Peter Gundmundsson

Episode Description

As a leader and entrepreneur, it’s vital to know your company inside and out. But is that enough?

In this episode of The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, I’m so happy to be coaching Peter Gudmundsson, CEO of a very interesting software company called BeHome247, that works with smart home technology, workflow automations, and vendor management.

Today we’re discussing how to find the right balance between inquiry and action when you’re starting in a new company, the importance of getting to know your business, and establishing trust through hard work and humility.

Are you struggling with something? Let’s talk! If there's a challenge you'd like to talk about on the podcast or privately, please reach out to me at:

kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

Episode Transcript

Kim Ades: [00:00:05]
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching, and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast, where I invite leaders from all over the world to come onto the podcast and get coached live and in person.

Today, my guest is Peter Gudmundsson, he is the President and Founder of a company called BeHome247.

Peter, welcome.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:00:29]
Thanks for having me!

Kim Ades: [00:00:30]
So, where are you in the world?

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:00:32]
I'm in Dallas, Texas.

Kim Ades: [00:00:34]
Okay. Dallas, Texas. And you recently took over this business?

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:00:39]
Yeah. So I'm actually not the founder. You gave me extra credit there.

Kim Ades: [00:00:42]
Okay.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:00:42]
I'm just the CEO, but we still have the founder. We have a technologist founder who founded the business 14 years ago. And what the company does is... it's software that helps property managers run their... either a vacation rental or multi-home properties better, more efficiently, and with better insight into their assets, meaning their devices, like smart locks and HPAC controls, things like that.

Kim Ades: [00:01:11]
Okay. So if I own multiple properties, I use this software to keep track of everything. Is that accurate?

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:01:17]
Exactly right. Yeah. So processes like maintenance and housekeeping, but also hardware, like could be leak control devices or pool temperatures, room temperatures, locks, security cameras, all those sorts of things.

Kim Ades: [00:01:34]
Okay. So you recently took over the company. Are you now an owner as well? Or did you--

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:01:39]
I did invest. I did invest as well, but I did not buy the whole thing, like I've done it earlier times in my career.

Kim Ades: [00:01:45]
Okay. So earlier times. Tell us a little bit about your background and where your history...

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:01:52]
Yeah!

Kim Ades: [00:01:53]
...led you, but then why you decided to do this.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:01:55]
Yeah. So what I tend to do is what I call buy, grow, sell. Every four or five years I buy, or sometimes I don't. Sometimes I'm just hired as the CEO and I earn equity. But sometimes I invest, sometimes I buy the whole thing with an investor group.

And what I call buy, grow, sell. Buy the business, grow it. Sometimes there's a little bit of a turnaround involved, sometimes not. And then sell it, typically. And then take a little time off and then do it again.

So that's what I've been doing most of my career, or at least in the last, maybe 20 years of it. But I've been running small businesses for about twenty-five years. I'm 57. Probably my first true CEO role was at about the age of 34, I think.

Kim Ades: [00:02:36]
Okay. And so what were your previous companies that you ran, grew and sold?

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:02:41]
Yeah, well, this past summer I sold a company called the Pet Loss Center. We were the number two pet cremation company in North America. We actually sold to a Canadian company back in the summer. That was number one.

Before that I bought, grew and sold a company called Recruit Military that did job fairs for American companies that wanted to hire military veterans. And that was about a four and a half year run. That was great.

And so, before that I've run companies as diverse as a lot of publishing stuff, like I had something called the Dallas-Fort Worth Design Guide or Design Guide Publishing. I had a company called Beckett Publications, which collectors of baseball cards and football cards, and so on, would know as a price guide for those collectors...

Kim Ades: [00:03:33]
Okay. So, I was expecting to see some kind of trend in the companies you chose...

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:03:39]
Yeah.

Kim Ades: [00:03:39]
...but there isn't really a trend. Or there a familiar--

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:03:42]
Well there's size.

Kim Ades: [00:03:44]
Okay.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:03:44]
There is a state of them. Typically they are mature and it's time for-- either mature or in a growth arc. Not necessarily startups.

Kim Ades: [00:03:53]
Okay.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:03:54]
And not fully mature in decline. So I like sort of middle-aged companies, if you will. Number one. And then... so, size, as I mentioned. And then the third thing is where there's a rich amount of intellectual property, which is a fancy way of saying publishing or media, or technology. Those types of things.

The cremation was a bit of an outlier, I agree. There were some investors I knew who were invested in that, who asked if I would take it over.

Kim Ades: [00:04:23]
Right.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:04:23]
So... But yeah. Those are the common themes.

Kim Ades: [00:04:26]
Okay. So curious. You're six weeks in. What are the first things you do when you first start a new business?

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:04:33]
Yeah. Well, there's two primary things. Top of mind. One is connect with people. So, it is getting to know everybody on a personal level before you do anything else. What's their history at the company. What's their similar questions to what you just asked me. Understand where they're coming from, what their strengths and weaknesses and preferences are, and that sort of thing.

So I spent an hour with every employee, these days by video, but it's been very helpful. I take exhaustive notes and things like that. And along the way, I'm learning about the company. So I'm a big believer in, first, figure out what they do right, before you try to change anything that they do wrong.

So it's a very humble approach. Come in listening rather than talking. At the same time, people want to hear a little bit what you have planned. So there is a political element to that. You have to be-- you have to give some indication, but number one is get to know people.

Then number two is to really understand the business. What busi-- at the minute level, but also at the big picture level, what business are you really in? And that's been my-- one of my bigger challenges here, because our software is complex and very often the answer our own employees gave is "oh, it can do anything". And I'm like, "well, if it can do anything, what is it?"

In fact that the analogy I use internally is, you know, it's like Volvo cars. What does Volvo do? They make safe cars. End of story. You just know that's what they do. That's what their brand is all about. They may be  luxurious or fuel efficient or reliable. Or not. It doesn't matter. They make safe cars.

And that's-- we're still working on that process now. But it is an iterative sort of Socratic process where you ask a lot of questions, ask clarifying questions and ideally help the team come to their own conclusions as to what business we're in.

I mean, not in a new age, sort of make it up way, but really ask the right questions. Who is our customer? How do we differentiate? Talk about scenarios, like... all right, imagine we're in a sales call right now, and I have a 500 unit apartment complex in, I don't know, Houston. How would you pitch me on our product? And then I just ask questions, and... until we hone in on what it is that we do.

Kim Ades: [00:06:48]
Okay, so six weeks in. You've done this before. You're doing all the right things. You're meeting the people, you're spending time with them. Just curious, how many people are you meeting with for an hour at a time?

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:06:58]
Oh, only 15, internally.

Kim Ades: [00:07:00]
Okay, got it.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:07:01]
It's pretty small. It's pretty small. But it-- but that's internally. Then the next phase is to go external. Which is existing customers, even reaching out-- I'm still in the process of doing this, reaching out to lapsed customers, ones that we lost, to figure out what we could have done better.

Part of that is just building trust. "Look, I'm not trying to sell you anything, I just want to learn". And so-- And now I'm reaching out. It's sort of the first stage of supporting the sales effort, but it's still a fact finding of meeting with leaders in the spaces we serve, property managers, to figure out how are they wired, how do they think.

And that's what I've enjoyed in my career is I love-- I fancy myself an amateur anthropologist. I love figuring out new cultures. And so to me, I picture myself, like, with a white lab coat and a clip board saying, "oh, it seems that the property managers value these things". You know, so that's really important to directing the company is understanding what it is that we're trying to accomplish.

Kim Ades: [00:07:57]
Right. So six weeks in, what would you say is your current biggest challenge? And it-- honestly, it could be a personal one.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:08:03]
Yeah. It's-- now it's professional in nature, which is finding that right balance of asking the academic questions that I've mentioned previously, but also leaning into actual execution.

So it's finding the balance between continued inquiry and action. And you never have all the information, in fact, if I don't follow this company for 10 years, I'll never have all the questions answered. But you have to make decisions, you have to push forward.

And so, for example, right now, we're in the process of writing a marketing plan. The company really didn't have much of a marketing plan, so it's-- but to do a marketing plan, you have to know what business you're in and we're still refining that. We're still at the stage of--

Because we were founded by a very gifted technologist who enjoys solving problems, his answer might be "we solve technical problems"... well, yes, that's true. And that's vital, but that's hard for a customer or a potential customer to understand.

"Okay. What of my problems will you solve? What will smart locks do for my property? What will self guided property tours do for me?" Even after COVID, hopefully, fades. Think questions like that. So it's finding that balance between inquiry and action. So, I mean... yeah.

Kim Ades: [00:09:24]
Yeah. I mean, it's interesting what you're saying, 'cause clearly you have a great deal of experience doing this and you have figured out the balance, but as I'm listening to you, my instinct is to say follow historic wins and create new wins quickly.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:09:43]
Yes, that's right. And that's a great point.

Kim Ades: [00:09:44]
Yeah?

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:09:45]
Yeah. Yeah. That's a great point, the quick wins. And that's important for all the constituencies that a CEO has to worry about, which is owners. So we have a family office that owns the majority of the company. They hired me, they're behind me, but it's human nature, a couple of months in, to say, "all right, is this the right guy?"

Kim Ades: [00:10:01]
Right.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:10:02]
And so, by having those short term wins, that's great advice. That's true. And then likewise with the rank and file staff, they're like, "who is this guy? You know, he seems to ask some good questions, but can we win with him or not?" Is very important. That's good advice.

Kim Ades: [00:10:16]
And so, you know, when you say "we don't really have a business plan because we don't know who we are", so, that's like a big project, probably.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:10:22]
Oh yeah.

Kim Ades: [00:10:22]
So it's going to take a little more time. It's going to be harder to bring your wins in. But by, you know, tweaking very specific departments, you could say, to acquire an incremental gain in those areas will be very valuable.

It's not that it will buy you time to focus on that bigger picture, but it will provide you with valuable information that will serve your case in terms of the marketing plan, but also will get the buy-in from the critical team players that you need to help you dig in those other areas.

So, you know, it could be as simple as, as you were describing, you have an individual who has 500 properties. How do you make the pitch? And if you're tweaking the pitch, tweaking the sales process, which is a little different from the marketing plan, and you're finding wins there that are measurable and tangible... right?

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:11:19]
Exactly.

Kim Ades: [00:11:21]
And so--

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:11:21]
Well, yeah. Rhetorically, I presented it as an either/or, but it really isn't, there they're mutually supporting. So you, by going for those wins, those early wins, as you described them, that's also a source of information. Because, okay, we got that early sale, what does that tell us? And let's do a little bit more of that, you know, and so on.

Kim Ades: [00:11:39]
Yes.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:11:39]
Absolutely. Totally correct.

Kim Ades: [00:11:41]
So... And maybe it's simplistic to say, go for the low hanging fruit when you first start, so that you're creating a little bit of traction and a little bit of momentum that allows people to start building their trust in you with the harder, more complicated, longer-term things that don't necessarily create results instantly.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:12:02]
Definitely. Yeah.

Kim Ades: [00:12:03]
So, that's my kind of point of view.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:12:05]
Put me in coach!

Kim Ades: [00:12:07]
Put you in. Amazing! Yeah.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:12:10]
Absolutely.

Kim Ades: [00:12:11]
That was easy. I thought it was going to be harder. I thought it was going to be dealing with someone who's way... Yeah.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:12:17]
Well, I said the word at the beginning. Humility is very important in a leader. It's... I think it's a Chinese old saying that the road to knowledge begins with the statement "I do not know". And so, knowing what you don't know.

But on the other hand with experience, you do know a lot. So it's a combination of both, and that's the sign of a subtle mind being able to maintain conflicting ideas and not go crazy sometimes. But yeah, that's good advice.

Kim Ades: [00:12:45]
And, on another front, just from, like, a marketing perspective, you know, the real estate industry is a very interesting place. I've been there for a few years in my career myself. In fact, many years ago I won an award for being one of the 50 most influential women in the real estate industry.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:13:05]
Wow! Okay!

Kim Ades: [00:13:05]
That was a long time ago. And so, another thing-- at the time I was selling--

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:13:13]
Not THAT long ago.

Kim Ades: [00:13:14]
Well almost. I was selling a simulation based software that was designed to help brokers make... Recruit more real estate professionals. And so, learning the lay of the land in the real estate industry is something I might recommend, and there's a very specific structure that's not hard to navigate. So if I could be of assistance in any way, I'd be happy to--

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:13:38]
Well, thank you! I appreciate it. You are right. Every industry has its buzz words and buzz phrases, and once you master that, you could throw around terms like multi-family, single family, timeshare, all these types of things. But yeah, I'm picking up on that fast.

Kim Ades: [00:13:52]
Yes. So I'm happy to share. It's a little dated, but still the structure remains the same. Happy to share what I know.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:13:59]
Thank you.

Kim Ades: [00:14:01]
For those of you who are listening, I hope you picked something up. I think the lesson here is humility, but also try to get some quick wins early on in the game when you're taking over a new department, a new business, a new team. Just find some quick wins, establish trust, and take that knowledge to be able to formulate a longer-term more elaborate plan for the future.

Peter, thank you so much for being part of this podcast, for sharing your experience and for being humble and being open to coaching.

For those of you who are listening, if there is a challenge that you want to share on the podcast, please reach out to me.

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

If there's a challenge that you're not so comfortable sharing on the podcast, but still want coaching for, please reach out to me as well.

Again, my email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

Peter, thank you so much for sharing this time with me.

Peter Gudmundsson: [00:14:59]
Thanks for having me.