I try to talk to as many of our team members about their personal lives as much as I talk to them about work. I really value personal connections. I think that when team members understand that we really care about them as people and not as employees, they will go the extra mile to not let you down. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Ran Reske.
As co-founder of Resident, Ran oversees all aspects of the business. He is laser-focused on talent acquisition and building a diversified workforce of 200 employees — across 5 countries, in 15 cities. Venture Capitalist and Investment Banker, Ran has been instrumental in disrupting the home goods category by launching multiple brands including Nectar, DreamCloud, and Wovenly. Prior to launching Resident, Ran led early to late-stage venture investments with Norwest Venture Partners. He also spearheaded corporate development divisions for both Amdocs and Pamplona Capital Management, and led the investment banking division of Citigroup in Israel. In that role, Ran focused efforts on strategic advisory assignments for transactions, including M-Systems’ $1.3 billion acquisition and Cellcom’s $400 million IPO. Born in Israel and raised in Kenya, the global citizen currently resides in San Francisco with his wife and two sons. Ran holds a BA in Economics and Business Administration along with a BS in Medical Engineering from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Thank you for being here, Ran! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My mother thinks it’s funny to say her son left a successful career in venture capital to become a “mattress salesman.” All jokes aside, co-founding Resident has really been the perfect culmination of my life experience. I actually studied mechanical engineering, which shaped my approach to problem-solving, breaking things down part by part instead of chasing catch-all solutions. I applied that knowledge to careers in finance and venture capital investment, where I witnessed a lot of great leaders doing even greater (and sometimes not-so-great) things. That learning experience is what ignited my passion for leadership strategy and human capital, which is the focus of my work today: building dynamic, global teams and ensuring pathways for growth and personal fulfillment at every level throughout the organization.
Very funny! Can you share another funny or interesting story that happened to you since you started this career? What lesson did you learn from that experience?
I’ll never forget the early days when we were a team of ten working out of a garage. The company was growing fast, and we couldn’t always keep up with the demand. There were times when customer expectations were not being met, and I was functioning as the call center. We would get calls from really angry customers, and justifiably so — they had spent their hard-earned money with us, and we failed them. I remember sweating through these conversations, begging for forgiveness and thinking of any and every way possible to make it right and deliver on our promise. It was very personal and very humbling. We’ve come a long way since then and have invested significantly in our Customer Success center, which I think is second to none. But to this day I make it a priority to speak directly with customers from time to time. As leaders, it’s critical to have a personal understanding of every consumer touchpoint across our business.
You have definitely come a long way. Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
We are always working on something new and exciting at Resident. We just launched Bundle, a collection of flexible, durable seating that we designed with performance fabrics to last a lifetime. I’m really proud of this new assortment. Our goal is to create a one-stop-shopping experience for the entire home and I can’t wait to show our customers what we have in store for them next.
The entire Resident shopping experience is designed to make shopping easier by offering a range of choices within any given category. For example, Resident currently sells four mattress brands — Nectar, DreamCloud, Level Sleep, and Awara — to better meet customer needs. Rather than simply marketing one product to our shoppers like many of our competitors, we use data, deep analytics, and consumer feedback to create a suite of brands we know our consumers really want.
Additionally, although we’re a DTC company, we believe brick and mortar stores are here to stay. We know some people need the tangible experience of touching and feeling our product. This is not solved online. We now have distribution partnerships with over 1,000 stores for our Nectar by Resident brand and plan to continue expanding.
We are launching a company-wide initiative that encourages all of our team members to help brainstorm growth ideas and marketing campaigns. This not only includes our marketing team, but employees within operations, customer success, technology, and other functions across the company that don’t typically participate in the creative process. At Resident, we believe that great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone and we challenge our team to always be creative and innovate, especially given we are a consumer-first company and we are all consumers.
Great ideas can definitely come from anywhere, that’s wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
Have a clear view of who you are. At Resident, we are an innovative company that is constantly evolving, and we are looking for people that are not satisfied with “good.” The quote by Benjamin Franklin, “If better is possible, then good is not enough,” is something that speaks to us. We are looking for people who live by that philosophy.
Find people that can hire. All of our team members constantly recruit. They are the biggest advocates of the company and they are so passionate about what we do that they can convince anyone to join us. It is really incredible to see how well our team recruits.
We look for the future. Many companies are overly obsessive of what candidates did in the past. We spend our time talking and understanding about what you’re going to do in the future. We look for people that are excited about making a difference in the future and don’t dwell and live in the past.
Looking for problem-solvers. As a growing company, we are constantly trying to solve problems. Problem-solving and coming up with innovative solutions is the norm at Resident. We are looking for people that are not rattled when things don’t work out exactly as they were planned. We look for people that come up with innovative ideas and always see problems as an opportunity.
Get out of your comfort zone. Nothing really gets done when we’re comfortable. We look for people that want to get things done and that requires doing things that we don’t always feel comfortable doing. Part of growing and evolving is doing new things that don’t feel comfortable at first, but once you do them, great things happen and then you’re on to conquer the next big mountain.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
Understanding the importance of personal growth. As humans, we are constantly looking to grow. This means learning new skills, getting more responsibility, and also making more money. Everyone views personal growth differently, hence the word personal. At Resident, we look to understand what every person specifically wants to achieve and provide that opportunity to them.
Every voice matters. It is important that everyone in our company understand that their voice matters. If someone has a growth idea, they share it with the relevant group and very often those ideas get implemented. If someone sees something that is not right, the issue is immediately addressed. Although we value the importance of teamwork, we strongly believe that one person can make a difference. Positive change can come from anyone.
Invest in Team Education. We want our Customer Success team to be experts in the home furnishings space so they have the confidence they need to do their jobs every day and provide value to our customers. One of the ways in which we’re helping them accomplish this is through our virtual “Home Goods Academy.” All Customer Success team members spend two weeks learning about our products, the materials we use and why, the manufacturing processes and so much more. We update our Academy with new information — and are expanding our trainings into our other products categories.
What are your most effective strategies for retaining employees?
Make people feel valued. At Resident, we strongly value all of the work and effort our team puts in day in and day out. We understand that people appreciate and deserve credit for all their hard work. We strongly urge all of our team members to commend people for the good work they’re doing. People value the compliments not just from their managers but also from their peers.
Be transparent. We have a team of super-smart people. They know when things are going well and know when we’ve hit a speed bump. The best thing you can do is to be fully transparent with them. It’s pretty amazing to see how well people react when you tell them exactly what is going on without sugarcoating anything. When the team knows everything, they really feel a part of the organization.
Be flexible. We are all individuals and we all go through ups and downs. When things are not going our way, we want to have the freedom to take some time off or work from somewhere else. At Resident, we believe that people perform at their best when they’re clear-headed and doing it on their own terms. We have a very flexible work environment and urge our team to do what they need to do or be where they need to be.
In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends?
In our fast-moving digital world, it is more important now than ever for every industry to keep up with the latest trends to remain relevant, including HR. If we want to continue to attract the best talent, we know staying competitive can mean aligning with some of the latest trends. That said, every company has to stay true to their culture. You can’t jump on every hot workplace trend without losing sight of what your company and employees value and need. As a DTC home furnishings retailer, we are hyper-aware of how the right aesthetic can yield creativity, collaboration, and joy. Because of this, our offices around the globe were designed to feature collaborative working spaces, smaller areas for independent work or calls, as well as informal meetings areas to socialize or work from.
Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
Remote Workforce. Giving employees the flexibility to work remotely is a great example of how Resident has increased our value as an employer. At Resident, we don’t just market to the United States coasts, we appeal to shoppers across the country. Our workforce reflects this because we give employees the flexibility to deliver great work, no matter their location.
Continued education. At Resident, we urge our team to continue to learn. This may include doing an online course on a specific subject, going to a conference, or having one of our Resident experts teach the rest of the team on their specific space. We have weekly lunches where someone else teaches the group on a different topic. These sessions also give the team a good view of what else other people are working on.
Get to know people on a personal level. I try to talk to as many of our team members about their personal lives as much as I talk to them about work. I really value personal connections. I think that when team members understand that we really care about them as people and not as employees, they will go the extra mile to not let you down. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people.
You are a person of great 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?
One of the things we’ve learned as an industry leader that offers mattresses for every type of sleeper is that sleep deprivation is a growing epidemic. One out of three adults in the US is not getting the minimum requirement of seven hours of sleep each night. Research shows that sleep deprivation is associated with a shorter lifespan and an increased risk of several health conditions, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer, as well as other issues such as inability to concentrate, excessive eating and general fatigue. Whether it’s fighting sleep, working way too late or binge-watching shows all night, humans are the only mammals that willingly delay sleep. Our customers have told us that our products have improved their lives, and I am passionate about creating a culture that encourages wellness through sleep and self-restoration. For our part, this also means creating a company culture that encourages a healthy work-life balance and which celebrates performance, not endurance. It’s a simple movement, get people to sleep more.
You bring up an important reminder about the need for a healthy work-life balance. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” (Stephen R. Covey)
As a DTC company, we are in the business of listening. Listening to our customers, listening to our suppliers, listening to our partners, listening to our teammates, and even listening to our competitors. Once we understood that we do not have all the answers, but our customers, suppliers, partners, teammates, and competitors do have all the answers, all we have to do is just listen to understand. It’s really that simple. On a personal level, I have developed a habit to fully listen to someone to get their opinions and views because if they’re different than mine, that is when I can learn something new. I don’t always have to agree with their view, but I do get more educated.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
Stephen Curry from the Golden State Warriors. First of all, I am a huge Warriors basketball fan, but I look at Steph Curry as the ultimate professional. In a league where almost all of the athletes are physical specimens, Steph Curry looks like a fish out of water. He was not born with a unique athletic ability. He has had to work harder and longer than anyone else and that is why he has succeeded. He was passed over by all the top basketball colleges and when he got in the NBA, all of the skeptics simply said he was too small and not athletic enough. He has always believed in himself and has been willing to put in the work to be successful. I look at someone like Steph, who is willing to put in the work, as a prime example of hard work pays off. If Steph is reading this by any chance, would love to find a way to work together as well.
Thank you for sharing so many valuable insights with us today!