Sissi Lappin from ListingDoor – CEO Interview
When did you know you wanted to start your own company?
I was a real estate broker in the Houston area for over 20+ years when one of my closest friends came to me in a panic needing to sell her home. Her husband had defaulted on his child support, and left a huge income gap. She was worried for her credit, her ability to make the mortgage payment, and her family’s stability. Over a glass of wine, I mapped out how she could sell her own home. She put the house on the market two days later, sold it, and saved $24,000 in commission. This left her with enough money to move, saved her credit, and reaffirmed her pride in herself as a strong woman and single mother. Weeks later, my friend came over to thank me. She gave me a big hug and said, “You have to help other people in this situation so that they can help themselves.” This was the moment that I decided to write a book showing people how to sell their own home. After I wrote Simple and Sold, I was getting emails from readers asking for the actual tools to sell their own home, which is why I started ListingDoor. ListingDoor is an online experience that empowers homeowners to price, list, and market their homes with resources that are superior to those of standard brokerage firms.
What was your original idea for this company, and are you still doing that (or did you pivot, if so, what is the new focus and why)?
Honestly, the original idea is here to stay; we are disrupting the way homes are bought and sold.
How long did it take you to finally take the leap, and what was it that pushed you over the fence?
Once I had the lightbulb moment to help people sell their own homes, I wrote and published my first book Simple and Sold in just a few months. I had sold over $1 billion in home transactions so I knew how to simplify the process.
Who inspired you to pursue your dream, and why do you think they believed in you?
My husband, who is also my business partner, inspired me to pursue my dream. One night while having dinner with a friend who was one of the original founders of TurboTax, the conversation turned to automation. We discussed how selling a home could be automated. With everything being executed online today, I knew it was going to be me or someone else to start this company.
Who is your favorite mentor and why?
I have gained quite a few mentors through podcasts and books! Some of my favorite entrepreneurs include Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Jim McKelvey of Square. Also, the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell should be required reading for entrepreneurs. It’s incredible how many people share their success stories and strategies online.
What was the hardest thing about starting your company, and what did you do to make it through the first stage?
The hardest thing about starting ListingDoor is time. My husband and I have bootstrapped since day one with day jobs and two children to raise, and we’ve had a blast along the way. We chose to self-fund ListingDoor and not accept any outside investment; this decision meant very long hours in the beginning. When I realized I essentially wanted to self-fund a real estate technology startup, I went through our budget and slashed every extra expense. Everything. Investors aren’t always a negative, but maintaining autonomy helped keep the ethos of the company. Money always comes with a personality so you better like that personality! I didn’t have to worry about these issues because I had the money saved to forgo outside investment. Those early days of long hours and small budgets gave us the freedom to run the company how we see fit. I wouldn’t change a thing.
What has been the hardest lesson to learn?
Be careful when hiring friends; just because you like somebody doesn’t mean they can do the job! I have found it tough to do business with friends because it’s more difficult to give honest feedback. I keep a very lean team and hire very slowly.
What has been the most amazing thing you have experience while running this company?
The most amazing experience I’ve had while running this company is witnessing countless entrepreneurs open up to share their successes and trials. People are far more honest and forthcoming than I imagined. I have learned so much from my peers.
What is the weirdest thing you have experienced while running this company, and how did you react to it?
When the first article came out on Listing Door, I got a phone call from the president of a major real estate firm that was two comments short of a death threat; he told me I needed to pack my stuff and start another business. That’s when I knew that I was really onto something important. Don’t be afraid of the naysayers.
What is the best decision you’ve ever made while running this company?
The best decision I’ve ever made while running this company was to hire a great lawyer. The lawyer we used was the former National Association of Realtors lawyer, as well as a Federal Trade Commission lawyer. I joke with my husband that for my anniversary last year I got a $3,400 legal bill to read the messaging on our website to make sure everything was written correctly. Spending money upfront to set up the legal piece correctly has saved us quite a bit of stress.
What is the biggest mistake you made while running this company, and why do you think it happened?
The biggest mistake I’ve made while running this company is taking on too many projects at one time. I’ve learned to manage my time better and to delegate. I’ve also learned to hire experts and outsource areas where I’m not as strong. For example, I found a stellar copywriter who lives in Australia. It would have taken me six months to produce what took her six days. I trust my team to do their job.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your company?
The coronavirus pandemic has absolutely helped ListingDoor. With so many Americans unemployed and the economy going through a fundamental shift, people are looking for ways to save money, especially when selling their home. Also, the shift to remote means that more people are buying and selling homes virtually. People are becoming more comfortable and confident using online tools.
What keeps you passionate about your company?
I am passionate about ListingDoor because I know we are helping people financially, which is the single biggest cause of stress. I keep a printed email on my desk from my early days starting ListingDoor; a wonderfully kind woman named Helen in New Jersey used ListingDoor to sell her home. With the commission she saved, she was able to take her grandkids to Disneyland for the first time. I hear many touching stories about how ListingDoor truly helps people and it drives me to continue.
What daily routine have you developed to help you take care of your mind, body, and soul?
I do several things everyday that nurture my mind, body, and soul. Firstly, I don’t jump out of bed right away. I take time to do some deep breathing exercises and set the tone for the day. Second, I always start the day with great music, usually Bob Segar or Tina Turner. It’s hard to be in a bad mood with fantastic music blasting. I try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine although I don’t stress about it. I like the 80-20 mentality of being healthy 80% of the time and enjoying my life fully. Lastly, I keep my mind sharp because I am a voracious reader. In the evenings, I read for at least an hour and the topics vary widely. I love reading about other entrepreneurs, global trends, and true industry disruptors. Reading expands and quiets the mind.
What one thing would you like people to take away from this interview?
When opportunity knocks, it comes without a paycheck. If I had been saddled with debt, I wouldn’t have the freedom to start my own ventures. I know it’s tough, but save money!
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About the Community
On the podcast, Sean talks with entrepreneurs about the reality of their struggle to succeed, as well as answering questions from the community, and sharing nuggets of wisdom from his own life.
Discover through these amazing episodes the courage to open your mind, heart, and soul to the world so you can be the best entrepreneur possible, respect the people you work with, and improve the world with your company while not hurting others or yourself in the process.
Sean is an entrepreneur, investor, and advisor based in SE Asia for over 12 years. He is passionate about Psychology and helping others improve themselves.