Elizabeth Francisco is the Chief Experience Officer at Inhabit, an innovative software company known for its revolutionary solutions. With a background in software development and client services, Elizabeth possesses the perfect combination of skills to lead Inhabit’s mission to simplify and improve the software experience. Elizabeth firmly believes in the power of design and technology to transform the industry. She is passionate about creating beautiful, intuitive user experiences and believes that companies should be focused on delivering an outstanding customer experience.
In an interview with PerceptivX, Elizabeth discusses how she came to understand the value of servant leadership as well as the significance of leaning in with your team and acknowledging even the smallest victories.
PerceptivX (P): Thank you for doing this with us, Elizabeth. Could you tell our readers a bit about Inhabit?
Elizabeth Francisco (E): “Inhabit is a leading software company that provides end-to-end solutions for over 4 million residential and vacation property management units. I joined the Inhabit Leadership team last year after they acquired my company, ResMan, LLC. Inhabit’s software products serve multifamily, single-family, vacation rental, student housing, affordable housing, commercial markets, and more in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Ireland. Our solutions help property owners and managers run exceptional spaces. Inhabit’s collection of products provides competitive solutions for the residential and vacation industries. Within each division, our solutions, which include 38+ products, collectively empower operators to enhance guest and resident experiences, mitigate risk, centralize business operations, optimize performance, and ultimately increase the value of their assets. With industry-leading property management accounting platforms at the center of our echo systems, we offer a streamlined end-to-end solution while still allowing users to build an end-to-end solution to fill gaps with their existing property management software.”
(P): What makes your products different than the rest?
(E): “Inhabit provides solutions that free owners and operators from the usual constraints of a closed software system. Inhabit embraces the voice of the customer, and we do that by providing choice. It has best-in-class solutions, whether you are looking for a full-stack property management and accounting platform or to complement existing software with one of our solutions that completes your ecosystem. We believe you should be able to run your business the best way you see fit, rather than making business decisions around software limitations. We pride ourselves on being a business partner, not just a software provider.
We are confident that we have the solutions to help our customers drive efficiency without sacrificing performance. Our products are easy to use, provide data transparency, and allow operators to adjust quickly to changing market conditions. In addition, the increased capacity and bandwidth gained from efficient and effective technology will enable you to spend more time working on the business than having to be in it.”
(P): What unexpected challenges did you encounter en route to success, and how did you handle them? What qualities should one possess as a leader?
(E): “I would not say it was unexpected; it was more a matter of realizing just how impactful servant leadership would be in helping us navigate our most challenging periods of growth. Transparency and ensuring the people around you know and feel that you are there to support them and that they come first have been critical to getting us where we are today. As for the unexpected, I think learning how to scale our operations for our growth included tough lessons that sometimes resulted in our growing pains impacting our customers. One important thing to us was being a business partner to our customers, not just a technology provider. When we had a growing pain that impacted business as usual for our customers, that was tough for everyone in the company. We’ve all heard the saying that it’s not whether you fall, but how you get back up that counts. All businesses will stumble at some point; stepping up to the plate, owning what you do, and quickly resolving problems are the keys to your survival and success.
As a leader in the organization, leaning in with your teams during difficult times is important. I have seen leaders who expect their teams to take the hits for the organization, and while first-line client success team members will be the first point of escalation by the nature of their role, you have to be willing to lean in with your team to support the customers’ needs. Getting on a call or going on customer visits with your team provides valuable insight and a real-world coaching opportunity. As the business grows, as a leader, you must make time to continue doing this.”
(P): What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to create a space for themselves in the industry?
(E): “Firstly, ensure you and everyone on your team knows why your product matters to your target customer. Being a disrupter and a replacement is more challenging than having a new solution with a greenfield opportunity. You have to stay focused and deliver in every way on your unique value proposition, including how you support it. Word of mouth is still the most effective advertising, and if your solution is impactful for your customer and they are happy using it, they will tell their peers. When it comes to marketing, be careful not to overextend your limited resources—market regionally where you have a customer base so you can use them for referrals.
Lastly, cut yourself a break. There will be an endless list of things that needed to get done yesterday. Think of the list as a living one, and you will never have enough resources for everything you want to do when you want to. When you are growing a bootstrapped business, you have to make tough choices along the way, and guess what? So did each one of your competitors when they were at your stage. So, celebrate even small successes; they will help you and the team through the more challenging times.”
(P): What was that one piece of advice you are glad you did not take?
(E): “Get out while you can. I have had executives from our competition try to discourage me from launching a PropTech solution without any SaaS experience or taking on the industry leaders. I was ill-advised to move on after our capital events, suggesting that I would hate the changing environment. Thank goodness, I believe you get out of things what you put into them. I am thankful I had the presence of mind to stick it out and finish what I started.”
(P): To whom would you attribute your success?
(E): “I attribute my success to my two children, Jordynn and Grant. When I became a single mom almost 30 years ago, I started in the apartment industry because I believed it was best for me to provide for them. Unfortunately, my family could not financially help, and I had no relatives available to even help with babysitting. So, I dropped out of college and started working full-time to get a rent discount. Everything I have done has been about setting a good example for them. You could be a good person, act with integrity, and build a successful career without compromising those things. I wanted to show them that you could be successful with the right grit and tenacity, regardless of where you come from or the obstacles you face. I love who they have both become.”
(P): How does Inhabit plan to continue its winning streak?
(E): “Inhabit will sustain our growth trajectory by optimizing and leveraging our current technology solutions so that they continue to support our customers changing business needs for growth and efficiency. Internal and external customers will always tell you what you need to do to be successful; you have to listen with the intent to act. Inhabit will continue to prioritize the voice of the customer to help define our product roadmap and acquisition strategy.”