A Change Very Much for the Better

At first, I didn't want the new job, but our CEO saw things more clearly. By changing my horizons, he did me a favor -- and zipRealty, too

By Scott Kucirek

I want to recount a story that is better told now than at the time it occurred. Seven months ago, our CEO informed me that I was moving to a new position within the company. After I hearing the news, I was very upset. Now, looking back with the benefit of some much-needed perspective, I see it was a great move by the CEO -- and a great move for me. How could my view have changed so quickly? To understand, you have to appreciate the dynamics at work at the time.

Last November, I had just returned from the annual national real estate conference and was energized after catching up with all the latest trends in recruiting and training. A week or so after this conference, our CEO, Eric, called me down to his office for a meeting. Since the CEO and I meet quite often, I thought he wanted a briefing on the conference. Was I in for a surprise! He soon informed me that I had a new assignment, and that it would start in January after my winter vacation. After informing me that I was to begin developing the plans that will help zipRealty enter new markets in 2004, he said that a new vice-president for human resources was being hired to take over my old position.


  I was stunned. I had worked night and day over the last 20 months to build a recruiting, training, and human resources team, one that had settled in and was doing a very good job. Now, all of a sudden, I would have to hand over that brief to someone else. I asked what else I could have done to keep the position, and our CEO replied that he had no complaints about the wonderful job I had done. His thinking was simply this: The time had come to get me into a new role, one that would use my talents to add more value to the company. I had always preached to my team that our goal should be to do our jobs so well that the time would come when we would be no longer necessary. Now, even while being told that I had accomplished my mission, it wasn't anything like wonderful to be the receiving end of my own lesson.

In reality, I shouldn't have been shocked. Our CEO had told me many times over the previous six months that, sooner or later, he planned to bring somebody in to take over. In addition, I have to admit that I had become very comfortable in my position and, truth be told, there was just a little bit of the autopilot about the way I was operating. For example, I now see that I wasn't as responsive to the field managers as I needed to be. After hearing so many complaints over the years, I was inclined to dismiss them out of hand heard, not following up or trying new solutions. Furthermore, 20 months in a position at zipRealty was unprecedented. It and was the second-longest time I had held any position in my career. Yet, I was operating with blinders on.

My problem was that I was emotionally attached to the team I had built and really liked all the people in the group. I had envisioned a nice life of steady, predictable improvement by working with great people. That just is not the way of the world works, especially in a fast growing privately held company.

My replacement, Alain, checked in -- and believe me, he's great. I devoted the closing days of 2002 to working with him to transition my old team, and to discussing the key issues and ongoing projects. Then, when 2003 started, it was over and I was out. No more weekly team meeting -- just a blank calendar. It was a bit unnerving.


  Looking back, I see Eric did the company a great service -- and me, too. Alain immediately started drawing upon his expertise to improve programs, in part by bringing a fresh approach that allowed him to tackle projects I had written off or deemed unimportant. This helped the recruiting, training, and human resources group to move forward and start executing at the next level, which the company needed.

And me? Well, I finally got out of the weeds and started reconnecting with zipRealty's senior executives. Before, I lacked the time and energy to work with the CEO and others to solve top-level challenges. Today, I'm more connected with what is going on in the company than I have been in over two years. As Eric intended, this has made me a more valuable asset to the company.

As they say, change is never easy -- but it is necessary. Now that I have lived through this latest change, I have to admit the move was a positive step. By the way, my calendar somehow filled up again. See you in a couple weeks.

Scott Kucirek is president and co-founder of zipRealty.com, an online real estate brokerage. The company's Internet site and online real estate agents let people complete the entire purchase or sale of a house via the Web. The company's Web site is www.zipRealty.com, and you can E-mail Scott at Scott@zipRealty.com.

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