A CONVERSATION WITH
CO-FOUNDER AND CEO,
1. Tell us a little bit about hOM and how you are looking at amenities in residential and office properties.
When you think “amenity,” you first think of purpose-built spaces: gyms, lounges, pools. Installing these types of amenities into a property is an expensive and permanent endeavor. It requires certificate of occupancy changes, construction, and, at a bare minimum, hundreds of dedicated square feet. At hOM, we provide services that enhance properties without the need for dedicated space. Programs like fitness classes and events offer landlords the opportunity to engage tenants and create a sticky in-building experience while making use of underutilized existing spaces like vacant units, lobbies, and rooftops. As proven by the success of co-working and co-living, community is a powerful leasing and retention tool.
2. What are the top amenities you are seeing requested by tenants these days? Any interesting shifts in demand neighborhood to neighborhood?
Number one across any portfolio or market is always yoga. We collect data from tenants when we on-board a new property, and it always reads that way. In commercial properties, that plays out as more of a yoga/meditation/no-sweat class that can be taken in a full suit at lunchtime, while meeting the demands of a more intense yoga class at the end of the day post-work.
3. Everyone on the hOM team also teaches classes. Chat with us a little about how this affects recruiting and your company culture.
This obviously started out of necessity, and we haven’t been able to let it go as we’ve grown. The benefits we’ve seen from hiring candidates that can both provide on-site services like yoga or meditation, as well as manage our P&L or build our technology, far outweigh the extra challenge it gives our recruiting team. We create a consistent work environment for fitness professionals with benefits and paid time off because stability directly affects IQ and health. Operationally, because all of our employees have first-hand understanding of what they are selling or building, the lead time for problem solving is vastly decreased and it creates many internal efficiencies around communication. For our clients, it means their on-site providers can also answer questions about scheduling, technology, marketing, and sales. Full-time employees make sense from a security and insurance perspective for large commercial properties and in the long run end up being more cost-effective for the company as it greatly reduces turnover.
Culturally, it requires our recruiting team to find core business function candidates that are deeply rooted in our mission. We’re the only company that we’ve come across that has structured our team in this way, giving us access to top talent in each market and creating a singular home for like-minded professionals. Day-to-day, it means we meditate before every meeting; every other week, our company-wide meeting is a fitness class; and our internal workshops can vary from goal-setting to the very meta big-thinking vision of how the company can affect the greater happiness of the world without having anyone check their phone or roll their eyes. Arguably, the team is more empathetic and intuitive because they are working as wellness providers and it creates an open and understanding environment for both employees and clients.
4. Being a founder, you’re also a saleswoman. Give our readers a tip or two regarding how you have found success pitching hOM to the relatively esoteric industry that real estate is.
We provide fitness classes and parties, but as opposed to other providers of these services, hOM is a full-suite solution designed to work seamlessly in real estate. From marketing, tech, roll-out, and day-to-day operations, we have a deep understanding of the dynamics of landlord-tenant relationships and internal manager/owner and on-site dynamics. In this way, our sales tactics are very tailored to the landlord. We provide relevant comp data for a prospective portfolio to demonstrate average engagement and potential retention which is the most effective way of quantifying something as unquantifiable as amenities. Most of our sales are catalyzed by competition, however. Because we’re working with landlords of physical assets, their competition is literally next door and impossible to get away from. As WeWork/WeLive increases its footprint, and more properties develop community-engagement strategies, our sales team becomes more effective as consultants and educators. We’ve found it a far more powerful sales tactic not to sell, but simply to lay out what steps the industry as a whole is currently taking to live up to the growing expectations of their tenant base.
5. What’s one thing you’ve learned about running a company that you would share with other founders?
We’re still very much a startup, so I can’t yet talk about return on sweat equity and encourage everyone to jump into entrepreneurship…BUT, a company is its people. The word is literally defined as “a number of individuals gathered together, especially for a particular purpose,” and I’m constantly re-learning about the power of culture. Whether it’s fostering culture or re-thinking organizational structures, hOM keeps showing me I can never let my guard down or de-prioritize culture management. Every additional few hires drastically adjusts the needs of the team and so it’s a constant balancing act.