Cofounders Michael Werner and Vincent Payen have taken home services into the future, with some much-needed upgrades to the industry for both consumers and contractors. They have raised more than $100M for their venture, HomeX. Top-tier investors including New Mountain Capital have funded the company.
In this episode you will learn:
- The power of three
- Getting 1M web visitors a month organically
- How they 10x that web traffic with content
- Turning crisis into success
- Michael and Vincent’s top advice when starting a business
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
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Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Michael Werner:
Michael is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of HomeX. He has built HomeX to be a positive force, leveraging technology to radically improve the home services industry for everyone: consumers, contractors, distributors, and manufacturers.
Prior to HomeX, Michael was President and CEO of Globe Union Group (Gerber Plumbing Fixtures and Danze Faucets) and served as President of Werner Ladder Co., a family operation that spanned 75 years.
Michael is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a master’s degree in Engineering Management and Science. Michael is past Chairman of the Lymphoma Research Foundation, on the Executive Committee of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and has been active in the Economic Club of Chicago, the Young Presidents Organization, and the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
When he’s not working or volunteering, you’ll find him with his family at hockey games or on his skis, mountain, or road bikes. He resides in Chicago with his wife Laura and they have three grown children, including Stephanie Werner-Payen, who is a co-founder of HomeX.
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Connect with Michael Werner:
About Vincent Payen:
Vincent is the President of HomeX and a co-founder of the company. He leads HomeX’s mission to provide end-to-end solutions for both consumers and providers, leveraging technology to revolutionize the home services industry.
Before HomeX, Vincent spent over 10 years at eBay. As a user-obsessed product leader, Vincent led the large-scale transformation of some of eBay’s most fundamental experiences, including eBay’s North American consumer business and their structured data platform product organization.
Vincent was born in Paris, France and now lives with his family in Chicago after relocating from California in 2018.
Connect with Vincent Payen:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have two co-founders joining us today. It’s definitely exciting when you have the actual, a bigger part that just won coming to be part of this show. I think that on today’s show, we’re going to be learning quite a bit about building, scaling, financing, and also about exits, and then, of course, about COVID-related situations, adversity, breakdowns to breakthroughs. So I think that we’re all going to be learning quite a bit. So without further ado, I’d like to welcome our guests today, and that is Michael Werner and Vincent Payen. Welcome to the show.
Michael Werner: Thank you.
Vincent Payen: Thank you.
Alejandro: I’d like to do a little bit of a walk through memory lane. Let me start with Michael. Michael, you were born in Canada but eventually ended up growing up in Chicago, so tell us about your upbringing.
Michael Werner: Sure. Thank you. I actually grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My family had a family business called Werner Ladder, and my dad was sent up to Canada to run our operation there, so I was born in Toronto. Then they needed him to move to Chicago, and I was sent along with them to Chicago. I mostly grew up in Chicago, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the Midwest. I went to California. I had heard that was where all the gold was. I did my undergraduate in the Bay Area. Then I went to Asia, worked as a volunteer English teacher on a peace-type program in Taiwan, and then worked for the U.S. Embassy in Thailand. I first thought I wanted to go into international politics and work in the U.S. Foreign Service. Working in the Embassy, I realized that wasn’t for me. I came back to Stanford and finished my graduate degree. Then I went on to New York and worked at Goldman Sachs and did M&A in the heydays of the ‘80s. When I joined, I was the 20th person in the M&A Department, and it was growing incredibly fast. I think by the time I left a few years later, they had about 80 people. I then joined a client in Los Angeles. I wanted to get my wife back home to where her family was. One of the core things that always drives me is family, and we wanted to have our first child out there. I worked for a financier, a guy by the name of David Murdoch, who is one of the most brilliant and powerful people I’ve ever met. It’s amazing. He would treat us like ballerinas. He’d want to get us up on our pinky toes and try to push us over to see if we really believed in what we were telling him.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. What do you get from someone like that, from someone so successful and with that sense of accomplishment, too? What did you learn?
Michael Werner: Probably the most important things I learned—two things: 1) The power of three. He would always think about everything and would say, “You can talk about 50 pluses and minuses and always have point-counterpoint. But I always want to do everything where you break it down and first talk about the positives and then the how-tos and what you have to change. And I only want to have three points. If you can’t make your argument in three, then it’s not a strong enough argument. He also was interesting in that he would always start with the youngest person in the room to share their opinion. He would always wait and speak last. And after listening to the discussion for 15 minutes, he would actually know more about the topic than everybody else because he had that uncanny ability to have unique intellect and combine it with his gut. My takeaways from him were to think in terms of three. To start with the junior people, and to combine both your head and your heart as you think about the situation.
Alejandro: That’s incredible. In your case, after this, you actually went to the family business, and that was quite a ride because you experienced going from $100 million to $550 million. So not bad.
Michael Werner: It was a huge transition in so many ways. When you work on Wall Street, it’s like you’re flying in an F-16 or F-22, and a traditional manufacturing business is much more like a biplane. Literally, when I worked for Murdoch, he had two beautiful Falcon Jets. He liked to keep his pilots busy. So I might be flying from LA to San Francisco or LA to New York, and he’d say, “Take the plane. Of course, as a young kid in your 20s, you love doing that stuff. You watch Top Gun in the back and drink a nice bottle of champagne along the way. But when I joined my family business, I took off my suit. I went from my Falcon Jet to an Astro-Jet, and I literally had a white Astro-van with ladders in the back, and I called on plumbers and electricians and painters and contractors. What I learned most importantly, as I started in my family business, is that it all starts with the employees in the company. As a matter of fact, my great uncle, who had started the business, said, “Michael, I’m going to teach you the three most important things. 1) Take great care of your employees. 2) Take great care of your employees. And you can guess what #3 is: Take great care of your employees. If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers, and then your customers will take care of everything else. Starting in my family business, the most important thing I learned is to make your people the most cherished, the most valuable asset. I also spent a lot of time out in the field working with customers, understanding customers, and I developed a great appreciation for people who work with their hands. I could relate to them directly because I paid for my college by painting houses. I spent six or seven years painting houses. My dad every now and then would give me equipment, and he would come and look at us on the job site and usually walk up behind us, and I wouldn’t know he was there, and I’d look down, and he’d be all red-faced as we’d be using the equipment all wrong. My only defense was, “That’s how contractors really use it, so we’ve got to make sure that a contractor is going to use it the way they’re going to use it and still be safe.” That was a lesson, surprisingly, that he learned from us. In our family business, what was great was that we tried to combine the best attributes of what a family business is really unique about as unique attributes. And that’s generational thinking. We had a tremendous amount of trust because it’s family. You can fight like ***, but then you look at your watch and say, “It’s time for lunch or supper.” We trusted each other with everything that we had. So when you combine that trust with a work ethic and generational thinking that our approach was it wasn’t about this quarter, or it wasn’t about this year; it was about how do we build a great business for the long-term? That’s a second great lesson that I had, first, about people, and then second, about generational thinking. We think strategically to be willing to make the investments to do it for the long-term. So those are two unique things that I learned from my family.
Alejandro: Then you guys sold this company, and then you went to Globe Union Group. So what were you doing at Globe Union Group?
Michael Werner: First, let me touch on the sale. The bad news about a family sometimes is that we had 105 family shareholders. When they say be fruitful and multiply, we really multiplied.
Alejandro: Oh, yeah.
Michael Werner: In the late ‘90s, we had to do something to take care of everybody. I had just become the president of the ladder company, but the right thing to do for the business was to do a liquidity transaction. We did that transaction. Our dream was to take the company public, but by 2000 if you didn’t have a .com after your name, it was very difficult to go public, and our investment partners wanted to sell the business. In those days, the private equity firms weren’t really trading—as I like to say, trading with each other. In those days, you would sell their strategic. When it was clear that they wanted to sell their strategic, I realized it was time for me to exit because I really did not want to work for one of the large strategics at the time. I was too entrepreneurial. So I ended up going back to my roots in Asia, and I had been approached by a little Taiwan company, about $100 million in revenue at the time, that was in the kitchen and bath business primarily making private label products. A great entrepreneur who started that business, his dream was to build it into a branded company, primarily in the U.S. For six months, he tried to recruit me, and I kept saying, I’m not looking for a job. I’m looking to start my next business, and I want to do it with a business that has the same kind of core values that we did in Werner, which is to be a positive force in the world. It turns out his core value was exactly identical. He just said it in Mandarin versus English. So I joined forces with him. I became the second-largest shareholder in the company, and over a period of about a dozen years, we grew that business to over $700 million, and we did it through acquisition, organic growth, by listening to customers, coming out with new products, having great people, and offering a better value equation for our customers.
Alejandro: That’s amazing! Obviously, that was the segue of HomeX, which we’re going to be talking about in just a little bit, but before that, Vincent. You were born in France, but how did you end up in Canada?
Vincent Payen: That’s a good question. I was born in Paris, as you can hear. I grew up in Paris, moved to Canada when I was 18. My entire family moved, went to school, and studied finance. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I started there as a [10:02]. Then I quickly realized that making rich people richer was not going to be fun for me. It was a human element to it, and I really fell into technology by accident. eBay was launching its Canada operations at the time. I was speaking French at the time. I don’t know if I speak super well anymore, at the expense of [10:28], but I could still speak French properly then. Then I started at eBay doing content management. I fell in love with technology, marketplaces, and what they could create, like the parallel. What was missing for me in finance, I found it there. We were there for people to build businesses, to create jobs, people who may not be able to have a regular office job, like some of us, but a lot of grit, and who just need a platform to be able to compete, like this [11:10] marketplace can deliver for both sides of the equation just became the mission. I’ve been a student of the marketplace. Since then, there’s not one day that passes where I don’t in one way or another have a reflection of problem thinking of how to make eBay, at the time, in our own platform at HomeX function better. Management and product management became product manager for Canada. Then I moved to California to look after the direct experience. Then took over running the consumer business, which is a third of eBay at a time where it had been taken for granted a little like eBay suites had been individuals selling unique things. As eBay grew and competed more, [12:00] goods, that core consumer business had been forgotten a little and utilized by vertical players, by free classified sites. It was great learning for me to take something that was not working and refocus on the customer, which usually doesn’t take you through the wrong path. Use technology to win the experience and move forward. I did that for around three to four years, the customer business back to growing at the same scale, similar to the marketplace. Then my last job at eBay was to look after structured data and platforms. Again, I love the hard problems. I love working on things like technology has not been used yet to solve these problems. eBay grew up as an uncensured marketplace; that’s probably why it grew so quickly, but it’s part of why the company struggled versus Amazon as a fully [13:06] marketplace that doesn’t need to show you 10,000 iPhones. It can just show you the iPhone they need to buy at the best price without using too much of your brain cells. Working and solving that problem was something great. It was like 11 years at that point. I had committed to doing that for a little bit. I knew I needed to try something else. I was planning on working on another marketplace in commerce or other, and at this point, Michael talked to me about the home service. At that point, I promise you I would never have thought I would dedicate the next four years of my life to [13:45] in a better way.
Alejandro: Especially because the connection here is that Michael is actually the father of your wife. So it’s no pressure when you received the call from Michael, and he was telling you about this idea that he had; I’m sure that you were listening carefully. Let’s talk about that, Michael. Let’s talk about that moment where you came up with this idea because ideas, as they say, take time to incubate, and they’re dormant in the background. How did HomeX come knocking, and then what was that process of really bringing it to life?
Michael Werner: Let me break that into two parts and first talk about Vincent and my relationship. When I first met Vincent, he wasn’t my son-in-law yet. He was actually just dating my wife and was a Senior Executive at eBay.
Vincent Payen: Your daughter.
Alejandro: Your daughter.
Michael Werner: I’m sorry. [Laughter] I’m glad he’s not dating my wife. [Laughter]. That’s right.
Vincent Payen: That would be the end of this business and make this podcast more fun.
Michael Werner: That would be the end of this business and make it five times more fun. Thank you, Vincent. It’s really good to have a son-in-law who can always correct me, as he does and always should do. At that point, Vincent was not dating my daughter, clearly spoken, and he was Senior Executive at eBay, and it was exciting for me to be able to talk to somebody in the tech world who had been dealing with all of the technology issues as I saw as a potential solution for what we’re trying to create. A fun side-story there: when Vincent and Stephanie got married, I had the pleasure at their wedding of telling a little bit of the story of how we created HomeX. I described it and said that we named the company HomeX because we had to take extraordinary measures to get Stephanie home to Chicago. So to do that, we had to create a company that would first attract her, and she’s a very accomplished Stanford MBA, and then attract her fiancé, and then attract a lot of her fiancé’s friends. To do that, we had to build something that we thought was going to be really special. The backdrop to that is that having been in-home services for a very long time. I mentioned earlier that I put myself through college by painting houses, so I’ve been a contractor myself for six years. I understand how challenging it is to run a contracting business, and then working at Werner and working at Globe Union. I worked with lots of builders, lots of contractors, and lots of people in the trade. What was clear to me is that there were three really radical shifts in the world. The first shift is that our economy has become an experienced economy. You go back 300 years, and everybody mostly was agrarian. Then we started becoming extractors, and we pulled things out of the earth, and we became makers like my family making ladders, and then we went into services like I went to work at Goldman Sachs. But now it’s about experiences, whether it’s Airbnb, it’s Apple, it’s Starbucks, it’s Disney, it’s all about the experience; it’s not just about what you own, but it’s how you enjoy it and how you can do it. That’s why we called our company Home Experience, and HomeX for short, which we think is a terrific name. The second is the gap, and it’s a fundamental and big gap between demand and supply. I’m sure that most of our listeners have felt it in the last year as we’ve all sheltered and worked from home during COVID. As you think about it, I look at my parent’s generation. They physically can’t take care of their homes anymore. I look at my generation, and I rather be out on my bike or my skis. I don’t want to, and I look at my children and the next younger generation, and they’re brilliant in so many technological areas, but they didn’t have shop growing up, and they physically aren’t interested and aren’t able to take care of their homes. That gap is really bad for everybody. As consumers, we like to say that the Ts are missing. There’s no trust; there’s no transparency, and there’s no control with time. For contractors who are absolute superheroes, they’re working as hard as they can, but they don’t have enough workers, and they need help to make themselves more productive. The third major enabler that we saw is that technology really had transformed itself dramatically. Storage basically is free; communication basically is free, and it’s now possible to take an industry like home services. As you think about the home, it’s up there with food, water, and thinking about Maslow’s triangle: shelter as one of the core things. Now you’ve got technology that can be an enabler. With those three things together, we looked at the world, and I saw a great opportunity and said that we can fundamentally change how home services operate by building a first-of-its-kind technology company that can reshape the home services market.
Alejandro: Got it. To build on top of that, I love it, especially for the listeners that are right now following us here. Vincent, would you mind expanding on what has become the business model of HomeX and how you guys are actually making money?
Vincent Payen: Yeah, sure. When I came into the business like three or so years ago, I had no background. I learned from scratch. I went in trucks. I did all I could to get a feel for what that company could do to make home services ready to build. The simplest way I would put it is that today, what’s being exchanged is running a truck. You have a problem like what the industry gives you is sending the truck driver home and the technician to [19:10]. We believe that what truly matters is structurally to solve problems and to exchange solutions. The foundation of our business is, instead of rolling a truck every time someone calls, let’s actually build a platform that enables better solutions, which means investing in remote services, remote diagnosis, and simplifying the life of the providers. If someone comes to HomeX, and we can fix it remotely, it’s magical, and we do that 10-20% of the time. If we cannot fix it remotely, we diagnose it, which means that we know what the issue is, we know what parts are needed, we know what skills are going to be needed to solve the issue, which means that while the customer knows, like a two-day black box. Like, your thermostat is blinking. It could be $100 to fix the thermostat. It could be $500 to replace your HVAC system. People don’t know today, they’re scared, and they’re in the dark. So the diagnosis helps. The customer knows what’s going to happen and be in control of the process, but also the service providers will be more efficient, as Michael said, less and less supply, less and less technician to go, more and more demand. It’s a bit like climate change at one point, like the tipping point. The industry is going into a wall, and customers feel the experience. One way to do that is to increase supply. We can get more people in the trade. That’s going to take years to solve it. One way that we have is to do more with the technicians that we have. So if we can solve issues remotely, and when they need to go, they can go with the right parts the first time and know what the job is. They’re going to fix it in one shot. Today, there are around 70% of jobs in this industry are fixed the first time when we diagnose it before. It’s like 90%+. Then that’s having more time to help more customers and cheaper bills for the individual customers because the jobs are more efficient. That’s what HomeX does, and that’s what we deliver every day. Customers come to the platform, and for technicians who use our software to power their online booking and their customer connection experience.
Alejandro: Thank you for that, Vincent. Obviously, to really develop a marketplace of this nature, it’s definitely capital-intensive, so Michael, how much capital have you guys raised to date?
Michael Werner: We have raised two groups of capital. We did a $50 million debt financing, and we leveraged our services business, which is part of our overall flywheel business model to do that. What’s interesting about our business is we fundamentally had bootstrapped it until last spring when we raised $90 million of institutional capital from affiliates of New Mountain.
Alejandro: Bootstrapping is definitely a very interesting concept there, so bootstrapping up until what point? When you guys finally took that money in, was the business already up and running and product/market fit and fully validated? Why did you decide to bootstrap it all the way until that point?
Michael Werner: Really for two important reasons. One is because I’m actually greedy for our people. We wanted to bootstrap as long as we could so that we could preserve as much of the equity for the people who are building this business, and we’re very generous in how we give out equity to our people, and we want all of our people to do well. Two is, we have a unique business model that actually combines attributes of private equity with venture capital, and we built the private equity piece of our business first. And because that was so successful and with acquisitions in the companies we work with there, one we tripled in three years, the other we doubled in two years. That enabled us to be self-funding so that we actually have been EBITDA-positive throughout most of our existence. Because we have built a different business model, we’ve been able to grow our business differently than most typical VC companies do that.
Vincent Payen: Alejandro, there’s something interesting about [23:17]. You’re very right. It’s very expensive; it’s very inefficient to [23:24] the marketplace. We’ve seen Uber or Lyft, like, drive empty cars to make sure they have enough supply, and then to get the demand and in the process spend massive amounts of money. In-home services create a different problem. We like to take a different path. 1) We supply constraint. It’s a different problem. In most commerce, you’re fighting for demand, not for supply. Home services deal positively. We knew that just saying, “Whether the platform for—please come and take the job that we’re going to give to you was not going to work. They don’t need more jobs; they need efficiency and help. We created our B2B business as a solution. Forget the marketplace for a second to be able to give the best online booking customer connection platform for service providers and monetize them. That allows us to get thousands of technicians on the platform and get a very simple ARR [24:27] the business, but also to create that pool of supply that was ready to activate because now that we’re powering the online booking, their system, we can push jobs to them without having them make any effort, and then it’s just about the efficiency about the job, which we knew we had to nail. Then we went to the consumer side and then ramped up.
Alejandro: Vincent, to that point, obviously, in order to really get the movement in this marketplace and get that distribution, you guys have thought very carefully about content as a way to achieve that level of distribution, and you have incredible traffic. Talk to us as to how you guys think about content and what’s the approach?
Vincent Payen: On the supply side, you could say I’m going to have to spend $100 million to put Superbowl ads and spend on SEM, etc., which I also didn’t think was efficient or controllable of what I wanted to do. What we did early on, and Michael was sending support in there, like saying, “We’re going to invest a lot of money, hire really smart people like the team we have in Cambridge. These guys are the ones that created [25:42], so we got some of the best talent in the world in machine learning, machine content generation, and automation to actually create—I think today, one of the biggest [25:55] of Q&A and information. We knew we were going to make the investment. We knew it was going to take a year and a half to three years to get to a scale that would have the business, but for the first time, by the end of September, we were going to cross like a million visitors on HomeX.com for the month without spending a dollar of customer acquisition. Around three or four months ago, we had a new spurt of traffic, and we were trying to figure out what was happening because it’s like 10x what we would expect, and we realized that Google had put us in their key zero for “how do you reset a thermostat?” above their own Google result, which, obviously, they shouldn’t do for multiple reasons, but I think that shows the power of content, and the investment we made there, to give that for free to help people self-service we can and get them on the platform that [26:55] on their side and set the tone. Our job is to provide the solution and help you with content or with remote sessions. And if we can’t, send the best person to your home possible, but with you having the information versus trying to monetize interaction which isn’t, frankly, what most controversies lead gen platforms to do today.
Alejandro: I know that COVID, obviously, has not been very welcoming to everyone on the health side and on the business side. Obviously, there are some businesses that have definitely capitalized on it, but I know that for you guys, for HomeX, it was definitely a bit bumpy. Michael, what happened during COVID, and how did you guys deal with adversity?
Michael Werner: I would say that the first three months of COVID was probably the darkest period in my career. And in addition to everybody being concerned for their family’s safety, health, welfare, and everything else, we had a business that we were spending and investing in, as Vincent said, a tremendous amount of money in building out all the different parts of it. We also had in the services part of our business, which is a very traditional business, about 800 people who actually worked out in the field working and doing HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work. Literally, in a matter of days, we had about one-third of our company that was shut down by the government. So here we were; we were bootstrapping. We had a business that was reliant upon the earnings of our service business to fund a lot of our digital business, and all of the sudden, everything just came to a halt. In a situation like that, our view is that you can react two ways. You can either get in your shell and say, “Oh, my gosh, the world is falling apart.” Or you can say, “Let’s turn this crisis into an opportunity.” So we did. We actually relied upon our core value, which is to be a positive force in our industry and our community, and we said, “What can we do first to be sure that our business really takes the Jim Collin’s approach and we recognize that failure was not an option. We had to go out there, and we had to say, “How do we completely turn this around?” We really approached COVID as an and, and we first ensured that all of our technicians were safe. We actually put together real Swat teams. We got everybody literally moved, about 400 people out of the offices and all the people who were out in the field, we had to provide them with great safety stuff. We rethought our business model, and we actually accelerated and created something that Vincent can tell you more about, which we call HomeX Remote Assist, which fundamentally changed how consumers could operate as related to home services, and literally, it became the Teladoc of home services. What’s most delightful to us is we finished the year 15% ahead of all of our budget because we took COVID as a crisis and turned it into an opportunity. Every day, we knew it was tough. We literally would have five all-hands-type meetings going on at one time dealing with all the different parts of our business trying to figure out how we were going to work with it, but the important thing is that we really put our heads down and came up with some great solutions. Vincent, you want to talk about the most important thing to come out of it, which was HomeX Remote Assist?
Vincent Payen: Yes. I remember one night saying, “What if we just double-down on what we can do and what people will need now. At that point, we had done our service business remotely. Just because something happens—a customer calls and, “You want to see this person. Did you try to feed the breaker on your disposal and see if that’s the problem?” We sent someone, and that grew into all of them. “How great can we make that if we use technology, and if we build a knowledge graph around it, and if we use all the things we know how to do, how many things can we solve remotely. We didn’t solve a ton, and even when we don’t fix them, as I told you, we diagnose them, and it makes the service more efficient. In the COVID complex, it was clear. We started what we were planning on doing that became, not irrelevant, but much riskier. What we need is they still need help. Their house will keep breaking. We’re not sure we’ll be able to send people to their house, so the right thing to do for getting all the economics—this is going to scale, and all the committee was like, [31:35]. That’s the best way to help people now. That forced us to productize it at scale very quickly and, in the process, build the biggest remote home service provider that I know of, and they follow commission closely and the more technically advanced where our CS agents have science and machine helping them, asking questions, the nurse to the doctor, and then all our technicians, then help people solve things and give them information, and transforming the experience more than we had thought. We thought Remote Assist had to be part of the offering. We never imagined it was actually becoming the core of the different [32:25] back to the entire ecosystem, and it takes experience. We were a big force into it. I think Michael has a good example of great companies that came out of the last financial crisis or big events where, in a way, discouraged you. When you have one path, you work as hard as you can on that path, and you’re first to innovate, and then it’s the duty of the technology companies can do today.
Alejandro: We’ve been talking about lessons learned and how you guys have been able to get to where you are today after the ups and downs that you’ve encountered, especially with COVID. One of the questions that I typically ask the guests that come on the show is if I was able to put you both into a time machine and bring you back to that time in 2018 when you were thinking about really joining forces for HouseX. If both of you were able to sit right there with your younger selves, and you were able to give yourselves one piece of advice before launching this business and going at it, what would you tell that younger Vincent and that younger Michael? Why don’t we start with Michael? What would you say?
Michael Werner: When I think back to the Werner company, my cousin, who actually worked with me once, gave me a plaque, and it said, “If Michael can dream it, we “might” be able to do it.” What he was telling me is that I try to do so many things at once. I have all these different ideas and all these different dreams, but they’re really hard to do all at once. If I went back to my younger self, and I think about HomeX, HomeX is a complex yet very elegant business model, but we took on a tremendous amount at one time. The neat thing is that we’ve been accomplishing it. But the best advice I’d give myself is to really break down things into more digestible pieces and not try to do too many things at once, but get the first one working really well, which we did with our service business. Then get the second one working, and then get the third one working. My advice to my younger self is to actually listen to what people have told me and not to try to do too much at once.
Alejandro: Amazing. So, Vincent, what would you say to expand on that?
Vincent Payen: Go even quicker. When you work [35:03], you can spend a year trying to move 50 basis points of [35:12]. The rigor, the thinking, the planning that goes with it is fantastic learning. When it’s a baby company, it’s a totally different game. Everything we move has to be seen from space. Every opportunity and idea has to move the needle significantly. Perfection will not come to planning. It will come through [35:46]. I think I would tell myself don’t be afraid to go even quicker. Try, fail/fast. It’s fine for a genius to write code and throw it away, which I would never let happen at eBay or anywhere else because the speed of learning is absolutely what matters in the first year of a business. The time you get there, to innovate, to think, go quickly.
Alejandro: I love it. For the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi, Michael and Vincent?
Michael Werner: LinkedIn is always a great way to do it. I try to answer most things directly on LinkedIn that aren’t just solicitations. When someone is really trying to connect with me, I try to respond to those. That’s a wonderful way to do it. We also are very reachable at our email addresses. Michael@HomeX.com. We’re always happy to meet people. We’re a company that’s very eager to partner with others and to grow with others.
Vincent Payen: Vincent@HomeX.com, but I would say go to HomeX.com. Try Remote Assist. Hopefully, you will have a magical experience. If not, email me and tell me why. We’re always happy to be in touch with people who are interested in our business or experience.
Alejandro: Amazing. Thank you so, so much, guys, for being on the DealMakers show. It’s been an honor to have you both on the show today.
Vincent Payen: Thank you for having me.
Michael Werner: Thank you, Alejandro, for having us on the show.
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