Entrepreneurial Resilience During Challenging Times

Small Business Canada

Rick Haws is Co-Founder and President of SaleFish, a real estate sales software solution with more than 15 years of industry experience, processing over $55 billion in worldwide real estate transactions to date.

Rick started the company in 2004 with Rob Nicolucci. Both are entrepreneurs with backgrounds in architecture and design. Rick understands the complexities of the development business, the ever-changing challenges, and the need for efficiency at every turn. His insight — and the expertise of the entire team — is leading a sea change in the proptech sector.

What was the inspiration behind the launch of the SaleFish? How is your firm helping real estate agents through its digital tools?

The inspiration started with a simple thought of “making things simpler”. SaleFish came out of a residential architectural firm called RN design. To give you a bit of background context, RN Design gave sales companies a metric on what it was that they could particularly sell in a lot – and that was called the setting analysis, and it was strictly on what would fit on a lot. The problem was, as soon as the lot sold, architecture control rules kicked in, and with that came many complexities and limitations. We took a very complicated situation and came up with a software situation to simplify the selling process… and today, over 15 years later, we are leaders in the Canadian PropTech industry and help transact real estate globally.

You have started SaleFish with Rob Nicolucci in 2004, your firm has successfully helped real estate agents as a software solution provider, how do you define entrepreneurship?

I would say being an entrepreneur is about creating something that has value to others. As a real estate software company, we’ve created a product, a solution and the very fact that we have global clients is a testament that we’ve created something of value to the industry. For other business leaders, that may be served over a product, but that’s what all entrepreneurs do – they put themselves out there to create something important, taking in all the risks associated with doing so.

According to the recent PWC’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate® 2021 report, property-related technology has accelerated by a decade during the pandemic to provide solutions to ensure business continuity. Can you share a few thoughts on this shift and what buyers can expect from this digital shift?

The digital transformation of real estate is not new, but the pandemic has significantly accelerated this process. We’re seeing an unprecedented rate of adoption for PropTech like digital sales software enabling builders and agents to sell remotely in real-time with cloud-based technology. The pandemic really forced real estate professionals to take on the technology that they haven’t before, Zoom being the basis of scenarios of this digital shift.

Customer behaviors and preferences are changing and those who have long been reluctant to buy into the digital transformation are now firmly on board.

Prospective buyers are more comfortable than ever before interacting with developers and/or agents online and signing agreements digitally.

Above all, a key takeaway is that the digitalization of real estate is here to stay. The last year has taught us that change allows for innovative approaches to business and helps us expand our capabilities by putting customer experiences and expectations at the heart of everything we do. Moving forward, technology will be another tool in our toolbelt. Even when sales offices reopen, the streamlined sales process will be an ongoing asset to the industry, and the proficiencies of selling virtually will continue to be vital for reaching remote buyers.

64% of global real estate executives said that they were concerned about cyber threats–making cybersecurity one of the key opportunities and elements to this digital shift. How SaleFish’s technology is paving the way for addressing any cybersecurity concerns

At Salefish, we are paving the way by leading by example and taking the extra steps to ensure we are addressing these concerns head-on.

SaleFish is the only real estate transaction software in the world that is certified by Cyber Essentials Canada and we are big advocates in bringing awareness forward and educating fellow industry experts.

The term “cybersecurity” is widely used but misunderstood. Especially during this digital shift, there’s great value in keeping cybersecurity top of mind, and we continuously put the effort in keeping this conversation going through our quarterly webinars, blog posts, and by speaking at various industry conferences.

How business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs can bounce back from uncertainty and run their businesses under challenging circumstances?

Customer habits are shifting – regardless of what industry you are in, you need to analyze your service and/or products and make adjustments to meet your customer’s requirements. Not just during these times, but as a fundamentally good business practice. As you could imagine, selling real estate online also means communicating sensitive information on the web and one of the key challenges for us was identifying someone’s identity and verifying their IDs. When the pandemic hit, we quickly had to embed features to our software that could scan someone’s face and their ID through a camera with 100% accuracy- we understood this was essential in order for the sales transaction to be done 100% contact-free.

Our SaleFish team recently powered sales for Cachet Group’s ParQ project, a community of townhomes in Brantford, and they sold out of all 150 units in four days using this technology without a sales center.

On a final note, can you share your key advice to entrepreneurs during these challenging times?

During these times, having open communication with your staff and clients is especially important. In all cases, you need to recognize your clients’ needs and move forward to implement changes quickly. In general, I can’t stress enough the importance of networking and finding opportunities to connect with different people. I believe everyone needs three types of people in their lives: 1) a cheerleader 2) someone that holds different perspectives to help get rid of your blindspots 3) a mentor – someone outside of your circle that can give you a completely objective perspective on what you do.

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