As a publication for remodelers, we do our best to identify and explore the issues that matter to you. But we aren’t out in the field every day, actually wading through new regulations or trying to find new leads from online startups. To remedy that, we’ve brought in 2014 Remodeling Big50 recipient Darryl Rose from Get Dwell in Chicago, and asked him to talk to Porch.com founder and CEO Matt Ehrlichman about the issues that matter to remodelers. They chatted for an hour about everything from online startups to who owns an online transaction for a home repair project. Below is the complete and uncensored transcript.
Darryl Rose (DR) – Good to talk to you again, how’s life?
Matt Ehrlichman (ME) – I’m doing very well, how’ve you been?
DR – Doing well. Got my son home for the summer so we’ve been working together, it’s a lot of fun. So, you know, I think it’s pretty incredible. Matt, how old are you if you don’t mind my asking?
ME - No I don’t mind you asking, I just turned 36. I’m getting up there, the grays are coming in fast and furious now.
DR – I would imagine your gray hair came in faster than other guys. You’ve started and sold, what is it a $60 million business already?
ME – I did yeah. I’ve been very fortunate, very blessed along the way. Built a couple of companies. That one I had started out of school when I was a sophomore in college back in 2001. After that I started a larger company, a pretty large company, 2700 people. Porch for me will be the last company that I start and I build so I’m trying to build something really special.
DR - Were those companies internet based?
ME – Yep, everything I’ve done largely involves technology in some shape or form. And so both of those… the first was software as a service the second was both software for small businesses and then consumer experience as well. Porch has a similar type of business where we have, you know, deep relationships with small businesses, professionals. Home service professionals, contractors in this case. And then obviously the consumer experience to help them get in touch with the right professional.
DR - When did you start Porch.com? How long has it been in existence?
ME - Let’s see, so… We launched Porch 23 months ago, a week from now. A good 9 months before that was working in the basement of my rental house with a relatively small group. 12 people probably. Aggregating mass amounts of data about the home, building up our relationship connections with professionals across the country. So there’s a good 9 months of work before we launched, but it has been almost two years now since we launched.
DR - Was that small team, was that guys you’d worked with before?
ME - Yeah, some of them. I certainly believe that it’s so critical that the early team of any company is going to make or break the company. It’s where the culture is formed early on. It’s who hires all the rest of the people. And I’ve just been really fortunate to have really incredible partners in building this company. So yeah, very strong people. Some of whom I’ve worked with in the past, some of whom I’ve been introduced to along the way. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of, probably, is the team that we’ve built at Porch. It’s by far the strongest team I’ve ever worked with. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to go as fast as we have.
DR - Totally makes sense that you’ve had a chance to build some other companies and build that internally and understand the importance of culture and what needs to be done. I can’t remember the guy that started Coyote Logistics in Chicago but he sold a company for… I might be wrong, for like $2 billion, and started Coyote Logistics, kind of one of our big tech players. He had his wife in HR she said, ‘Ok we’ll do this again but I’m hiring everybody’. He said ok, we’ll create the culture we want and work with the people we want to this time.
ME - I think that’s awesome. When I built my first company I had never done it before and I had no idea how important the team is. Didn’t think about the culture until it was far too late. It was still a good culture, but it wasn’t conscious and very thoughtful. From the very beginning we’ve had our values here at Porch up on the wall. And if you can be conscious about the kind of company you want to build and the people you want to be surrounded with. It increases the odds so dramatically of building not just building a great company, but the right kind of company that others want to be a part of. So yeah, I’m totally with you.
DR - So you said your values are on the wall. What are your values?
ME - Good question. There’s five core values. I’d be happy to go through it if you’d like to.
DR - Yeah just briefly. Give us an idea of what it is you value and express to your team.
ME - Yeah. The first is problem solvers. So we are at the core, and this follows for me who we are, we believe that building a company is really about solving one problem after the next. Every day, when things are going great, when things are challenging, if you don’t make it too big of a deal, if you just solve problems, that is what you need to do in the pursuit of building something great. No jerks. This is something from the very beginning of the company. I believe there’s just no room for jerks. The people here are really good people. They’re kind, they care about what we’re doing, what we’re trying to accomplish. Nobody goes about, you know, not having the team or… not putting yourself before the team. Making sure the company and the team come first. Customer delight is third. So, being willing to do the hard things. Going above and beyond to surprise and delight customers. For us, customers are about both contractors, the professionals, and it’s about the homeowners as well. But it’s the small little things the team does and again, deeply caring about customers is something that’s core to who we are. Transparency. We have this conversation here, I just believe in being very transparent, very candid. Every week we have “around the porch” where we bring our whole company together and we put up metrics and numbers. How we’re doing, what we’re not doing well. And if we’re candid and authentic with each other, then that gets the opportunity to be really great. And then the fifth last one is ambition. You know we are taking a big swing to try and fundamentally change how people live in their homes, take care of their homes. Fundamentally change how professionals are able to manage their business and to grow. And we’re taking a very large swing at it. And ambition is again core to who we are as a company.
DR - Those are really cool. I looked at the picture of all your employees they all seem like nice people having a good time. At least when the photo was being taken.
ME - It’s cool when people come into the office because you just feel… like you feel the energy and the spirit and soul of the company. I think about… I want to make sure that’s something that lasts forever. I think now we’re at a point where that will. We’ve got such a strong core in the company. We’re now hiring people, that continues to pass down from one person to the next. Sometime when you’re in Seattle…
DR - When I was with you at the leadership conference, you gave a presentation, can you give an overview of what Porch.com is today and what your gameplan is?
ME - Today, Porch is about helping homeowners love their home by helping them find the best professionals that they can trust. And we do that for homeowners with data. So it’s about helping find the very best professionals and providing them the data to do the research and to be very informed about those decisions about who they’re letting inside their home. Trust is at the center of that experience. Where we’re going is continue to broaden out the experience of homeowners and professionals as well. What we have up on our wall, to give a sense of where we’re going, is “love your home.” That’s the mission that we talk about. Helping homeowners everywhere love your home. What that means is more than just finding the best professional, but helping people to take care of their homes. And this fall you’ll see a bunch of things we’re doing that’ll be very exciting in terms of the next evolution of the company.
DR - So you’re helping the homeowner love his home, you’ve got that as a customer and you’ve got the professional as a customer as well. And would you consider Lowe’s as a customer? How do you look at your relationships with Lowe's?
ME - We look at our customers as being the homeowner and the contractor, professional. We look at Lowe’s as being part of our partner network. At the very beginning of Porch there’s two things we focused on. One is on aggregating a very massive and very unique data set about the homes. The homes, the contractors that do work in the homes, and the projects that the contractors have done and contractors all across the country. We have over 3 million professionals in the system. Over 130 million projects we have insight into on homes all across the country. It gives us this really unique ability to create solutions that others can’t. For the other things like data, our partner network and so, we had a relationship with Lowe's early on, Lowe's invested in our company. We have a great relationship and partnership with that company where we’ve rolled out in all their 1,700 stores and their 250,000 associates use Porch every day in their stores to help homeowners get connected to professionals. When they’re buying paint and they need a painter, that associate can help facilitate that connection right there in the store. So no, we don’t do as much as the customer, but we certainly view Lowe's and these other companies as being core partners of Porch.
DR - So that Lowe's associate, how’s that going? When I was in the Lowe’s store I kinda had mixed, I asked people if they knew about Porch. Some kinda did, some didn’t. Some had information, some didn’t. How’s that end of things coming along?
ME - It’s something I’ve learned a lot over the last 20 months or something we’ve been working on it. Overall it’s going incredibly well. Porch is one of Lowe’s fastest national roll outs they’ve ever done. Having worked with a Porch 50 company before, you know, assume that rolled it out… They’re hiring new associates all the time. They’re constantly hiring new people into that engine. And its such a massive army of people, it’s hard to get everyone all the messaging they need. They’re devoting a portion to their new employee on-boarding and their new training session for employees and their, especially their managers to make sure they’re using Porch. That does help that their customers get their projects done. It helps their professionals and other contractors get work from Porch and that’s a great thing. We see right now 65% of associates give or take have actually gone through the training and are active users. What that means is there’s still a third of the associates that, that’s not a natural part of their day to day process, so that’s just part of the ongoing work with Lowe’s. A data point to show how well that’s going, we’ve had 10 people in the field managing different sets of stores going around and making sure the associates are aware and trained and using the Porch system. Lowe's just actually worked with us to expand that team and more than double that team because they’re seeing as we’re in those stores and as we’re helping associates use those tools technically it’s just working. We’re seeing more use which means homeowners are happier and professionals are happier. A bunch of things that are happening on the signage… There’s huge support and momentum from Lowe’s corporate which is fantastic. It’s just a massive army we continue to operate and make sure everybody is using appropriately.