Editor’s note: Published by the residential real estate strategic consulting and information firm Swanepoel T3 Group each January, the Swanepoel Power 200 (SP200) ranks the real estate industry’s most powerful, influential leaders. It also recognizes leaders in several subcategories, from technology execs to social influencers.
The SP200 rankings reflect a rigorous, careful evaluation process supported by data and a detailed methodology. To help make its selections, the Swanepoel T3 Group maintains a robust database, with stats and information on more than 3,000 real estate executives and leaders. It spends hundreds of hours poring over data, debating internally and verifying all candidates before settling on its list each year.
In the wake of the release of the 2017 list, the fourth, on January 9, the Swanepoel T3 Group is profiling leaders and executives included on one of the 10 2017 SP200 lists.
Tyler Smith, 33, leads SkySlope, the digital transaction management firm he founded in 2009 and leads as CEO. His Sacramento, California-based firm had a huge 2016, which saw it more than double its employee count from 41 to 96 and move into a new downtown 24,000-square-foot office, four times the size of its previous one.
Reflecting that growth, the firm continues to add to its client roster, which includes some of the nation’s largest brokerages such as Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, Alain Pinel Realtors, RealtyONEGroup and Pacific Union International (SkySlope doesn’t sell directly to agents).
This steady success earned Smith a debut on the 2017 SP200 main list at No. 184 and a spot on the inaugural SP200 Emerging Leaders list, which recognizes 20 up-and-coming industry leaders aged 40 years old and younger as of Dec. 31, 2016.
A former top-producing real estate agent and 2011 Realtor Magazine 30 Under 30 honoree, Smith built his firm from the ground up with a real estate practitioner’s sensibility. That sensibility, as we all know, is rapidly changing.
As technology continues to reshape real estate (profiled in the 2017 Swanepoel Trends Report chapter, “Fighting for Control Over Data Integration“), companies such as SkySlope will increasingly sit at the center of the conversation, making up-and-coming real estate technology leaders like Smith worth paying close attention to.
Smith responded to some questions from the Swanepoel T3 Group about his leadership style and vision.
Briefly describe your career trajectory.
When I was 19, I bought my first home and had a terrible experience with my Realtor. That was my driving force to get into real estate; I knew I could provide a better experience for buyers and sellers.
I went from a few transactions in my first year as a solo agent to closing 300 homes annually and leading a team that consistently closed over 1000 homes each year.
With the amount of transactions my team was processing, paperwork was slowing us down. In an effort to streamline the workflow and be more efficient, I created a paperless transaction system by piecing together existing software. After receiving positive feedback from my colleagues, who began using the system as well, I decided to turn my digital workaround into its own unique platform. I launched SkySlope in 2009 and began operating it full time in 2011.
What is your leadership secret sauce?
Leadership starts with knowing who you are. Businesses change, markets emerge but who we are will never change. At SkySlope we identified nine core values that truly define us.
To bring these values to life, we set internal goals for each department using the Objective and Key Results system (a goal-setting strategy made popular by Google and used by many top tech companies). This technique allows each department to dial into what’s truly important and focus on progress.
My goal, as a CEO, is to make sure we embody our core values throughout the organization. We have implemented a company-wide program that allows employees to publically recognize each other for demonstrating one or more of our values. It’s been incredible to see the amount awareness and buy-in that the team has.
We set the bar incredibly high when it comes to hiring. It’s expected that our candidates are talented and knowledgeable. Additionally, they must fit with our culture and have a clear understanding of their own personal goals.
Favorite “leadership” books, resources?
I try to read a book a week. A recent favorite is “Turn the Ship Around” by L. David Marquet. It’s a phenomenal book that flips the script on traditional leadership methods and instead urges leaders to trust their team members and empower them to assume personal responsibility for every action.
In addition to books, I enjoy reading articles from business leaders and tech colleagues on the publishing platform Medium. The posts are often thought-provoking and inspire me to think of ways I can reinvent and innovate at SkySlope.
Smith at his desk at SkySlope headquarters in Sacramento, California.
What’s at the top of your to-do list right now?
This year, more than any other, I am dedicated to innovation. I want to excite the real estate industry with the best and most intuitive technology. To do this, we need to connect with our brokers to better understand their needs.
We are looking to not only advance transaction management but go beyond it. Keep your eyes peeled, because you’re going to see a lot of new things from SkySlope in 2017.
Favorite relaxing activity that’s not hanging with family?
Being in Sacramento, I have great options. Napa Valley is an easy day trip or I head up the hill to relax at Lake Tahoe for the weekend.
I enjoy pushing myself beyond the limits. I want to be comfortable in the uncomfortable and I’m always looking for ways to improve and grow. I find the mix between strenuous activity and nature to be relaxing.
What are the biggest trends you see in the industry right now?
I have to be honest, I’m not seeing a lot of game-changing trends right now. No one is shaking things up. The industry deserves better! We need more thought-leaders innovating and going beyond the status quo.
It’s not a trend yet, but I think artificial intelligence and automation will be a big part of our future. We are just scratching the surface and I’m looking forward to the ways in which the real estate industry will reinvent itself.