Built Piece by Piece: Dan Corkill
Today we had Dan Corkill of Follow Up Boss. A simple sales-focused CRM, self funded, profitable company started back in April of 2011, fully remote with a mostly US-based team. In today's podcast, we walk through the journey of Dan, how he started with Follow Up Boss, moving from his hometown Australia to establishing his career in Austin, Texas, how their CRM services can help real estate companies and brokerage firms, the lessons he learned in building his company and what's next for FUB for the next five years.
- About Dan
- Building FollowUpBoss
- FollowUpBoss’ Target Audience
- Partnership with Curaytor
- FollowUpBoss vs other CRMs
- FollowUpBoss for Single Agents and Teams
- The Mistakes Made in Building FollowUpBoss
- Company Growth
- Running on Operating Systems
- Moving to Austin, Texas
- FollowUpBoss and Ylopo
- What’s Next for FollowUpBoss?
- Common Denominator Behind Top Performing People
- Connect with Dan Corkill
FollowUpBoss is a sales CRM that helps real estate teams and single agents grow their sales that started about 10 years ago.
Dan was born in Sydney Australia and is now based in Austin, Texas. He shares with us that it’s been a journey of how he got into the real estate tech, learned about the industry, and moved to the US. As a kid, Dan was always interested in the internet and technology. In official capacities, he ended up going to Griffith University in Australia doing a finance degree.
The world of business is very different from what you learn in school. After university, Dan did a couple of jobs in the finance industry and didn’t really like it since he states it was a pretty boring real world. That’s where he decided he wanted to move out of finance and start making some websites for people to learn more about online marketing.
Dan world for a few companies just to gain experience and get more exposure to entrepreneurship and essentially help companies grow and all these cool things such as emerging things like webinars events, and the like.
While working for this company, Dan got to the stage where he really don’t want to work for someone else. He wanted to sort of hang his own shingle out there and give it a go. He quit his job and didn’t really have a lot of plans back then. His plan was to kind of backpack around Europe where at 25 he had some savings.
He then worked with Tom, his co-founder in FollowUpBoss. Tom asks Dan if he wants to start a software company to which Dan agrees since he got nothing else going on as of that moment. Tom was an engineer so it was a great opportunity and Dan had also been thinking a lot about software during that time.
The funny thing Dan states was the location. He has been traveling and traveling around Europe quite a lot. He lived in Turkey for a year, lived in Germany for quite a while, and spend a little bit of time in the US when they were getting started so FollowUpBoss wasn’t started by Dan in Australia. He was traveling around and has always been a remote company from day one.
FollowUpBoss’ Target Audience
Dan had some knowledge of CRM products that are on the market. There was some sort of things like Infusion soft which were complicated for businesses at that time but they were really powerful. There were also systems like high rise by 37 signals which is very simple, but too simple like you can search by an email address.
Dan thought that they have to find out and build something powerful in the middle but also simple enough that small businesses can use. That was their vision on what they wanted to do but they also quickly realized that you have to have a niche because just trying to go out there with a young product that didn’t have many features didn’t really solve that many problems for people, you kind of had to have a specific problem that you wanted to solve.
Eventually, they started talking to a lot of real estate agents in the US where Dan would chat with them just trying to really understand their problems. A lot of people were starting to buy on leads and a lot of people were starting to build teams back in 2011. There weren’t really any good systems that could aggregate their lead sources together and automate that at the time.
There were great systems like TigerLeads, Boomtown, Commission’s Inc, but they were all just focus on their own lead source which was Pay-Per-Click. That was their differentiator and what they sort of came in. Now everyone aggregates leads but they wanted the first companies to do it. That was the big problem they were trying to solve for people.
Partnership with Curaytor
Dan states that Chris was very well-known in the industry and spent a lot of time being a Top Producer at Realtor.com so a lot of curated clients or people they met went through him. Not only they were great clients but they also taught other people like the Curaytor thing. Word of mouth has always been big for FollowUpBoss.
Dan thought that it comes down to trying to do a great job for their client’s services and products. It was a great thing for them and getting someone that’s been in the industry. A lot of their initial customers also came from Facebook groups.
FollowUpBoss vs other CRMs
Similar to a deliberate strategic decision, Dan didn’t want to do something else that everyone else is going. A lot of platforms offer very similar services like a CRM, website, Pay-Per-Click. There are probably 50 other ones that are just trying to do that and they weren’t just as big for whatever reason.
Dan thought that it’s also difficult to integrate all the MLS in the United States. It’s difficult to do great digital marketing since things are changing all the time so they just focused on being really good at this. They also partnered with everyone else that was doing great digital marketing and website work. Legions change all the time like Google Local Service Ads and all these kinds of new things that will happen in the future. It’s never gonna just stand still so Dan wanted to take advantage of those for their clients.
Knowing what’s different about FollowUpBoss, Dan says that they’re like in the pending company where they are really beholden to anyone where at the end of the day, they want what is best for their clients and what’s best for them, what gets them results. It’s not just the thing they are selling. They don’t get paid by anyone to promote their platform or recommend their lead services.
One of the exciting things that have really happened in the last two to three years, since Dan uses a basis so big now that a lot of times when someone’s launching a new referral program or a new lead generation product, one of the companies they come to first because they don’t have a competing product and they have a big user base. Another thing is like the network effects or whatever you would call it where they have some sort of leverage to have really good integration with them.
FollowUpBoss for Single Agents and Teams
FollowUpBoss still has a single agent plan up to this day. They have team people of all sizes sign up and then they have people coming on that have hundreds and thousands of users.
One of their biggest real estate clients at the moment is Robert Slack with about 1,000 users on his instance. He started as a single agent seven years ago and it just grew. He was pushing the system, he was always saying that he needed these new features to manage multiple teams within one account, and to his credit, that was one feature FollowUpBoss implemented.
Dan states that sometimes it’s like a sliding scale where more and more things all the time but one of the things that they really try to keep the system’s usability easy. That’s one of the things people switch away from the ones where Dan thinks it’s an advantage when they are scaling their teams.
For Dan, there are two things about their platform FollowUpBoss,
1. It’s easy to train people in the system;
2. They have all the integrations because they have an open API
What this means is that they don’t restrict anyone’s access to their API, any company can come and build upon it and integrate FollowUpBoss. Dan says that it just sank a little bit different to some of the only ones they want to strategically pick to do and don’t integrate with and not integrate with competing systems.
With teams that are scaling, it comes naturally in the industry where they didn’t drive that, it’s driven by the real estate teams and their platform is well-positioned to take advantage of it.
The Mistakes Made in Building FollowUpBoss
Dan always tried to have this mindset that there have definitely been mistakes but he has always tried to have a mindset that they just learned something that didn’t work. How are they going to solve this problem? They move on to the next thing. That is where Dan thinks people get stuck. They get so down on their mistake.
One of the things that probably didn’t do well was hiring good people faster. They have an amazing team now and everyone in their company is really great at what they do. They retain people for a long time and just compounds to make a difference.
Dan says that he needs to change as a founder and move more into the CEO role than sort of the Dan has his hand in everything rolls and it gets a challenge for team leaders as well. It’s like stepping back, trusting other people, and you kind of know that’s going to happen.
A mistake is sometimes hiring the wrong people and not letting them go fast enough. It’s a tough thing for Dan since he hates firing people. He wants to see everyone become successful. For Dan, people are one of the hardest parts of the business. Besides that, they’ve always had a pretty smooth journey. A business owner has ups and downs so it’s not that there hasn’t been all of that but they’ve grown every year since they’ve been in the business and every month except for the two months when COVID hit because everyone didn’t know what was going on. Every single month for the last 10 years was like a drone.
FollowUpBoss currently has 65 employees at the moment. They just hired a bunch more people and are really trying to hire more great people in support. They will also hire a couple more salespeople by the end of the year as well as great engineers for these positions. They have pretty high standards and Dan states that they don’t enforce those standards.
Now, they have people within their team such as Meghan who heads their Success and Support Team. Engineers are hard to hire right now especially that every company is remote which is a big advantage before they were remote and not 95% of companies were. Today, it’s like 99% of tech companies are remote.
Most people are in the US and one person in Canada, Dan’s co-founders down in Australia and they have someone as a developer keynote in Ecuador. Even though it won’t spread out across the US, Dan thinks that’s important just because most of their clients are in the US. Dan doesn’t think that if their whole team was in Australia or somewhere in Europe would work as well.
Timezone and culturally, it’s just some of the challenges. Dan says that they probably have to expand a little bit internationally where they want to sort of have 24/7 support and one thing they’re going to do is hire a few people overseas for that.
Running on Operating Systems
They’ve tried to implement a bit of like the scaling up system. Dan wouldn’t say that they really adhere to it strictly but they are practicing it. They probably need to get back to a bit more structure. About two years ago, they brought in Sam, who is their COO who has been really helpful with a lot of getting some of the operations a bit smoother. They’ve got a great management team.
Dan thinks that they could do better in terms of reporting or how they grow and how they can make it super clear on what Dan or Sam is doing versus what is Meghan doing and all these different people in their team. Dan doesn’t think they’ve perfected it by any means, it’s one thing that worked well fr them to have those principles that they are all generally working towards which is to create value for their customers and get stuff done.
For a lot of the biggest tech companies, they can’t get anything done because there’s so much red tape and mediums and technical data, says Dan.
Moving to Austin, Texas
Dan moved to the US because of the timezone with their clients in the US and Canada. After traveling in Europe, he ended back in Australia and lived there for almost two years and as the business grew, he thought that he has to move over. Dan moved to San Francisco which was like the software center.
There were a lot of good things about San Francisco but it obviously also has a lot of challenges within the city and its expensive rent. Dan was paying $4,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, nothing special at all. There were extra estate taxes as well.
Eventually, he just realized that why won’t he check out Austin? He went to Austin for two weeks with his wife and they really liked it, People were a lot friendlier and they liked the weather. The pace was also similar to Australia where people would be a bit more laid back whereas, in San Francisco and New York, everyone’s super about building the next Salesforce, raising money, selling your company, and all that. Now that it’s been four-five years ago since Dan made the move and they’ve been super happy.
He also could do a much better job in networking where he meets up with a lot of people while it’s something he’s never super great at in San Francisco, he definitely thinks that it’s easier to network due to the people being a bit friendlier.
FollowUpBoss and Ylopo
Dan and Howard Tager, Co-founder and CEO at Ylopo LLC, chatted pretty early on where Howard might have tried another platform first and didn’t really work out that well. Dan thinks that with Ylopo, they definitely integrate with other CRMs so again, they’re trying to do on the digital marketing side, they’re trying to be agnostic. FollowUpBoss is also the most used CRM of Ylopo clients.
Dan sees that both companies have similar values where they care about tech and about their clients’ success. There’s a lot of other great companies out there in the space as well to scare about both things but they just had a really good alignment which led to a good partnership. They don’t have anything on paper and it’s sort of like a natural partnership.
What’s Next for FollowUpBoss?
Dan says that they’re focused on continuing to do what they’re doing. Growing the product and team. They currently have 65 employees and will be 100 pretty soon. What they’re really trying to focus on is retaining the great culture like getting a shift on attitude and letting any ego into anything or red tape or whatever that may be.
They are excited about launching different features with this video texting one. Making the product easier to use and all kinds of stuff like call whisper which is basically listening in to someone’s sales call and giving them tips live so it’s like the same training in the USA or an agent can be on the phone with them. You can just listen to calls already but the problem is that it’s not real estate especially being remote.
It just lets you be like you’re almost looking over their shoulder and giving them some tips like hey you’re talking too much or make sure to ask another good question. Dan states that they are excited about stuff like that because one of the things he realized is they’ve seen many of their clients see so much success and they have a lot of technology, it is there.
What Dan thinks a lot of people need more of is coaching with clarity. For a lot of stuff to sort the none-tangibles. It’s not like you need extra automation or these extra features, sometimes, those things can get in the way.
They will also continue improvising the product since that is where they are trying to get at. A month ago, they did a FollowUpBoss Summit that consists of four hours of good content with some of their amazing clients and speakers. They have 1,000 people live the entire time and everyone’s super excited. It’s the kind of stuff they want to do more to add value to their community.
Common Denominator Behind Top Performing People
Persistence is one of the major things in any success equation according to Dan. So many people started in business, they try one or two things, they quit. You got to try 1,000 things and think about doing something else or whatever. Dan thinks that ruthless business persistence.
Dan tells us about the Michael Jordan documentary about Michael Jordan pretending like he has a chip on his should. He thinks that a lot of high performers had some kind of chip or something to prove.
There are so many other skills and in the real estate game, you have to be great at marketing. Some of their clients such as Gary Ashton and Kris Lindahl, they’re sponsoring local sporting teams, putting up billboards, they’re on the radio, in the media. They’re really marketing machines and personalities.
In recruiting, how can you create this culture? It’s probably something to look at with some of the unsuccessful teams, they’re just taking anyone, there’s no accountabilities, no check-ins, and you’re kind of hoping for the best and that’s where we all started, says Dan.
He made a lot of mistakes starting his business but then you want to be successful, you got to have higher standards.