RISMEDIA, May 20, 2010—If you ask Steve Hundley what he likes best about his job, he won’t say financial success. The 1parkplace founder and CEO is more focused on creation and innovation, bringing systems and tools to the marketplace. “When we started this company…I was pursuing a passion—I love to innovate,” says San Diego-based Hundley.
In this interview, read how Hundley took his real estate expertise and rolled it into a successful, technology-based business.
Stephanie Andre: Can you talk about why you founded 1parkplace?
Steve Hundley: I had enjoyed 10 years selling real estate—back in the mid ’80s when we were still using MLS books—and was ready for a new challenge. I had learned a lot about technology from my dad, even before the Internet, and how to implement it in my business, and knew that I wanted to take that knowledge to show top-selling agents how to improve their own performances. Technology is an important tool, but integrating it with marketing is how you’re going to be most effective. My company develops systems to do that.
SA: What is your company mission?
SH: Our goal is to help the best get better. An educated agent is a more productive agent. We deliver a lot of seminars and webinars to help brokers, top-producing agents and teams become more successful with integrated systems. Obviously, we expect 1parkplace to become the foundation they build their business on, but if not today, we enjoy building relationships for future opportunities.
SA: What sets 1parkplace apart from its competitors?
SH: It starts with a CEO that has over a decade of successful selling experience. Most technology companies in our space don’t have a CEO that actually sold real estate as a career. We constantly hear from our clients that this is huge. We get it.
With this knowledge, 1parkplace is able to advocate and deliver proven agent-centric systems. We speak their language and also understand intimately the entire dynamic between the agent and brokerage to facilitate the best relationship between both.
SA: What are the key factors to your success?
SH: The thing is, when we started this company, the focus was not on making money. I was pursuing my passion—I love to innovate. My wife, who has been with me before starting 1parkplace, is the anchor to the business; she handles all of the money, which is great because my DNA is more about innovation and solutions, and if anything needs to be purchased, I always say, you have to get it past the “front office,” which is where she sits. It is an awesome combination.
It’s my passion for trying new things and innovating that has helped us prove to the marketplace that we can execute. It’s that passion that, historically, has kept us under the radar, so to speak. We’ve had a number of high-profile clients that we have provided high-profile solutions for under private labeling, such as Winforms Online for C.A.R., eRealtor for Move, Inc., integrated MLS for Connecting Neighbors and FASTWeb for First American Financial. Even the new RELAY transaction platform from C.A.R. originated from 1parkplace some years back.
The key piece of our puzzle is results. In this business, people don’t want to deal with the risks of trial and error. People want to see definitive results. In fact, we live by the statement, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
SA: Your company doesn’t seem to have as high a profile as some others. Why?
SH: We’ve been very lucky to grow more virally. As we know, when top-producing agents succeed, others aspire to be like them. They look at what products they are using and how they’re using them. Word of mouth has been the secret to our success—same philosophy I brought over from my years as a professional Realtor.
SA: So how do you get the word out?
SH: We have tried some trade shows and traditional marketing, but our audience, being among the top 10% of the industry, does not frequent most events. So, we have found ourselves in a sea of average when we strive to be better than that. We are pretty fortunate that our marketing strategy has largely been via word of mouth. We now have about 25,000 agents in the U.S. using 1parkplace solutions, either directly or through their brokerage firm.
SA: To what do you most attribute the company’s growth?
SH: We are growing because our systems work. Companies are looking for systems that are proven as opposed to those that are not. We support some of the most successful brokerage firms, real estate teams and agents in the country, including some of the most successful agents at Prudential, RE/MAX, Keller Williams and Century 21, just to name a few. Because of their success, these folks speak frequently at industry events and mention our name. They are educating the audience…and that situation has been great for our growth. In turn, our phones are ringing. People want to do business with us, so we are doing far less cold calling, which is great because we can then dedicate those resources to providing valuable consulting.
SA: How have the economic challenges of our industry affected your business?
SH: We started to notice a big change in early 2007. Up to that time, our sales channel was largely through national resellers and website developers who very rapidly went from brisk sales to nearly stopped. In fact, we had about 10-15 national players that private-labeled our products and practically overnight, everyone went into survival mode—that was an interesting turning point for us.
At that point, we decided to make the proactive switch to build up our own internal consulting and sales division. That change worked because in 2009, we had our best year ever. We had record sales and we are showing no signs of slowing down. We focused on not incurring any debt in order to stay healthy in bad times. We kept our core team together and now are experiencing our busiest time ever.
SA: How do you work to provide each customer with an individual solution?
SH: When people contact us, they usually ask, “how much is it?” Well, we don’t really like to sell products like they’re off the shelf. Our solution is based on needs. With every opportunity, we go through an individual needs’ analysis—whether a brokerage firm or individual agent. We see what systems they may need to help them generate new business and stay accountable to their goals.
For instance, when it comes to entire brokerages, we focus on developing some of the most compelling recruiting, business development and management solutions that are proving to be very successful. Brokers need to invest in solutions that their agents will see value in and will completely embrace.
SA: What type of products or services has 1parkplace developed?
SH: Primarily, we really start our focus on relationship management solutions. This requires the careful merging of contacts with content—in any successful business this is the foundation to build on. Then we can move to lead generation systems, then ultimately, accountability and measurement systems. Our goal is to provide our members with an end-to-end turnkey system that works to keep brokers and agents engaged with their customer base. There are too many companies selling parts and pieces, leaving the broker or agent to figure out the gaps.
Our most recent innovation is our Cirrus IDX2 Home Search System™, announced in April 2010. This patent-pending system is designed to be the next generation of IDX lead generation technology. I won’t get into details, since they are on our website, but this solution is getting rave reviews so far. We also innovated the SMART BOSS contact management system and SMART Blogger, our high performance blogging platform, to name a few.
SA: What do you see as the next big trend?
SH: I think it’s really two things: one, the phenomena of social networking and, two, Google page rank domination for maximum online exposure.
As we begin to examine the results from the Dalton/Hundley Social Media Census, one important thing we’ve seen is that only 6.4% of census participants say they’ve had deals come from working in the social media area, yet 92% say they perform social media and networking functions of some type. We are still showing that 67.8% of respondents base their business on existing relationships or referrals. This will be our focus with our Real Estate Social Marketing System™. We have a vision to help the entire industry move from social anxiety to social marketing. I look forward to reading Allan Dalton’s new book, Leveraging Your Social Media Links. This will be the first book to clearly convey the connection between social media and our industry.
We are also on a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) crusade to build the best search engine ranking website/blogsite/social marketing platform on the market. Traditional website solutions are having a tough time competing for Google domination, yet we know that a top rank will generate the most traffic to our clients’ sites. So we embarked on a mission to develop the first Web 3.0 hyper-local blogging system—code named Nebula 3.0, slated for a June 2010 roll-out. Nebula is a semantic Web solution to dominate Google rankings in the areas our clients are targeting.
We expect these to be big in the near future, at least for the next few years, then there will be another bar to raise. That is the fun part of innovating.
For more information, visit www.1parkplace.com.