Homestead Road began out of a vision held by co-founders Andrey Sokurec and Alex Delendik of building “a different kind of home buying company.” They also took inspiration from other large multinational corporations such as “Zappos, Amazon, Disney, Costco, and Nordstrom, as they cultivate their company’s culture focused on “creating raving fans.”
At Homestead Road, Andrey Sokurec gives clients an unforgettable experience, as the company works for their goal to “educate consumers and help them make the best decisions for themselves and create ‘Feel the Joy’ experiences for everyone.” The company also aims to please every one of its clients through impeccable customer service, ranging from “no pressure sales appointments to thoughtful touches like bringing cookies to potential home sellers.”
Andrey Sokurec has come a long way. In 2005, he came to the United States from his native Belarus with nothing in his pocket but a dream. He had no money. He didn’t know the culture, and he could barely speak a lick of English. Despite that, he began his career in the US as a worker at a construction site, and then as a loan officer, spending 60 to 70 hours a week at the site to provide for his family and fulfill his dreams.
After recovering from the recession in 2008, Andrey Sokurec found success in real estate. He has since “completed over $100 million in real estate transactions,” which built up his sizable portfolio of houses. He has also become a real estate authority, founding the Midwest Real Estate Investment Association, hosting the TV show “The Real Deal in Real Estate,” and appearing as a “frequent guest presenter at investment summits and training seminars.”
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Andrey Sokurec: The special sauce is a group of talented people who have defined roles and responsibilities. The unique combination of people brings a unique culture. It’s the people who have ideas. They build relationships with customers. They build creativity, the intangibles.
I think understanding that we’re here for the long haul is also important. We have no intention to sell our company. Many times, when smaller businesses have investors or private equity, they lose the culture.
We made a decision we wouldn’t take outside investors early on. It helped us be resourceful. We didn’t have a lot of money to buy fancy furniture or rent a big office, but the lack of outside influence kept us from being pushed to generate short-term profit. We’re focused on the long term health of the company. When private capital is involved, it’s hard for the CEO to make the right decision for the company, for the community and for the culture.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Andrey Sokurec: I learned quickly that you need to schedule vacation first at the beginning of the year. When you are on vacation, don’t look at emails. Entrepreneurs are workaholics and need to be trained how to rest. It helps you rejuvenate. Don’t be reactive to all problems and challenges. If you’re not rested, everything seems to be a challenge. Also, celebrate your successes. Before you plan your week, write things you are proud of before deciding what needs to be accomplished next.
Jerome Knyszewski: 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?
Andrey Sokurec: I have a lot of life mentors like Harvey Mackay (NYT Best Selling Author of “Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive”) and Roberto Rodriquez (Business Advisor and Homestead Road Board Member). I also get inspired by reading people’s biographies like Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie spent the first half of his life building a company and the second half of distributing wealth. I want to do the same thing. It’s really critical to find role models or people you like in different categories (Business, Health, etc.).
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Andrey Sokurec: A good company has the foundational elements and is seeing success in the markets it serves.
A great company has a well-defined long term vision and purpose and has also found its unique culture to enable it to move toward that vision. Homestead Road prides itself in being a broad based, culturally diverse company. We have people who speak more than 10 languages in our office. They are all unique pieces to our puzzle and offer invaluable perspectives. We want to consider many viewpoints when we’re solving problems. Finally, a great company is socially responsible. Homestead Road donates 10% of our proceeds to various charities.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business 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 and “restart their engines”?
Andrey Sokurec: Hit the restart button and purposely try to look at things through a new lens. Lean on your network and ask your mentors or contemporaries about their favorite books. Reading can spark so many good ideas. Travel the world and see museums and see how other people live. It is very motivating to go to Europe and see the culture there. When you always stay in the same place, you become comfortable with your own lifestyle. It’s good to see other perspectives. After you go through this process, you may just find you’re bored and you need to start something else.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Andrey Sokurec: During turbulent times (like the ones we’re experiencing with COVID-19), it can serve as an opportunity to re-evaluate your business model and explore new opportunities. In terms of re-evaluation, take the time to sit back and better understand your customers, your competition and the category you compete in, while also evaluating your business operations and processes including zero-based budgeting. You have to adapt to reality and constantly adjust your processes. You can’t just continue to do the same thing.
And in respect to exploring new opportunities, when you take the time to step back from the day-to-day, it’s easier to identify or recognize synergies or adjacencies that are a fit with your existing business and customer base. In fact, we recently started a real estate brokerage. We recognized the strong fit, which presented an opportunity to add $1 million to our bottom line.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Andrey Sokurec: In my experience, running a company with a large financial risk is underestimated. Homestead Road guarantees $30 million in loans for the homes we invest in. Managing financial liability is an incredibly difficult part of running a company. The challenge is doing it and not worrying too much, especially about the things you can’t control. Dale Carnegie wrote a book called “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” that has been very helpful to me.
You need to expect that something will go wrong. Like with COVID-19, you have to be prepared to lose everything while navigating those challenges.
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Andrey Sokurec: The little things you do for your customers go a long way to build your brand. In fact, 10% of our business is referrals. We build lasting relationships with our customers and it really helps us grow. Also, it’s so important to put in place your outside-in metrics to understand every customer touch point from the customer’s perspective.
I started paying attention to Nordstrom, Disney, Zappos, Amazon and other brands I like so I could learn from them. Zappos Insights has a lot of good information on culture and customer service. We used some of that information and built our proprietary Feel the Joy process. When you sell your house to Homestead Road, we offer a flexible closing time to make sure everything is done on your timetable. You get to see your home one more time after we’ve done repairs and other updates. We give you a watercolor painting of your home.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Andrey Sokurec: I do share this concern. We live in such a fast-moving time. People want instant response and instant gratification. You need to allocate resources to respond to complaints otherwise you could have a situation like United Airlines did when they broke a guitar and did not reimburse its owner. With social media today, it spreads like fire. Expectations from customers are very high. At the end of the day, we just want to do the right thing and take 100% responsibility for our actions in a genuine and transparent way.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Andrey Sokurec: Some CEOs try to do everything by themselves. Michael E Gerber wrote the following in “The E Myth Revisited”: “If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business — you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”
CEOs should focus on hiring the right people around them. Ideally, the business should be able to run smoothly if you (or any other employee) leave. Consider bringing in consultants to start in order to put your company on a solid path. CEOs should also make sure their companies build or adapt proper systems from day one. Finally, they should dream big. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.” -Les Brown
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
Andrey Sokurec: I hope to teach kids how to be an entrepreneur. I would establish a mentorship tribe for teenagers. When I was looking for mentors, I looked everywhere. There should be a program that teaches kids from diverse backgrounds and income levels how to build their own businesses.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Andrey Sokurec: Readers can follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They can check out my company, Homestead Road, at homesteadroad.com. I’m also proud to announce I’ve written a new book called “Total Financial Awakening” which provides a starting point for people who want to generate wealth while being truly happy through passive real estate income.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!