As the chief operating officer and founding member at Flyhomes, a real estate agency, Ryan Dibble adopts a customer-centric approach in his operations with an emphasis on effective problem-solving.
[1:38] Ryan gives an overview of Flyhomes.
[3:23] Having worked with JP Morgan and Microsoft, what led Ryan to get involved with Flyhomes?
[6:46] Ryan talks about the gaps in real estate that the company wanted to fix when it started.
[8:46] What’s involved in Ryan’s day-to-day role as a founding member and COO of Flyhomes?
[13:22] Ryan explains some of the new problems he solves at Flyhomes after almost seven years of working there.
[15:48] What are some of the organization’s most recent innovations to enhance the customer experience?
[19:06] Ryan talks about how to coordinate team members in the same direction amid the several moving pieces in the business.
Fascinated with real estate, Ryan teamed up with his business partners to establish Flyhomes with the mission to simplify the home buying and selling process for the end-users.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s go get started with the show.
Chad Franzen: Chad Franzen here, co-host of the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Past guests include David Allen of Getting Things Done, and Michael Gerber of The E Myth, and many more.
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Chad Franzen: Ryan Dibble is chief operating officer and founding member at Flyhomes. Prior to founding Flyhomes, he worked at JP Morgan, and was a senior manager of deal economics and investment strategies at Microsoft. Ryan, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?
Ryan Dibble: I’m good. Thanks for having me, Chad.
Chad Franzen: So, tell me a little bit more about Flyhomes and what you guys do.
Ryan Dibble: Yeah. We started the company back in 2016, and the primary mission of Flyhomes is to build the world’s best home buying and selling experience for end customers. Since 2016, we’ve helped clients close on more than $4 billion worth of homes at price points between $150,000 and 7 million. We’re currently in 13 cities across, I think, six states.
Ryan Dibble: There’s a couple of things that we do, is provide our customers with a seamless end-to-end home buying and selling experience across real estate mortgage and title and escrow, as well as provide them unique experiences by leveraging our FinTech products of the Flyhomes cash offer, which helps democratize cash offers for everyday home buyers, as well as our buy before you sell product, which the name hits what it is right on the head. It allows home sellers to buy their next home prior to selling their existing home. So, it simplifies the moving process and allows people to be really competitive in real estate markets that seem to be nationwide favoring sellers and being very fast paced and competitive.
Chad Franzen: As I mentioned, you had worked with Microsoft and JP Morgan, what kind of lead you to get involved with Flyhomes or to be one of the founders of Flyhomes?
Ryan Dibble: Yeah. My previous experience is primarily in finance. It’s the math behind how these products work and how these businesses work is where I started my career. I had always had an interest in real estate, first, like an individual investor. I was one of the early people using Airbnb to generate additional income on my home. And what you learn buying a home is that the process is just really bad. It’s really hard to shop for an agent and find out whether you’re getting a good one, whether you’re getting good advice. At the time, this would’ve been 2014, 2015, we were still in this stage where the internet had really not changed very much on what it meant or how to buy and sell a home.
Ryan Dibble: When we started the company, it was a very simple premise, which is like… We didn’t have any brilliant ideas. There’s a little bit of myth making, I think, in terms of how companies get started, that somebody has a light bulb, and then they just go directly to market with this new solution. What we said is that the way the industry is set up is structurally not positioned to actually help end customers. It’s structurally set up to help the participants in the industry itself. So, there’s got to be a better way to do it. There’s got to be a better way to leverage technology and a business model to come up with a solution that just helps customers in a different way. And so, we dove in full steam ahead on.
Ryan Dibble: One of our first processes was we need to learn from customers. So, we need to spend time listening to them, understand their problems, and then, figure out how to make those solutions. So, very early with a customer obsession and iterative approach to build a product and experience that people have grown to love. And so, it was both just like intellectual curiosity, a super hard problem, meaningful, and that we were giving people the ability to buy their home, the place where they’re going to create whatever their definition of family is. And so, it was meaningful and challenging and interesting, and that’s what got us started.
Chad Franzen: When you were kind of going through your process of buying a home or investing in real estate or whatever, and going through that whole process, was there some gap that you were like, "We need to fill this?"
Ryan Dibble: Yeah, yeah. So, like I said, my career was in deal economics, and how to structure and think about things. And so, in those times, I was pulling data out of whatever online portal I could find, and running my own regression analysis on how much I should pay for this home. And what I would find is I’d go talk to my agent. I’m like, "Oh, I really like this home. How much should I pay?" There was kind of like a blank stare back followed by a, "Well, what do you think you should pay?" I was like, "Okay." I’m not sure that’s the most data-driven, informed piece of advice that I could be getting in that moment.
Ryan Dibble: I’ve now learned that there’s always some truth in whatever the world is. And as you’re seeing various headlines about the real estate market is that a lot of times, people end up paying whatever they want to pay for stuff. But getting data and information, it just exposed to me that there’s a gap in how a real estate agent is asked to do their job. And at Flyhomes, we’ve never taken a position that real estate agents are bad or any of that thing. It’s more that they’re asked to do too much. And by breaking down what they’re position is and what requires of them and giving them the tools to be awesome in areas that they may not be as great in was a path for us to start to drive excellence in the service that we provide.
Chad Franzen: So you’re a founding member of Flyhomes, but you’re also the COO, what’s kind of involved in your day-to-day role as COO?
Ryan Dibble: Yeah. It’s an interesting and always evolving answer to that question. I think, like many COOs for startups and smaller companies, it ultimately ends up being like, "How do you divide and conquer with the CEO and other talent that you bring into the organization?" So at various points, I’ve led all of our sales and operations. I’ve led our people, finance, legal, our capital markets functions. And, usually, the one that jumps on whatever the biggest fire is of the day. As of today, I’m responsible for a lot of our infrastructure on compliance, licensing, and business operations for our mortgage title on escrow businesses, as well as capital markets and legal. So, a pretty broad set of outcomes that I’m responsible for.
Chad Franzen: What would you say kind of makes your approach to operations unique with regard to the customer? You talked about these gaps that you saw were kind of obvious to fill, and you’ve also spoken to customers. What would you say makes your approach unique?
Ryan Dibble: Yeah, that’s right. I think there’s a couple of things. One is, we definitely have taken the approach from the very early days of the best way to learn, is to spend time with the customer and truly listen with an open mind, and try to understand them. Buying and selling in homes is a very emotional experience. And you can’t always approach it from a like, "Well, this is rational, and therefore you should do this." And so, one is learning and listening to those customers.
Ryan Dibble: The second one that I think has served us well, that in particular operations folks tend to struggle a little bit more, which is when presented an issue that the customer is having, we take the approach that the first priority is to solve that customer’s problem. Whatever it takes to make that solution work, obviously within constraints of compliance and legal and those types of things. But, really, there is no lens that is put over the problem that says, "Is this a scalable efficient way for us to solve this problem?"
Ryan Dibble: Our first step into this is, how can we solve this right now? And that’s super important for, one, culture of the team that’s solving problems for customers. Because if you’re always waiting on a perfect solution and not solving the customer’s problem, then you’re going to lose a lot of customers. Second is that it builds immediate trust with the customer that you are going above and beyond and doing whatever it takes, even if it’s outside the realms of what you would normally do in order to solve their problem.
Ryan Dibble: And then, the third way, which I think is the biggest lesson for those of us that are responsible for operations is it’s pretty rare that you actually can design the perfect solution the first time. You learn so much by just solving the problem. Sometimes, that means like me, as the COO, needs to go call the customer or call the agent or call the investor on the lender to work through it, which is usually not something that COOs would think of as the highest and best use of their time. But you learn so much solving that problem the first time, that actually allows you to break through with a more efficient and more scalable solution down the road.
Chad Franzen: Now that you’ve been with Flyhomes for almost seven years, are there still new problems that pop up that you find yourself needing to help solve?
Ryan Dibble: Yeah, yeah. There’s two sides to this. Unfortunately, almost every day, there’s a new problem. But the truth is, I go to work because I like to solve problems. But, yeah, it’s an ongoing perspective. When we talk about our mission being building the world’s best home buying and selling experience, there’s an immediate acknowledgement that even though we’re really proud of what we’ve built and proud of our customer satisfaction and NPS scores, and all of our five-star reviews, and all of those things, we’re very proud of it. But we also acknowledge we are in the very beginning of the revolution of building what the future of this industry looks like. We have a long ways to go you, and your best is a deliberately subjective and aspirational word that just reminds us we got to keep going.
Ryan Dibble: So, we’re always innovating on our product, in our process, and how we deliver these things. We’re going through tremendous scale growth right now. I think this time last year, we had around 250 employees. And now, we’re beginning very close to 1,000 employees. Those of us who have had the experience of growing a team from four to 30 to 100 to 250 to 1,000, each step in the road is almost a complete change in how you deliver your experience to your client, and scale it consistently across multiple states and processes. And so, every day, there’s a new problem. I think my hope is actually that I’m able to get to all of the problems that day as opposed to not. Yeah.
Chad Franzen: Can you give me an example of an innovation that maybe you didn’t have at this time last year, that you didn’t have when you start out toward providing the best customer experience?
Ryan Dibble: Yeah. So 12 months ago, yeah, one innovation that we have is that we used to deliver our Flyhomes cash offer through a process where our company would actually go and buy the home, and take title of the property, and then, sell it to our customer after the fact at basically the same price in terms that we bought it. And we have since completely changed the way that we deliver that product, in that we now provide the customer with a short-term non-contingent loan that allows them to buy in their own name, and then, refinance into their long-term mortgage after the fact, after the stress of the first closing and the seller has all gone away.
Ryan Dibble: The biggest part of it, there’s two things. One is it dramatically reduce the cost for the customer to do that. There’s no longer two transactions. There’s no longer excise tax and all of those types of things. So, a dramatic improvement for the customer from that benefit. The second one is it’s just a lot more straightforward. You’re not having to recreate the wheel in the customer’s mind of like, "Wait, what? You’re buying the house? Okay, are you my landlord in while I’m waiting for my long term mortgage?" It just much more clarifies, "Nope. You go make the offer. You use our money to be the most competitive offer on the table. And then, you get your long-term financing done after the fact."
Ryan Dibble: And then, the third one is that it actually enabled us to drop the cost down to so that we can actually make it free for the customer. So, when a customer’s working with Flyhomes and they’re considering making, what I’ll call, a traditional offer, just a normal offer on real estate, versus a Flyhomes cash offer, we brought the cost down so low that we’re actually able to give the customer a credit to cover the difference. And so that they’re like apples to apples, the cost of making a cash offer becomes free.
Chad Franzen: I have one more question for you, but first, just tell me how people can find out more information about Flyhomes.
Ryan Dibble: Yeah. I mean, I think the easiest way is jumping on our website, Flyhomes.com. We’ve got lots of helpful people that are able to connect either via text, email, or phone, whatever is the easiest for you.
Chad Franzen: Final question. It sounds like it can be a complicated business. You got new problems coming up every day. Maybe people are going in different directions. What do you think has been the key to keeping everybody going in the same direction?
Ryan Dibble: Yeah, yeah. This is the one that is something that we spend just an inordinate amount of time on, and it’s appropriate it. We’re thinking about all of the people that it takes to help a customer be successful working through our business. There’s a real estate brokerage, a mortgage business, title and escrow, there’s third party relationships. They’re leveraging everybody’s teams internally, and it’s really hard early stages to have perfect processes that keep track of all of these things. They have the correct, if then do this written into all of your SOPs.
Ryan Dibble: And so, one of the things that we’ve found to be the most effective is really making sure that you’re building a culture internally that aligns and clearly articulates, why are we all here? What are we trying to solve? And for us, it’s just resonating. We’re spending time focused and communicating our mission of building the world’s best home buying experience. And then, also reiterating what are our values. Our values, the way that we think about them is, one, is our mission is our target. It’s where we’re all going. When you proverbially look around the thousand other people that are here, we all know that this is the target and this is what we’re going after. And then, our values tell us how do we work together. How do we prioritize projects? How do we prioritize the different pieces of work that we do? How do we promote? What people do we promote that are showing those values on a day-to-day basis?
Ryan Dibble: That for us has been a big… I don’t know what they’re exact… A big umbrella that says like, "Look, there’s going to be stuff breaking, and there’s going to be things that don’t go well, and this is how we act when those things happen." And then, we acknowledge that, oftentimes, when things don’t go well, that’s your opportunity to show your true character. That’s your opportunity to show your customer what your brand actually means and what it stands for. So, really grounding ourselves in what is our mission, why are we here, and then, what are our values. How do we work together to get us closer to that mission? Those have been some of the biggest points of leverage that we’ve been able to drive within our organization.
Chad Franzen: Great, great. Hey, Ryan, I really appreciate your time today. It’s been great talking to you and hearing your insights. I really appreciate it.
Ryan Dibble: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Chad.
Chad Franzen: So long, everybody.
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