients. We've seen, you know, your typical setup, which is you've got, you know, Leegin out here, CRM, transaction management, and then like, you know, maybe like another platform in addition, just so Sisu kind of falls in between that.

[00:17:19] So you'd have like a sink or a boomtown that's pushing leads are coming into those that's pushing information down. And Sisu Sisu is talking to Sky Slope or some other transaction piece. But what we're seeing is people wanting to work the transaction process. It's better and Sisu, it seems, and then maybe using it like a Sisu update loop, DocuSign, something like that for Essig and document handling kind of pieces. But that's typically the workflow that we're seeing and then maybe some middleware in there to help teams talk to each other. If there's not a direct integration or maybe you've got something over here on the side like structurally call action Agent Légion kind of thing that's falling into the ISO space. But that's typically what we're seeing these days. Is that kind of like maybe the core three would be CRM Sisu transaction, the Essig like that? Because I'm really considering you guys more transaction management for that lack of a better term in that process.

[00:18:21] Management at the very least, and I love hearing you say that, that we most people prefer using us.

[00:18:29] We would prefer they use us and use them for e-signature. But if they want to use them for some of the task and the the transaction management side, we're happy to integrate with them as well and let them go either way they want. So, yeah.

[00:18:43] And that meeting set where you're fighting adoption or processes that maybe it's easier to start, which is getting Sisu in place. Right. And then over time maybe migrating some of the processes off of these other platforms potentially. And it becomes pretty easy sell to a team leader or a broker when it's like you can start measuring efficiencies, measuring impact of these things and visualizing these things, which is where you guys definitely come in to kind of shine a light on that information that sometimes they've never had in one cohesive place.

[00:19:15] Yeah, with us, I mean, the key difference for those of you who are not familiar with Sisu, the key difference between us and another transaction management platform. We started with the visualizations, we started by focusing on taking people when they get Marcotte and you're in your CRM or when an appointment gets scheduled, and really from that first appointment to close is when when they're in Sisu. So it's not just contract to close its first appointment or close. And let us visualize it all for you so you can see the conversion ratios and we can show you what your costs are for the leads and cost per closing. And so it's much more than transaction management. And there really is little segment of what what we really are.

[00:20:01] Absolutely. I'll say. The other thing we've seen is the people that I call living in that spreadsheet nightmare right now, like 10 Google sheets, that somebody is using this, somebody is using this, and it's like you can't get a hole. You can't get your arms around your business in that way.

[00:20:17] How are you that still in real estate?

[00:20:19] I mean, all the time a big mission of ours when we when we started this company was to eliminate spreadsheets in real estate all the time.

[00:20:31] And look, it's the optimal spreadsheet state would at least be Google sheets, right. Where it's at least cloud based and multiple people can work on it. But I mean, again, I'm not surprised by anything in this industry anymore after a decade, but it's still happening all the time with with businesses that I can't believe sometimes how much transaction volume they're doing and still operating off of spreadsheets, to be honest with you.

[00:20:58] Yeah, yeah, definitely. All right, so.

[00:21:03] Where do you see things going, Rivers? I mean, you've you've been around for a long time, you've seen the shifts. Nobody can predict the future. But I always love to get insights on what you see is going to be hard for any anybody managing a real estate business moving forward.

[00:21:21] Yeah, for me, data integrity, data hygene, data visualization are huge. And automation and integration. Right. That creates these efficiencies that I challenge you from the kind of weightless concept perspective like. Who is saying it, I think it was Chris Lendell was saying that, like, you need to look outside the industry for your competitors. Your competitors are Amazon and Starbucks and Netflix and Uber and these people that are creating these consumer experiences that are weightless, that are slick, that that's what consumers want. And so if I challenge you almost dare you to operate your business. Like I said, you're asking your consumers, your customers and agents to time travel to use your tech stack to do business with you when they're used to pushing a button and something getting done. And so imagine in the pandemic era when everybody's been forced to be home and adopt, TechCrunch ran an article, I believe, a couple of months ago that said e commerce adoption has accelerated five years and five months. Right. Because of this, people didn't have a choice but to start using this technology of delivery and virtualization and things. It's no doubt happening in real estate as well. It's accelerating. And so if you think about even I'm not just talking about Zillow and open door Redfin. Don't forget they have hundreds of millions of dollars that they're using to make technology to create these experiences. Then you've got big brokers and teams that are have have enough budget to have a two million dollar Salesforce implementation of something.

[00:23:00] Right. And so if you're still operating off 10 disparate spreadsheets and you're not really having accountability with your agents and you don't have the infrastructure to support that kind of division of labor, that is creating these things behind the scenes, that from a consumer perspective are just seamless, weightless, frictionless, whatever you want to call it. I just can't imagine how you're going to continue to grow your business, because the people out there, like if you can't virtualize or create a seamless experience for your real estate transaction, I can't imagine your word of mouth is going to continue to give you business. Your database is going to dry up over time. So that's really where I think it's going. It's not so much like you've got to use this thing or whether it's a mindset shift that the industry is moving fast and the consumers want more and they demand more. And it's not just service, it's the technology's got to be there. And then and it really is that behind the scenes, unsexy stuff that creates efficiency, that creates our why that allows you to scale, allows you to make more database decision making, know more informed decision making. So that's my two cents on it. You have to be doing these things. There's no there's no nice to haves anymore.

[00:24:16] We completely agree with you, Rivers', on the client experience. I think that is crucial moving forward in this business. A big emphasis of ours right now. Obviously, Sisu does a lot today. But what we don't do is eliminate you having to send emails and texts and phone calls with your client. And so the focus right now is all of that communication with your vendors, with your clients, with anybody you work with happening within the Sisu platform. So that's that's kind of our solution on how we go about how can we really make this client experience better.

[00:24:58] So but there's going to be so much coming out over the next five, 10 years. I mean, it's crazy what happens.

[00:25:06] Somebody yesterday, I think it was Jeff Cohen, but somebody mentioned that Amazon is currently at the doing delivering the number of packages that they were forecasting to do by twenty, twenty seven.

[00:25:22] Well, so I don't remember who that was for sure.

[00:25:25] But if things happen and the pandemic obviously made that happen, nobody's going outside. Your packages are no longer getting there in two days. They're getting here in two weeks. But I think they're back to two days now. But while it was two weeks, because how do you move from having a demand that they expected in twenty, twenty seven to the servicing that now?

[00:25:49] And I think we need to be thinking the same way as as owners of real estate companies. How really demand.

[00:25:56] Yeah. And I think where you guys stand to do really well in that is also the general mindset that Sisu has, is, hey, come build and integrate and work with us and be flexible and nimble. And I would almost challenge these teams and brokers out there to think about it from that perspective. It's not like you've got to shoehorn your business into the way of doing things. If if you can get creative and start thinking and working with folks like you or folks like myself that can help you navigate the technology aspects of it. You know, there's a lot of cool things you can do. And if it seems real expensive, well, maybe get together with your mastermind group and pull your money together and build some common. Integrations or something. I mean, this is how you have to be thinking. Technology is a pillar of your business now. I just make it happen without.

[00:26:48] Yeah. And I think that the difference as well, our focus has always been where an open API we started with an open API. So I actually had a coaching company reach out to me yesterday, which I'm really excited about. And they said, hey, we would like to develop off your API, push all of this stuff into it and then get all of our clients on that. So it's something that. Like, everything should be an open architecture today.

[00:27:18] That's how that's how the rest of the world is, just how real estate is, because a lot of these real estate companies were started. That's not how things were working.

[00:27:28] Believe me, I was there. Yeah, it's a wholesale mindset shift.

[00:27:33] Yeah. Yeah.

[00:27:35] So we just have a couple of minutes, rivers. Any any advice that you want to give to the business?

[00:27:41] I mean, you've been in this business for so long, these business owners. What what advice would you give them moving into twenty, twenty one.

[00:27:48] I keep coming back to you got to get your head on straight that none of this is is like nice to have or good enough until next year kind of thing. You have got to attack what I call a weight loss. We call it the SAT score systems accountability technology. They don't you can't have two of three systems. Let the technology do what it needs to do. The technology and the systems don't work without the accountability of somebody to actually work them. Right. You can have the best technology and the great accountability mindset, but you don't have the system. It's not going to scale. Right. And so what we like to do is work with people with their S.A.T. score, if you will. And I think that's where you guys fit in. Right. How do you it the human element is not going away. I think we're pretty clear on that at this point. Ten years ago, the agents being disrupted, it's not it's more it's just not happening. Right. I think a lot of agents will will probably fall away in the next five to 10 years because they're not adopting the new mindset and technology in the way that the world operates. But you've got to be thinking about the mix of all of it. They don't exist in a vacuum anymore. And the technology is there to make you better at doing your job, period. So that's my two cents on it, man.

[00:29:09] So stay up on technology. Otherwise you may not be here in five years.

[00:29:14] Right. And also we will reach out for help on it. You're not you're not supposed to be a technology or digital marketing expert anymore. It's too much too complicated. Find people that know what they're doing to help you navigate that world the same way. I don't I don't represent myself in court or do my own real estate transactions or do my own taxes even. Right. I know what I'm good at. And I hire professionals to do the other things for me. And I think it's time for people to get over the DIY nature of tech and digital in real estate.

[00:29:45] Yeah, I totally agree. So I love the way you talked about the SAT scores, systems accountability technology. If any of you guys need some assistance with that, which a lot of you probably do reach out to Rivers because I think he can definitely make a difference in helping you guys get to where you need to be with your technology stack.

[00:30:05] Absolutely. Rivers, thanks for joining today. It's always great catching up and congratulations on the success you guys are having over there, your new business.

[00:30:15] Thank you, Brian. You too. Thanks for having me. And I look forward to seeing you guys.

[00:30:19] All right. Thank you. Cheers.

About the Author

Brian Charlesworth
Chairman and CEO

Entrepreneur and business builder. Built and sold software and telecommunications companies. Passionate about making a significant impact on lives by driving technology forward.