“We allow people to be multipliers of themselves.”
The outcome of Buildout’s technology-enabled, broker-led approach is clear to Chief Growth Officer Helen Calvin — and to the company’s customers. The platform empowers commercial real estate brokers to drive deals ahead from prospecting to closing, offering seamless, insightful support along the way.
“One of our brokers talks about the fact that when he’s working with customers, they compliment his team and all the things his team accomplishes,” Calvin said. “He’s a one-person business — it’s just him plus Buildout.”
The broker relationship sits at the heart of Buildout’s work, driving decisions not only for the business but for the future of the company’s tech, as well. Relying on robust feedback from customers allows Buildout’s team to develop products with deep insight into needs and push new possibilities forward.
“We focus on our customers and the problems and frustrations they have, and then use technology to attack those challenges head on,” Senior Vice President of Product Shamail Tahir said. “You can innovate for the sake of innovation, but without customer perspectives, that doesn’t create tangible value. When you’re trying to do right for an industry, you have to be deliberate.”
For Tahir, doing right by the commercial real estate industry means creating deep value for existing customers using Buildout’s current products while ensuring that new product offerings expand the breadth of support across the commercial real estate deal lifecycle.
“You can innovate for the sake of innovation, but without customer perspectives, that doesn’t create tangible value. When you’re trying to do right for an industry, you have to be deliberate.”
This dual focus on depth and breadth is reflected in Tahir’s own work, as he partners with Calvin and other senior leaders to align product and company strategy, digs in with the product teams to test hypotheses and validate new findings and also works closely with cross-functional teams to find new ways to collaborate for continuous improvement.
Helping to lead Tahir’s product team is Senior Product Manager Chris Smiles, who shares Calvin and Tahir’s strong vision for collaborating with customers in order to find possibilities for innovation.
“We’re lucky to be in an industry where our customers are very invested in the evolution and success of the product,” he said. “Our brokers are entrepreneurs looking for an edge and how to get the most out of their tools. They want to partner with us to make the product better and offer real feedback that allows us to have a clear understanding of the path ahead.”
Meanwhile, Calvin is focused on making sure those paths to innovation are smooth for Smiles and teams across the company. “Most of my day is spent making sure that teams have clarity to focus on what matters most,” she said. “We have amazingly talented individuals at Buildout, so I want to make sure nothing’s in their way.”
Built In heard more from Calvin, Tahir and Smiles about the empowered, broker-focused culture that makes innovation not only possible but the norm at Buildout.
HOW BUILDOUT’S TEAM WORKS TOGETHER
Customer-centered innovation is no accident at Buildout. Five standards guide how the team works to expand possibilities for the product:
- Guard time
- Innovate deliberately
- Prioritize our customers
- Focus on one thing at a time
- Understand why
What does broker-led innovation look like at Buildout?
Tahir: First and foremost, we start with the audience in mind. As an agile shop, our roadmap hinges on problem statements and known frustrations, challenges and opportunities, but we don’t get to those alone — we partner with our customers to understand those needs. That customer feedback loop drives the roadmap, and we are able to take a pragmatic and entrepreneurial approach to the work ahead. What that means is seeking the solutions we can pursue to create the most value with the fastest path, which we can then iterate on to develop additional solutions and deepen value for our customers. If we keep our north stars in mind as we develop our annual plans, we can break down the priorities we need to achieve each quarter to offer the most value we can to our brokers as we stay directionally focused throughout the year.
Smiles: This is going to sound cliche, but I like to say, “You’re not really buying the product. You’re buying a partner.” There’s a lot of nuance to this business, and every product is going to have some kind of gap, so the question is less “Which product do I want to buy?” and more “Which team do I trust to really understand my problem inside and out?” Buildout is great at partnering with clients to find the solutions while being transparent throughout the process. We take an honest approach to acknowledging the gaps and finding ways to fix them.
“The question [for our brokers] is less ‘Which product do I want to buy?’ and more ‘Which team do I trust to really understand my problem inside and out?’”
Calvin: Buildout has innovated massively over the last few years between acquisitions of new products and homegrown innovation, and so the most important thing for our team is making sure our customers know and understand all the solutions that are at their fingertips. We’re doing and offering a lot — we need to make sure they know exactly what’s available to them and how they can optimize the use of it.
How does Buildout empower its teams to serve brokers at that level of true partnership?
Smiles: One thing that stands out about working in product at Buildout is our empowered product teams, which include the product manager, designer and developers working together with broad discretion about their work. It’s a bottom-up approach to building the roadmap, in contrast with a feature-factory approach with senior leadership mandating what the team should buildis building. As a team, we are very close to the customers, collecting feedback and working collaboratively to understand what they need. We work alongside our leadership to make decisions, and we have autonomy to do what we feel is right.
“We have autonomy to do what we feel is right.”
Calvin: When we consider our empowered teams, there is the question of how we are able to make that a reality. It’s possible because of the kind of talent that Buildout attracts, hires and champions. I have never worked at a company with more sharp people. Being sharp is different than smart — people are incisive, connect the dots and have deep insight. These teams are empowered because they care about delivering great products with fervor. There is an eagerness and a hunger to do right by each other and our customers.
You can see it in action when Chris is on a call with a customer and shows them a new feature, and the customer immediately sees how the feature solves a specific problem. Chris just lights up, which is a testament to the care and commitment our team members have for the work we are doing and the value we are creating for our customers.
How would you describe the culture at Buildout?
Calvin: Across our team, every individual really has a fire in their belly. At some companies, that might show up selfishly, but at Buildout, people are passionate about finding ways for the whole team to succeed, regardless of who has the best idea, which begets a culture of incredible humility throughout the hierarchy of the organization. If a great idea comes into the room from any source, the whole team rallies around it.
Smiles: There is no stereotypical Buildout employee. As Helen said earlier, everyone is sharp and collaborative, but beyond that, no two people are alike — and that makes the company stronger. By embracing the different personalities on our team, people are able to be authentically themselves at work, and that brings the best out of every individual.
“Everyone is sharp and collaborative, but beyond that, no two people are alike — and that makes the company stronger.”
Tahir: As Chris mentioned, being collaborative is key here. We collaborate internally to build the platform vision and make it a reality, and we collaborate externally with customers to unlock the innovation potential as a whole. I’ve never heard anyone say “that’s not my product” or “that’s not my job.” Buildout’s culture is that if an idea makes sense, it will become reality regardless of who says it or does it — and honestly, that’s awesome.