Glenn Kelman has come to be known as a real estate maverick to many in the industry. The chief executive and president of online discount broker Redfin is a celebrity of sorts, having been featured in a recent “60 Minutes” segment on real estate commissions.
Kelman has no qualms about speaking his mind about brokerage issues, real estate commission structures and industry rules he says serve to lock thousands of tiny shackles on the company’s ability to innovate.
Here are his answers to a set of questions posed by Inman News:
What was your first job?
My first job was washing dishes at Rax’s Roast Beef (I am now a vegetarian). I’ve also been a bicycle messenger (during the interview I was asked to stand up and run in place), a lawn-mower, and a high-school tutor. As college students, my twin brother and I snuck into the Seattle Times to apply for internships and were escorted out of the building by security. Once, I was paid to dance.
What sparked the idea to start Redfin?
We wanted to put listings and tax records on a map because we just thought it was really cool. And since this was before Google or anyone else supported map-based applications, it was cool. Our founder, David Eraker, decided to open our site to consumers after we couldn’t sell our software to real estate brokerages.
What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?
It has been hard, especially given my personality as a rookie CEO, figuring out how to stand up for the consumer without antagonizing the industry. We worry about how to keep our spirit of customer service going strong as we expand to new markets and hire new people. We worry that our business will never be as profitable as an ad-driven business, but it’s more meaningful for us and for our customers, and more fun.
If you had one thing to do over again, what would it be?
My 20s — over and over and over again.
What style of home do you live in and when did you buy it?
My wife and I just bought a townhouse this week. We had to move because our first place was miserable in the winter. The cold made it easy to stay up and write crazy blog posts.
What worries keep you awake at night?
American lives don’t have a second act.
Describe your dream home:
Anywhere close to my friends. It would be nice if we all shared a courtyard.
What lesson did you learn in the last year?
Hire slowly, fire quickly.
What’s the strangest thing you ever packed in a suitcase?
What would your second career choice be?
A novelist or a doctor.
What kind of music do you listen to?
The New Pornographers, Architecture in Helsinki, The Arcade Fire.
Who is your hero?
Ezra Pound, only because he thought for himself.
Hear Kelman speak at Real Estate Connect and Bloggers Connect in San Francisco, July 31- Aug. 3. The conference programs and registration are available online via the Connect Web site.