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Op/Ed

12 pointed questions for Zillow’s Errol Samuelson

Errol Samuelson abruptly left Move, Inc. this month for competitor Zillow, and several tough questions remain in the wake of his departure.

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Earlier this month, Zillow announced that Errol Samuelson, former president of realtor.com and Chief Strategy Officer at Move, Inc. became their new Chief Industry Development Officer to direct the company’s relations with the industry. Move quickly promoted Samuelson’s number two, Curt Beardsley to fill his shoes, and days later, it was announced that Beardsley too, had converted to Zillow-ism. Both figures left on the heels of Trulia announcing that they had recruited John Whitney, the VP of ListHub (a Move company) to shore up their listing accuracy.

Some called the poaching a blow, others cited Move’s opportunity to bring in some new blood. Brad Inman, founder of Inman News recently sat down with Samuelson to discuss his exit, and we gained insight into Zillow’s culture. While we have tremendous respect for Inman and the paths he has paved for the industry, the video interview left us wanting more. Much more.

Prior to the publication of the video interview, we reached out to Samuelson, offering to tell his side of the story, even inviting him to do a video interview with our CEO who he has met with and spoken with in the past. He politely declined, citing that “right now I’m heads down with the team here in Seattle, putting together our plans for the next 6 months.”

Although our invitation stands, it may be because he knows that our policy is to not offer questions in advance, to never softball an interview, and to focus on the facts, that the interview was declined. For this reason, we were left wanting more. Much more.

12 questions remain for Errol Samuelson

Because we consider ourselves watchdogs for the Realtor membership and feel it fair that he answer to questions that impact not only Realtor-owned Realtor.com, but the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and their members. In that spirit, we have no choice but to ask these questions here.

  1. Why did you erase all memory from the iPhone, iPad, and laptop issued to you for business purposes by Move?
  2. Why didn’t you give the standard two week’s notice?
  3. Why did you resign by contacting the human resources department on a day that everyone knew your CEO would be in investor meetings and completely unavailable for the duration of the work day? Why didn’t you attend your scheduled 2013 review the next day with Steve Berkowitz and resign in person?
  4. When Berkowitz contacted you upon learning of your resignation, he asked only one thing – that you give him 24 hours before the announcement of your leaving goes public (we assume so he could finish his meeting and have his team mobilized to respond). You declined and the announcement went out just minutes later. Why wasn’t this request honored?
  5. How many Move employees did you contact after you had already left for Zillow? What was the context of those conversations?
  6. Why didn’t Curt Beardsley, your number two, leave at the same time as you?
  7. How do you feel about your actions (wiping hard drives, going to a competitor without notice) potentially impacting how Move will likely analyze Beardsley’s exit? Doesn’t this put Beardsley in an awkward position?
  8. Berkowitz noted that you were always one of the most outspoken critics of Realtor.com competitors, and to see that change overnight is like a Republican becoming Democrat with no explanation. How do you respond?
  9. In your interview with Inman, you allude to constraints at Move. Can you expound on those constraints?
  10. Were the constraints because of the company, or because in the past three years, a $90 million marketing budget was taken out of your hands, and you were stripped of involvement in day to day operations, leaving you as somewhat of a figurehead with tied hands? Is that the real reason you resigned?
  11. Zillow launched as the anti-Realtor.com, so why do you think they are recruiting talent from within the ranks of the company they once swore against and are creating products that are so similar to Move products? By joining Zillow, aren’t you just setting them up for the same failure you couldn’t control in your tenure at Move?
  12. In your new role in industry relations, wouldn’t you expect to walk into a broker’s office and receive this same line of questioning, given that the Realtor model is built on cooperation and trust?

Samuelson is a very pleasant person and not abrasive, so he is indeed a popular figure in the sector, but industry relations matters and it’s built on trust.

We look forward to getting answers to these questions, not because musical chairs aren’t common in corporate life, but because of the complexity of the Move, Inc. structure and how intertwined it is with NAR and their members; trade secrets are relevant.

This story originally appeared on AGBeat.com on March 25, 2014.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Op/Ed

Make better decisions in 2018 by quitting (wait, hear me out)

(EDITORIAL) 2018 doesn’t have to be the year that you start something. Embody the phrase “less is more” by quitting and letting go.

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Around this time every year, people everywhere gear up to attack New Year’s resolutions with short-lived vigor, while people like me get ready to ridicule some of the more over-the-top examples of the “New year, new me!” crowd. This year, perhaps we should consider the adage “less is more” by cutting old habits rather than implementing new ones.

Put simply, it isn’t feasible to jump into 20 different hobbies/routines/lifestyles every time a new year rolls around, yet we seem to convince ourselves otherwise every January 1st; if your heart isn’t in what you’re trying to do, you won’t stick with it, no matter how much you “want” to do it.

Take the gym crowd, for example: you may have an objective understanding that working out is good for you while actively hating the gym, making it difficult for you to stick to what ends up being a shaky resolution.

What IS feasible is taking stock of everything that you do that doesn’t fit into your paradigm of operation. Do you spend an unwanted extra hour or two on the computer each day? If so, perhaps it’s time to start drawing the line at 5:00 sharp rather than letting clients hold you over.

The same goes for personal preferences as well: you may feel as though you need to devote countless hours of your time to weeding or cleaning, but it may be better for you to focus on the things that actually matter to you.

Obviously, we all have responsibilities that demand our attention (we’re not suggesting that you start ditching your kids’ soccer practice in favor of Tequila Tuesdays) but it is possible to exaggerate those responsibilities’ importance.

What you do with the spare time from your lifestyle pruning is completely up to you; however, by focusing on your actual hobbies, interests, and passions, you’ll most likely find that your quality of life improves while your day-to-day stress level decreases exponentially.

2018 doesn’t have to be the year that you start something; instead, consider making it the year that you close some overdue chapters in your personal book to make a little more space for the things that you love.

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Op/Ed

Technologists still think they can supplant Realtors #eyeroll

(EDITORIAL) It’s an age-old tale, but a new Alexa app implies they’re going to put Realtors out of work. Sure thing, buddies.

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Gertrude Stein once wrote that, “everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

No doubt about it – the more information one can get, especially in a critical business negotiation – the better. But, as with many things, the volume of information becomes so overwhelming that we lose focus of what bits of information are truly important, how to deploy what we’ve learned from them, and how to use them to our advantage.

In a bygone era, Realtors used to serve as the founts of knowledge about a home – its features, its relative worth in the market, and what the neighborhood, schools, and modes of living around the house were like. With the rise of the Internet era, as well as multiple companies that aggregate this information from other places, consumers now need no longer rely on their Realtors for all of that information, being able to find it, along with interior and exterior pictures of the home, online.

So, some reason, with the continued expansion and refinement of the capabilities of online shopping, there won’t be a raison d’etre for Realtors any longer, with the home buying experience being able to be distilled and handled virtually, perhaps as easily as ordering a new house through Alexa.

After all, car buying was a very different experience just a few years ago, and now, through the efforts of Carvana, among others, one can now research, buy, and have delivered a car without ever leaving one’s house.

We get pitches every day from companies that seek to disrupt real estate, the most recent an Alexa app that claims to sell you a home (subtly indicating it doesn’t take a Realtor). Eyeroll.

Technologists continue to fail to take into account the added value that Realtors bring to each transaction and interaction with both home buyer and home seller. While providing information on a home and neighborhood no longer may be at their core mission for every interaction (although they must be prepared to do so), the ability for the Realtor to navigate the process of sale and purchase, intercede in negotiations when necessary, and frankly, to keep everyone’s emotions, which are often frayed, in check to keep the sale moving forward is vital.

For most of us, purchasing a home is the largest and most significant financial investment that we will make. While the internet, and technology-based disruptors in the space are amazing at providing us with information to narrow our choices when selecting a potential property (or, in the author’s case, providing too many choices), it doesn’t give us access to an expert on the process, a coach in negotiating the finer points of the sale, nor a counselor when things get hectic or the process hits a snag.

Using the services of both allows the customer to get the best of both worlds—data and information combined with someone who knows how to distill it into action, and that’s what a Realtor does – gets consumers into the action, in the right place, at the right time, and fights for the best outcome possible.

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Op/Ed

How to get a meaningful head start on your resolutions without magic

(EDITORIAL) Most editorials about resolutions offer apps or tricks, but let’s take a more meaningful look at how to make this your year.

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If you’re like most people, you abandoned your 2017 New Year’s resolutions in February or March. With 2018 just around the corner, you may be wondering if it’s really worth setting goals for the new year. After all, you didn’t do too well this year. What’s the point?

I believe that we need goals, personally and professionally. We fail, not because we aren’t committed, but because we set lofty goals that aren’t measurable and realistic.

Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions by doing things differently this year.

1. What is it that you really want to change?
Instead of thinking about what you should do differently, what would make you happy? Resolutions that matter to you personally are more likely to be seen through.

2. Focus on three things:

  • What is one thing you want to start doing?
  • What one thing would you want to stop doing?
  • What is it that you’re doing that you want to continue doing?

3. Set goals that are SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Instead of saying that you want to eat healthier, tell yourself that you are going to incorporate more color into your menu.

How? By choosing one unfamiliar piece of produce each week and learning to cook with it. Or by selecting a salad when you go out for fast food.

Think about small changes that you can make, instead of making broad, sweeping changes.

You don’t need to download productivity apps or buy a whole bunch of equipment to make lasting changes to your routine. But you do need to really think about your resolutions to have a good handle on what you really want to change. Go into 2018 with determination to be a better you.

Carefully consider your goals to really identify what you want and how you can make lasting changes.

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