The underdog mindset: Why urgency and hunger are friends not foes

The secret to good customer service and winning clients can't be found in surface level gestures designed to elicit support. Instead, striving to solve real life problems for real life people is the key. As Openn's Chief Executive Officer Sean Adomeit explains, dropping the ego and maintaining the hunger to do more, will see you come out on top.

One of the best pieces of business advice I ever heard was from billionaire venture capitalist and leader of Sequoia Capital, Michael Moritz. 

When asked why Sequoia is so successful, his answer was simple – always assume you’re going broke. 

At first, I couldn’t understand why one of the wealthiest people in modern history could have such a paranoid approach to business.

After all, Sequoia’s investment portfolio boasts some of the biggest companies in the industry, including Apple, Google, LinkedIn and PayPal.

Moritz clearly knows how to pick a winner and he’s done it many times over.

I realised the power in having a mindset where you believe tomorrow’s dollars are never promised – to always assume you are losing. 

An agent who embodies this sentiment extremely well is Brian Whiteman of The Agency Central Coast. 

He once told us he loves losing the odd listing because it humbles him and drives him to be better.

Despite consistently selling more than 150 properties a year, he never assumes he’s got the listing in the bag.

He just focuses on delivering great customer service.

When it comes to winning, arrogance is your enemy.

Urgency and hunger are your friends.

They are the ultimate breeding ground for creativity and ingenuity.

You become hyper-focused on what’s at stake.

Most start-ups default to this position, because they’re existing in a state of fail fast, and learn even faster. 

Being terrified your doors could close next week keeps your priorities in check.

It forces you to focus on the true secret to ‘winning’ in business – solving a problem.

Equating ‘winning in business’ strictly by measuring the wrong things could lead to your professional downfall.

If you’re depending solely on things like social media views or the number of people you networked with last week, you risk trusting in the wrong formula.

You could be measuring with the wrong metrics. 

Here’s a great example: a senior leader of a multinational bank set a goal to improve customer satisfaction scores by 10 per cent.

He instructed his team to offer free add-on incentives to customers just prior to them taking a feedback survey. 

What’s wrong with this scenario?

They failed to focus on what matters – the customer’s needs and why they might be unhappy in the first place.

One year later, a review showed that the scores improved, but the bank’s market share and profits remained flat.

You should always focus on solving your customers’ problems and delivering value first.

The consequence of that focus is the opportunity to make money.

At Openn, the problems we originally aimed to solve were the lack of transparency and inefficiencies in real estate transactions.

Buyers were commonly missing out, and they would have paid more if they’d known what price to pay.

Sellers wanted certainty their home wasn’t being undersold. 

The outcome was an online platform that allowed agents to efficiently negotiate with multiple buyers more transparently and didn’t burn bridges with people who could become referrals.

Openn continues to evolve, but one thing never changes – a dogged determination to make the process of buying and selling property easier for everyone. 

We’ve had our share of wins over the years.

Many we proudly celebrate.

Plenty of losses too.

Ultimately, I’ve learnt that winning most often lies in the embrace of insecurity.

We aim to avoid complacency at all costs. In this industry, you’ll see people and brands come and go.

If you want to ‘win’, keep solving problems, while maintaining a humble (if somewhat paranoid) mindset that everything could end tomorrow. Because the underdog should always be feared.

They’re the hungriest for the win. 

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Sean Adomeit

Sean Adomeit is the Chief Executive Officer at Openn.