#SP200 Leader York Baur, Moxi Works CEO
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.
Baur has led the Seattle-based company since 2012, two years after large brokerage and franchisor Windermere Real Estate spun it out as a separate firm. In 2015, Mid-Atlantic brokerage giant Long & Foster Real Estate took equity in Moxi Works.
The 55-employee firm serves approximately 50,000 agents in roughly 40 brokerages with a platform designed for the connected era. Its system integrates with brokerages’ other technologies and systems with what it calls a “power strip.”
Moxi Works represents a rapidly growing real estate technology platform trend, which we explored deeply in this years Swanepoel Trends Report. Brokerage platforms streamline workflows, facilitate seamless integrations, foster agent allegiance and, overall, boost efficiency. Read more in the report.
Baur shared his leadership vision with the Swanepoel T3 Group recently, presented below as a Q&A.
Briefly describe your career trajectory.
I’m a Northwest software company refugee. I’ve been an exec in a dozen companies in everything from enterprise software to internet search and advertising. This is now my fifth year as CEO of Moxi Works, and I’m more fired up than ever about what we can do to help brokerages. We have a tremendous opportunity to help brokerages reclaim the margin they’ve seen disappear over the last couple of decades – that’s what gets me up every morning. I believe that if we continue to help brokerages grow margin, we’ll have a long, high-growth life as a company, and I’ll still be having fun running it.
Share one or two leadership tactics you use often, swear by.
The key is to keep the focus outside the building – on customers. We’ve got great people and we’re really good at building platforms and products, so if we keep listening to our customers’ problems and solving them, we’ll continue to grow.
On leadership, two things drive organizations: passion and intellectual curiosity. I try to exhibit those characteristics daily, and I expect the same from my employees. That means challenging the status quo, and having healthy debates about not just what we’re doing, but why.
This becomes even more critical as your firm grows. As a leader, you can’t possibly control the actions and activities of a large number of people, nor should you – if you do, you won’t attract the best talent or get the most out of it. You have to ensure all employees see the big problems you’re trying to solve as a company and the passion you have for solving them, so they come to own their own roles in a vibrant, productive way.
Favorite “leadership” books, resources?
I try to look outside the tech industry constantly. Tech people have a habit of breathing their own exhaust – we think we’re inventing everything, when often the problems we’re solving have already been solved in other industries, and we can learn from them.
My favorite leadership book is “Well Made in America – Lessons from Harley-Davidson on Being the Best.” It chronicles the struggles Harley went through in the 1980s, and how the decisions made then drove decades of amazing business performance.
The lesson is: understand the “why,” and have passion for it. Harley’s mission statement is “Fulfilling dreams of personal freedom is more than a phrase. It’s our purpose and our passion.” Doesn’t mention motorcycles, does it?
Baur’s desk at Moxi Works’ Seattle headquarters.
What’s at the top of your to-do list right now?
The most important thing we can do as an advisor to brokerages is to educate them. Open platforms like ours allow you to future-proof your business while getting the benefits of today’s technology, instead of waiting for some silver bullet.
In the last 12 months, we’ve built a partner program with over 20 companies whose products work with ours on our platform – no logging in 17 times, no rekeying data. We’re now expanding that program to dozens more partners so that brokers can take advantage of the promise. Brokers don’t have to wait around for Project Upstream – they can use technology to make their business better now and have a plan and a roadmap for what’s coming.
Favorite relaxing activity that’s not hanging with family?
I’m a huge fan of motorcycles, and have been riding for 35 years. Riding has a tremendous feeling of freedom and self-reliance, and it requires absolute focus, so the distractions of life disappear when you’re in the saddle. As the saying goes, “You never see a motorcycle parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office.”
What are the biggest trends you see in the industry right now?
Smart brokers are moving beyond the shiny objects and concentrating on how technology can truly help them achieve business objectives. This means carefully choosing core technology that makes agents more productive, and ensuring that whatever tools they choose are on a path to work together.
There’s also a stronger focus on adoption – even the best tool won’t do much if agents don’t use it. I think this is healthy for all involved: agents get more out of their tools, brokers improve their business, and vendors get held accountable to producing a result. My prediction is that those brokers that do this best will outperform the industry and insulate themselves from disaster in a future downturn.