Technology

Heather Sittig Jackson: ‘I collect property the way some women do shoes’

Hiring for attitude and more with a startup founder

Inman is profiling real estate leaders. Here’s Heather Sittig Jackson, Co-Founder and CEO at Relola.

What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why?

I love to renovate houses. I’m a sucker for the diamond in the rough — I can stay up all night dreaming about my current favorite “ugly” house. It’s a bit of an obsession for me.

I collect property the way some women do shoes. The only difference is I often have to sell them to feed my habit.

What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why?

I have many, but right now the opening sentence to “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, jumps to mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

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I love this sentence. It reminds us that the glass is half full if we decide it is — let’s appreciate what we have and make it the best of times.

Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?

Not at all. My father was very entrepreneurial, and I grew up working in his businesses. I’m sure this helped me feel confident about starting my own. My brother and sister both started their own businesses, so I think it might be genetic.

Heather Sittig Jackson

Heather Sittig Jackson

Why’d you decide to join your company?

I founded Relola because I believe that real estate agents get a bad rap. People don’t realize how hard exceptional agents work. Relola is designed to give these agents a way to share their insights with the consumers who crave it.

Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company. How did you bounce back?

Relola is an infant, so I always feel insecure about it. Bouncing back is easy because everyday Relola reaches new milestones, and it’s thrilling to witness its development and growth.

What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since you joined it?

Assembling the most incredible team on the planet. I am humbled by the talent that surrounds me and inspired by the collaboration that occurs when people are fearless and approach every task with a “can-do” attitude.

What’s been the biggest obstacle your business has encountered, and how have you dealt with it?

We have to walk before we run and this takes a lot of discipline. We have so many features planned for Relola that I’d like to see released today, but it is critical that we build each feature right the first time. That takes some patience!

What puzzles you most about the industry?

Bad listing photos! It’s not that hard to get them right, but when they’re bad, they’re bad. It’s truly perplexing that this phenomenon still occurs.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business?

Hire for attitude above everything else.

What’s the most overrated real estate technology?

Anything that requires specialized hardware.

How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years?

As technology makes finding a home easier for buyer, the agent’s primary role is shifting from that of property locater to project and risk manager. The value real estate agents add will become more and more apparent as this future unfolds.

Heather Sittig Jackson

Heather Sittig Jackson

What motivates you more: power or money?

I love to imagine an innovative outcome, figure out how to accomplish it and then see it play out in the market. This can lead to making money, but it isn’t money that motivates me – though it is a nice side effect! I’m not at all driven by power, and think it is very important for leaders to wield it carefully.

What is your biggest professional fear?

Failing my investors and my team. I feel a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who dreams with me and helps build our collective vision, whether it’s by investing time or money in Relola. Every morning I wake up grateful for all the people who believe in me and for the opportunity to contribute to shaping the future of real estate.

What is your biggest personal fear?

Plane crash. I understand this is the cliché fear of a control freak — what can I say? I admit I might be a bit of a control freak, but I’m not a controlling freak. I don’t try to take over the controls when I’m not the best-qualified person available.

Who do you respect most in the industry?

There are way too many people to name, but they all have one thing in common — they are visionaries who have joyfully worked hard to get where they are.

Describe what you do in one sentence: I work with others to turn great ideas into realities.

Age: 41

Degree, school (if applicable): BA, University of Washington

Location: Emeryville, California

Social media: LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus

Are you a real estate leader who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email amber@inman.com.