Always talk about the “Why” and not just the “What,” and try not to talk about the “How.” If you want your team to excel at what they do, explain the reason behind what you are asking them to achieve. Explain why it’s important and how it impacts the company’s business goals or the department’s goals. This will both motivate them and give them the tools to succeed. Try not to spoon feed them with the “How.” As a manager, you should empower them to come up with the solution rather than solve their challenges. This is how you allow them to grow and learn. I try to do this even with my supporting departments. For example — I want my HR team to really understand the business, so they can recruit the right people for each team.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vered Raviv Schwarz. Vered is COO of property management platform Guesty, where she brings nearly 20 years of experience in global operations to overseeing teams including Customer Experience, Finance, Legal, HR, Customer Success and Data & Analytics. Prior to Guesty, Vered was COO of Fiverr where she grew the company from 40 employees to over 400 in her six year tenure. Before Fiverr, Vered held senior executive positions in private and public global tech companies including Kenshoo, MediaMind (now Sizmek) and Radware. Vered has been featured in prominent media outlets including Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur and The Next Web. In her free time, she serves on the advisory boards of several startups and participates in mentorship programs focused on female entrepreneurship.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I began my career in law, first focusing on IPOs and M&As in a law firm, and later moved on to become the In-house General Counsel for a tech company.
A big change for me was when I was asked to take on the Operations department in addition to the Legal department. I could have said, “But I don’t know anything about operations,” however, I decided to take the risk of expanding my role and trying my hand at something I had never done before. I believe this additional responsibility helped put me on the path to COO.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I am always interested in the way we touch people’s lives with technology. Since joining Guesty, I have heard many interesting stories from our customers, most of which are entrepreneurs striving to succeed in this new sharing economy that didn’t exist 10 years ago. These individuals make a living off listing short-term rental properties on Airbnb, Booking.com and more.
One great example of a female entrepreneur who has been able to succeed in this space with the help of Guesty’s software is a Hawaii-based property manager, Angela Tseng. Angela’s company, Aboard, offers short-term and vacation rentals in Honolulu, but the listings are located in a less-traveled area of the city. For most vacation rental companies, this would be an obstacle to growth, but Guesty has enabled Angela to boost her occupancy in a less touristy environment, while achieving and maintaining the hugely important Superhost status.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Airbnb is a household name, but what many don’t know is that with the boom of platforms that facilitate short-term rentals, has come a new generation of entrepreneurs who have built a business off of renting out and managing properties for short-stays.
Guesty was born out of professional property managers’ need to be able to better manage the several operational tasks that are associated with property management on a daily basis. Whether it be staff management, issuing reports to homeowners, or automating guest check-in and check-out, our software provides solutions that help them save valuable time so they can focus on what matters most: growing their businesses.
The travel industry has changed, and Guesty’s end-to-end software is helping power that change.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Two things are exciting me the most about my role.
First, we are expanding. We recently opened a new office in Los Angeles, and by the end of 2019, Guesty will have a few offices up and running across Europe. We are looking forward to becoming a more localized business to further meet the needs of our customers who have built a business off of the Gig Economy. Not to mention, our expansion illustrates that the short-term rental industry is continuing to expand and reach new audiences. In addition, property managers who use Guesty, continue to grow their listings and build their businesses with us.
The second most exciting project for me is bringing more diversity into travel tech, both in terms of the Guesty team and in terms of our client base. I believe the Gig Economy is a key driver for equal opportunity and diversity, as it sets no boundaries and doesn’t suffer from the usual biases. Anyone can tap into the Gig Economy — as a freelancer, a host, a driver, or an entrepreneur. In my previous role of COO at Fiverr I tried to work on programs to embrace a diverse audience of sellers in the marketplace, and I believe we can do the same at Guesty by building a community of property managers who support one another.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
A good manager should motivate and empower others. If you try to accomplish all the work for your employees, you will not grow as a manager nor allow your team to grow professionally and personally.
Make sure your team leaders understand the big picture, such as where the business is going as well as the KPIs they need to meet in order to contribute to the company’s strategic goals. Make sure your internal communication enables your messaging to cascade down so your team leaders can motivate and empower their team members while creating a more motivated, committed and inspired team.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Set your priorities and stick to them. Make sure you grow strong leaders within your team and allow them to shine. You can’t do everything yourself. A good manager should be a great communicator, and in particular with a large team, it’s important to know how to articulate goals and objectives, define roles and responsibilities and convey direction and values.
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?
I am grateful to all my managers who put their trust in me and many of my peers who helped me succeed by collaborating towards common goals. If I have to name one individual it would be Micha Kaufman, the Co-Founder and CEO of Fiverr, who hired me as COO of Fiverr and encouraged me to be as creative as possible and invest in values I care about, such as diversity and equality.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I don’t feel I do enough in that respect. I think that when we are younger, many of us focus on the daily battle of just making it all work — building a career, a network, and juggling it with everyday life. Only after I made it to the C-suite did I realize it’s time for me to focus on helping others get there.
Today I try to help female entrepreneurs by giving advice, leveraging my network and participating in mentorship programs. I also work on programs to increase diversity in tech companies, both in terms of gender but also in terms of embracing different minority groups. I am very proud of the fact that in my previous role at Fiverr and current one at Guesty, over 40% of employees were women (including in the senior management teams).
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Learn how to listen. Most people love to listen to themselves. As a leader, you have to leverage the collective wisdom in the room. If you only talk and don’t hear what others have to say, you are limiting yourself. I learned that as a young lawyer. At a meeting I was trying to impress the senior partner during a negotiation with the other party. After the meeting he told me, “Always listen before you talk. It will give you more data to work with. When you talk first, you are providing ammunition to the other party.”
- Always talk about the “Why” and not just the “What,” and try not to talk about the “How.” If you want your team to excel at what they do, explain the reason behind what you are asking them to achieve. Explain why it’s important and how it impacts the company’s business goals or the department’s goals. This will both motivate them and give them the tools to succeed. Try not to spoon feed them with the “How.” As a manager, you should empower them to come up with the solution rather than solve their challenges. This is how you allow them to grow and learn. I try to do this even with my supporting departments. For example — I want my HR team to really understand the business, so they can recruit the right people for each team.
- Be approachable. I alway tell my kids that I would never be mad at them for doing something wrong, but I would be mad at them for not talking to me about it, because if I don’t know about it I can’t help them. It’s the same with employees. You want your team to feel they can share everything with you, their success and their failure, because your goal it to help them succeed.
- Don’t be afraid to let go. You cannot scale as a manager if you keep doing everything yourself. You must trust your team and let go of certain areas of responsibility in order to lead. You have to focus on the big picture and on the 20% that brings the highest value to the organization. I see many young managers that insist on being in every meeting and being copied on every email. You cannot manage a large team and be everywhere all the time — it’s simply not a scalable model.
- Hire people that are better than you. Have the confidence to hire the best people in every area of responsibility. They will not overshadow you. They will help you shine. Your team’s success is your success and you will only be as good as the team you build.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As I mentioned, one of my areas of interest is diversity and inclusion. I believe that a diverse organization is stronger and more innovative. I believe all nations can be made stronger by embracing people that are different. I try to influence that in my small community of tech, but I believe we can do more in a broader capacity, specifically in raising the next generation. I would like to invest more in the education of girls and minorities to increase their chances of equal opportunity.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are many quotes by wise men and women, but I would like to share one I heard from my mother when I was 9 or 10. When I came to my mom with my math homework and told her I could not solve a certain exercise, my mother, a mathematician, told me, “Every exercise is solvable. If you didn’t solve it, it just means you need to invest more time figuring it out.”
This sentence is something I often think about when I have a problem to solve, and as a leader, you always need to solve problems. They can be in relation to systems, to people, to innovation, to processes, but if you believe you can solve anything and if you put your mind to it — you will.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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 🙂
Belinda Johnson, COO of Airbnb
Thank you so much for joining us!