In two short years, real estate referral startup Opcity has grown from zero employees to 360.
Founder and CEO Ben Rubenstein is no stranger to rapid growth. He co-founded Yodle, and helped grow that team to over 1,500 employees before ultimately leading it through a $342 million sale to Web.com in 2016.
Now he’s applying the lessons he learned to scaling Opcity.
“The first thing to acknowledge is that I don’t know everything, and that I need to have great leadership for all of our groups,” said Rubenstein. “It all starts with the right people.”
We spoke to Rubenstein about his approach to scaling quickly without sacrificing culture.
Prioritization is about saying no, and a lot of startups take on too much, too early.”
This is your second time rapidly growing a large organization. What’s your secret?
Hiring really great people who you trust. An organization can move and scale a lot faster when you trust people to make the right choices for the company. This allows me to step back and not be involved in every decision. We hired experienced sales, finance and engineering leadership early on, which is common for startups. But what’s less common is staffing up as early as we did in HR and legal.
It’s also important to learn from past mistakes. For instance, we have an unofficial “no meetings” policy. I’ve seen teams waste countless hours meeting about things that can be resolved over a few minutes of conversation.
What’s the most challenging part of the scaling process?
Hiring. The best people are usually happily working somewhere else. We spend a lot of our time getting people to buy into the vision of Opcity and make the move. It’s also a numbers game. To get really good people, you have to interview a lot of people.
The last challenge we talk a lot about is staying focused. We’re constantly encountering great ideas and opportunities, but we have put our resources behind what will help us grow most. Prioritization is about saying no, and a lot of startups take on too much, too early.
How would you describe your team’s culture?
Opcity has a culture of taking action and owning our roles. We have a really strong data and analytics team that we rely on for all of our major decisions. We also trust each other and commit to excellence in everything that we do.
But the foundation of our culture is based around our core company value: “One team, one dream.” We’re all working towards the same goal. Instead of being closed-minded, Opcitizens ask, “What is the right thing to do for the business?” and “How can we work together to make it happen?”
How has Opcity been able to sustain culture during rapid growth?
We established our company values early on to act as a filter to everything we do and lay a foundation for our culture. They define who we are, what’s important to us, and what’s not. We hire, promote and recognize teammates based on them.
What are some of the misconceptions about establishing company culture?
One is that culture will grow naturally as long as you have a ping pong table and beer on tap. That’s really not the case. Culture is something you have to invest in, especially when you’re going from a 20-person startup to more than 100 people.
We hired a head of culture last year whose sole focus is to create a positive working environment for people to succeed in. Having a dedicated person working on this has been critical to our successful growth.
Your team has also focused on developing a diverse workforce. Tell us about why you made that a priority?
When you walk around our office, you’re going to see a real mix of people from all walks of life at all levels of the company. This is a real asset for us, and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of with Opcity. We work with both homeowners and real estate professionals all over the country. Having a healthy variety of perspectives and experiences really allows us to serve our customers and partners better.
What do you look for when interviewing someone?
The first thing we look for is that the person has done the job before. We have behavioral interviews and look for people who provide clear examples of when they’ve encountered similar situations. Another important thing is that a person is self-aware. I want to know what feedback others have provided to them, and what feedback they would give if they could talk to a younger version of themselves.
Lastly, what growth and advancement opportunities are available at Opcity?
The sky’s the limit here. Most of our management roles are held by people who started on our client success team and worked their way up. We post almost every new job opportunity internally first, and we give current employees the chance to interview for openings.
Not a week goes by where we don’t announce multiple promotions. I take a lot of pride in watching people grow with Opcity.