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Meet the RE Tech Entrepreneur: Grant Findlay-Shirras from Parkbench

In our latest real estate tech interview, we’re talking with Grant Findlay-Shirras from Parkbench. Based in Toronto, Parkbench is neighborhood news platform. I met Grant in New York and had a chance to talk through their product and business model a bit. Having worked at Zillow, launched local market explorer, built a “cliff notes version of TripAdvisor” product called welcome kits, and consulted for StreetAdvisor for a year — the hyper local space is one I know well, though I’ll save my own thoughts for a future post. Without further ado…

What do you do?

Parkbench is a real estate marketing company that helps relationship & referral based realtors who specialize in a specific geography become the Digital Mayor of their community and get more face to face prospect meetings with homeowners. and as a result, get more clients and referrals closer to home.

Parkbench is a real estate marketing company that helps relationship and referral based realtors build their brand and business closer to home and become the “Digital Mayor” of their target market​.

Using a proprietary technology that aggregates hyperlocal content (e.g. news and events) in greater quantity and with greater accuracy than any other site in North America, we build and maintain the most comprehensive and useful resource for real estate professionals to offer the people who live and work in their community – a Parkbench Neighborhood Website. Combining our technology with a step by step marketing system called Local Leader®, which includes coaching, we help community-minded realtors get more face to face​ prospect meetings with the homeowners and influencers in their community.

And because we only work with 1 realtor per neighborhood, our clients are able to stand out from the competition and convert more homeowners, business owners, professionals, and teachers into clients, referral generators, and brand promoters.

Why do you do what you do?

Amanda and I created and the Local Leader® Marketing System to solve our own problem – how to get more clients and referrals in the neighborhood we lived in. We did not plan on turning our marketing idea into a business; however, when several real estate professionals offered to pay us money for our technology and train them how we used it to get clients and referrals, we saw the opportunity.

Now, what continues to drive us is the fact that 87% of realtors (and small businesses) fail in 5 years because they simply do not know how to acquire enough clients to survive and thrive. And the reason they don’t know how to build a business is because they are poorly trained by their brokerages, lied to by their boards and associations, and are being sold a bunch of junk.

For example, why are realtors constantly looking for the newest and greatest method to put their face, name, and number in front of consumers, when over 60% of homeowners pick their realtors from relationships and referrals?

Before bus benches, flyers, and billboards (and definitely before the digital age), realtors used to wake up everyday and go “who am I going to talk to today on the phone or in person by door knocking.” And this approach worked every time.

Then someone thought to be lazy, and put their face on stuff and just wait for phone calls. Now granted, it worked because it was new and novel, and door knocking and cold calling started to be less efficient and effective due to Con Artists and DNC lists, however, instead of re-thinking “who am I going to talk to and build a relationship with today,” the question started becoming “how can I put my brand in front of others in a way that works.” Essentially, the advertising industry grew, despite the fact that homeowners were not changing the ways they picked their realtor. Now, realtors’ are investing their time and money in stuff that doesn’t make them money and it’s turning them into a commodity that no one respects.

Whereas here’s what I see:

  • Realtors will help local businesses and professionals make more money by promoting them online and connecting them to people who need and want their products and services.
  • Realtors will help schools acquire more resources by connecting them with people and businesses who want to donate.
  • Realtors will educate homeowners about the neighborhood in ways that Google and Facebook never can.
  • Realtors will directly impact the economic, social, and environmental strength of neighborhoods.
  • Realtors will become the ultimate concierge and coach through the home buying, selling, and investing process.
  • The brokerage model will die; teams will thrive. Every realtor will either own their own brokerage or be a part of a team.
  • becomes a local search engine, and the local leader® system becomes the new way of cold calling and door knocking for all local professionals, not just realtors.

And it’s this vision that drives me everyday.

What are you most excited about right now?

We’re launching a mobile app in 2017.

We’re adding a full real estate property search in 2017.

We’re going to be adding more local content (e.g. sports) and creating a google-like search bar to all Parkbench Neighborhood Sites.

What’s next for you?

I will be running Real Estate Sales & Marketing Mastermind Sessions that are open to the public, every Monday at 12pm EST.

I started 3 YouTube shows in February:

  • Big Success with GFS: Practical knowledge on how to be more successful in all areas of life.
  • BALLERS: Sales & Marketing Strategies for people who want to Become a Local Leader
  • World Class Workaholics: Meet Champions in Life who know Work Life Balance is BS!

What’s a cause you’re passionate about and why?

The Mitahato Education Development Fund (MEDF). This is a foundation started by my co-founder/wife’s father, Irving Newman, whose goal is to build neighborhoods in developing countries by helping locals create sustainable small businesses. We donate to them all the time because Amanda and I are small business owners, and we know that small businesses are not only the engine for the economy, they are the identity of a neighborhood. Furthermore, we believe that building a business gives a person a real education and helps them develop world class character traits.

Thanks to Grant for sharing his story.

Meet The RE Tech EntrepreneurWe’re constantly looking for great real estate tech entrepreneurs to feature. If that’s you, please read this post — then drop me a line (drew @ geekestatelabs dot com).

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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