Guest: Dustin Figge, CEO of Homelike GmbH

Dustin Figge is CEO of Homelike GmbH. Dustin talks with Chris Pyak about English jobs at Homelike GmbH, why he doesn't read CV's – and what expats should do instead to get a job at Homelike GmbH.

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Transcript of the podcast with Dustin Figge, CEO of Homelike GmbH

Chris Pyak: I'm glad that you've joined me here tonight. We will spend half an hour with one guest that I'm very fond of, because when I'd just started out with this podcast he was one of my first guests. He took a risk on our little show when no one else had done it before, Dustin Figge, welcome back to the show.

Dustin Figge: Thanks Chris.

Chris Pyak: Dustin, you are the CEO and managing director of Homelike. Tell us a little bit about what does your company do? What is your mission.

Dustin Figge: Homelike is an online marketplace for furnished apartments, so we have a digital platform which allows business travelers to book furnished apartments for a longer period of time. So our minimum renting times are one month, and when we actually did this podcast, this Immigrant Spirit like a year ago, I guess? We were a way smaller company, so now we employ about fifty five people. We do have forty thousand apartments in four countries and one hundred cities, roughly.

Chris Pyak: Yeah, I remember this was not an easy ride for you. You weathered quite some storms to get to this point. What do you think in terms of the company was the biggest benefit that you gained from this learning progress?

Dustin Figge: I mean building a company from scratch is always a very tough venture and very rough seas. I think the learnings we made are countless. I mean when we talked a year ago I think we were like fifteen or twenty people, so we've doubled in terms of team size. And actually one big learning we took is that when you grow as a company, you need to build very strong communication flows, especially in terms of sharing the vision of the company, where you are heading in the next quarter and the next year.

We are such an agile and dynamic company and things are changing so fast, right? So you decide basically on a monthly basis okay, we want to expand into the UK now, and the decision to expand the business to the UK is a very easy one, but when you think about how this affects the structure of the company, it really comes to managing all different people, what is the impact on different departments, and do people actually need to be re-organized within our organization, what does it mean for the people who are in the departments or on the force. So taking all the people when you're growing as a company along the way where we want to head as a company was a huge learning for us, and I think it's very fair to say that in the beginning we struggled a little bit with that.

It's great and awesome to add employees to your company, but the problem is even when you're a larger company, you need to take more care of the people who are joining because you have more processes in place, right? And this is what we learned, and we added eight months ago our head of HR joined our company, and she's thirteen years in the business, really experienced, knows a lot about HR stuff, and that's really helped us to scale our organization. So I think that this was one of the biggest learnings we made in the last year especially.

Chris Pyak: You know I'm listening to you right now here, and what goes through my head is “I love this guy”, because I ask you a real question and I get a real answer from you. Not some kind of promotional bullshit like so many others but you really give a real answer to our question. Do you think that it's typical for how you communicate in the company?

Dustin Figge: I mean I'm very glad that you like honest answers, because in the startup environment there's also a lot of bullshit talk. So especially when you're fundraising it's all about storytelling. People say “yeah, my company's so great, the largest and the best”, I mean we are from Cologne, from North Rhine-Westphalia, I think we are really down to earth. I think when it comes to internal communication through our organization, I'm a very direct speaking person.

But this is not always the best way to communicate stuff, right? So I needed to learn that always direct communication is not always good, but from the bottom of my heart I'm a really direct guy, and I also want to have honest feedback from my employees, because I only think that once people really communicate on a very direct basis, you get the learning curves you need as a dynamic company as Homelike.

Chris Pyak: Absolutely, I completely agree. And speaking of a learning curve, you mentioned already that one of your goals now is to expand to the United Kingdom, can you tell us a little about what will be the next big step for you that you are trying to achieve?

Dustin Figge: I mean I would say that's not one single big step we want to take. I mean we have been in the UK or especially in London for about a year now, right? But it's not been such a big focus for our company so it's just happened as it sometimes happens within a startup, you just realize okay, there's some opportunity in this market that customers are already looking for apartments in London, why not taking on this opportunity and expanding to that market as well.

What has changed in terms of how we focus on things, we have this dedicated expansions team, and this team is focused on growing the UK market. So we do have sales people who do custom acquisition, we have marketing people who are purely focused on how do we correct this market. Since also a lot of listeners to this podcast are people who are interested in maybe taking on a new challenge, we are strongly looking for people who live in the UK, who are English native, and who want to actually support us in getting a little bit more into the market.

Chris Pyak: Okay, good. This will be my next question: what kind of people are you looking for? Maybe first from the attitude that you are looking for, and then after that we can discuss a little bit more the concrete positions or the concrete fields of expertise that you're looking for. And by the way for the listeners, feel free on YouTube if you open a window there's a chat, feel free to ask your questions to Dustin right now already, because after we finish with the interview we will take two or three questions from the audience for Dustin to answer, so feel free to ask your question right now already.
Dustin, please.

Dustin Figge: We do have one open vacancy which is called expansion manager UK, so this is a very entrepreneurial role, so in the end we need somebody who is on the one hand kind of as entrepreneurial as Christoph and myself are, so the people who actually founded the company, on the other hand people who are also very analytic, right? But there are many other roles which are more toward the operational side of Homelike, in terms of sales and marketing.

In the end when it comes to attitude, I do love people who want to get shit done. I don't like people who just keep talking and talking and talking but the output is very little? I'd rather like people who say “okay, what's the problem? I'll find the solution and I'll directly go and try to fix the problem.” I mean, there's a very very nice book, it's not called getting shit done, I think the working title is Getting Tasks Done or something like that. And I really like those people and those people are super rare.

Secondly, what I don't like is people who just have a beautified CV, but they haven't really achieved anything in terms of anything completely outstanding, right? So I don't like the people who have a very streamlined vitae, I rather love people who say “okay, whatever, I decided to relocate for six months because I just love to work abroad and just jump into a new culture and I figured out how it worked, and now I'm ready for a next challenge so I want to hop on the next train.”

So this is kind of the people I like. When it comes to recruiting at Homelike, it's not that we say okay, you need to have three years of experience here and there, it's more about the people. And I think of the first twenty seconds of an interview when you realize if they're a cultural fit, or if they're not a cultural fit. And I think that is very important for us.

Chris Pyak: Maybe you should have something like they have in the UK, I saw this before, you know these thirty-second dates in the workplace? You have like twenty people and you talk with each of them for like a minute and then you know okay, next round or no next rounds. Speed dating for employers.

Dustin Figge: Yeah!

Chris Pyak: Yeah. You mentioned a relevant position. I would like to talk a little bit more about the casual fit before we go to the concrete job. And I want to understand you want people who get shit done, I can sympathize with that very much, what would be the one concrete task or objective that you have right now, where you would feel okay, if someone would take this over and get this boom-boom-boom done, it would really help me a big step ahead. How can I make myself valuable to you, that's my question.

Dustin Figge: I mean, it's always, lots of people don't want to hear, it's revenue. So on top of everything it's like, how can we grow revenue-wise. But this is not okay, there is somebody and this person can actually help me to grow our revenue figures especially in the UK. I think from an output perspective, you are talking about people who really want to work on the basement, especially when it comes to expansion right?

So expansion manager is similar to what Homelike actually was at two and a half years ago. Where we'd just started as a company. So there was actually only four walls and two people sitting in the room, and we decided okay, we want to build this company. So what are the next steps. And in terms of expansion manager, we need somebody who wants to get their hands dirty, and just say “okay, we need more demand, so we need to acquire more clients, what does it mean? We need to do cold calling, we need to go to events in terms of networking.” So we need to have people who are rather outgoing, and really want to get in contact with our customers.

But there are basically also other roles, for example software engineers, which is by definition a position where you don't need to be very outgoing, you just need to be very smart and very good at engineering, right? So I don't need somebody who is good at sales in a software engineering role, because the requirements are completely different. So it really depends on the role, and expansion manager is an outgoing role, sales is an outgoing role, business analyst for example, where you analyze actually how our client structures are so then of course you need to be very analytical.

So it really, really depends on the position, but I think overall and that independent from any position at Homelike, it's really important for us that people do fit with our culture. That's the most important thing, or this isn't going to work. You can be the best expansion manager on the planet, when you're not a cultural fit with our company, it's going to be very different and probably we will not hire you.

Chris Pyak: Obviously. You mentioned before business analyst. Is this something that is just an example or is this a need that you have at the moment? Because it is not one of your official job offers right now, I see.

Dustin Figge: There was a very smart saying from our HR manager when she joined she said as in, “we don't hire by position, we hire by skillset.” So in the end it's like when somebody is applying who is an awesome business analyst, and we think okay this skillset could actually be valuable for our company, we may think about adding this person even though we might not have a vacancy officially published. But the positions we have on our websites are the positions where we do have an urgent need, and where we are actually officially looking for somebody.

But still when, especially people who are listening to the podcast feel okay, these positions you have on your website don't really fit my requirements, send even then your application to Homelike, when you like our business and when you like our culture, because I think it's really really hard from the outside perspective, even when I talk about expansion manager, what does that really mean. It is analytical, it is strategy, it is operational. Expansion manager has also something to do with HR because you need to recruit people for the onsite teams, right? So it's always good when you like the model, just send the application, and when we think you may be a fit for our company we will definitely get in contact with you guys.

Chris Pyak: Okay. And say I'm someone with a background in, I don't know, business analyst and marketing, something else, I like your company but I don't find a position there, what would you like to know from me? From someone who doesn't apply to a concrete job, so that you have the feeling okay, now I have some basis to actually make an evaluation of this person. To get an idea if you would fit here or not, if I should continue to talk to him or not?

Dustin Figge: I can definitely tell you what I don't like, I don't like the people sending standardized application letters. I couldn't think about the last two years that I have actually read any of these standardized application letters. What I like more is for example people who apply for a role in online marketing, just putting that as an example, when you send us Homelike [inaudible 00:15:17] for example, which actually do look very shitty, do have wrong links or something like that so then you actually show that you have taken the time to deep dive a little bit what we are doing for online marketing. Or when you want to work as a content writer or content editor or content disputer at Homelike, send us an example of how you are writing and a very awesome message about the company.

When you want to apply as a software engineer, deep dive a little bit into our application, and when you just show me one or two bugs, which actually could appear on our website, just let me know what the bugs are, because then you are automatically in a different package, right? Because first we want to fix the bugs, so I will definitely communicate the bugs to our tech team. That's number one. Number two is you have already shown that you are interested in the company, and number three is you maybe know also a little bit about coding otherwise you would not have found the problem.

I really like people who spend ten or fifteen minutes at least to think about okay what could my value be for the company instead of just sending an application letter “my name is x y that, I do this and that, and my passion is playing soccer.” Then it's really hard actually for us to understand why do you want to work for us and not for any other company.

Chris Pyak: And it's also very hard to not fall asleep, because you already read fifty other CVs that were exactly the same.

Dustin Figge: I can tell you I never read application letters. Not even [inaudible 00:16:51]. The first time I see a CV is when somebody is sitting in the room here and I take a look just to see okay, are there any things the person has done in the past which are kind of interest to the company, and then I deep dive a little bit more into the specifics, so.

Chris Pyak: Great, thank you very much Dustin. Is there something from your side you want to send out, a message you want to send out or a question that I didn't ask you yet, but you wish I would have asked you?

Dustin Figge: There's so many messages but in the end, when there are people out there who want to work for international money company, which has a very strong growth plan as Homelike definitely has, I really really looking forward to get your applications, and maybe as I already tried to communicate during the last twenty minutes, it's actually better to apply through one context, so I get a lot of introductions from people from my network actually, because called applicants are usually also in a different bucket, because at Homelike for example there are more than five hundred people applying every month, and it takes a lot of time as you already said to go through all the applications, so it's always better to get in contact via one introduction from other people.

The second message I want to send out, is we really like people from different nationalities, from different cultural backgrounds, at Homelike we do have seven nationalities working, I think we do have one person from New Zealand for example, we have people from the United States, we have people from India, we have people from Pakistan, from Serbia, and our company language is also English, so international people are very warm welcome at Homelike.

Chris Pyak: Yeah, thank you very much to Dustin Figge, CEO of Homelike. I think you rounded it up perfectly and I will not say anything about this anymore. If you want to apply with Homelike and have a look at the company, which company's website can they look for to learn more about you?

Dustin Figge: that's our official website name, and in the footer, so when you scroll down to the bottom there's a link to our career page where we have all our vacancies shown, and then you can just send in your applications and we will definitely take a look at that.

Chris Pyak: Thank you very much, Dustin Figge, CEO of Homelike.

Dustin Figge: Thank you. Bye.

Ask German employers LIVE questions. Sign up (free) to get invited.

Upcoming Podcasts

19 June 2018. One Year “How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans.” Lessons learned.
03 July 2018. Expats Career Webinar with Chris Pyak (Free registration required).
09 July 2018. Meggy Sailer, Head of Recruiting at Lilium Aviation

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