People, Product, Process: Three Crucial Elements To A Successful Business

Founder and CEO Richard Du explains.

By Richard Du September 1, 2016

Growing up in Vietnam, I learned from a very young age that when people work together, much more could be achieved than by working alone. My family had to help each other just to make sure everyone’s basic needs were met. This taught me not only the value of hard work, but also of collaboration. I took these lessons with me when I emigrated to the United States as a young child.

Before long, I had built a career, first in sales at Xerox, and later in real estate as I began working for Helmsley Spear. Eventually, I started my own real estate company, Dumann Associates, where I had 42 agents, and we were responsible for over 100 transactions ranging from $1 million to $750 million dollars in both retail leasing and building sales.  From these experiences I began to develop a philosophy that has worked for me through the years.

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One thing I understood from all this was that buying and selling properties can be a complicated process. There is a tremendous amount of information one must acquire and understand in order to make good decisions. In the days before real estate technology, all this information had to be found by making endless phone calls, researching documents and often traveling around the city to gather data with your own eyes. Today’s real estate technology companies can offer this essential information with the click of a mouse, potentially freeing Realtors and agents to spend their time focusing on building relationships with clients and generating new customers. This new use of technology has been a large reason as to why real estate has become such a huge, multi-trillion-dollar business.

So, if information is now so readily available and the time once spent researching, verifying and re-verifying is no longer needed, how does a real estate technology company distinguish itself? What is the best use of this time that new technology has afforded us? How can we use the freedom of time to both build our businesses and our lives to be more productive, more purposeful and more satisfying? From my time both as a real estate professional and as the founder of a real estate technology company, I have created a simple way to outline the process that has brought consistency in executing our mission at Agorafy. I call it the Three P’s.

People— We spend so much time looking at structures, spread sheets and projecting results into the future, it is easy to forget our most valuable resource—people. Even while all this information is now a mouse click away, there still is a person clicking that mouse. And, following the finger that makes the click up to its owner leads us to a complexity and value even more elaborate than the most advanced operating system. And, like an operating system, in order for it to continue to be effective in an ever changing world, it must be constantly upgraded. This is a system where everyone involved is essential.

The office at Agorafy, for example, is a tightly woven, interdependent assembly of people with skillsets as diverse as their backgrounds. Our data team, for example, is always developing new and more effective ways to acquire and verify data that then can be brought to the technology team. Our tech guys then work their magic to find the best way to present that data to real estate professionals. Those real estate professionals are then able to access data in a way that saves time and, as a result, creates value. That time savings allows Realtors, agents and brokers to develop relationship with clients based on that reliable data. Meanwhile, our media team is finding creative and informative ways to convey knowledge to professionals and nonprofessionals alike.

The amount of value in the resources of these teams is greater than the sum of its already formidable parts. The teams, the company and the clientele—are all people that this process could not proceed without. From every level, providing these people with the tools they need, the inspiration that motivates them and the knowledge to help them innovate might be the most important part running a successful business.

Product— To assemble and nurture the people in your company is essential, but all that team building will still be dependent on having a truly great product. A truly great product is not unlike a great staff in that not only must it built in a way that provides value and saves time for your customer, but it must also be responsive to its changing environment. A rigid process in a changing world is bound to break down. In other words, a great idea is only a great idea until external factors change. If a company is aware of the constant evolution of its market, like a tree moves with the wind, it cannot be toppled and will have the freedom to grow to its full capacity. At Agorafy, we have learned to always stay open to feedback, both internally and from outside sources like clients and other professionals. Nature has taught us that the most flexible element in a system will thrive and as we thrive through the adaptable nature of our product, the people we serve thrive as well.

Process—In Physics, the idea of content and process is not new. This idea simply describes the nature of two concepts: content are the things that make up a structure, the process is what the structure does.

The Agorafy platform is an example of the importance of a clear relationship between content and process. With Agorafy, the content is the data that we provide. The process is how one would access that information. The platform is created so our users can easily access this information. In order to provide value for real estate professionals, we can improve their experience by developing an intuitive, complete and enjoyable interaction that provides them with not only the enriching data they seek but also the time to use as they choose. Either to develop more business or to enrich their lives in other ways like spending time with family, building personal relationships and other things that can make life more meaningful.

Ultimately, technology has the chance to save us time and build value. When we see this as a chance to not only build a more successful business, but also a chance to have a better life, we gain perspective that is essential to be happy and enriched professionally as well as personally.

Richard Du



Richard Du, founder and CEO of Agorafy, was born in Vietnam and raised in the United States. As a child, he worked to support his family until he had the chance to immigrate to the America. Here, he began his career as an agent at Helmsley Spear, which he eventually parlayed into a lucrative real estate business. More than a decade later, Mr. Du is at the helm of Agorafy.

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