Episode 61: Personalizing Client Experience with Zeev Sharon and Hotelied

Who is Zeev Sharon and the key takeaways in this episode?

Zeev Sharon, one of the co-founders of Hotelied, got the travel bug when he was just a kid. He could never shake it off, so he came all the way from Israel to New York City to fulfill his biggest dreams and delve straight into the hotel business.

Listen to this fascinating interview and find out:

  • What Zeev considers company culture to be
  • Zeev’s enlightening advice for new entrepreneurs
  • His advice on what to avoid when starting out
  • And much, much more

The Questions

If you walk into a hotel and they have a great brand and they have great websites and the furnishings don’t match that brand, you have a brand disconnect. When you walk into a lot of offices we see that people are trying to build a culture. They have a great staff, they have a great website, and then you walk inside and sometimes there’s a brand disconnect there. Can you share with us your feelings about how the environment manages back to the culture?

Answer:You’re going to laugh because we’re a very young start-up and we’re only a team of five. We’re still, all of us, working out of my living room. We joke that this our New York version of a Silicon Valley garage, basically. I have a long dining table and we all sit around the table. Sometimes we are chatty-chatty, and sometimes we’re all with our earphones and focused, and our afternoon treat will be sometimes to move to the sofa area. “Oh, wow, we’ve accomplished stuff today.” I think for sure the fact that we all sit around a table, facing each other, is much more conducive for a conversation. Sometimes it can be distracting if you’re trying to do something and people try and interject, but at the end of the day the benefit of it is much greater. We are talking about issues all the time and because everyone is together in that set-up if there’s something that needs to have three different people touching it then it’s a great opportunity for everyone to just talk. “How do we fix it? Let’s move on.”

Can you give us a tip? There’s a number of entrepreneurs, people who are trying to build companies, trying to build cultures. What tip would you give our listeners to say: “Hey guys, pay attention to this area, because it’s going to help you get to where you’re going quicker”? What would that area be?

Answer: I think that focus is really important. Focus is important on many different levels, both when you make hiring decisions, when you make workflow decisions and when you prioritize things. When you’re growing and you’re basically reinventing the wheel, you’re building a company from scratch, there are a lot of distractions. You’re pulled in many ways and I think it’s a challenge but also really important to be very focused and “Okay, what are our goals right now? What are the steps we have to take to get the closest to those goals?” It’s an ongoing exercise, and we just did a big one a couple of weeks ago. We realized that, “You know what, we proved ourselves something but we are still spending money on this thing even though we already know that it works. Let’s shift,” and we caught ourselves and asked “Why are we wasting this? Let’s move our focus to something else that is more important and more critical to our success path right now.” Another thing that I would say is important is constantly to challenge what you’re doing. Those two are kind of related to one another, like “Are we doing the right thing? Is this working? If it’s not working, how do we adjust?”

What tip would you give that same group of entrepreneurs about areas to be cautious of, to be cognizant that there’s danger lurking and just “stay away from these areas”? What advice would you give them to say, “Hey, there are certain areas that are just no-fly zones”?

Answer:One thing that comes to mind is when you start a business you’re going to run into a lot of “experts”. Some of them, rightly so, are categorized as experts, and some of them really have no track record to justify that other than being experts for experts. When you’re starting something new it’s very easy to influence you and tell you that you should do this and you should do that. I would caution everyone to stay away from the “experts” and if you’re building something that’s truly innovative then clearly you’re doing something that no one else is an expert in. You need to believe in what you’re doing. Definitely listen to advice; I’m not saying “Don’t,” but I think when people try to give you advice and try to attach themselves somehow to you as “I’m just an adviser, an expert,” you should think about it. Only keep the few things that really make sense to you and the rest of it, just let it come out the other ear. You have to follow your gut and your belief, because you are the one that’s building something new so you have to believe in what you’re doing.

Culture According to Zeev Sharon:

For me it’s all-encompassing. I don’t think it’s one single thing. It’s not a rigid set of rules. I think it’s very basically how people within the company treat each other. How do we treat each other? How do we work together? How do we agree on things? How do we disagree on things? I think it has a formal aspect to it but I think that’s only the symptoms. Most of company culture is very unspoken or informal in a way.

Go To Quote for Inspiration

Book Recommendations:

  • Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

What Zeev Sharon Wants His Company to BE:

  • BE Creative
  • BE Challenged
  • BE Integrity Driven

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:

Where to Find Zeev Sharon:

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