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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

5 Minutes with a CEO: David Walker of TripleMint

The CEO of data-driven real estate brokerage TripleMint recently spoke with Upside about his job and what he sees in the future of data.

Real estate broker TripleMint distinguishes itself by using data and predictive algorithms to identify likely buyers and sellers. CEO David Walker recently spoke with Upside about the job of a CEO and what he sees in the future of data.

UPSIDE: Is there a piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you first became a CEO?

David Walker: It seems so simple, but the one thing I wish someone had told me is: “This is going to be really, really hard.”

Everyone says, “Don't most companies fail?” or “That's probably not going to work.” If you’ve started a company, however, you know that comments like those only fuel your fire more.

Anyone thinking about becoming a CEO should sit down with a successful CEO and really dig into how hard it's going to be and the different kinds of “hard” you'll likely face.

Where is data analytics/data science headed in the next few years within your organization? Within the world at large?

For both TripleMint and the business world at large, data and analytics is increasingly focused on predicting future outcomes. The world of big data opens the door for companies to predict things that they never could before. Whether it's customer targeting, marketing automation, or what to show a user on your website -- we can use data to make predictions in every area of business.

What personality traits do you think CEOs need to succeed?

A CEO needs to set the vision and mission for the company, hire the right people to achieve that vision and mission, and then empower those people to succeed so that the company as a whole succeeds.

To set the vision and mission, CEOs need to be able to see the world as they want it to be, not just as it is. They need to be both optimists and realists to make sure the vision and mission are both big enough to make a dent in the world and also achievable so the company doesn't run off a cliff.

When hiring, CEOs must be able to identify talent and communicate the vision and mission clearly to create buy-in. They need to be curious about people and what motivates them while also being the living embodiment of the vision and mission they are asking people to join.

To empower their teams, CEOs must be empathetic toward the difficulties of growing a company while instilling the confidence in their teams to overcome challenges that seem insurmountable. In short, a CEO needs to have a balance of opposing personality traits to succeed.

What is your favorite tool or technique that has made your job easier (and how is it easier)?

My favorite management technique has been to always ask before telling. Often CEOs feel it’s their job to tell others what to do, but I have found that the right answer usually lies within the individual managers and employees. They often know more about their department, role, and customers than the CEO can possibly know. By staying curious and always asking questions first, I have been able to draw out our best ideas from our team.

What’s the most significant outcome you’ve seen come from analyzing data?

The most significant outcome was that we were able to drop our customer acquisition cost through constant A/B testing.

We help people buy, sell, and rent homes using better data and customer service and we acquire many of our clients online. Early on we decided that we were going to A/B test each of our online ads every week. That meant that we changed every ad every week, which was a huge undertaking. It paid off, however, because we were able to lower our cost to acquire clients by more than 50 percent in one year.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of TDWI, including research reports, the Business Intelligence Journal, and Upside newsletter. You can contact him via email here.

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