OwnerRez and the Power of Happiness

*This article is sponsored content from Paul Waldschmidt, CEO of OwnerRez*

 

Here at OwnerRez, our roots are from the homeowner side of the hosting world, so we’ve had a reputation in the past as a product that isn’t built for large PMs.

Over time as word spread, larger PMs began noticing our featureset and started reaching out. In almost every case, there’s a common exclamation-point moment where each PM, after attending a webinar or talking to our Customer Success team, realizes that OwnerRez is far more robust and flexible than the system they were using previously. They can do things now that they couldn’t do before. If they could do it before, they can now do it easier or faster. Our workflow is more complete. Our team is more engaged.

In a different publication, I was interviewed about the “power of parameterization” —a phrase we use here at OwnerRez to describe our thought process and build style. We’re an engineer-led company so speed and flexibility are at the heart of everything we do. Parameterization is how we extend that flexibility while maintaining an intuitive user experience.

But parameterization is not really the root cause of OwnerRez’s growth and success. We tout the benefits of being an engineer-led company, but that too is not the root cause. Neither is having a lot of support videos or webinars.

The root cause of OwnerRez’s success is our commitment to “create happiness.”

The dearly-missed Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos and a tech visionary, was widely known for his work in building thriving startups. His book Delivering Happiness was a New York Times bestseller and detailed the benefits of happy customers, a focus on company culture and helping employees grow and thrive personally. He famously paid $2,000 to brand-new employees to quit—no one ever did. While Zappos technically sells shoes, the company’s real product is finding and delivering happiness.

OwnerRez was in its early days when Tony’s book came out. In those days, we developed OwnerRez to manage our own properties and provide tools for a small circle of friends. As we began accepting customers, our approach with each customer was modeled after Tony’s philosophy—create happiness above all else. In the years that followed, we built up the team and our approach with team members was the same—create happiness in the team. As we worked to develop partnerships and integrations, we worked to create happiness with the partnership. As a rule, we don’t just build integrations to simply check them off a list. The partnership needs to mean something and be complete for our users.

Creating happiness sounds silly and imprecise, but in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. It takes a lot of hard work over a long period of time to pull off. When a partner uses our API to create an app for mutual users, we test that app ourselves and point out problems before approving it. While the partner isn’t happy to do more work up front, everyone ends up much happier in the end—our customers, our fearless support team and even the partners themselves.

Creating happiness takes humility and being willing to adapt and evolve constantly. It requires understanding how your team really operates and how your customers really interact with your system, which means you have to measure and understand the details. You have to be skeptical of yourself and your biases.

Creating happiness is met with cynicism at every turn. It takes a commitment by the entire team to overcome that. When team members are dealing with a frustrated customer and notice the account is small (only three properties, it’s a little guy!), they have to be reminded of the big picture. Happiness creates bigger profits in the long run than the short-term gains of cutting off small, noisy accounts. Often, small, noisy accounts show you flaws in the back corners of the system and push you to correct them. Our engineering team humorously refers to this as “development by maximum annoyance.”

Creating happiness means that sometimes you have to create temporary pain to gain long-term happiness. I mentioned the situation where partners are forced to bring value and meet expectations before being approved, but the same applies elsewhere.

We call ourselves a “People First” company (a term coined by Michel Falcon based on ideas from Harvard Business Review) which means, among other things, that we are committed to being financially responsible. It’s hard to care about your team when you’re spending money frivolously or taking on large amounts of debt, so we don’t do that.

As part of being financially responsible, we recently had to increase our pricing because we realized that we could not expand our operation to handle new growth based on the revenue at the time. We waited as long as we could, delaying it twice because of COVID, then wrote a note to customers explaining the decision. More than a few customers were unhappy, but in the end it was received well because our customers understood our motives and they trusted our sincerity.

Chris (my co-founder) and I communicate with our users directly and frequently. Each of us individually answer more than a hundred support tickets per week, often many dozens per day, which keeps us connected to our customers and team. That not only reinforces what we know about our product and processes, but it creates a dialog with our users that they’ve grown to trust. Trust leads to reliability which leads to happiness.

The decision to raise prices created some temporary pain, but in the long run, reinforced our commitment to financial responsibility and transparency. Customers appreciate that and would rather pay more to be happy.

No matter how many properties you manage and no matter how long you’ve been with your current software, take a second to ask yourself: am I happy? Do you know the team that makes the software you rely on every day to run your business? If tomorrow an investor made them an offer, what would you want them to do?

A good software business sees its customers as a partnership and cares about their happiness as much as they care about themselves.

A good software business invests in its team because the team is not just a temporary group of people who work together, but a family that needs to thrive and enjoy what it does every day.

The OwnerRez family is happy and we hope you are too!

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