It will be messy: I am a very structured person but running a startup has taught me that not one day is alike and that your pre-built routines sometimes need to be broken because other things come up. Just take it one step at a time!
Surround yourself with great people: Starting a company is hard enough. This is why you need to surround yourself with other tech founders that are going through the same journey, and with really great advisors that can show you what you are missing. At the same time, once you start hiring, look for people that are smarter than you and that are a great fit.
Serve: Remember that you are here to make the world a better place so be humble, and lead your team to serve others into creating better products and experiences for others.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Moreno, Founder of HomeFlow, a company focused on making the home buying experience awesome. She is also the host of The First Time Home Buyer Podcast, and an experienced product manager and growth hacker.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In 2018 my husband and I decided to buy our first home. I was so excited, finally we were going to own a place! But the process was really overwhelming, stressful, and confusing and although our agent was pretty good as far as agents go, it was just not the best experience for us.
Then I realized we could make it better! We could build a solution that could empower home buyers with education and tools and keep everything related to your home purchase in one place, and HomeFlow was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
There are so many stories I could share, but what I recall the most are the interviews that I’ve had with first time home buyers. One of them said that their lender changed their mortgage interest rate at the last minute when they were signing their contract and I could hardly believe how unfair that was. That was until I spoke with other home buyers and heard their own horror stories about unexpected costs, people getting taken advantage of, getting in over their head and buying a property that’s more than they can afford, problems with inspections and costly repairs. The list goes on and on!
All these stories power me to work harder and make the home buying process better.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well I’ve sure made plenty of mistakes, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from them. But to be honest, most of my mistakes haven’t seemed that funny at the time…
One funny story that comes to mind was when I was building a database of the best agents across every neighborhood in NYC. I found the information I needed, but the way I was planning on compiling it all was going to take literally a solid week of copying and pasting. I thought about outsourcing the project to a low-cost freelancer on Fiverr, but when I mentioned this to a friend, he showed me how to use a formula in Excel that let me complete the database in 15 minutes!
The lesson here is that if you’re not sure how to do something, ask for help! Or at the very least, ask Google. If something is worth doing, it’s worth spending 5–10 minutes Googling it to see how others have done it.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Probably the hardest part was taking the leap to leave my full time job to start HomeFlow. I had been working on HomeFlow as a side gig for a few months but I finally got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t push the business further on a part-time basis.I knew this was something I wanted to do, but I also have responsibilities and expenses like a mortgage and child care, so it was a really big decision for my husband and me. In the end we were able to see the huge potential in the business, but even more important is we realized I wouldn’t be happy unless I gave it a shot.
Ever since then there’s been tons of challenges that I’ve had to overcome, and lots of times that I’ve thought about pivoting, but I’ve honestly never considered giving up. The situation is so unfair now, home buyers are being taken advantage and that really fires me up to keep on going. The experience of starting a company has certainly been a roller coaster. But I love roller coasters as well!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Funny you should ask — gratitude is a core part of HomeFlow’s culture. There are so many people that I’m grateful for, including my advisors and my amazing team. But if I had to pick one person I’m most grateful for it would be my husband. He continuously advises me on how to make HomeFlow successful, he cheers me on, cheers me up, and he supports my dream. He is the very best!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This is my favorite quote:
“It’s not the big things that add up in the end; it’s the hundreds, thousands, or millions of little things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary.”
― Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
The reason why I like this quote so much is I believe in order to be successful you have to build habits and consistently do them and track them.
I do this daily. I have a spreadsheet where I enter my daily habits and I track if I do them. It is like a game against myself! I’ve been doing this for several years now and it brings clarity and results.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
With HomeFlow we are trying to make the home buying process awesome for the 10 million Americans that go through it each year.
Buying a home is the most expensive purchase in your life for most people and it is also typically one of the most stressful, overwhelming, and disempowering experiences you’ll ever go through. In fact, it is frequently ranked in the top 3 most stressful life experiences along with death of a loved one, and divorce!
It seems crazy to me that something that should be such a positive accomplishment of a major life goal for many people ends up being such a terrible experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and HomeFlow is working to solve that.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At HomeFlow we put home buyers first. There’s no other tech company that’s focused on helping home buyers directly — most others are built for professionals, or target sellers.
We believe in empowering home buyers with information and tools to guide and support them throughout the entire home buying process. This starts with educating home buyers with our blog, podcast, and a really comprehensive home buying checklist.
At the same time we are the only company that aggregates everything that you need in one place (properties, documents, messages, team, etc) .
Lastly we really help you make the right choices, hire the right professionals, choose the right property, the right mortgage etc, which ends up helping you save time and money as well.
We essentially make you a home buying pro at your own pace.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We just launched a free property aggregator that helps you save all your homes from different websites (Zillow, Realtor, etc) in one place. It also lets you collaborate with your agent, co-buyer, and family. This tool helps home buyers save so much time.
You can see this new tool here: https://tryhomeflow.com/tools/extension
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in Tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
It’s well established that there are fewer women in tech overall, so there’s clearly room for improvement in the industry to attract, promote and retain more women. That said, I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors and opportunities, and I’ve been impressed by how many organizations there are that support women in tech, and entrepreneurs in general, particularly where I live in NYC.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge is balancing my family and HomeFlow. My family will always come first and this may not be the same for my single male counterparts. I am also at a different life stage being a mom, so that can be challenging sometimes but it’s also taught me about how to juggle lots of things at once and be really efficient, so somehow I find the time to get it done.
What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
I would go back to your users. Is your product solving what they need? Are you listening to them close enough?
In my own experience a company stops growing when we develop solutions that we like but that don’t necessarily address your user pain points.
Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
Start with your mission, make your team excited about selling something that really makes the world a better place. Everything else will fall into place.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
Adding value with great content is the one that is working best for us. For example, we regularly post in Reddit about home buying and the users that sign up from there are just great.
Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
First make sure your website is delightful and that it works well in both mobile and desktop. Also always educate your users and give them the reason why you are asking for sensitive information.
Regarding customer service, always go above and beyond their expectations. Surprise and delight them and remember that the customer is always right.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
The best alternative is to keep on building what users want to reach product market fit and to have a really high net promoter score. Basically, build what people want!
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. It’s going to be harder than you think, and that’s ok: Before leaving my full-time job at Chegg I thought I knew exactly how to build HomeFlow, everything seemed very clear in my head but once I got to it I understood it was harder than I thought. Why? Because many of your hypotheses are wrong and you have to try different ones which may not work. It is a very humbling process but it is a lot of fun as well!
2. It will be messy: I am a very structured person but running a startup has taught me that not one day is alike and that your pre-built routines sometimes need to be broken because other things come up. Just take it one step at a time!
3. Surround yourself with great people: Starting a company is hard enough. This is why you need to surround yourself with other tech founders that are going through the same journey, and with really great advisors that can show you what you are missing. At the same time, once you start hiring, look for people that are smarter than you and that are a great fit.
4. Keep on learning: We live in a time that is super well documented so remember to Google everything that you have questions about because everything is there.
5. Serve: Remember that you are here to make the world a better place so be humble, and lead your team to serve others into creating better products and experiences for others.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would create The Gratitude Revolution (I wrote a book about it) because being grateful is the easiest way to being happier and I want to make millions of people happier!
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Yes! Brother David Steindl-Rast because with his fantastic books and videos on Gratitude he inspires millions of people to be happier.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!